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Noble Top Enforcer

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The Noble Top Enforcer is a Big Bad's right-hand who is considerably more virtuous than their boss. Why they serve the villain can vary. They could be doing so out of loyalty to them, loyalty to leadership, loyalty to their nation, or regarding them as the least bad alternative, or they could just be stuck in their situation through other circumstances. Expect this character to not do any of the real bad stuff their boss does or perform a Faustian Rebellion if ordered to do something unpleasant as a way to Take a Third Option.

Generally one of the more dangerous types of The Dragon for two reasons:

  1. These dragons are often very skilled combatants and/or very intelligent, mitigating their low position on the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness by being very competent, being at the very least "credible" on the Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness.
  2. Should the Big Bad do something so vile that it truly pisses them off, the Noble Top Enforcer will be the first one to turn on them, triggering either a Heel–Face Turn or an Enemy Mine scenario. This does not mean, however, that they will then join the side of the hero, as they can easily become a Knight Templar in the process, if they weren't one to begin with, or decide that they must become the new Evil Overlord to prevent chaos.

They tend to be extremely popular characters, as they're highly sympathetic. Having to kill one in a boss fight tends to make the player feel rotten about it. Their deaths are a common Tear Jerker.

Subtrope of The Dragon and Anti-Villain. Although the Noble Top Enforcer can be all over the place on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains, they commonly trend towards either Noble or In Name Only. A Dark Magical Girl that serves as The Dragon tends to be one. Word play on Noble Demon, which some of them are. Similar to My Master, Right or Wrong, with one critical difference; while that trope is purely concerned with loyalty, the Noble Top Enforcer is a comparison of the morality between The Dragon and the Big Bad. The Good Chancellor may serve as one if in an evil government. Related to Minion with an F in Evil and Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist. Contrast More Despicable Minion, where the Dragon or other minion is worse than the Big Bad. Can be the sympathetic party of Sympathetic Villain, Despicable Villain.

Nota bene: Complete Monsters, as much as they may be enforcers, are not in any way noble as they are heinous to the very core with no sense of honor or nobility.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • While it's left unclear for a long time if Athena in Appleseed is an Anti-Hero or an Anti-Villain, she is clearly not above using every dirty trick at her disposal to maintain the stability of the city Olympus, even if it means intimidating the parliament to do things her way. Her right-hand woman Nike is much more civil and reserved and deals with problems discreetly behind the scenes. To such a degree that she becomes even scarier than her boss.
  • Haku, Zabuza's Dragon from Naruto, is a Reluctant Warrior who only follows Zabuza out of personal loyalty for being saved as a child. His boss, on the other hand, is a brutal mercenary who relishes killing people.
  • Fate Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. She served as The Dragon to her Big Bad mother because she still loved her despite all the abuse she suffered and she hoped that collecting all the Jewel Seeds like her mother wanted would have her return to the kind person that she once was. Even before her Heel–Face Turn, she was shown to be a genuinely kind girl who just happened to be following the orders of an insane and abusive parent.
  • Desert Punk's Stryker is not the leader of the Oasis government, but he has absolutely no role in their inner corruption and only follows them out of well-intentioned yet naïve idealism.
  • Abelia in Now and Then, Here and There is SO MUCH of a better person than the outrageously, ridiculously Evil Big Bad Hamdo that eventually she just leaves him to die after she's had enough.
  • Christopher Armalite in Scrapped Princess. Although his immediate superior is a virtuous Cool Old Lady, his orders ultimately come from the corrupt government.
  • Freed Justine of Fairy Tail to Laxus Dreyar, being the most powerful and loyal member of the Raijin Tribe as well as the one with the most moral qualms against Laxus' darker acts, though it's not until his own defeat and a talk with his opponent does he finally realize and admit how far he and the rest of the Raijin Tribe have fallen. Subverted in that Laxus isn't actually evil to begin with, just misguided and immature.
  • Bismarck Waldstein is this to Emperor Charles Zi Britannia of Code Geass fame. Bismarck, being the Knight of One, answers directly to his Majesty and Britannia's foreign policy consists of discriminatory imperialism under his rule. Bismarck himself, though, is shown to be a virtuous and honorable soldier; advocating negotiation as being "more practical" before going to all-out war and chastising Suzaku for abandoning his compassion in exchange for vengeance. Tellingly, he pilots a Knightmare Frame called the Galahad, named after the most noble of King Arthur's Round Table.
  • Ashram in Record of Lodoss War. He is completely loyal to Emperor Beld and one of his most capable generals, but after Beld's death, he firmly opposes the actions of the other Marmo leaders and works hard to help the people of his country, while still remaining an enemy of the heroes.
  • Folken de Fanel to Emperor Dornkirk in The Vision of Escaflowne. He really did want to see less violence in the world, and eventually decided that the Emperor's Plan wasn't really working for him.
  • The Captain in Hellsing is this to The Major. He does not kill Heinkel but rather puts her out of action and gives Seras a fair chance at killing him despite him being much more powerful than her.
  • Kill la Kill's Gamagoori Ira is head of Honnouji Academy's Disciplinary Committee, one of the most loyal members of the regime, and possibly the most ruthlessly brutal man his opponents have the misfortune to go against. When not on duty, he not only avoids fighting when possible, he also goes out of his way to help a student in need, for instance letting Ryuko and Mako hitch a ride.
