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Minor Major Character

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A character who, though holding an important position within the world of the story, holds, at best, a minor role in the narrative and more usually a few lines of dialogue in a single scene. May turn out to be Chekhov's Gunman or become an Ascended Extra in other works. Greater Scope Villains and Greater Scope Paragons usually qualify, as do most members of the Omniscient Council of Vagueness and some occurrences of the Special Guest. Even the Big Bad and Big Good can qualify in some works.

Compare Hufflepuff House — which is to groups what this trope is to individual characters.

To an extent, this is Truth in Television. How many of us personally know any world leaders, Fortune 500 CEOs, power brokers or other members of the top echelons of business, government and military?

Unluckily, if one happens to be one of these characters, one may be the target of being Board to Death. You may also lose out on Nominal Importance.

A minor character having a major impact in the story is covered by Small Role, Big Impact. Depending on their role, they may be an Eternal Employee somewhere the main character frequent, like a hospital. Contrast with Ascended Extra, who starts off having a minor role, but is given a more meaningful one in later installments.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The SEELE Committee seem to basically run the world, but we only see a few of their faces, and only their leader, Keel Lorenz, even has a name.
  • The three Admirals of the Time-Space Administration Bureau in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Very important in the setting, but not important enough to even have names or more than one line of dialogue.
  • In Naruto you could count the Tailed Beasts and their hosts who aren't the One-, Eight-, and Nine-Tails and their specific hosts. They're a major part of the setting and the goal of main antagonist organization Akatsuki is to capture all of them, yet the Two-Tails and its host are killed in just a couple chapters, the Three-Tails was beaten off-screen and its host was already dead by then (though he turned out to be a semi-important Posthumous Character), and the Four-Tailed host was shown once after being beaten entirely off-screen with the Four-Tails itself never shown, while the Five-, Six-, and Seven-Tails and their deceased hosts were initially relegated to supplementary materials (though the Six-Tailed host got an anime-only filler arc). Eventually, all the dead hosts and their beasts finally appear in the series super-powered zombies, and though they give the heroes a tough fight, hand Naruto some important plot details and life lessons, and help him achieve his next power-up, the Four-Tails is the only one of them who gets a decent amount of characterization.
    • To a lesser extent is Zō, the white-robed ANBU captain with the cat mask. He's the leader of Konoha's ANBU Black Ops, yet only appears three times (during the Sound invasion, the Third Hokage's funeral, and Pain's destruction of Konoha) and is of no importance to the story. Even his name is only revealed in a databook. The only things in the story itself to hint that he's more than just an ordinary ANBU are the white captain's robe (ordinary ANBU wear black robes) and the fact that he's among the few masked ANBU who doesn't die to show how dangerous a villain is.
  • Bleach provides an especially strange example. While the shinigami squad captains (the Soul Society's military) are characterized with enormous detail, the actual government they serve is given a single scene in which all of them are shown to have been secretly murdered by The Mole, and nothing was seen or spoken of it (except some flashbacks of Urahara's backstory and some of the second Non-Serial Movie) until the end of the arc several years later in real-time, reconstituted and passing judgement on that same Big Bad Mole.
    • The Soul King qualifies as well. Apparently, Soul Society wouldn't even exist without him, and Big Bad Aizen spends most of the series trying to usurp his position, and only now, in the very last arc of the series, does the reader get to see what he even looks like. And before he can even do anything or exert power, Yhwach kills him.
    • The Kidou Corps. Nominally, they are an independent group with several important duties. The flashback shows that they are roughly equivalent to a single Division, with two powerful named characters that are captain-level. However, even though they technically should maintain their importance in the present, instead they lack named characters at all.
  • Parodied in the Excel♡Saga anime, where ACROSS is secretly run by: That Man, That Man Over There, That Man Over Here, This Man, This Man Over Here, and This Man Over There.
    • And other than That Man, they all appear once, for less than a minute, before getting killed by Nabeshin.
  • One Piece:
    • The Five Elder Stars are a council of five men who sit at the very top of the government. They appear whenever there is a huge change in the world, such as Luffy defeating Crocodile and the death of Whitebeard, but they aren't shown physically doing much or even been named until hundreds of chapters later and yet they decide almost anything related to the Marines, the World Government and the Seven Warlords of the Sea.
    • Just below them in rank is Commander-in-Chief Kong. He has power over the entire military of the World Government, which includes the Marines, the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and all the branches of Cipher Pol. He has had two appearance so far, one of which was canon but not part of the manga proper.
  • Prince Eugene of Bokura no Kiseki. His presence pervades the story, as he was the husband of Veronica (who the main character is the reincarnation of) and possibly one of the only people in the castle who knew why Moswick was attacking its ally Zerestria, yet readers know almost nothing about him beyond that he was the Third Prince of Moswick.
