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Not Quite the Right Thing

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Sometimes, it hurts to do the right thing. Sometimes, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't. And sometimes, what seemed a good idea at the time turns out otherwise. It sounded like the right thing... but it turned out to be Not Quite the Right Thing. May lead to Heel Realization and My God, What Have I Done?.

Whenever a device like this is used in a plotline, it's sometimes used to provide some sort of moral ambiguity to the situation (in which case, there truly wasn't a right thing). Usually leads to a Downer Ending or a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, and is a major part of shows with Black-and-Gray Morality. It can get messy when mixed with a good/evil Karma Meter. A lot of the time, however, this just means that they have to learn from their mistakes and find out the real Right Thing.


Unfortunately, all too often Truth in Television. There's a reason they say No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

When everyone involved is aware that all options are bad and that there's no right answer, it's a Morton's Fork instead. If a character tries to learn from these mistakes and do the correct thing after, they might be a Moral Pragmatist. If this happens because they're deceived into believing that it was the right thing, they may be in the Wrong Side All Along courtesy of the Manipulative Bastard (especially the Treacherous Quest Giver).

Contrast The Extremist Was Right.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry: Sara can't bring herself to kill her brother, despite witnessing the massacre at Grabera. Because of this, he kills yet another person that Sara has allowed herself to care about. Although he is still the most important person in her life, she decides to stop him from hurting anyone else.
  • The anime series Monster begins with this trope: a doctor disobeys hospital director's orders and saves the life of a child whose foster parents had been killed, only to discover ten years later that the child had murdered said foster parents himself and committed a string of other murders since and prior to then as well. Not to mention that said child decided to "thank" him by killing the director and the entire board that demoted him. And then to be even more of a Poisonous Friend, Tenma himself ends up getting the blame for these murders, and turns fugitive years later when the boy returns and kills one of his patients, who was an accomplice in the boy's serial mass murder of entire families. Tenma gets blamed for that too.
  • Discussed in episode 23 of Persona 4: The Animation, Yu wonders, having a breakdown as he does, to Yosuke if he made the right decision to spare Namatame, since Namatame was responsible for Nanako's kidnapping and subsequent death. His decision ultimately turns out to have been the right one, leading to both Nanako's revival and The Reveal that Namatame, while also responsible for Yukiko, Kanji, Rise and Naoto's kidnappings, was not responsible for the murders or the warning letter Yu had previously received.
  • BlackWarGreymon's sacrifice in Digimon Adventure 02 creates a seal right in the spot where Vamdemon intended to escape the Real World and return to the Digital World. Turns out, Vamdemon didn't plan on using that entrance at all - he made everyone think he did, including the man he was possessing at the time and influencing to carry out his plans. Instead, he tricked the cast into following him to another dimension powered by dreams and wishes, where he could regain his physical body and become much stronger than before.
  • Pressured into trying to sell one thousand copies of her doujin when selling one tenth of that would be next to impossible, Nagi in Hayate the Combat Butler ignores working on the doujin itself, knowing there's no way she can make it good enough. If she doesn't sell at least seven hundred, she'll take a loss of up to (about) two thousand dollars. Instead, she spends her time making an extensive advertising campaign focused on photos of Maria and attaches them to the doujin as a a bonus. While the doujin does sell, nobody cares about it and they simply throw it away, often right in front of her, because all they care about is the photo book. Given that Nagi wanted to prove to herself that she was special and talented, all she managed to do was make it even more obvious that her manga was worthless.
  • In Fairy Tail, Loke, also known as Leo, does this at one point. He, one of the Celestial Spirits, along with his fellow spirit Aries, are under contract with the cruel Karen Lilica, who treats them like property. When Karen plans on punishing Aries for (supposedly) tattling on her to her guild master, Leo forcibly swaps places with Aries and gives Karen an ultimatum- cancel both their contracts or he'll stay in the real world, since Karen can't summon more than one spirit at a time. While Karen initially thinks Loke's bluffing (since spirits can't stay in the human world for extended periods of time), as time goes on and she can't work due to not being able to summon a spirit, she tries to fool him into thinking she's turned over a new leaf, but he doesn't believe her. Karen then goes out on a job despite not being able to summon her spirits, getting herself killed. This causes Loke to be exiled from the spirit world until Lucy pleads his case with the Celestial Spirit King, and results in Aries' key falling into the hands of Angel, who not only is a villain, but is no less cruel than Karen.
  • In Attack on Titan:
    • The heroes face a typical "Which life do we save?" situation, when both Erwin, commander of the Survey Corps, and Armin, who's Mikasa and Eren's childhood friend are dying and only one of them can be saved. Eren and Mikasa forcefully argue in favor of the latter, and while they are biased, they also point out some valid contributions that this person has made, although it is also argued that the former individual's contributions are greater. Ultimately, the choice is made to save the latter individual, in part because Levi realizes that Erwin was actually relieved at the prospect of facing death, and it is successful, but the individual questions whether it was worth the sacrifice, and no one present can say anything much more encouraging than that he'll have to prove it was.
    • The Warriors' motivations also fall into this category. They hail from a nation where their people live in a Fantastic Ghetto, and have volunteered to serve Marley in hopes of earning better treatment. This required them to inherit one of the Nine Titans, a process that shortens their lifespan to 13 years and dooms them to become a living weapon for the military. And their attack on the Walls was because they were raised to believe the people living there were "children of the devil" ....and even after learning this isn't the case, they decide to continue on with their mission in hopes of saving their people. Nearly a decade after volunteering and sacrificing their lives, their families are still living in the ghetto and Reiner helplessly watches as his younger cousin is groomed to become his successor.
  • Accel World
    • Kuroyukihime, with a well-chosen taunt and skillful use of Brain Burst, goads Araya, who's bullying Kuroyukihime's new friend Haruyuki, into punching Haruyuki and knocking him into her in full view of the social cameras, finally getting Araya caught in the act and placed on suspension. Unfortunately, a vengeful Araya steals a car and then tries to kill Kuroyukihime and Haruyuki in retaliation, causing Kuroyukihime, who blames herself for what happened, to sacrifice almost all her points and almost lose her life to save Haruyuki.
    • In the manga adaptation, Taku ends up briefly falling into this trope before being talked out of it.An added scene has Chiyu and Kuroyukihime play a virtual doubles tennis match against Haru and Taku as a test; if Chiyu's team wins, Taku will install Brain Burst on her. After Chiyu and Kuroyukihime win the first set 40-0, Kuroyukihime accuses the boys of holding back. She realizes that Taku is willing to let Chiyu win in order to grant Chiyu's desire to become a Burst Linker. Kuroyukihime says she understands how Taku feels, but says he can't simply let her win out of kindness, but has to take the test seriously for her sake. Taku gets the point, resulting in him and Haru narrowly winning the second set, before being beaten in the third and final set.
  • In One Piece, Doflamingo's father, Saint Homing, chooses to leave the World Nobles and live as an ordinary person to teach his sons how to live. While his intentions are good, since we've seen the kind of people the World Nobles turn out to be, in practice, it ends up forcing his family to live in poverty, and in danger from those who have grudges against the World Nobles, since the Donquixotes are no longer protected. Homing comes to regret his decision, making an unsuccessful attempt to get his sons reinstated as nobles, and he ultimately loses his life when Doflamingo (who's learned nothing from the experience) kills him in a vain attempt to return to the nobility.