  • Ryuga in Fist of the North Star to Raoh. He participated in Raoh's goal of world conquest because he agreed with his stance that he'll unite the world and rid it of the misery it descended into ever since the apocalypse began. He also believes that he could never earn his sister Yuria's forgiveness for his violent actions. He antagonized Kenshiro as essentially, a Secret Test of Character - which also involved murdering his adopted brother, Toki, to see if he was strong enough to defeat him, and also to see if he is the true savior of mankind.
  • Gomez in pretty much every incarnation of Birdy the Mighty, as he works for the terrorist Christella Revi but also lends advice and help to Birdy on a number of occasions. In Decode this makes him an interesting foil to the first season's villain, Shyamalan, whom he attempts to dissuade from deploying a super weapon on Earth—despite the fact that Gomez is not human, while Shyamalan is.
  • One Piece:
    • The Baratie arc has Gin, the first mate of the ruthless Don Krieg. Despite being reputed as utterly merciless and having the Red Baron of "Demon", Gin proves himself to be a Noble Demon, being the only one of his crew to show gratitude to the Baratie cooks for feeding him, defying Krieg's orders to kill Sanji because the latter was kind enough to serve him when starving. His loyalty towards his captain is only broken when the latter is defeated, after which Gin knocks Don Krieg out cold when he gets back up in a fit of rage.
    • Charlotte Katakuri in the Whole Cake Island Arc. Being Big Mom's strongest son gives him a high level of authority within the crew, but unlike his psychotic mother, he is a composed and honorable warrior who shows respect to his enemies. While Big Mom is an Abusive Parent on many levels, physically harming and nearly killing some of her kids, Katakuri is a Knight Templar Big Brother who lives to protect his younger siblings. After his defeat by Luffy, Katakuri outright asks if the former will return to defeat Big Mom one day.
  • Starscream gets this type of Characterization in Transformers: Armada. In contrast to past installments of the character, this version of Starscream had a code of honor, which caused him to clash with Megatron.
  • Rishid in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Unlike Marik (and every other Ghoul), Rishid forgoes cheating in favor of kicking ass fairly; also unlike Marik, he's talented enough that he doesn't need to cheat to win. Unfortunately, this is what gives him away when acting as Marik's stand-in.
  • Inverted in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V with the Professor and his two Co-Dragons, Yuri and the Doktor. Despite his Fantastic Racism towards the other dimensions and Parental Neglect towards Reiji, the Professor's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to re-fuse the four dimensions back into the original dimension, while Yuri is a sadist who loves crushing people's spirits and turning them into cards (the show's answer to murder) and the Doktor uses Fusion Parasite to mind-control the four Bracelet Girls, something that the Professor later cards him for.
  • Nosferatu Zodd in Berserk to Griffith. Despite his Blood Knight tendencies, he doesn't partake in the same level of debauchery and sadism practiced by other Apostles - he doesn't harm non-combatants despite slaughtering soldiers by the hundreds, nor does he participate in the Eclipse, unlike his master who has done so much worse.
    • The differences between the two are only matched by the differences that Griffith has with his human counterpart Guts himself. When he defeated Guts, he convinced him that he belonged to him and Guts embraced it enough to even commit some political assassinations on his behalf but when they ended up including a child by accident, his horror made clear that he wouldn't agree to it if Griffith ordered him to do this specifically, which made it all a really happy coincidence for Griffith.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Adam has been portrayed this way at times, most memorably in 2005's Villains United storyline which saw him join a massive new incarnation of the Secret Society of Super-Villains organized by Lex Luthor (actually an interdimensional doppelganger posing as Lex). He was indisputably the most powerful member of the six villains that made up the Society's core leadership and was shown several times as disdaining the more repugnant villains he was forced to work with. Only Lex's warnings of a dire threat to his home nation of Kahndaq kept Adam on board.
  • Several heralds of Galactus have been this, most prominently the Silver Surfer.
  • In the Planet Hulk storyline, Caiera the Oldstrong was the top enforcer of the Red King and was shown to disapprove of his methods even before the Hulk talked her into a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Played with in the character of The Sentry, particularly after he becomes Norman Osborn's Dragon. The Sentry's alter-ego of Robert Reynolds believes his own intentions are noble, and desperately wants to be a hero, but he is mentally ill to the point of being Ax-Crazy, and as shown in his (most probable) origin story, is at his core not at all a noble character. Sometimes he is even hinted to be the Marvel U's version of The Antichrist.
  • X-Men
    • Exodus, longtime Dragon of Magneto. Being a time-displaced soldier from the Crusades, he holds himself to a knightly code of honor and is every bit as devoted to the cause of protecting and defending mutantkind as his adopted liege lord, even after Magneto rejects him for no longer being of any use to him.
    • Gladiator of the Shi'ar Empire is this, though his devotion to My Country, Right or Wrong hinders his inherent nobility as he often finds himself being forced by his own ideals to serve rulers that are either evil, insane or some combination of the two.

    Fan Works 
  • Blood and Honor: Sanguis is her master's right-hand woman and top enforcer, employed to intimidate or eliminate his rivals. The Emperor eventually recruits her to do the same job for him. Though she carries out their orders faithfully, she often chooses to behave mercifully and shows displeasure at some of the more underhanded assignments.