  • Scrapped Princess: Browning is one of two gods in the series, with the other being Mauser. However, while both have religious followings in their name, Browning is nowhere near as significant to the plot as Mauser and only comes into the picture during the final 3 episodes, where his Gigantes are used to battle the Peacemakers.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • King Cold in Dragon Ball Z, despite being The Man Behind the Man in Frieza's galaxy-wide empire and his existence a secret known only to his immediate family and a few soldiers, only appears to rescue his son and then get killed by Trunks on Earth. And unlike his son, he never comes Back from the Dead.
    • Raditz. He's Goku's brother and the first Saiyan other than him to appear in the series, as well as the cause of Goku's first death. But despite all that, he's really just used as a stepping stone to introduce the idea of Saiyans and other aliens to the franchise. He's killed off quickly with Vegeta replacing him as the Arc Villain and never appears again, despite the series' frequent use of Death Is Cheap and Defeat Means Friendship on antagonists with far lesser connections to the hero. Bardock: The Father of Goku initially forgot he existed even though Bardock is also his father as well, but he favors Goku over him and neglects to think about Raditz in his own dying moments. Subsequent re-releases had Bardock mention him in a throwaway line, but he still gets no screentime in a special specifically devoted to exploring Goku's family history.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017) has the Nine Witches, the founders of Luna Nova Academy and some of the most powerful magic users ever. Only two of them are named and are involved in the plot to varying degrees, but nothing is known about the other seven (except for, of all things, their hats).
  • Gyuriedistodiez in So I'm a Spider, So What? is the sole active god of the world, Administrator for the System which governs the skills used by all of its residents, and is undoubtedly the most powerful being in terms of raw strength. Despite this, his indecisiveness and self-recrimination has left him all but inactive both in story and in terms of the world itself. His greatest role is in reacting to the actions of far more important characters such as Kumoko and Shiro.
  • In Pokémon Generations, despite his central role in events and character motivations, Red's face is mostly obscured, he never speaks, his name is never said out loud and his onscreen appearances mostly have him in the background. While he is responsible for the downfall of Team Rocket, Looker and the police don't appear to even know who he is.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen has Master Tengen. An ancient, immortal Jujutsu sorcerer who maintains the barriers around the Jujutsu Schools. Without these barriers, the schools could not exist, as they would be under constant attack from Curses. Without these schools, training new Jujutsu sorcerers would be exponentially more difficult. So already his existence is massively important for the setting. Furthermore, he needs to merge with a special person called a Star Plasma Vessel every 500 years in order to continue on as he is. Failure to do so will likely cause him to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, rendering him unable to maintain the barriers and potentially becoming an existential threat to humanity. In spite of this, he has never spoken nor has he appeared in-person, even during an arc that centered around delivering him a new vessel.

    Comic Books 
  • The entire membership of the Marvel Comics group named Those Who Sit Above in Shadow.
  • The minor members of Clan Akkaba, in both the 19th Century and the present. The Slade and Starsmore families have names (as does a random Giant Mook called Kabar Brashir for some reason), but the others, despite unique designs and ties to one of the biggest villains in the setting, have virtually nothing known about them, not even being named in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
  • Hooded Justice in Watchmen only appears in a flashback and is referenced a scant number of times, yet he's also the reason for the setting's Alternate History, since he was the first to truly take up the mantle of a superhero when he stopped a robbery in October 1938, just four months after the release of Action Comics #1.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Saw:
    • Saw V introduces the unnamed chief of the Metropolitan Police Department at the time of the first seven films. It should go without saying that he must have given particular attention to the notorious Jigsaw killers, especially once they rack a good body count and show themselves to be competent enough to outsmart the police many times. However, he's only seen at the ceremony held to announce the supposed end of their killing spree in that film, not even returning in later installments once further games pop up or Hoffman is exposed as the killer who's been holding the games since that moment.
    • Averted with Marcus Banks, another chief of the department, in Spiral (2021). While he's retired at the time of the film's events, his acts back during his tenure are responsible for much of the plot's roots, and he gets a major role in the movie's late half.
  • Star Wars provides plenty of examples, among them being:
  • James Bond:
  • Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be seen as this, built up as the Big Bad of the franchise, though his only appearance for a long time (that wasn't a stinger) was in a brief pair of scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the movie most detached from the MCU at large. This is finally averted in Avengers: Infinity War, where he has a very prominent role and is clearly the central villain of the film.
  • In Knives Out, Marta's mother shows up in a few scenes and briefly interacts with her daughters, but her status as an illegal immigrant drives many of the decisions of Marta and the Thrombey family.
  • In Chinatown, Noah Cross is the main antagonist but he only has 10 minutes of screentime.

  • Some of the members of Scorpia in Alex Rider, namely Mikato and Levi Kroll often appear at board meetings but do little.
  • From Animorphs there's The One. As the leader of the Yeerk remnants and the new Big Bad, he ought to be important, but he shows up for a grand total of four pages and feels tacked on to the story as an afterthought.