  • At the end of the "Southern Cross" section of Robotech, Zor Prime sacrifices his life to stop the Robotech Masters, but in so doing only scatters the spores of the Flower of Life everywhere, guaranteeing that the Invid will come and attack the Earth. From a meta standpoint, this is particularly harsh because in the original, pre-Robotech version of Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Seifriet Weiße's sacrifice was not in vain and did save the day.
  • In Shirobako, Shigeru Sugie, a veteran animator, notices that Ema Yasuhara, a newbie, is less than confident in herself, since she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to make a living off of animating. Sugie advises Ema to focus on learning how to get her work done more quickly while she's young, saying that if she does, she'll naturally improve in other regards. Possibly as a result of this, Ema deviates from her usual style, which results in her having to redo some of her cuts, and Segawa's harsh criticism of Ema's latest work worsens Ema's fears that she doesn't have what it takes to be an animator. Sugie's goal was to help her do better and become more confident, but in the short term, his advice backfired, at least as a result of how Ema chose to follow it.
  • In Bloom Into You, Touko's best friend Sayaka gradually realizes that Touko is quite vulnerable under her "perfect" facade, and that Touko's goal of changing herself to become like her sister won't bring her happiness. Sayaka never tells Touko that, or the fact that she genuinely loves Touko for who she is, out of fear of losing her friendship. Sayaka wonders if that makes her a coward, but Miyako disagrees, saying that it simply makes Sayaka a good friend. In the end, Sayaka chooses not to confess to Touko until after the end of the School Play, which was the last thing Touko's sister left unfinished. By that point, Touko, who'd assumed Sayaka didn't know about her true self, had fallen in love with Yuu instead and so rejects Sayaka's confession.
  • My Two Mommies:
    • Himari, the protagonist, feeds a stray cat named Shiro near her school, despite her classmate Kanda complaining about her doing so. One day, Himari finds a kitten at Shiro's usual spot, and realizes that Shiro was pregnant. Kanda then reveals that Shiro abandoned her kitten, and calls out Himari, saying this happens when she irresponsibly feeds strays but doesn't take care of the kittens. Himari, guilt-stricken, then decides to help Kanda take care of Shiro's kitten.
    • Some time later, Kanda reveals that she fell into this trope herself. She volunteered to help raise cats when she was younger, hoping to reduce the number of abandoned cats. Despite her efforts, she noticed that people continued to abandon pets, hoping that volunteers like her would take care of them, and concluded that her volunteer work wasn't helping.
  • Toward the end of Bakuman。, after rumor spreads about Mashiro being in a relationship with Azuki, resulting in massive backlash, Fukuda calls out those fanning the flames during a radio interview. While he has a point about how petty Azuki's hatersn are, unfortunately, his rather provocative words ultimately don't help the situation, and only makes the backlash worse.

    Fan Works 
  • all of the things we did wrong.: When she was twelve years old, Artina and two of her friends dragged a heavily-armored survivor from the battlefield where they'd been wounded to the church, where they tried treating their wounds. Upon discovering the survivor was demonic, Artina continued trying to help them, only for them to pass away from their wounds. Fenrich mocks her ignorance, informing her that the Holy Ground of the church likely helped hasten the demon's demise.
  • In the PJ Masks fanfic A Feline's Birdy Love, Night Ninja attacks HQ just after Amaya/Owlette and Greg/Gekko discover that Connor/Catboy has been letting Night Ninja torture and abuse him so the villain will leave Amaya (who he tortured brutally in the prequel story in an attempt to break her into a perfect wife, something that still terrifies her to the point of hiding behind Connor when Night Ninja appears) alone; while neither Connor nor Amaya want the other to face Night Ninja, they determine that Connor should remain behind since he's still injured while Amaya's wounds are healed and Greg decides to go with Amaya to protect her. This backfires horribly as Night Ninja uses the distraction to kidnap Connor and hold him hostage; Amaya and Greg are both horrified.
  • This trope is often played around with in the Gensokyo 20XX series, especially with Yukari's choices, namely being the warden's lover (20XXII), leaving Reimu to find Ran, Chen, and Flandre (20XXI), and, locking Reimu in a room when her mind goes south (20XXV). However, she did note that to do the alternative would be worst and that in the 20XXII and 20XXV cases that she wouldn't have done them if she really had a choice.
    • In 20XXI, we have the instance Chen was blinded by a well-intentioned stranger who didn't wish to turn her into the youkai hunters, figuring that, if she was blind, then they will not go after her but that put her at the mercy of otherwise seen dangers that she could have avoided. This is virtually summed up in this quote from Chapter 15:
    "Blinding her, well-intentioned in motives? Yes. Foolish? Most definitely."
    • From 20XXIV, after Chen is attacked and left incontinent and with her left arm and leg paralyzed, Kaguya, with the reluctant help of Mokou, go to take revenge on whom she sees as responsible (a group of antagonistic kitsune) and it results in their house being burned down, causing everyone to go somewhere else. Of course, her judgement was clouded and neither did they really know if was them.
  • In Halkegenia Online Kirche attempts to reboot Louise from her Heroic BSoD at the end of the second arc. Only to have both of them step on each other's respective emotional wounds, causing Kirche to reveal the truth about the Transition to her in the worst possible matter in front of Koko, the worst possible person to hear it. In doing so, she only manages to push Louise even closer to the Despair Event Horizon, making her a perfect mark for Julio to manipulate into delivering herself into the Church's clutches. Though let's not forget that Karin's decision to more or less banish Louise to her basement for the rest of her life is what crashed her in the first place.
  • In The Outside, we have something of a lesser version of this, as Satsuki does mean well and genuinely wants to care for Ryuuko but, due to not being exactly mentally well and having iffy ideas of what that looks like, it's clear she's not a capable guardian for her and, so, she loses custody, sending the latter to foster care.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail:
    • Following an awful bullying incident, Professor Cerise decides that the best way to protect his daughter is by having her come and join him at the lab after school. However, he fails to take into account whether she wants to be there — Chloe does not like Pokémon, believing that he cares more about them than he does about her. His failure to pick up on this only reinforces her beliefs — and resentment. Particularly as being forced to work the lab prevents her from being able to join any school clubs or explore other interests.
    • Goh's parents are remarkably skilled at handing things all wrong. Despite their concerns about their son's obsessiveness stunting his social skills, they opt not to do anything about it, even enabling the very behavior they're worried about by letting him switch to online classes and stop going to school. When they finally do decide to act in the wake of Chloe's disappearance, their clumsy attempts to encourage him to go out and make new friends come off as incredibly callous, resulting in a brutal argument.
    • Goh himself is singularly focused upon the idea that simply finding Chloe again will automatically fix everything. He also considers searching for Celebi in hopes of going back and preventing that fateful argument from happening, failing to recognize that said argument was simply her long-hidden frustration boiling over, rather than the root of their problems.
    • In the Intermission that closes out Act 1, Lexi advises Chloe to stop ghosting Goh and simply tell him outright that she wants to be left alone, stating that it's crueler to leave him without any word. Unfortunately, Goh refuses to listen to anything she's got to say, and their conversation ultimately results in him spiraling into a self-pitying toxic maelstrom.
  • In Shatterheart Fai tries to make up his emotional neglect and ostracization of Syaoran by teaching Syaoran to bake and trying to bond with him. Fai's shift from cold to caring just comes off as off-putting and exhausting to Syaoran.
    • Fai forces an ultimatum on Kurogane and Syaoran to either break up their relationship or to tell Sakura the truth in hopes of ending what he sees as a dangerously codependent relationship or preventing Syaoran from hurting himself with constantly lying. This has consequences such as:
      • Tensions in the house imploding as Kurogane and Syaoran were the only things keeping each other relatively sane and happy and they end up more miserable than before.