  • Heir of the Nightmare: Noctis, Nightmare Moon's Knight Commander. Despite serving the Nightmare, and horribly mistreating the Mane 5, he only does so out of loyalty to Nightmare, who had protected his species, the thestrals, from persecution centuries in the past. He is incredibly cordial to those he deems not a threat He proves to be utterly horrified by Nightmare Nova's destruction of Ponyville. After realizing the Mane 5 are not the assassins the Nightmare made them out to be, and pitying the loss of their families, he allows them to leave without a word.
  • Strife from Power Rangers Take Flight; a robotic warrior who rescues Sasha and fights the Rangers quite a few times. He's really a telepresence robot controlled by Dillik, the monster maker/inventor for Trask.
  • Mako is this in Natural Selection as one of Ryuko's Elite Four. Despite being a regular girl way out of her depth, she continues to hold her place at Honnouji both to try and transform it back into a regular school and to help Ryuko reconnect with her humanity. She knows that Ryuko's no saint, and wants Ryuko to get to the point where she might turn herself around as well. Unlike everyone else at Honnouji, she only fights in self-defense, or in defense of others.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance: Invoked by the villain of the film, after the bomb at the school turns out to be a decoy.
    "There was never any bomb in the school, was there?"
    "Of course not. I'm a soldier, not a monster. Even though I sometimes work for monsters."
  • The Flintstones: Sharon Stone, Fred's secretary after his promotion and Cliff's partner in the embezzlement scheme, has genuine misgivings about manipulating Fred into being their patsy when she starts getting to know him. Coupled with the implication that Cliff was planning on hanging her out to dry all along, it's not surprising that she turns on him in the end.
  • Mad Dog from John Woo's Hard Boiled is clearly a much better man than his boss Johnny Wong; he will not tolerate the harming or killing of innocents, a sentiment not shared by Johnny when trying to shoot past them to hit the heroes.....
  • A Gang of Bullies version in The Karate Kid; Johnny's friend Bobby goes along with his lighter bullying of Daniel, but insists against going too far. He's also this to Kreese, obeying his order to "sweep the leg", but feeling devastated at the fact he both used an underhanded tactic and hurt Daniel .
  • Lake Placid vs. Anaconda: Murdoch's main mercenary, Beach, shows disgust and anger about how Sarah gets several of their companions killed, tries to stop her at one point, and ultimately kills the anaconda.
  • Layer Cake: Jimmy is a Jerkass who is ratting out his friends to the police and is willing to set up XXXX to get involved with people who may kill him. His right-hand man Gene is polite, has a sense of integrity, only becomes dangerous toward XXX when he realizes XXXX killed Jimmy, and ultimately forgives him after receiving an explanation.
  • Knauer from The Longest Yard, specifically the remake, captain of both the prison guards and the guards' football team. He obeys the warden's orders but is uncomfortable with being Ordered to Cheat because he believes in fair play and in his team's ability to win legitimately. Later, the warden tries to hang a murder rap over inmate team captain Paul Crewe to get him to throw the game; after the inmates win, Knauer tells Crewe he's willing to testify on his behalf if the warden goes ahead with the charges.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Norrington becomes one in the third film, once the far more vile Lord Beckett takes over as Big Bad.
  • RocknRolla: Archy, in comparison to his antisocial and vicious boss Lenny Cole, has a sense of honour that offsets his cold pragmatism, intelligence, and charisma. Initially being loyal to Lenny despite his distaste for the latter's sadism, Archy eventually turns on Lenny upon discovering that the latter had previously betrayed him.
  • Darth Vader, of all people, claims to serve as this to The Emperor in the Star Wars movies. Vader even lampshades this trope at the beginning of Return of the Jedi:
    Commander Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts.
    Darth Vader: I hope so, Captain, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.note 
  • El Segundo from Valdez is Coming lives and breathes this trope, and openly regards Valdez as a Worthy Opponent.

  • Damodara in Belisarius Series. Reconstruction by making the dynamic among the leaders of the Malwa Empire into a major and central plot point.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • The cold and ruthless Tywin Lannister has his strongest supporter in his brother Kevan, a family man and generally decent guy who supports Tywin unconditionally because he feels that Tywin's harshness is necessary for the good of their family/the realm. He also saw early the long shadow his eldest brother would cast, and while their other brothers struggle to get out of it (and die doing so), he decides to make himself useful in it. In A Dance With Dragons, he's killed by Varys himself and his little birds, Varys fearing that he might undo the trainwreck his niece Cersei caused. Even Varys, typically a cold and calculating operator, seems to regret killing a man who isn't really a bad guy.
    • Joffrey's most feared enforcer, the ruthless Sandor Clegane, is a surprisingly moral guy. He's the only one of Joffrey's Kingsguards to help Sansa in any way. It's noted that Joffrey never once selects Sandor to be the one to beat her, perhaps sensing that Sandor would resist.
    • After a boatload of Character Development, Jaime Lannister becomes this to his sister Cersei in A Feast for Crows, working to stabilize the Riverlands with as little bloodshed as possible.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Taurok insists on fighting fair and hates getting civilians involved in his boss' pursuit of the heroes. Gothon, by contrast, will do anything to accomplish his Evil Plan. He would have turned on Gothon long ago if the guy didn't have his family hostage. Ultimately does so anyway.
  • Karna, of the Mahabharata, is unflinchingly loyal, extremely generous, self-sacrificing, and honorable to a fault. In fact, this is what makes him an antagonist: his Honor Before Reason causes him to stick with the Kaurava simply to repay the debts of kindness that their leader showed him.