    • Visser Two is another example. He doesn't show up until the near the end of the series, despite being the second highest ranking Yeerk general. Instead Vissers Three and One take charge of the conquest of Earth. And if you buy into a certain prominent fan theory, the Visser Two we see may not have actually even been Visser Two until that book!note 
    • There's also the Council of Thirteen, and among them the Yeerk Emperor, who are the actual leaders of Yeerk society and the ones who perpetuate the war and give orders to the Vissers. They are mentioned only briefly, and their only actual appearance is in a Villain Episode. Further, the Emperor is never even identified, though this one at least is justified (no one knows who the Emperor is other than the Council themselves, as an anti-assassination measure).
  • Another K. A. Applegate example is Ka Anor of Everworld. Every other god in Everworld fears him, his Hetwan minions are everywhere, but ol' Ka himself only shows up in one book, and then, only for one chapter. Even there he's less a character and more an Eldritch Abomination.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the unnamed Prime Minister of England gets one scene to himself, but no mention afterwards. Also, after the end of the series, Kingsley Shacklebolt, a minor but positive character, becomes Minister of Magic.
  • John Putnam Thatcher: Francis Devane is a partner at a bank which frequently partners with the Sloan for plot-relevant business deals, but his partner and polar opposite Tom Robichaux is always the one to interact with Thatcher and relay Devane's opinions about business deals or suspects in their social circle. The only book Devane physically appears in is Death Shall Overcome, where he attends the party where the murder takes place. Even then, he doesn't talk with any of the main characters.
  • Duke Claes in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is the main character's father and one of the most important nobles in the kingdom, but has maybe ten or twenty lines throughout the first two novels.
  • Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Though the effects of his dictatorship are seen and felt throughout the entirety of the story, the man himself never makes an appearance, as the narrative focuses solely on just some average guy. There's also the fact that Big Brother could just be a vehicle for The Party and may or may not even exist- or have ever existed, for that matter. There's also Emmanuel Goldstein, the supposed leader of a rebel faction known as "The Brotherhood" who, again, may or may not actually exist.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events gives us Count Olaf's superiors in the arsonists' side of VFD, identified only as The Man With A Beard But No Hair and The Woman With Hair But No Beard. They do get a bit of development later on, when it's revealed that they're the other two judges on the kindly Justice Strauss's High Court but shortly after this revelation they themselves are left to die in a burning building, leaving Olaf as the sole Big Bad in the finale.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Westeros is a huge country, and only part of an even huger world. All of this world is shaped by the various ambitions of the rich and powerful seeking greater wealth and greater power, for many, many, many MANY reasons. Plenty of these people are long dead, and plenty more would rather wait at a distance, feign harmlessness or both. Basically, for every supposed power-figure in the realm, you can usually assume there's at least one other, far-less-obvious character who had (and often has) a vital role in their lives or which said figure may or may not be aware.
  • Star Wars Legends had this a fair bit. The New Republic's Chief Of State, almost always Leia Organa Solo, will be known, and Borsk Fey'lya and Admiral Ackbar might show up, and if the author is savvier than most Mon Mothma could come into play, but that's almost inevitably it, and the New Republic is always luckier in that regard than the Empire is. Unless the writer is Timothy Zahn, of course. Stackpole's X-Wing Series, having Council meetings as part of the narrative, also subverts this to a small extent. And in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, the ranking members of Luke's strike team get an unusual level of attention. Those are the exceptions.
    • Sort of lampshaded in Wraith Squadron. A pilot would like to be at least somewhat known. Who remembers the name of the head gunner on Ackbar's flagship, Home One? Wedge Antilles says he does. And lampshaded even before that in Rogue Squadron, when a freighter captain complains to Wedge about how everyone works but all the fame and glory stays on a few figures - from who gets remembered, you'd think that the Clone Wars were won by a handful of Jedi and a dozen pilots.
  • In Worm there's the Abaddon entity, a member of the same race as Zion and Eden. It shows up in a single chapter set long before the events of the story and only interacts with one character, yet its actions lead directly to Eden's death, which abort the entities' centuries long plan as Zion can't plan on his own. In short, it's only because of Abaddon's actions that the story happens at all and leaves anyone alive by the end of it all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 provides two examples, both of The Omniscient Council of Vagueness variety;
    • In season 5, Graem Bauer's associates seem to be influencial personalities, powerful enough even to scare President Evil Charles Logan, yet never show up again.
    • In season 7, every single member of Alan Wilson's cabal save Wilson himself qualifies. Though, it's possible they may appear in more major roles in season 8.
  • The councils that head the Alliance of Twelve and Prophet Five on Alias. Between them, they're the Big Bads of half the series, but most are never named and the heroes' main foes are "middle management" like Arvin Sloane, who ends up taking out both groups anyway.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All the vampires look up to Dracula. Buffy readies herself for an epic confrontation...and after that episode, he's never seen or spoken of again. Lampshaded early in the episode when Spike thinks he's just better at self-promotion than most thanks to using "gypsy tricks", but everyone else writes that off as sour grapes.
  • In part due to its nature as an adaptation requiring a lot of characters to be Demoted to Extra, this is rather common in Game of Thrones.