      • Intensifies the severity of Syaoran's PTSD as now he can't turn to Kurogane, who was his only form of support.
      • Destroys Fai's chance of making amends with Syaoran for his previous coldness as this proves to be the straw that broke the camel's back and Syaoran decides that he'd rather starve and isolate himself than have anything to do with Fai.
      • Fai's relationship with Kurogane reaches a boiling point as Kurogane believes that Fai had no right to get involved and thinks him to be a massive hypocrite.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, the author is not at all shy about showing that she believes that Aang sparing Ozai is this, casting it as an impractical decision that was done for the sake of keeping with his Air Nomad teachings, and eventually has him come to regret it. That said, while the protagonists consider killing Ozai to rectify this mistake and thwart a possible coup, it's also believed that doing so would undermine Zuko's legitimacy as Fire Lord, which largely comes from not being like his father.
  • The Vigilante Boss and His Failed Retirement Plan: Izuku's decision to be distant and aloof to Bakugou when they reunite at Yuuei, as his pro-active attempt to befriend and correct Bakugou's attitude throughout the years backfired on him. Izuku reasons that his presence is a bad influence on Bakugou whether he likes it or not. Bakugou doesn't take this treatment well. Izuku's lack of attention to Bakugou also give the chance to his friends to go behind his back and sabotage Bakugou in school, as of the latest chapter Izuku is still clueless of this.
  • In Bleach fanfic Wanderlust, Isshin forbids Ichigo's friends and family to discuss the supernatural around him in a misguided attempt to help Ichigo move on after he loses his Shinigami powers. Since all of his family and friends are embroiled in the supernatural, they end up avoiding Ichigo entirely and isolate him for two years so they won't talk about it around him. Ichigo gets the impression that his loved ones only wanted him when he had powers and don't want him around since they don't need him anymore. This results in Ichigo in leaving Karakura to travel the world, cutting all contact with them. Which in turn causes relationships within the group to splinter and Soul Society to be whipped into frenzy trying to find him.

  • The officers of the USN Caine from The Caine Mutiny get a big dose of this from Lieutenant Greenwald, the defense attorney that get Keith and Maryk off for relieving Captain Queeg of command. Queeg was incompetent and paranoid, but Greenwald points out that he was like that from years of serving on active duty in the Atlantic. Instead of bearing with their captain and helping him out, (which Queeg had actually asked them to do and like decent officers should) they scorned, mocked, and undermined him until a dangerous situation came up and the captain broke down at a critical moment, putting everyone's lives in danger. He tells them that Queeg has been serving the Navy faithfully for far longer than any of them, and all they did was bitch and complain about the man and then have the nerve to try to act like what happened was on Queeg's shoulders alone. He's disgusted with them (and himself) since he knows for a fact they just ruined the guy. Lieutenant Maryk, really the only officer among them who tried to help Queeg out, has had his own naval career likewise destroyed.
  • Courage Under Fire features this in the form of Karen Walden. While she was well within her rights as an officer to threaten her men with court-martial and even summary execution for refusing to obey orders in the field, she insists on invoking With Us or Against Us and promising that she would make them pay for their previous actions even after they rally behind her after all. This proves to be exactly the wrong way to motivate them at the critical moment. When faced with the decision of trying to rescue her or evacuating, they promptly leave her behind to die.
    • This can be further extended to the squadmates in question, as well; although Walden had made clear her intention to ruin their careers and attempting a rescue would have been incredibly dangerous, all three suffer crippling guilt from their actions later on.
  • For One Night: a young student tries to stop segregated proms at her school, causing racial tensions to explode in town. To be fair, though, the reporter Desiree Howard added fuel to the fire by breaking the story.
  • The ending of the movie Gone Baby Gone totally qualifies with Patrick's final choice. He takes the little girl back to her mother, who is horribly neglectful, and away from the police who had kidnapped her for her own good and killed several people to cover it up. Patrick ends up losing his fiancée as a result, and the ending of the book sees the girl back with her mother in the same situation. It's generally agreed that there wasn't a right choice by the girl,note  so he took the lawful route: the crime couldn't stand, regardless of other circumstances.
  • John Carter bravely saves the wounded Colonel Powell from a probable quick death at the hands of the Apache and thereby (unintentionally) condemns him to die a lingering and lonely death from exposure and blood loss in a cave. Even worse if you consider the battle with the Apache took place out in the open probably close to the cavalry camp meaning rescue - though unlikely - might have been possible if Carter had left Powell for dead.
  • A Most Violent Year: Cutting Julian loose after the shoot-out on the bridge. If Abel had kept him around, he'd have endangered the terminal deal further and put himself in the distinctly unlawful position of protecting a fugitive — but firing him and turning him over to the hands of the police ultimately shatters Julian's already fragile mental health, resulting in his suicide. Given Abel's motto of always doing the most right thing, this possibility seems to weigh heavily on him.
  • The ending to the Richard Gere/Edward Norton film Primal Fear, where it is revealed that Edward Norton's character really is a murderous sociopath, after Gere succeeds in defending him at his murder trial.

  • This crops up in The Dresden Files all the time, especially for the main character Harry Dresden:
    • In Changes, he discovers his daughter has been kidnapped by the Red Court of vampires. He goes nuts, calls in every ally he can get, makes a dangerous deal with the Faerie Queen Mab, and then kills the entire Red Court, stopping a dangerous war that had killed thousands of humans and wiping out an entire nation of nasty monsters. Then he arranges his own death so he can't be used by Mab and turned into a monster himself. In the sequel, Ghost Story, Harry learns the fall-out of those decisions. (Deep breath)
      • The destruction of the Red Court has created a colossal power vacuum which many power-hungry factions are eager to fill, creating even more conflict and chaos.
      • Eradicating the Red Court also killed many members of the Fellowship of St. Giles, an organization made up primarily of people who were infected with vampirism by the Red Court but had not completed the change. These half-vampires resisted the compulsion to drink human blood and worked to fight the Red Court and help their victims, often for decades, only to end up as collateral damage when Harry turns the bloodline curse against the Red Court. This also left a number of other people who were being helped and supported by the Fellowship suddenly abandoned, as Hannah Ascher relates in Skin Game.
      • Harry's death has left Chicago without a supernatural protector, and now numerous monsters prowl its streets.
      • His friends have almost all been badly affected by his disappearance, especially Murphy, who was fired from her job on the police and is now forced to work with a major crime lord in order to get the resources necessary to protect the city.
      • His apprentice Molly, who had flirted with the Dark Side and whose survival depended on Harry being there to teach until such time as the council deemed her no longer a threat, is so torn up by his death and her part in it that she's gone renegade, withdrawing from almost all human contact and killing people left and right. The White Council of Wizards has issued a kill-on-sight.
      • All in all, Harry MAY have done the right thing, but he did it in the worst possible way, with colossal political fallout that affected the entire planet. Still, at least he saved his daughter, so that's something.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - The same night that Professor Trelawney delivers a genuine prophecy about a servant of Voldemort returning to his master, Harry persuades Remus and Sirius to send Wormtail to prison instead of killing him, only for him to escape. Harry is horrified at the idea that he might have helped Voldemort on his way back to power, but Dumbledore consoles him that he only did the best he could at the time. He also notes that Wormtail owes Harry his life, which may come in useful in the future. Sure enough, it finally pays off in Deathly Hallows: when Wormtail tries to strangle Harry, the latter reminds him that he owes Harry his life. This causes Wormtail to hesitate...and his magical hand to strangle Wormtail instead.