    • Well, that and the fact the heroes insulted him.
  • In the The First Law short story "Small Kindnesses," Mason is the top enforcer of a local gang, but he repeatedly makes it clear that he doesn't share his boss' son's pointless cruelty and stupidity, but he's got a job to do, so he follows orders.
  • The Lost Regiment: Qubata from the first book is the main general of a horde that makes cities hand over hundreds of people to be eaten on a regular basis. However, he has a long-standing friendship with his boss and comes to respect the abilities of the eponymous regiment. He eventually advocates stopping eating humans due to respect for how they can fight, concern for the Tugar lives that will be lost in the battle, and a belief that they’ve become complacent depending on humans for labor and food and can return to being sustenance hunters. He dies trying to stop Hawthorne from blowing up a dam and killing thousands of Tugar soldiers. His last words are that he just wanted to save his people, wouldn’t have killed Hawthorne the way he might have months ago, and wished they could have stopped the fighting peacefully.
  • The rebooted version of Grand Admiral Thrawn (as depicted in the novel Thrawn) in the Star Wars mythology is shaping up to be this. In his duties for the Empire, he goes out of his way to preserve life and uphold justice, even when it is not in the Empire's best interest. He even goes so far as to challenge the Emperor over the ethics of developing the Death Star. This may have something to do with the fact that this version of Thrawn is actually a double agent for the Chiss Ascendancy, and ultimately his priority is the safety of that civilization.
  • Undead on Arrival: Presents three of them all three of whom survive, while their bosses don't.
    • Pulaski is the toughest fighter in Anti-Hero Novak's gang and despite his Blood Knight tendencies, cares deeply for his friends and never takes part in the occasional excesses and abuses of power Novak indulges in.
    • Sakimoto is the chief guard at the Hotel Athena and is focused on the safety of the town and its people and has no beef with Novak until he realizes that he went after Sakimoto's boss Walter and killed him.
    • Ford serves Sinister Minister Reverend Rippey out of conviction that he knows what's best for the town, and simply walks away from him upon being convinced that he doesn't.
  • In Watership Down, Captain Campion is a patrol leader for the brutal police state-like warren of Efrafa. He's brave, resourceful, clever, and occasionally somewhat merciful to the rabbits under his command. He faithfully serves the book's Well-Intentioned Extremist villain, General Woundwort, up to the end of the story. When Woundwort is killed in the final battle, Campion succeeds him as Chief Rabbit of Efrafa, and we're told that it loses a lot of its brutality under his watch.
  • The Harry Turtledove short story "After the Last Elf is Dead" is told from the POV of a general serving an evil overlord. The general is capable of cruelty but shows a lot of Pragmatic Villainy and Villain Respect for his enemies. At the end of the story he's thrown into a torture chamber for becoming too noble for his boss's taste.
  • Slacker: Alpha Bitch Jennifer Del Rio's boyfriend and primary assistant in going against the P.A.G., Tony, is a fairly calm person who softens toward Cam and the P.A.G. a lot quicker than Jennifer does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Planet of the Ood", the baddie of the week's chief scientist was working to free the Ood the whole time.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Before the events of Stargate SG-1, Teal'c was this to Apophis. Apophis had crossed the Moral Event Horizon well before Teal'c's birth, so his reason for betraying him was more "at last I can".
    • Of particular note is an early episode where SG-1 visits a planet Teal'c has been to before, and where he was ordered by Apophis to murder someone at random to make a point; he chose to gun down an elderly man, reasoning that the fleeing crowds would be more likely to get to safety without the man slowing them down (Apophis just thought he was being unnecessarily cruel and liked it). And even with that, he still willingly allowed himself to be subjected to the local justice system, accepting whatever punishment they deemed necessary. It worked out in the end, but after this, there was never any question that Teal'c was never the monster Apophis was.
    • Prior to Teal'c, his mentor Bra'tac was Apophis' First Prime. When grooming Teal'c to replace him, he taught him to see the truth about the Goa'uld. He told him that his job would be to "temper [Apophis'] sword".
    • To a lesser extent, Lord Yu's First Prime Oshu is fairly reasonable for a Jaffa. However, he is sworn to follow his master's every order, even ones brought on by senility.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Evil Spock in "Mirror, Mirror". He may be evil, but he's still a Vulcan, and therefore bound to act "logically". This makes him somewhat more honourable than his human crewmates.
  • Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul: Mike Ehrmantraut to Gus Fring. Where Gus is shown to be ruthless, cold-hearted, and malicious with absolutely no qualms about killing kids or Walt's family, Mike's "half-measure" speech to Walt, his initial change of heart about leaving Lydia's daughter orphaned, and his appalled reaction to Todd killing a kid show that he is at least a more noble person than his boss.
  • The Tudors: The Duke of Suffolk. The rest of the court is filled with fanatical churchmen, corrupt courtiers, and yes-men. He's the king's best friend and Lancer. In each season, he becomes a more benevolent character, and every time Henry decides to be a bastard in front of him, he looks dismayed.
  • Tarin Faroush from 24 season 8 is dismayed at the increasingly brutal methods Pres. Hassan uses to put down dissidents at home after his brother Farhad is revealed to be working with terrorists. Tarin was also a terrorist but still saw himself as this.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In season 1, James Wesley is both Wilson Fisk's right-hand man and closest friend, is a hypercompetent advisor and sidekick, and encourages his courtship with Vanessa while Fisk's partners are viewing her as a liability. Fisk considers him a surrogate son, is devastated when Karen Page kills him, and dispatches Dex to kill her as revenge when she visits Fisk in his penthouse to rub it in his face.