    • Ser Kevan Lannister, a senior office and younger brother to the wealthiest and most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms, has a rather minor role, as Tywin employs him all over the kingdom. He is even Adapted Out in season 3, when his sons are killed. Late in Season 5, he is appointed Hand of the King, despite having barely appeared since Season 1, except from two episodes at the start of the season.
    • Various lords and ladies of significant importance. For example, Northern families like the Glovers, the Umbers, the Mormonts still in Bear Island, the Cerwyns, and the Manderlys are Adapted Out or Demoted to Extra.
    • Aside from Selmy, Jaime Lannister, and Meryn Trant, the Kingsguard as a whole.
    • Aeron Greyjoy is very slim on screentime, but he's actually a vital cog in Ironborn politics. It is he who calls the Kingsmoot, he who conducts it, and it is he who legitimizes Euron as king (via drowning). As unofficial leader of the Drowned Men, he's basically the nearest thing the Ironborn have to a pope.
  • Jesse in Supernatural. You mean he's the Antichrist and super powerful? Wow, he's got to be important. Wait, what do you mean he's only in one episode that doesn't affect the rest of the series?

    Multiple Media 
    • The whole story can be traced back to the Great Beings and their attempts to study the silvery liquid Energized Protodermis, which unknown to them was sentient and malicious. The Great Beings were alluded to be all powerful "gods" in early media, later story revealed they were actually former rulers who turned to a life of science, unable to stop the Energized Protodermis' unstable power from splitting their home planet Spherus Magna apart. They created the Matoran Universe, the setting of the story's first 8 years and almost all who lived there, but only a few Great Beings showed up in the story and they rarely interacted with others as they went into hiding after being blamed for the planet's disasters. Though they were part of the franchise's core concept since the start, LEGO specifically ordered them to be featured as little as possible. They were meant to be explored fully had the franchise continued. The villager Velika was revealed by the writer to be a GB in disguise after the cancellation, but the story never reached this twist.
    • Despite Energized Protodermis and its powers being a constant presence in the plot, essentially being one of the absolute most crucial driving forces of the whole story, the EP Entity itself is a minor Filler Villain at best, mostly observing the goings-on and only revealing itself to a handful of characters before disappearing. It never plays a conscious role in any of the main plots (the closest was willingly assisting in the creation of some beasts) and is arguably one of the franchise's most obscure characters.
    • Artakha is a mythical force of good and the bearer of the Mask of Creation, one of the three Legendary Masks in existence, two of which played pivotal roles in the creation of the Matoran Universe. He also created the six Toa Mata, the series' main protagonists, and the Mask of Light, an important Artifact of Power. Artakha and his homeland's folk were isolated from the rest of the Matoran Universe but would occasionally teleport items or people to wherever they were needed to progress the plot. In person, Artakha only showed up in one scene in a side story that was Left Hanging when the series ended. Similar to the Energized Protodermis Entity, Artakha was invented on the fly as a filler character and was never sold as a toy, which explains their meager story presence.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Hestia is the goddess of the hearth, protector of family, the firstborn daughter of Cronus, one of the twelve Olympians (before being supplanted by Dionysus), sister of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter and Hades and in some places, she was so popular that she got offering before the other gods. Her actual presence in the entire Mythology however? Almost nonexistent. All we know is that she swore to remain a virgin after turning down Poseidon and Apollo. Her Roman equivalent Vesta fares little better. The only story we have from Ovid is Priapus' attempt to rape her in her sleep.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer Fantasy the tendency for most of the factions is that Asskicking Leads to Leadership holds true and the in-lore faction leaders for each faction is usually a fieldable special character (or, in the case of divided factions like the Greenskins, the most powerful living leaders are fieldable). The High Elves, one of the lorewise most powerful and united factions, avert this. Their faction's leader, Phoenix King Finubar the Seafarer, is not a playable character and never has been for any of the game's editions. The Wood Elves also play this straight in later editions as Ariel, the immortal queen of Athel Loren, stopped being a fieldable character after the sixth edition.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. The House of Peers is the male chorus. The joke is they know they're minor characters — in British government.
  • The Prince in Romeo and Juliet. He's the ruler of the city, but he only has three brief appearances: one at the beginning of the play to forbid further fighting between the Feuding Families, one around the middle to pass judgment after the edict is inevitably broken, and one at the end.

    Video Games 
  • The cover character of Elden Ring at first seems like a generic knight, but a deeper investigation reveals that it's an in-game character called Vyke. Lore-wise he's pretty important, being the Tarnished that got the closest out of anyone to becoming Elden Lord, was an implied lover of an ancient dragon, and was then tempted by the Frenzied Flame into becoming the Lord of Chaos, but failed in that as well. In the game itself however he has a grand total of 0 lines and he's only present in the form of two optional bosses (once in his corrupted Frenzied form and once way later uncorrupted).
  • Oddworld:
    • The unnammed Glukkons in the Rupture Farms boardroom in the beginning and climax of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.