  • The Mistborn trilogy has a doozy - heroine Vin thinks she's making the right (if terribly painful) choice when she releases the power at the Well of Ascension instead of using it to heal her mortally wounded husband. What she doesn't know is that releasing the power was exactly what the Big Bad wanted her to do, as it would also release the apocalyptic Sealed Evil in a Can, although given it was powerful enough even while sealed to rewrite anything not etched in steel and only hinted at, it could be forgiven.
  • This happens repeatedly when Bastian recklessly makes wishes using the AURYN in the original novel of The Neverending Story. Perhaps the best example is when he finds a race of beings so utterly ugly that they constantly weep. He wishes for them to become beautiful and always laugh, but it turns out that their tears are actually necessary. The book also contains a variation, in that Bastian frequently commits acts that, while seemingly benevolent in nature, are motivated more by a desire to look good rather than do good, or because he thinks he'll benefit in some way from it. The narration notes that a person's reasons for an act can be just as important as the act itself.
  • The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins: The protagonist, Lucy, sees a man with a gun chasing two homeless men with the intent to kill them, so she intervenes and saves the homeless men's lives, only to later find out that the two homeless men were child molesters and the gunman was one of their victims.
  • Given that A Song of Ice and Fire is Black-and-Gray Morality verging on Evil vs. Evil at times, it's unsurprising that this happens a lot:
    • Ned Stark finds himself in several situations in which being just slightly less scrupulously moral could have had things turn out much better for him. Among them:
      • When he warns Cersei that he has discovered that her children are bastards and plans to tell King Robert. His intention is to give her the chance to flee with her children, since he (almost certainly correctly) believes that Robert will kill the children when he finds out. Instead, it simply gives her ample warning and time to move her own plans forward.
      • Later, shortly after Robert's death, Renly Baratheon offers to support him as Lord Regent if he'll take Cersei's children hostage to ensure that she doesn't move against them (and strongly implies that he expects Ned's support for his claim to the throne in return). Ned might have accepted Renly's help and supported his claim, accepted his help and then later refused his claim in favor of Stannis, accepted his help on the condition that he renounce his claim, or refused his help but taken his advice to seize the children. Instead, he refuses the help, the claim, and the advice, meaning that he has no support and no leverage when Littlefinger betrays him and sides with the Lannisters.
    • One of the more tragic examples is Robb Stark's downfall; he has been an unstoppable military threat in the War of Five Kings, and the Lannisters are at their wits' end trying to figure out any way to take him on in the battlefield, but then he is "comforted" by a young noble girl while recovering from a wound after one of his conquests. Robb is immediately caught in a dilemma between "doing the right thing" and marrying the girl whose virginity he just took (as he is in a medieval-style world, where without her virginity a girl will, at best, have much lower prospects for marriage and be judged her whole life, or be tremendously shamed and shipped out to a nunnery at worst), or "doing the right thing" and honoring his betrothal to a Frey girl. Robb decides the girl's honor takes precedence over his own and marries her, which results in the Freys betraying him, murdering him and most of his followers, and desecrating his corpse.
      • Of course, the Freys themselves, and their powerful ally Roose Bolton, were already planning on betraying Robb, given the Freys reluctant support, and Roose's undercutting of the war effort.
    • Daenerys Targaryen breathes this trope. She desperately wants to be the best kind of Targaryen, and she makes many decisions that are, at root, both heartfelt and from the moral highlands by many readers' lights. Heck, from an outside perspective, more than a few could arguably lead to a better-run, more economically viable region, if properly researched, planned, implemented and integrated. Unfortunately, Targaryens have this noted... tilt... towards a "go now, go big or go home", The Madness Place/ Mad Science approach when it comes to politics, economics and social engineering, and Dany is also having to play a lot by ear from a moment-to-moment basis both just to stay alive and to get anywhere while doing so. So, yeah: understandable levels of insufficient risk assessment occur. On top of that, both Westeros and Essos are too culturally different (and her worldview is also initially too Black-and-White-and-sheltered-all-over when contrasted with the more nuanced, sociopolitical Grayscale around her) for almost anything she does to try pushing her agendas to have even close to the expected outcomes in either the medium or longer terms. And, it rarely goes well: for example, you'd think trying to rid Slaver's Bay of slavery to be a fundamentally good thing all around, right? Nope: the resulting economic and social collapse that leads to several bloodbaths, what amounts to a budding world war and a pandemic later when trying to do it in only a few months with little-to-no cross-class backing... is kind of hinted at in the millennia-old name of the place. Slave liberation by an outsider needs way more prep work than she put in, in short.
    • Jaime Lannister has a long, complicated and incredibly painful relationship with this trope, one about as much of a rollercoaster as the one with with his sister (who often has something to do with the complexities in both). A Master Swordsman joining the Kingsguard against his father's wishes, but to "do the right/honourable thing" by both his king and maybe-future queen (and beloved sister)? That... backfired. Killing the Mad King for what basically was the greater good? Oh, boy; what a mess. Protecting his lover and kids by throwing a preteen boy off a tower? Duuuuuuuuude. Trying to protect the Stark girls... while still backing his father (who would rather they conveniently died after getting used to cement alliances)? Um. Finally coming clean to his brother about a huge family secret at the worst emotional and political point imaginable? Oops. Cleaning up the Riverlands and reinstating the rule of law (or what passes for it) on behalf of the Iron Throne; you know, this being the same place you earlier actively helped to destabilize on behalf of said Throne? Good luck with that!
  • Directly invoked in To Kill a Mockingbird. After Boo Radley kills a drunken, murderous Bob Ewell in defense of Atticus's children, Lawful Good Atticus Finch is all set to get the authorities involved and begin processing the matter by-the-book. The local sheriff, however, warns him that it's an open-and-shut case of self defense, Bob Ewell is widely known and hated, and Boo Radley's extreme social phobias would make the resulting trial absolute hell for him, however pure and innocent Atticus's intentions might be. The sheriff therefore 'officially concludes' that Bob Ewell got drunk, slipped, and fell on his own knife.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Valar were motivated to things like bringing the Elves to the Undying Lands or rewarding the Edain with Númenor entirely by good intentions. The text still takes the time to strongly imply that doing so was ultimately the wrong thing to do.
    • In Tolkien's legendarium, trying to impose any vision or much of anything else on the world is likely to end badly, because the free wills and free choices of Elves and Men are so vital, and because no finite entity comprehends enough of How Things Work in the universe to be able to predict the consequences of their actions outside their purview. Tolkien had a low opinion both of reactionaries ('Embalmers') and progressives ('Reformers'), Sauron started out as a Reformer, the Elves of Eregion who made the Rings were Embalmers. Both were Not Quite the Right Thing.
    • The Silmarillion brings this into play a lot. The whole family of Húrin, but especially Túrin's life is this (although Morgoth cursed the whole family into this) for example.
  • Harry Turtledove's World War series puts the Jews in this position. After Warsaw is freed by the Race, the Jews cooperate with them in order to survive, and are seen as traitors to humanity by doing so. The fact that attempts to condemn the Race for their actions such as destroying Washington D.C. are altered and turned into praises don't help.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI. CSI in general (all three shows) has a strong thread of ironic justice running through it. Almost any time a character either breaks the law to bring someone else to justice (say, by planting evidence or searching without a warrant), or kills someone because the law can't punish them for their crimes, it will backfire. Anyone killed out of a sense of "justice" will turn out to have been innocent the entire time, and the killer will always wind up devastated over what they've done. Criminals framed for a crime or illegally arrested will turn out to be innocent as well, potentially resulting in the person doing the frame losing everything in the process. Crime absolutely does not pay - regardless of the reasons - in the CSIverse. Some specific examples include:
    • In the episode "Feeling the Heat" a couple euthanize their child upon seeing symptoms of Tay Sachs, a painful degenerative disease to which they had already lost another child (disguising it as the husband accidentally leaving him in the car on a hot day; itself an example because it opens him up to being arrested for neglect). Turns out that the child was healthy. For added irony the symptoms were caused by exposure to the very weedkiller they poisoned him with. The mother worked with industrial strength weedkiller and brought them home to use in her garden -and didn't wash her hands before handling her child.