    • Felix Manning in season 3 also exhibits this. He serves as Dex's handler, makes threats against Fisk's enemies, and gives orders to his underlings. He's also one of the few in Fisk's inner circle to have a degree of respect for him (as opposed to being intimidated into serving him), with Fisk feeling indebted to Felix for keeping Vanessa protected while he's been serving his time in prison.
  • Jericho (2006): Russell assists Constantino, who is a major enemy of Jericho. However, he constantly attempts to broker truces between Jericho and New Bern, and is especially concerned about trying to keep his old friend Heather from being killed.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Hernan "Shades" Alvarez functions as one to the Stokes gang. He often acts as the voice of reason towards Mariah Dillard, often suggesting risk-free ways to make money that don't have as much potential for fallout, not that she always listens to him. He also is quick to turn on her after she massacres a restaurant of innocent people to draw out Bushmaster from hiding.
  • Midnight Mass (2021): Sturge does a lot of the grunt work for Father Paul and Bev and contributes to the deaths of many people. However, he shows some hesitation before some of his worst misdeeds and shows mercy and compassion toward his enemies on several key occasions.
  • Hustle: Downplayed with Frank Doyle from the episode "Big Daddy Calling" is the enforcer and head of security at a mafia-owned casino. He disapproves of his boss's sadistic streak, occasionally trying to talk him out of injuring cheaters at the casino. But that doesn't mean that he won't do it when his boss remains stubborn.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Denshi Sentai Denziman has General Hedrer, the loyal and honorable right-hand man of Queen Hedrian.
    • Grey is this for the Vyram in Choujin Sentai Jetman, being the only one among them to have morals and valuing a fair fight with his rival, Black Condor.


    Mythology and Religion 

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Yellow Thirteen in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies is a man of honor who cherishes his wingmen very much. This is is stark contrast to his country of Erusea, a ruthless dictatorship perfectly willing to fire upon civilians.
  • In Bayonetta 2, Big Bad Loptr is literally Made of Evil, he's the evil half of the former God of Chaos, Aesir, and wants to claim the powers Aesir gave to humanity back just so he can be God again, only this time without his good half, Loki. His Dragon Balder on the other hand is a Dragon with an Agenda and is actually a very noble and heroic Lumen Sage, who is only allowing himself to be manipulated by Loptr so he can kill Loki, whom he thinks killed his wife. Once that is cleared up, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn immediately and aids Bayonetta in taking him down.
  • In Borderlands 2, The Sheriff of Lynchwood has Deputy Winger, who urges the citizens to not get on the Sheriff's bad side as she's simply looking for an excuse to hang people. While he fights the heroes alongside the Sheriff in her boss fight, a bonus objective is to not harm Winger (in other words, shoot the sheriff, but do not shoot the deputy).
  • Harle from Chrono Cross. She even becomes a temporary party member when Serge's party members leave due to plot reasons.
  • Custom Robo Arena has Marcia's brother Sergei, the only member of Z Syndicate who still follows its original ideal of destroying the malevolent Rahu rather than using Rahu for their own ends.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 has Goro Takemura, the personal bodyguard of series villain Saburo Arasaka, who despite his loyalties to the Arasaka Corporation is generally an honorable and good-natured man who proves to be a dependable ally to V. While he can occasionally have debates with V about Arasaka (particularly notable if V was a former Arasaka employee) and the fact that on some level recognizes their faults, Takemura ultimately proves to be unwaveringly loyal to Saburo and his ambitions and cannot imagine a life outside of serving the family.
  • Credo in Devil May Cry 4. Serves Sanctus in his plans for a new utopia, he however puts his foot down when Kyrie (who just so happens to be his sister) gets dragged into the whole mess to power the Saviour alongside Nero. This gets himself killed by the Big Bad for his troubles.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Ser Cauthrien from Dragon Age: Origins, whose Undying Loyalty to Teyrn Loghain means that unless the Warden can talk her down, they will be forced to fight her in a duel to the death. If convinced to stand aside, she begs the Warden to save Loghain from himself.
    • Dragon Age II has Knight-Captain Cullen as The Dragon to Third Act Big Bad Knight-Commander Meredith. While initially her biggest cheerleader, Cullen slowly becomes more and more disillusioned with Meredith's growing paranoia, until he finally turns on her to protect Hawke, no matter what side s/he is on, just before the final battle.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition has Calpernia if the Inquisitor sides with the Templars. She follows Corypheus out of a desire to rebuild the Tevinter empire and free its slaves, of which she was one. The Inquisitor can find proof that Corypheus plans to enslave her mind once she drinks from the Well of Sorrows, and she can be convinced to abandon him and try to reform Tevinter in other ways. She will not join the Inquisition, however. This is not possible with Samson, her Co-Dragon.
  • General Leo in Final Fantasy VI is probably the Trope Codifier in video games: He's a general in The Empire who aims to minimise casualties on both sides of a war, condemns Kefka's use of poison in the siege of Doma, conducts himself honourably in all encounters with the player's party, and negotiates a truce with the Espers before Kefka breaks it and turns them into Magicite, whereupon he turns on Kefka and gets killed for his principles.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dragonborn if played heroically or as an Anti-Villain will have them fall into this category at the end of the Dragonborn DLC, after the Daedric Prince, Hermaeus Mora informs them that they've just inherited the role of his champion from Miraak.