    • Also the unnamed Mudokons that go with you to save Necrum Mines (and you have to save afterwards from a Soulstorm Brew overdose) in Abe's Exoddus.
  • The Philosophers and the Wiseman's Committee in Metal Gear - neither are important as anything other than motivation for the more plot-important characters, and the last lot were dead for a hundred years (if they existed at all). Also, Parker and Gardner, or "Anonymous", from Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, who never actually appear in person but drive the events of the whole plot.
  • Arpeggio of Sly 2: Band of Thieves. His initial appearance is a non-speaking role at the party in Rajan's "ancestral palace", his second consists of hearing his voice while Jean Bison talks to him over a speakerphone, while his third and final appearance is a scene near the end of the game, where he reveals his master plan to hypnotize Paris using hypnotic lights devised by the Contessa and powered by Jean Bison's Northern Lights battery to send a Paris addled by spice sold by Dimitri, delivered by Jean Bison and produced by Rajan into a hate frenzy, in order to make himself immortal and able to fly using the Clockwerk frame. However, he is betrayed by Neyla, and (apparently) dies soon afterwards.
  • Bang Shishigami from BlazBlue, up till Continuum Shift he was just a funny background guy who just didn't seem to fit in the major scope of things, ridiculed by many, ignored by others, respected by just a few; to the more perceptive, however, Bang was being built up with strong connections to grand events since Calamity Trigger, starting with Rachel noticing he had an inactive Nox Nyctores, just an easy to miss mention of what would be brought up in-story with much greater importance at the climax of Bang's story in CS. As of CS's end, Bang is now directly and indirectly connected to many plot threads leading to Chronophantasma and even to what may happen in the future. This culminates in Bang having a big moment during the climax of CP (thanks in part to said Nox Nyctores he was entrusted by his late master, the rightful ruler of the NOL)... and then eventually Subverted, as he is back to his usual level of importance (read: nothing more than a funny background guy) in Central Fiction.
  • In Tron 2.0, fCon's CEO is never named (for some reason, he even signs his e-mails as "CEO"), is never shown (his underlings interact with him via a camera with a loudspeaker mounted on the ceiling), and only has two or three scenes despite being the person behind the whole evil plot. His three lackeys (Seth Crown, Esmond Baza and Eva Popoff) have much more screen time and can be considered the de facto antagonists of the game.
  • Despite being a powerful CO and the possible leader of Orange Star, Nell doesn't really do much in Advance Wars. She hasn't had a single on screen battle, and stays at home in Dual Strike. This maybe because her luck ability makes it hard to design missions around her.
  • The Council in the first Mass Effect. You report to them at the end of your mission, and that's it. The player can even invoke this by cutting them off.
    • Provided they survive the first game, they get a total of one scene in the sequel.
    • They finally get to have a much bigger role in the third game, but even then, it's mainly the non-Council leaders who are taking the lead in the war against the Reapers.
    • Elanos Haliat, the crime lord responsible for the Skyllian Blitz, a devastating raid that plays a part in several of Shepard's backstories (killing Colonist Shepard's family, the Blitz itself for War Hero Shepard, and the Alliance's attack on Torfan for Ruthless Shepard), and the setting as a whole. He only appears in one quest, where he gets gunned down like a punk and is never mentioned again.
  • Before getting his own spin-off game, Zack Fair was very much this to Final Fantasy VII. Zack only appears in two scenes in the 40+ hour game both as part of main characters backstory. It's eventually revealed that after losing his memories, Cloud adapted Zack's past and character as his new identity and assumed it to be the truth.
    • Minerva is the goddess of the planet (or at least a very powerful summon) and, for all intents and purposes, Jenova's equal and opposite. The only thing she does in the entire compilation is serve as a superboss in Crisis Core.
  • Bloodborne is in an interesting position where the lore and backstory of the game is very character-driven, but the game itself has only a few characters of any importance, and is mostly setting-driven.
    • Vicar Amelia is the biggest example. In the lore, she's the leader of the entire healing church and the direct successor to Laurence, but in the game she is fought as a boss once (plus once in the DLC if you believe the theory that the white nun in the Hunter's Nightmare is her) and isn't mentioned outside of that.
    • Provost Willem would qualify as the game's Greater-Scope Villain if he was more malicious. His institution discovered the Old Blood that would eventually lead to the plague of beasts, and the foundation of the Healing Church. He's first seen in a flashback to the most important moment in the game's lore, but when you finally meet him you don't even get a bossfight. He's just an old man in a wheelchair, unable to do anything but point to the sea, and ceases to have any impact on the plot after that.
  • Dead or Alive: Hayate is the Muugen Tenshin Clan's leader, a close friend of Ryu Hayabusa, and a pivotal character in each of the DOATEC tournaments. At least, that's what the canon says. But...
  • Street Fighter: Ken Masters's only significance to the plot was being Ryu's best friend and sparring partner. Aside from that, his role in the series was inconsequential until Street Fighter 6 made him The Protagonist. (Luke was hyped as the protagonist, but the plot in all modes make him a Decoy Protagonist.)