    • Inverted in one episode where the father of a missing girl planted an already-dead body he stole inside the chimney of the man he suspected of killing said daughter in order to put police suspicion on him after failing to convince them just with his words (and planting the man's son's ID on it as pure revengenote ). His plan succeeded spectacularly, as his dead daughter's body was also hidden in a brick extension to the chimney in question (and, as an added bonus, the villain tries to pin it on his apparently dead son, who overhears the entire thing and disowns him). Considering the judge limited the initial warrant to the chimney the man not only made his own luck but hit the jackpot with it, making this overlap with Right for the Wrong Reasons. He's still in trouble for mishandling of the corpse or whatever the local law labels it.
  • The Closer: When a vicious killer gets off on a technicality, Chief Johnson sets him up for a Vigilante Execution. This sparks a cascade of consequences, including a lawsuit, a review of many of her old cases, a massive investigation into her team, and worse. Ultimately, the reality hits her hard, and she breaks down crying in her husband's arms.
    Brenda: Oh, God, what have I done? Fitzy, what have I done?
  • Babylon 5: Dr. Franklin gives the audience a double dose of this trope:
    • He performs a life-saving surgery on an alien child, over the objections of his parents that his chest cavity not be cut open or his soul will escape. When they find out, their religion requires them to kill him.
    • He also forces a traumatized war veteran to confront the fact that he's not King Arthur. Re-traumatizing him catatonic. The good doctor then Lampshades that this keeps happening to him, because of his need to fix everything.
  • Game of Thrones: Dany frees a great deal of younger oppressed slaves and incorporates them into her followers. The willing ones seem to make a cult of personality out of her. The only problem being that other classes of bondsmen have taken the opportunity to either become cruel dictators themselves or otherwise allowed their former masters to enslave them again without any complaint since they know of little else, meaning her crusade to end slavery has actually worsened the situation, despite being a morally good course of action. It gets even worse later on, mostly due to the writers making everything easier for her so they could quickly get through the storyline. After taking down the majority of her enemies in Slaver's Bay, she just leaves for Westoros during this unstable economic state. Not before she leaves her mercenary boyfriend in charge, as if he has any knowledge of administrating a city, let alone an entire region! After Season Six, nothing is mentioned about whether the "Bay of Dragons" is doing well or not, so for all we know, it's already on the brink of collapse.
  • Get Smart': During one episode, Max gets a call from 99 while he and the Chief are in the middle of a shootout with KAOS agents. When he expresses surprise that she's home early from her assigned mission, she happily tells him that she fooled the KAOS agents who were following her by sending them on a wild goose chase to pier 47. Max (who's at pier 47) ruefully wishes she had sent them to pier 50 instead.
  • This happens in the episode of House where he is institutionalized; House chews out the doctor who forced a delusional patient to confront the fact that he was not actually a super hero (then went catatonic). House ends up trying to "help" the guy and only makes things worse. But he eventually learns a lesson about the difference between trying to "fix" things and actually just apologizing.
  • Kingdom (2019): The authorities discover the corpses at Jiyulheon and bring them back to the village of Dongnae to investigate the matter. Too bad they're zombified.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, "The City on the Edge of Forever": Saving Edith Keeler's life seems like the right thing to do, but if she lives she will found an influential peace movement, which also seems like the right thing to do but will delay America's entry into World War II and hand victory to the Nazis. One of the best if not the best TOS episodes, combining the grey areas of real world moral choice with a harsh lesson in the nasty implications of time travel, and also an implicit rebuke to the idea that love conquers all. Kirk was very much in love with Edith, she was not just a pretty skirt he was chasing... but that didn't matter. What was necessary was necessary. Spock's emotionless act is transparently undercut by the genuine sympathy and pity in his simple, dry statement to McCoy, "He knows, Doctor. He knows."
  • The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica does this ALL the time. From Colonial One's abandoning of the civilian ships in the miniseries to the Olympic Carrier to mutiny to military dictatorships to banning abortion to baby-stealing to torture to assassination to suicide-bombing to election-rigging - the characters (mainly Commander/Admiral Adama and President Roslin) constantly wrestle with the decision to do the easy thing or the right thing. And they actually make crappy decisions a good deal of the time.
    • Abandoning the ships in miniseries turns out to be tragically right, though. And it's not like they had any choice (those ships didn't have any FTL engines, and would never have been able to escape the Cylons anyway).
  • In Lost season 3, Kate refuses to leave Jack with the Others, so she grabs Sayid, Locke, and Rousseau, and treks across the island to rescue him. She doesn't know that Jack's scheduled to leave the island by submarine the next day, or that Locke's true intention is to blow the submarine up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks", the Doctor is tasked with destroying or altering the behavior of the Daleks so as to make them a negligible threat. The Doctor, however, realizes that by doing so, he would rob the different races of the universe of a chance to end warring amongst themselves, as countless civilizations put aside their differences to band together in grand coalitions against the Daleks, learning to work together in harmony along the way.
    • Many centuries later in the Doctor's timeline in "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar" two-parter, the action starts when his twelfth self is about to rescue a frightened young boy from an unconventional minefield — then he learns that the boy is Davros, who grew up to create the Daleks. The Doctor decides to simply leave the boy to his fate (leaving the sonic screwdriver behind) instead of saving him, but it doesn't take long for him to realize that this probably started Davros on the path to evil; in the present, he seeks to atone for this — perhaps with his own life.
  • In the Farscape episode "...Different Destinations", our heroes get sent back in time and keep trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Finally, it looks like they've succeeded and you're all set up for the little girl to survive the intervening years...only to find that while they do get back to their own time and fix the timeline, the nurses are slaughtered.
  • This is commented on in an episode of Stargate SG-1, where Daniel recounts the many instances where the team made seemingly good choices which turned out to have completely unforeseeable evil consequences. Oma Desala comments that the universe is an infinitely complicated place full of unforseeable consequences which an individual can't control, but they can control whether they themselves are good or evil.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Sunday", a couple of personnel get infected with tumors that explode like bombs. When the team finds out about the tumors, one of the personnel is already in surgery for injuries sustained when the first person blew up. Sheppard calls Dr. Beckett and orders him to evacuate himself and his staff before the man explodes, but Beckett refuses to abandon his patient to die. One of his nurses stays with him to help remove the explosive tumor, which Beckett then takes to the waiting EOD technicians. Just as Beckett hands off the tumor to the bomb squad guy, it blows up, killing both of them. There would have been one less fatality if Beckett had just followed Sheppard's orders.
  • A big part of Deadwood; Seth Bullock has an iron-clad sense of honor and a refusal to abide by injustice, inflexible qualities that arguably wind up hurting the town more than helping it. By contrast, Al Swearengen hasn't an honorable bone in his body, but he's got enough self-interest, moral flexibility (and just enough compassion) to help the town immeasurably.