  • In the Main Story of Ensemble Stars!, Eichi implies that Keito is this, saying that he was unaware of his plan to break up Trickstar and would not have approved of it if he was. We never see Keito's reaction, but he does later encourage Mao to go back to Trickstar. However, Eichi also admits in the end that part of him wanted Trickstar to get back together, so ultimately they're both treated as sympathetic antagonists. And when we see how Keito acted as his enforcer during the war, it becomes even more questionable, as Keito could be very cold and ruthless. A better example is probably Kuro towards Keito - he's extremely loyal to him and continues to carry out Akatsuki's will long after he comes to hate the student council, and is very willing to call Keito out when he disagrees with something he's doing, even if he ultimately refuses to leave his side.
  • Fatal Fury: Billy Kane, Geese Howard's right-hand man. He's not evil and is more morally upright than his boss. It doesn't hurt that he has no dark ambition, and is simply acting as Geese's enforcer to ensure that his younger sister Lilly is accommodated for. In fact, he seems to harbor no ill-will towards his boss' nemesis Terry Bogard and is pretty civil towards Terry & co, unless Joe Higashi is hitting on his sister. (The only person he seems to be hostile towards is Iori Yagami because Iori mercilessly attacked him and Eiji Kisaragi after the '95 tournament due to their loss.)
  • Beatrix in Final Fantasy IX is the toughest opponent in the first two discs. She sides with the heroes when she learns that Queen Brahne was plotting against her own daughter. (Although apparently her scruples hadn't made her balk at genocide, so decide for yourself how "noble" she is.)
  • In Fire Emblem, this trope is a reoccurring theme that dates back to the first game with the character Camus, an honorable knight who saved his erstwhile enemy Princess Nyna once and even fell in love with her; nonetheless, he's compelled to fight against Marth to defend his homeland of Grust, which is run by corrupt nobles. In fact, once he no longer has to serve the bad guys, he can become an outright hero in subsequent games after surviving his apparent death in Shadow Dragon, serving as the amnesiac Zeke for Alm in Fire Emblem Gaiden (though he still has another stint as this trope for Emperor Rudolf beforehand) and as the masked knight Sirius for Marth himself in Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. Henceforth, every Fire Emblem game usually will include a genuinely noble enemy general that cannot be recruited and will fight for their country's honor out of loyalty, called 'The Camus Archetype'.
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn: The Black Knight/General Zelgius thinks he's a Noble Top Enforcer, but despite his sympathetic motivations, he's still a crazed Blood Knight who cut down his teacher for no better reason than to see if he had surpassed him (He's still this, however, as despite any flaws he may have, Ashnard is far, far worse). His Co-Dragon, General Bryce of Daein, is a straight example, being an Antivillainous patriot who fights to the death to protect a monarchy that no longer represents his beliefs. Ike himself notes that Bryce, unlike every other Daein soldier he's faced, fought fairly and honourably. In Radiant Dawn, the Black Knight's own Dragon, Levail, is one of these, being a naive young man who suffers from Honor Before Reason and My Master, Right or Wrong, and honestly sees the Black Knight as a Knight In Shining Armour (something Levail himself is much closer to). Both of them are Optional Bosses and killing them is quite sad.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses's Azure Moon path deconstructs this with Randolph. While his reasons for fighting are sympathetic, his honor-bound tendencies bring about his downfall, and as Dimitri points out, trying to claim the moral high ground in a war doesn't make him any less of a killer.
  • General Morgahn to Varesh Ossa in Guild Wars Nightfall. He stays with her out of blind loyalty, refusing to believe that she's as much of a monster as you claim � until she desecrates the Font of Lyss, at which point he joins your cause.
  • Solymr to his master King Magnus in Heroes of Might and Magic IV. Back when Magnus was still a good man, he freed Solymr from his prison. The grateful genie swore to serve Magnus for as long as he walked the world, not knowing that Magnus was immortal. Unfortunately, Magnus was unhinged by the destruction of their original world which forced the survivors to move to Axeoth. Blaming free will, Magnus devoted himself to perfecting Mind Control Magitek that would give him power over all of Axeoth to ensure that the tragedy that destroyed his previous kingdom and world would never happen again. Solymr disagreed with this course of action but remained loyal to Magnus out of lingering gratitude, sympathy, and the fact that he was bound by his oath. In the "Price of Freedom" campaign, Solymr eventually realizes that Magnus needs to be stopped and uses the loophole that Magnus technically isn't walking on their original world but on a new one to break free of his servitude and join Emilia Nighthaven.
  • Korsica in Hi-Fi RUSH is the head of security for Vandelay Technologies, and is highly loyal out of gratitude for the company saving her hometown from an ecological disaster when she was younger. Unlike the other department heads, who are generally megalomaniacal and obsessed with money, Korsica is straightforward and pragmatic. She's the most focused on catching Chai and the others simply because stopping intruders is her whole job, and she takes her duties very seriously. The heroes do notice that she's not insanely egotistical like the other bosses, and speculate that she's genuinely unaware of the sinister Mind Control plot around Project Armstrong. Korsica does start looking into the project despite initially brushing off Chai's warnings, and it turns out that Kale deliberately kept her in the dark because she's too noble. The discovery that the company truly isn't what it once was, along with Kale nearly killing her because You Have Failed Me, prompts a full Heel–Face Turn.