    • By contrast, while Ryu is something of a Living MacGuffin and Supporting Protagonist, he is at the center of many major plot relevant events and has either fought, defeated, or been targeted by several major villain. Sagat strives to reclaim his former glory by defeating him, Bison wants to enslave him, Akuma is determined to make Ryu succumb to the Satsui no Hado, and (by the time of SFIII) Oro takes a shine to him and decides to make Ryu his student. Meanwhile, Ken gets stuck dealing with joke characters like Sean and Rufus.
    • It's a telling sign when even characters such as Chun-Li, Guile, Cammy, and Rose, who each debuted as secondary characters, have all risen to prominence in the series canon. They're always directly involved in investigating Shadaloo and are frequent targets of M. Bison, whereas Ken isn't even a blip on Bison's radar. The only connection Ken has with Bison is a tangential one: The Ties That Bind sees Seth, one of Bison's backup bodies, order C. Viper to abduct Eliza in order to lure out—you guessed it—Ryu. Even the fact that Ken taps into the Power of Nothingness more commonly associated with Gouken and Ryu seems to go completely unnoticed.
    • Stranger still, Rose's victory quote against Ken in SSFIV implies he'd actually play a role in the impending final battle against Bison, but come Street Fighter V, it's a Back for the Dead Charlie who weakens Bison just enough for Ryu to finally rid the world of the dictator's presence, and it's Karin who's presented as the Big Good responsible for gathering all the heroes to confront Shadaloo in the first place. Ken, yet again, gets squat.
    • However, Ryu himself becomes a Minor Major Character in all of the Street Fighter III games, with Alex becoming The Protagonist in those games. Ryu continues being a Minor Major Character in Street Fighter 6, the III series's direct sequel, with either Ken or a player avatar becoming The Protagonist depending on the game mode.
  • Advanced Variable Geo: The series' events chiefly revolve around Yuka, Tamao, and Reimi, as they try to put an end to Miranda's schemes. Whereas Yuka's best friend/rival, Satomi, is simply trying to win the tournament's prize money to pay for her kid brother's medical treatment. In Part II, she looked after Yuka during her Heroic BSoD, but had little else to do with the plot.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Ryder is one of the main members of the Grove Street Families gang and one of CJ's childhood friends who plays an important role in the first half of the storyline in Los Santos. After his betrayal, CJ only talks about Big Smoke betraying the gang and completely ignores Ryder until it's time to kill him, in which the latter's death was so unceremonious it was tantamount to killing a typical target in a vigilante side mission, making him seem more like a minor character. It also doesn't help that other members of Grove Street, such as Sweet, never even ask about Ryder, as if he never even existed in the game to begin with.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: Martin Madrazo is an important character for the first half of the game, with Michael's debt to him essentially kicking off the entire plot. Despite this, he only appears in three relatively short scenes and completely disappears for the second half of the game.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time: To say Robert Leingod's such an important figure, you see very little of him. It was his research into the Time Gate that initiates the plot and serves as the crux of the game's narrative. But he's only seen briefly at the beginning, while he and his family are vacationing on Hyda. They get separated during the Vendeeni attack, and Robert isn't seen again until halfway through the game, just long enough to pull a Heroic Sacrifice and share a few parting words with his son.
  • In both the "Dead Man's Switch" and "Dragonfall" campaigns for Shadowrun Returns, a representative of Saeder-Krupp Heavy Industries named Hans Braukhaus makes an appearance. He doesn't do much aside from provide some exposition in both cases, but it's strongly implied that he's actually the Great Dragon Lofwyr, CEO of S-K and one of the wealthiest and most powerful entities in the Sixth World.
  • In The Elder Scrolls main series of games, the Emperor of Tamriel, despite being the ruler of the continent on which all of the games take place, only has a very minor role in each. To note:
    • In Arena, Emperor Uriel Septim VII has been imprisoned in Oblivion and usurped by Big Bad Evil Sorcerer Jagar Tharn. The goal of the main quest is to free him, and your only interaction with him takes place at the end once you've done so.
    • In Daggerfall, the Emperor's only direct involvement takes place in the opening cut scene, sending the Player Character (his agent) to the eponymous city to investigate its haunting by its deceased former king.
    • In Morrowind, he doesn't appear at all. According to in-game documents, it is on his orders that the Player Character has been freed from prison with the explicit instruction that he/she be sent to the eponymous province.
    • Oblivion involves Uriel VII's lengthiest appearance, but even then, he is assassinated barely 10 minutes into the tutorial. The main quest involves finding his Hidden Backup Prince bastard son, who plays a much bigger role (though is never technically crowned Emperor).