  • In an episode of The Flash (2014), Barry accidentally time travels to the previous day. When Wells figures it out, he warns Barry that he must let the day's events play out as before, as stopping one disaster can lead to a greater one down the line (i.e. don't screw with the timeline). Which is a bit hypocritical, since Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is messing with the timeline every day. Barry ignores him and captures the Monster of the Week before he has a chance to destroy the city, causing Wells to flip out on Barry for ignoring his advice. Instead of being killed by Wells/Thawne for unmasking him, Cisco is kidnapped by the Rogues along with his brother and is forced to rebuild their weapons. Cold then forces Cisco to reveal the Flash's identity, which Cold uses to blackmail Barry into letting the Rogues operate without interference.
  • Pops up frequently in Criminal Minds. It would seem to be the right thing to do to help a mother look for her missing child or give a lost teenager a ride or help a woman load her wheelchair into her van. Until it turns out that those people are serial killers, and by helping them, you've unwittingly become their next victim or endangered others.
    • Subverted in one episode. Morgan interviews an inmate at the request of the parole board. After reviewing his prison record and talking with him, Morgan advises that he's been rehabilitated and deserves to be released. Less than 24 hours later, he's been arrested for a new murder. Only, upon investigation, it turns out that he was innocent in the first place and this new crime is self-defense after confronting one of the men responsible for framing him in the first place.

  • During a Behind the Bastards episode "The Non-Nazi Bastards Who Helped Them Rise to Power", host Robert Evans relates a story of how Adolf Hitler, after fleeing the failed Beer Hall Putsch, was cornered by the police in a friend's apartment and threatened to shoot himself. Said friend's wife, whom Hitler regarded highly, successfully managed to talk him down and Hitler was arrested relatively peacefully. The rest, as they say, is history.
    Evans: It's, like, she did the right thing, and we got Hitler.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shows up a few places in Exalted. The Usurpation, several actions of the Scarlet Empress, and even occasionally the Primordial War had results that were kind of good in the long run but the methods to achieve them and their (undecided) ultimate consequences are still a bit... iffy.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Declaring Exterminatus on a planet is generally a delicate matter, as it involves the total and complete annihilation of an entire planet's population. In theory, it's used when they cannot be saved from Chaos or genestealer infection, and this outweighs the planet's benefits (in terms of providing men, materiel or resources), but unfortunately what with Chaos plots and Inquisitors going rogue/falling to Chaos, there are quite a few occasions where Exterminatus merely furthered the enemy's plans.
    • Kryptmann's Gambit: an extreme version of the above dilemma, in which Inquisitor Kryptmann managed to bait an entire Hive Fleet away from countless inhabited worlds by... getting them to go for other inhabited worlds which he Exterminus'ed before they fell, denying the Tyranids the biomass they needed to replenish their losses. Finally the fleet was weak enough that it could be stuck in a stalemate with the ork system of Octarius, at the cost of Kryptmann's standing (he's been declared Excommunicate Traitoris), several trillion people and (much more importantly) several inhabitable planets. Also, the fact that Octarius is now in a Forever War between the two species with the most to gain from it: tyranids devour biomass to create new lifeforms (usually better adapted to whatever they're fighting), while orks create spores when they die that mature into more orks. And orks pour into the system all the time, having heard about the fight to be had. Whichever side wins the war will be essentially unstoppable. This later gets another wrinkle when Ghazgul joins the fight and his leadership turns it into another Armageddon-style eternal stalemate; these massive battles become foci of WAAAGH energy, and every Ork in the galaxy is being empowered by it.

    Video Games 
  • Two examples from Alpha Protocol:
    • In Rome, you will be given the Sadistic Choice of saving your friend or defusing bombs that threaten to kill dozens, if not hundreds, of people. If you choose to save the Damsel in Distress, the bombs go off. If you defuse the bombs, she is shot dead in front of you. From a purely utilitarian perspective, defusing the bombs is obviously the right thing to do, since many more people will die if they go off. The epilogue reveals that, either way, whoever dies becomes a symbol for the movement to enact harsh new anti-terrorism laws (which was the villain's goal all along). However, if the Damsel in Distress lives, she becomes a grassroots political figure in the movement to oppose them.
      • To elaborate: if the bombs go off, Europe uses this incident to increase its anti-terrorism laws. If Madison dies, then America uses her death to increase its anti-terrorism laws (which isn't actually the villains' goal with the operation, but certainly does not harm their interests), and nobody has come up to the plate to oppose them.
    • In Taiwan, your choice is to save the President from being assassinated or prevent a violent riot that could kill hundreds of people. Again, from a utilitarian perspective, the gain of keeping the region stable and preventing a Taiwanese/Chinese arms escalation by preserving the President's life may outweigh the civilian life cost, but saving him actually leads to worsened Taiwan/China relations since he uses his increased popularity with the public to push for official Taiwanese independence. If you let him die and instead focus on stopping the riots, the riots are stopped cold and nobody else dies, and the President is replaced with a pro-reunification successor who defrosts Taiwan's relationship with China by starting reunification talks and more or less killing the Taiwanese pro-independence movement (and thus possibly costing the U.S. an ally in the long run).
    • Ultimately, it turns out that there is no completely right choice in Alpha Protocol. At the end of the game, regardless of the choices you've made, the bad guy's plan succeeds and global tensions are increased almost to the point of a new cold war. However, the choices that you make can ultimately influence the ending in important ways: if you're able to prove that Alpha Protocol and Halbech are behind the increased tensions by saving the lives of key individuals and preventing the evidence from being destroyed as a result, then world tensions are implied to decrease. Alternatively, you can make things much better or much worse in the epilogue based on the choices you make. Getting to the endgame, though, is a foregone conclusion, regardless of what you decide.
    • An unintentional one is the result of a never-fixed bug. One Russian mission involves infiltrating a building, which depending on a previous choices is either guarded by local rent-a-cops or US marines. If you can't talk your way in and non-violently sneak in (or talk your way in and open the wrong door), the ending flag that gets triggered is that you massacred the marines even if they weren't there. This destroys any chance at the best endings since your word and evidence associated with you is now worthless.
  • Army of Two: The 40th Day subverts/deconstructs/parodies video game morality choices with heavy use of this trope. There are a number of points in the game in which the heroes are given a choice of two actions; one obviously "good" and one obviously "bad". The "bad" morality choices usually turn out exactly as you would expect. The subversion/deconstruction comes in the fact that the "good" morality choice almost always has a completely unforeseeable, incredibly negative consequence in the future, often as bad or even worse than what would have if you made the "bad" choice, which the heroes never even become aware of and which is only revealed to the player by the narrator.
    • As an example, the first morality choice you get in the game is to kill another mercenary who's been helping you, or to pretend to kill him and tell him to disappear. If you kill him, he dies. If you let him live, he escapes Shanghai before all the shit goes down, and moves to a quiet tropical island...where he's killed by an assassin while sleeping on a beach lounger.
      • That being said, the point of the morality choices in the game are that you can't control anything beyond the choices you make: Rios and Salem aren't bad guys, and they aren't good guys. They're just guys in the middle of a chaotic situation trying to do what they think is right in the moment. Whether it works out later is beyond the scope of their choice, and they really don't care one way or the other what happens after they part ways: they have their own problems to deal with. In other words, it's personal morality vs. omniscient morality.
  • Devil Survivor has a few examples. For instance, on Day 5, you can talk Keisuke down from his Knight Templar vengence spree without a fight. However, doing so upsets idealistic Midori, and she leaves your team... and goes straight to Kaido, telling him who and where the 'four-eyed freak' who killed his followers is, forcing you to fight both of them and break their COMPs.
    • Well, ultimately it's a Dual Boss in place of a Plotline Death. Not exactly a bad deal.