  • The King of Fighters: Original Zero may be Igniz's underling, but he's a far more nobler man than his boss, who was perfectly willing to murder his own father just to become the CEO of NESTS, orchestrate the "experimentation"/torture of countless youths, some of who outright died, and attempt to kill his enemies upon defeat via crashing his space station. In contrast, Zero devoutly follows the organization, takes the time to help as many of the kids as he can, and calmly accepts his fate once he's taken down. A pity that Clone Zero didn't copy his sense of morality...
  • In Mass Effect, Benezia joined Saren to be this, hoping to rein him in a bit. It backfired and she ended up indoctrinated by Sovereign, and the best she could manage in the end was to shrug off the indoctrination as she was dying and give Shepard coordinates of a crucial mass relay.
  • Both Mr. Mach and Baryl are this in Mega Man Battle Network 6: Cybeast Gregar and Cybeast Falzar. Neither of them is evil, but they both owe a debt of loyalty to Dr. Wily; the former also serves out of loyalty to the latter.
  • Harpuia in Mega Man Zero compared to Copy X, though it only becomes truly apparent in 2 and 3 where his personality beyond being a simple efficient enforcer gets examined, revealing a deep-rooted desire to protect humans while also showing a kinder hand to Reploids. It's heavily implied that his reign in Neo Arcadia was considerably more fair than Copy X's.
    • Craft to Dr. Weil as well. Craft only joined Weil's side because he believed it was the only way to ensure civilization would survive and shows absolutely none of Weil's sadism.
  • Goro from Mortal Kombat. He only serves under Shao Kahn for the good of the Shokan race. Unlike most of the bloodthirsty or sinister warriors in Kahn's army, Goro is an honorable warrior despite his monstrous appearance. When Kung Lao wanted to avenge his ancestor the Great Kung Lao's death at the hands of Goro, he made peace with Kung Lao noting that his ancestor was a great man and a noble warrior. He also joined the side of good after Mortal Kombat 4 and waged war on Shao Kahn alongside Kitana.
  • Although he's hardly the 'Big Bad', Sengoku Basara has this sort of relationship between Otomo Sorin and Tachibana Muneshige. Sorin is a Jerkass Sissy Villain and the resident leader of a Path of Inspiration, while Muneshige is the ideal Samurai (and extremely mistreated).
  • The lightside Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic can come across as this, especially during the third chapter in which they serve as The Dragon for Darth Tormen.
    • The other Imperial classes as well, again by playing lightside. At the end of their quests, the Sith Inquisitor and Sith Warrior are subordinate only to the Emperor himself, making them his Co-Dragons while also being Noble Demons. The Sith Warrior moreso as they spend most of their storyline as the subordinate of Darth Baras, a fairly vile individual who they can openly snark at as well as subverting his orders (which he generally doesn't raise a fuss about as long as you still end up neutralizing his enemies).
    • Even possible on the Republic side, the "good guys." General Garza isn't evil, just pragmatic and pessimistic. Since they answer directly to her, light-sided Troopers qualify when subverting or outright refusing the more ruthless of her orders.
  • Both Sanger Zonvolt and Elzam von Branstein start out this way in Super Robot Wars before their Heel–Face Turn.
    • Note, this applies more to Sanger, seeing as his debut game has him serve a batshit insane version of a woman he deeply cared for, and in subsequent appearances in the Alpha canon, she's back to being a good guy. In the Original Generation games, he worked for Bian Zoldark, who was actually a good guy (using a Necessarily Evil plan with his buddy Maier V. Branstein). Likewise, Elzam worked for both Bian and Maier (his father), and both guys turn out to be Good All Along once you get past the faux evil mask.
  • Leon to Hugo in the Tales of Destiny remake (he wasn't quite so noble before). He's essentially being forced into dragondom with a hostage.
  • Milhaust Selkirk in Tales of Rebirth is one of the Big Bad's enforcers that will always need a good reason to attack Veigue or do harm to the people regardless of race. He also has a huge Bodyguard Crush.
  • Kratos to Mithos in Tales of Symphonia. The Dragon doesn't even agree much with his boss but follows him because he's seen how things reliably got worse every time the status quo was uprooted. He eventually joins Lloyd after having his fatalism beaten out of him. And it's even revealed he already was on their side; all of his mysterious actions and encounters with the group in the second act were him preparing the party to usurp Mithos. Not to mention for his own death.
  • Kotobuki Hikaru from Way of the Samurai 4 is this towards Kinugawa Onsen. Kotobuki has a My Country, Right or Wrong mentality and continues to follow the Shogunate, even as Kinugawa gets more Obviously Evil since it’s his duty as a samurai. In at least one route, Kotobuki even becomes the Final Boss, going after the player after they turn against Kinugawa. If the player manages to get into the hidden route, Kotobuki will eventually pull a Heel–Face Turn. In that route’s bad ending, Kotobuki is even the one who initially decides to assassinate Kinugawa, and gathers a party including the player in order to do so. In the good ending, Kotobuki takes a bit longer to break away from his duty, but manages to bring himself to do so at a critical moment, and saves Laura from being Stewed Alive by Kinugawa, and buys everyone some time while the player is dealing with Kinugawa’s daughters.