    • Skyrim takes place after a 200 year Time Skip following the events of Oblivion, where Titus Mede II (grandson of a Colovian warlord who seized the Imperial Throne in the wake of the chaos follow the Oblivion Crisis) is now the Emperor of the (very much vestigial) Empire. He will only appear in the game if you complete the Dark Brotherhood faction questionline, at the end of which you assassinate him.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda series, Skyward Sword retroactively makes Fi, the spirit of the Master Sword, this for the whole series. Despite her going to slumber at the end of the aforementioned game, the rest of the series establishes that the Master Sword has a mind of its own, strongly implied to be Fi herself. Fi most directly plays the minor major role in Breath of the Wild, where in the final memory, Fi telepathically contacts Zelda from within the Master Sword, telling the latter that Link is Only Mostly Dead.
  • The Princess of Hearts in Kingdom Hearts are maidens whose hearts are completely devoid of light which makes them vital for the villains plan and as revealed in Dream Drop Distance, hold the 7 pieces of the X-Blade vital for Xehanort to start the Keyblade War. However aside from Kairi, the Princess themselves makes very sparse appearances, especially after the first game where they only appear in their own respective worlds. This is especially true for the New Seven Hearts of III where even though they are potential backups should the heroes fail to gather the Guardians of Light, said concept was quietly abandoned by the Final Battle and even after Xehanort's defeat, ended up knowing none the wiser about their status.
  • Bug Fables: Even though Zaryant is the queen's bodyguard and one of her strongest soldiers, she barely has any presence in the story. For the most part she just hangs around the throne room, even when Elizant leaves the castle and travels to far more dangerous locales.
  • Warcraft III: The expansion's orc campaign plays out more like an RPG, with up to two extra characters for the first act (and one of them is entirely optional). The only one with any narrative significance is Rexxar, Rokhan having a grand total of two lines while Chen Stormstout gets none (fortunately he gets a lot more screentime in later games, including kicking an orc and a human's asses simultaneously in the Mists of Pandaria trailer).
  • Dragon Quest V:
    • King James doesn't get much screen time, but the mission he sends Pankraz on ends up killing him off and throwing his son Harry and the Hero into slavery. His death during the timeskip also causes the power struggle that sparks one of the first major plots of the game's second act.
    • Despite being the head of the organization responsible for literally every problem in the game, the main character only meets King Korol and Queen Ferz once, shortly before their deaths, after which their entire presence becomes overshadowed by Ladja's.
  • Eldritch Lands: The Witch Queen's Eternal War
    • Anastasia Nitshe, Sofia's daughter. She has an entry on the Lore screen, is the one the tutorial is being told to, is frequently mentioned on many of the game's favor texts, and, according to Sofia, will be the one to truly bring peace and order to the world, but Anastasia has no speaking parts or any sort of direct role in the game's events. Justified as she is still a small child during the game's events.
    • Moriko Alarie, Ruler of the elves, is an even more direct example. She also gets an entry on the Lore screen, and is one of the two rulers that hasn't been crushed under the necroshroom hordes, but doesn't do anything at all during the game's events and is only mentioned a handful of times outside of her lore entry.
  • OMORI: When speaking to the Branch Coral, it makes a point of introducing the three great creatures called the oldest, the wisest and the favorite, a trio of beings whose existences predate Headspace itself. The information seems important, but it never ends up coming into play and it's just a bunch of extraneous lore. The oldest is Humphrey, who is an important character but he hardly matters to the plot, the wisest is Abbi, an Optional Boss who was banished from Headspace before the game began, and the favorite is the Big Yellow Cat in the Neighbor's Room, who is literally just a piece of scenery.
  • Several of the Moebius Consuls from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 had roles in the setup of the setting's Forever War that are not reflected in the screentime they wind up getting in the game itself. The most significant would be Consuls X and Y, who, alongside Z, were the original three Moebius. Little is known as to their origins; it's unclear as to whether they were humans who became Moebius like the rest of the Consuls, or if they were manifestations of human desire like Z. The two were instrumental in establishing the systems that would come to govern the lives of the Kevesi and Agnian colonies; the former presumably devised the colony ranking system by which those colonies that do manage to reach the top Gold rank are basically slaughtered in a harvest of their life force, under the promise that their soldiers would never need to fight anymore, while the latter created the Flame Clocks. However, neither of them are given a dedicated cutscene after you do put them down; they're treated as mere obstacles that you can just walk right past as they say their last words. Additionally, X in particular only shows up in the endgame at all if you already fought her as part of Eunie's Ascension Quest, meaning that it's possible to complete the game without ever even fighting her.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening has the Hierarch, a high-ranking official in Ylisse who helped Emmeryn during the latter's early years as Exalt. He only appears in one chapter, in which he betrays Emmeryn to Plegia and gets Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death:
    • King Dugan, the ruler of Beethro's homeland, makes only a couple of brief appearances, and in The City Beneath we see that he is easily swayed by his advisors and knows nothing of the world-shaking events going on beneath his kingdom.
    • The 'Neather makes only one appearance, as the Final Boss of King Dugan's Dungeon; after his defeat he is never mentioned again. But it's revealed that he was a more important person than Beethro ever realised, namely King Dugan's long-lost brother.