    • Day 5 can be pretty evil about this. If you found Mari's bag the previous night, one of the first things your party recommends that you do this day is give it back to her, so that she has the Achilles' Heel necessary to defeat Kudlak. Did you do that? Well, congratulations - you've basically doomed Keisuke to die horribly at Kaido's hands, and your only chance to save him at this point is at the exact time Mari is scheduled to die. The proper solution to all this is to give Mari's bag to Kaido, which, by making him go to help Mari, distracts him from hunting down Keisuke... and to do that, you need to have seen one or two specific conversations on an earlier day. Dammit, Atlus!
  • The Age of Dark ending in Dark Souls was already extremely ambiguous about whether or not letting the First Flame die so humanity can start a new age themselves would be a good thing. Come Artorias of Abyss and we discover that the power of humanity, the power of the Dark Soul, going unchecked swallows whole lands with darkness and turns people into horrific monstrosity. Kaathe knows a similar event is possible without the Flame, but decides against telling the player the Dark's big downside in the hopes that the player can overcome the odds. Unbeknownst to both of you, either Gwen or another supporter of the Fire created a contingency to remake the Fire in case the Dark ever actually won, so a "natural" age of Dark is no longer possible. Learning this doesn't stop Kaathe, but does change his methodology...
  • Demon's Souls: Maiden Astraea got hit pretty hard with this. Going to the Valley of Defilement in an effort to ease the pain of its people was a good thing. Gaining a Demon's Soul and using its power to give far more comfort to the denizens than a human normally could? ...not so good. To her credit, it did work, but since the Old One feeds through its demons, her mere existence is now endangering the world. Oh, and the outcasts are now attacking anyone they can find so they can feed her the souls she needs to sustain herself. Whoops...
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • One sidequest in Orzammar allows you to help the dwarven Genki Girl scholar Dagna be allowed to move into the Circle to study (Dwarves are incapable of magic). While this seems like a good thing, according to the epilogue, Dagna's research deeply explores how lyrium contributes to magic, giving the Circle an excuse to set up a semi-independent group in Orzammar. However, the Chantry becomes enraged at the prospect of Orzammar harboring mages not under their control, seriously straining the relations between the Chantry and Orzammar. The negative effects can only be avoided by mage warden under the right circumstances.
    • Shows up in the quest where a dwarf tries to establish a Chantry presence in Orzammar. If you help him do this, the epilogue reveals that resentment of the Chantry's presence eventually sparks mass riots throughout the city. The leader of the Orzammar Chantry, who happens to be the dwarf you helped, is killed in these riots, further straining relations with the Chantry to the point that they are seriously considering launching an Exalted March (ie holy war) against Orzammar.
    • In order to get any support from Orzammar, you need to ensure that one of two candidates for kingship takes the throne. One candidate is Lord Harrowmont, a fairly good natured man who is said to have been chosen by the former king himself as the successor. The other is Prince Bhelen, the remaining son of the former king, correctly suspected of killing his older brother and framing his other sibling (possibly main character) among other shady schemes for the throne. Choosing Harrowmont results in Orzammar closing itself off from the surface world and strengthening the already oppressive caste system. Choosing Bhelen results in Orzammar becoming a benevolent dictatorship, opening up to others, taking back some lost land, and eventually abolishing the caste system. Yeah, this game loves it some Grey-and-Gray Morality. Then again, the game does show that Bhelen is a progressive wanting to stop Orzammar's slow death while Harrowmont is a traditionalist to the point of stagnation.
  • In Dragon Age II, it's entirely possible for Merrill's Act 3 companion quest to end with her entire clan attacking you. The safe choice is the bottom one, associated with the aggressive personality type, which has Hawke take full responsibility for what happened to Keeper Marethari. Then the clan just exiles Merrill instead of you having to kill them.
  • The Dragon Quest series has a few examples:
    • In Dragon Quest VI, telling Amos about his ability to transform will cause him to leave the village, while lying to him will let him discover the truth himself and add him to your party.
    • Dragon Quest VII has a huge mess in Greenthumb Gardens, but the one that causes a What the Hell, Player? is when you tell Carraway that Lavender had been looking over him the whole time and took her secret to the grave.
    • Dragon Quest XI has the decision of whether to tell Michelle that Kainoa has already died. Telling her has her Driven to Suicide, while lying to her will have her be blissfully ignorant for the rest of her long, long life. A lose-lose situation either way though in Act 3, she does get to meet his descendant without any reprecussions.
  • In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, this is Downplayed. A midgame Sadistic Choice requires you to choose between robbing an enemy-controlled bank for important intel or preventing their bomb-maker from committing suicide. If you're the kind of person who puts saving lives above stopping the bad guy, it would seem like the right call is to stop the bomb-maker. However, doing so prevents you from acquiring an antidote to the Orchid weapon at the bank, which is required to save Director Miller come endgame. Of course, things are complicated by Miller objecting to the cure (he's greatly to blame for the endgame situation), on top of the fact that pursuing the bomb-maker is your actual job, and doing so rewards you with a jammer that makes an endgame Take a Third Option easier, though isn't strictly necessary...if you're ok with letting dozens of people die horribly for a lie just because you don't know them personally.
  • During the Arena questline in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you're given the chance to help Agronak gro-Malog (aka The Grey Prince) find a scroll that will apparently prove his noble ancestry. It turns out, however, that his father, rather than being a nobleman like he initially believed, was instead a vampire. He's so devastated by this news that, when time eventually comes for you to face him for the title of Grand Champion, he's completely lost the will to fight back and just stands there, letting you kill him. To drive the point home, killing him in this manner actually counts as a murder to kick off the Dark Brotherhood questline if you haven't done so already, though you don't face any other repercussions that would normally come with murdering someone.
  • Fallout 3 has the infamous Tenpenny Towers quest, where the guards won't allow Roy Philips, a sentient ghoul, to buy himself an apartment or even let him in. Fighting the Fantastic Racism would be the right thing to do for anyone except Roy, because he's a murdering bastard who has no intentions of living peacefully with his new neighbors. With a proper FAQ, the player can subvert this trope by assassinating Roy right after getting the existing residents to agree to let the ghouls in.
  • Fallout: New Vegas also has a number of unexpected negative consequences result from seemingly good acts, although nothing as extreme as the Tenpenny Tower example from Fallout 3:
    • Convincing Arcade to fight alongside the Remnants against Caesar in the NCR and Legion endings results in him being branded a war criminal and hunted down due to his revealing his Enclave affiliation.
    • Going for the Independence ending results in the Followers of the Apocalypse being flooded beyond capacity by new patients due to the massive increase in mayhem and dismemberment caused by the resulting power vacuum.
    • For the Brotherhood of Steel questline, the current Elder McNamara has kept the whole bunker on lockdown for years, seeming to be a sign of the Brotherhood's stagnancy. You can play kingmaker for a successor, Hardin, who wants to lift the lockdown. Turns out Hardin simply wanted to lift the lockdown so they could start mugging Wastelanders for their pre-war tech without restraint. McNamara was actually one of the most progressive members of the Brotherhood, who ends the lockdown as soon as he gets proper evidence that it was safe to do so and can be convinced to make peace with the NCR—something Hardin completely refuses.
    • Honest Hearts features one of these in both outcomes of the final choice. Helping Daniel evacuate the Sorrows saves more people from dying, but Zion — one of the last fertile and non-nuked areas in the world — is destroyed by the now-unopposed White Legs. Meanwhile, helping Graham exterminate the White Legs saves Zion, but the Sorrows end up breaking their vow of nonviolence that leads to later conflicts with their former allies the Dead Horses.