  • Persephone, Elvis, and Fereydoon in Wild ARMs 5 all prove to be honorable people who are only interested in saving their race from being eradicated by Filgaia. All three of them end up working with the heroes to stop the Big Bad Volsung in the final battle.
  • In World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, General Nazgrim fills this role for his power-mad Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. A fan favorite for Horde players, who have worked with him for no less than three expansionsnote , he had no love for Garrosh, but, as Varok Saurfang says, he was "too loyal and too proud" to turn his back on his Warchief and his nation. One moment that stands out is him allowing erstwhile Warchief Thrall and Saurfang to pass through a Kor'kron checkpoint, telling the guards they were "needed in Orgrimmar."
    Nazgrim: In the end, I stood by the Warchief because it was my duty, and I am glad it was you who struck me down. May your strength lead the Horde into a new era of prosperity.

    Web Comics 
  • Anti Bunny: Runo is Malphas' right hand man, apathetic to Malphas' enslavement of the rabbits because he's on the verge of becoming president. However, Runo is typically the one to reel Malphas in any time he lets his short temper or psychosis loose. Eventually, Runo realizes his 'blood brother' lost any honor he had a long time ago and quits, leaving Malphas to descend into further madness.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the Big Bad Xykon is only interested in power. His Dragon, Redcloak, is an Anti-Villain who wants a better life for his pariah species but is willing to go to extreme lengths, such as working for Xykon, in order to achieve his goals. Downplayed, because while he realizes that his people are in a better place than they started, he still chooses to play along with Xykon's scheme and perpetuate his deity's grand master plan, just because doing otherwise would force him to admit that he sacrificed his own people for a long chain of his own mistakes. He also kills unarmed prisoners, and even other goblin conspirators, without much hesitation.

    Web Original 
  • The Ballad of Edgardo: Militant Xer0 (yes, spelled that way) was a ridiculously petty Evil Overlord who tried out his endless powers on innocent newbies for fun and wouldn't let go of even a tiny grudge. His main enforcer, Goldnharl, was a quiet warrior who was secretly simmering in anger at how he had earned all of his overpowered gear and abilities the hard way, by actually playing the game, while Xer0 had gotten his power through sucking up and/or whining to the moderators until they gave him whatever he wanted. The only reason he even served Xer0 was because it was either that or getting his ass kicked by the guy whose level was an infinity sign and who had the mods on speed dial. After Xer0 revives him from a worthy death he had entirely accepted, Goldnharl immediately pulls a Heel–Face Turn and joins the protagonists to help them take the bastard down.
  • Dream SMP: In the Manburg era, although Quackity was the Vice President to Schlatt and by all means The Dragon, he genuinely wanted (L')Manburg to be a better place and did what he did (e.g. taking part in the Election to make it fair, pooling votes with Schlatt, etc.) in an attempt to bring fairness and justice, and has vocally spoken out against Schlatt on several occasions, most notably at the Manburg Festival when Schlatt ordered to have Tubbo (who was 16 at the time) executed for treason. It probably helps that his perspective reveals he's just as much of a victim of Schlatt's assholery as everyone else is, if not more so, and this is what drives him to make a Heel–Face Turn down the line, shortly after the Manburg Festival.

    Western Animation 
  • During his brief stint as Co-Dragons for Ozai alongside Azula, Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender was a Noble Top Enforcer, complete with a defection as a result of Ozai going too far. During the rule of Azulon, Ozai and Iroh's father, Iroh functioned more or less as this, still his genial self but fully dedicated to fighting the Fire Nation's war. It took the death of his son in the siege of Ba Sing Se to fully turn him face.
  • Paige from TRON: Uprising, who serves General Tessler out of gratitude for saving her life, but doesn't condone some of his more extreme actions.
  • In The Venture Bros., Henchman 21 becomes this for the Monarch in Season 4 after Taking A Level In Badass. He's Affably Evil at worst, and his extreme loyalty to the Monarch keeps him around. When finally pushed too far, he quits to join SPHINX at the end of the season. After SPHINX is destroyed and he's led to believe that he has been betrayed by Sgt. Hatred in Season 5, he rejoins the Monarch.
  • Karai was this to Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003).
  • Soren in The Dragon Prince is unflinchingly loyal to his Evil Chancellor father, Viren, and serves as his top agent. However, he displays none of his father's malice or greed, and is noticeably disturbed when Viren as good as orders him to kill Princes Callum and Ezran if they aren't already dead.
  • The Transformers: Cyclonus is an honorable Noble Demon who nevertheless holds Undying Loyalty towards his leader Galvatron despite the latter being a complete psychopath.
  • In Transformers: Prime, Dreadwing was one of the highest-ranking Decepticons under Megatron, and greatly loyal to the Decepticon cause. He's painted as much more honorable than Megatron and is shown to care deeply for and mourn the passing of his twin brother, Skyquake. Multiple times throughout the series, Optimus Prime offers Dreadwing the opportunity to join the Autobots, and they demonstrate a good deal of mutual respect when they fight. Eventually Dreadwing ends up leaving the Decepticons entirely, enraged that Megatron intended on covering up how Starscream turned Skyquake's corpse into a zombie. He even aids the Autobots, providing them much-needed relics, but still turns down Optimus's last offer of a full defection, choosing to instead remain unaligned. He makes one final mission to kill Starscream, and is ultimately killed by Megatron himself when he refuses to stand down.