    • The King in Gunthro and the Epic Blunder makes only one appearance: his murder, which sets off the main conflict of that episode. And despite acting in the King's name, the court are firmly pursuing their own agenda.

    Visual Novels 
  • At the yacht party in Double Homework, the ship is controlled by a fake "sea captain" who memorably refuses to return to port because of "International Sea Law." His reappearance later in the story as a "bus driver" (with the same uniform!) is significant, as it points to Dennis's involvement in what the protagonist is trying to do (specifically, he's trying to stop the protagonist from reaching Barbarossa).

  • Lord Tedd from El Goonish Shive. A member of his entourage is responsible for Ellen's existence, he's a presumably-Evil Overlord alternate universe version of one of the main characters, and Tedd has shown worrying signs that parallel him. He's only spoken in a few strips and hasn't been seen in years.
  • The Headmaster from Gunnerkrigg Court. He's shown up in two chapters, and his last name was only revealed (indirectly, at that) ten chapters after the first appearance. His first name wasn't revealed until ch. 40.
  • In Dominic Deegan, Baaleth the Demon of Greed. He serves to empower some Infernomancers who play a more driving role in the plot, shows up at the end of the arc to declare victory in the war, and then gets killed when Karnak blows him up with the very thing he was after.
  • Schlock Mercenary has Dr. Todd Lazkowicz. He was the Toughs' doctor before he died and they hired Dr. Bunnigus. It is revealed later that he was working on a top-secret nanite-based Super-Soldier experiment, which saved the Toughs on numerous occasions and helped them become recognized throughout the galaxy.

    Web Original 
  • In Noob, Charles-Antoine Donteuil, the creator of the fictional MMORPG in which the story is set, is one of the seldom seen characters.

    Western Animation 
  • The Transformers' Physical God Primus, when he appears at all, is usually a minor character, despite being responsible for keeping the universe in balance and all of that jazz. He usually doesn't intervene directly, but through objects like the Matrix of Leadership. Unicron, his Evil Counterpart, generally takes a more active role by comparison.
  • The Tripredacus Council in Beast Wars are the leaders of the Predacons as a whole, as opposed to the small band that serve Megatron as the show's antagonist. Their only tangible role is in Megatron and Tarantulas' backstories, and sending one agent after Megatron in the second season finale.
  • Clone High has the Board of Shadowy Figures, the powerful group of men secretly in charge of the school's cloning program, and who constantly have to keep Principal Scudworth in line.
  • Princess Luna of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in the first season. She was the Big Bad of the pilot episode as Nightmare Moon and after being defeated returned to her position of co-ruler of Equestria with her older sister Princess Celestia. As Luna she got two lines and wasn't even mentioned again until the next season. She did get a focus episode in Season 2 and small parts after Season 1. She also got a rather large part in a Season 3 episode.
    • Princess Celestia. A ruler of the whole setting, a chief Big Good and primary source on Equestrian nemeses (since she was there to personally fight them throughout the history), the premise of the show began from the moment she took on Twilight Sparkle as her student and their relationship.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra :
    • The past avatars, with only four of their names being revealed in the original show. Working backwards from Aang: it’s Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, and Yangchen. The one before Yangchen was given the name Szeto in The Shadow of Kyoshi. The Rise of Kyoshi also namedrops one named Salai, who is apparently well-regarded by Kyoshi's friends, but no details about which nation they're from, how long ago they were active, or why they would be well-regarded are given.
    • Many important military officers have been shown in the original, but are rarely given lines let alone names. The most prime example is during the flashback of Zuko speaking out in a war meeting which consisted of about ten high-ranking Fire Nation officers planning a battle, none of them are named nor are they seen again.
    • In Korra, Fire Lord Izumi is both the only world leader and the only one of the original series characters' Spin-Offspring not to be a prominent character. Her son, General Iroh, and her father, ATLA deuteragonist Zuko, both mention her when she's relevant, but she is neither seen nor named until the final season. She and Zuko make a silent cameo at Wu's coronation, and she speaks (and is addressed by name) in a meeting several episodes later. The In-Universe reason given is that she is disinclined to be the aggressor in international affairs, given the wounds of the 100 year war are still fresh in living memory, but the real world reason is that the story didn't have room for her or the Fire Nation. The Book Four artbook states that she was originally intended to have a larger role, but that it was cut for time constraints.
  • Invader Zim has the Big Bad Duumvirate play this role. The main plot is about Zim, a single Irken agent trying to destroy/conquer Earth; his rulers, the Almighty Tallest, generally only show up when Zim calls them to brag about his "progress." They mostly just snark and stuff their faces, though sometimes they'll set up the plot of an episode in their attempts to hurt Zim for fun.
  • The Owl House: While all nine of the Coven Heads have unique designs, only five of them any real characterization. The other four (Construction Head Mason, Healing Head Hettie Cutburn, Oracle Head Osran, and Potions Head Vitmir) aren't given any characterization, have no lines, and were only named through Word of God. Presumably, they would have all gotten focus episodes had the show not been Cut Short.