  • In Fallout 4's Nuka-World DLC, you at one point have to fight a former magician turned Glowing One named Oswald the Outrageous. He's rigged up his lair's sprinklers to disperse irradiated water, which he originally did to provide an extra "power up" for himself and the then-sentient ghouls who lived there with him. Unfortunately, as experienced players know, an overabundance of radiation is one of the theories about why ghouls turn feral. And this is brought up In-Universe in the suicide note you can find on the body of Oswald's dead girlfriend. Confronting him with the possibility that he might have been the one who inadvertently turned his friends into incurably insane mindless monsters will cause him to break down and abandon the place, allowing you to clear him out without having to kill him.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, during the Birthright route, the Avatar spares Zola, a Nohrian official who'd previously tried to lure the protagonists into a trap, and even stops his/her older brother Leo from killing him. While Zola risks his life by Taking the Bullet for Takumi two chapters later, it's revealed that Zola's still evil when he betrays the group to Garon once again. By comparison, on the other two routes, the Avatar doesn't stop Leo from killing Zola, resulting in no further problems.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • One such decision is at the core of Caspar's supports with Byleth. In their C support, Byleth shadows a suspicious individual, only for Caspar to jump in and go after the person when he seems to be threatening a group of children, causing him to take his own life in response. While this would seem like the right thing to do, a Knight of Seiros scolds Caspar, saying that the knights were investigating the man and his possible ties to a group of bandits, and with his death the trail's now gone cold. In Byleth and Caspar's B support, after the Time Skip, he is horrified to learn that members of the same group of bandits killed several knights in a battle, and feels that if he hadn't acted so impulsively, the deaths might have been prevented.
    • An ambiguous example due to the game's Grey-and-Grey Morality is the choice towards the end of the Black Eagles Part 1. After one of your students Edelgard is revealed to be behind much of the battles in Part 1, you are given the option to defend them, or agree that they should be executed on the spot without a trial. Defending them results in Byleth siding with Edelgard as she declares war on all the other nations, leading to the Crimson Flower path, which ends with every other power in Fodlan conquered by The Empire and is the only route where Claude can potentially die. Additionally, it reduces the confrontation with those who slither in the dark to a footnote in the epilogue. But it's also the only path where the Crest system is definitely abolished for good. Choosing the other option leads to the Silver Snow route, which plays out more like a traditional FE story with Byleth opposing The Empire and lets you directly confront those who slither in the dark, but results in Edelgard and Hubert permanently leaving you and their inevitable deaths. Not only does the Empire fall, but the rest of Fodlan is destabilized, and is reunited under the Church, rather than the Empire It's left up to the player to decide which is the "better" choice.
  • In Iji, sparing Iosa will result in her coming back and killing you at the end of the game.
  • The Sadistic Choice at the end of Meria's route in Knights in the Nightmare. Either you betray Meria, side with Marietta, and kill your most loyal ally for the sake of an otherwise "happy" end, or you refuse to abandon her, and she hits the entire universe's Reset Button by destroying it. There is no other option but fighting Marietta and losing, which is much worse.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic,
    • One mission sees a you tasked with defending in court a renounced republic war hero and Jolee's old friend accused of murdering an agent of the Sith forces on a neutral planet. The Sith have clearly tampered with evidence to incriminate him making your job easy enough. Trouble is you can track down evidence proving that he is actually guilty and killed her out of passion when he found out she was only romantically involved with him to spy for the enemy. The correct (i.e. Light side) choice is to point out that the Sith altered the evidence, but that he's guilty anyway.
    • An early quest is the Outcast legend of the Promised Land. The Outcasts live a hardscrabble existence in a miserable village made of scrap material, either banished there or descended from those banished there by the nobility. The old storyteller Rukil is convinced there is a hidden paradise capable of supporting the villagers in comfort. His father, grandfather, and apprentice also did their own research; all of them together would easily point the way. However, a slimy merchant named Igear doesn't want the journals found and offers you credits and some surprisingly good gear (both being hard to find at that stage) if you destroy the journals. Easy call, right? Unless you played Star Wars: The Old Republic where it shows what happened due to the canonical Light Side option; instead of a quick death by orbital bombardment, the Outcasts were condemned to a slow and painful one by starvation, disease, and rakghoul attacks before being finished off by sterility brought on by radiation sickness.
    • One of Kreia's ongoing lessons. At the Nar Shaadaa docks, you can give a beggar a few credits. After all, you're a Jedi, Jedi help people, and it's not all that many credits. If you do that, then the beggar is mugged and killed for those credits just as soon as he turns the corner.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the first part of the game involves Link getting the three Sacred Stones in order to retrieve the Master Sword, the only weapon capable of defeating Ganondorf and foiling his plans to take the Triforce from the Sacred Realm. Unfortunately, pulling the Master Sword from its pedestal turns out to be the the very means of unlocking the Sacred Realm, letting Ganondorf take the Triforce.
    • It's actually a little worse than that. No mention to the Master Sword is made until its first appearance, and Ganondorf could be defeated by regular methods before attaining the Triforce. Zelda's plan was simply to get the Triforce before Ganondorf could. The catch? The Master Sword being the last seal meant Ganondorf could never reach the Triforce on his own anyways.
    • In the ending, Zelda does admit that, because as a child she was unaware of much of the above information about the Triforce, she is responsible for many of the problems that resulted. She then uses the Ocarina to send Link back to the past one last time so he can at least live out his childhood... And this ends up causing a split in the timeline that creates two divergent futures with whole new problems because of it. In one timeline, Link's heroics are never known, and after he dies his soul lingers on as the Hero's Shade, unable to rest in peace. In the other timeline, the next time Ganon returns, there's no reincarnated hero to oppose him, and the only way to seal him away is by imploring the gods to flood the entire kingdom underwater.
  • In Life Is Strange, once you learn about The Dark Room, more specifically that Victoria is the next victim, you get the option to warn her about it. If you've been genuinely kind to her and dealt with her bullying in a tolerant way, without antagonizing her, she'll actually believe you. The problem? She goes to Jefferson for safety...who unbeknownst to either of you at this point, is the one running the Dark Room. The result? She gets kidnapped anyways - and when you end up there yourself in the finale, Jefferson makes sure to thank you for having her run straight into his arms, saving him a lot of work. If you either don't befriend her, or don't warn her if you do, then she'll be fine...though keep in mind the Reset Button means that it ultimately doesn't have any long-term consequences, anyway.
  • Makoto Mobius focuses on you trying to figure out how to save Watarou’s classmate Makoto from dying a tragic death. Unfortunately, this means you have to trial and error it to identify the proper method. You can’t kill her father because his death will take a serious toll on her emotional well-being. You can’t call Mikio for help because her death will also upset Makoto and she’ll kill you as revenge. You can’t force the father to swallow sleeping pills because this results in Watarou’s mother dying.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • During Samara's recruitment mission, you come across an Eclipse merc willing to surrender and who is practically begging for her life. You can let her live, despite her going for a gun, but you'll find an audio log that reveals that she was the one who murdered the Volus merchant, and that she took sadistic pleasure in it as well. A perceptive player might deduce this, as she's wearing an Eclipse uniform and all recruits must commit at least one murder before being allowed a uniform. Ultimately, however, it's Subverted: If you listen to the news afterwords (the same news that talks about Blasto), they say that she was arrested.
    • The suicide mission is another example when picking roles for the squad members. Usually, who to pick is obvious (for example it's obviously a bad idea to pick Jacob for hacking the doors open despite him volunteering because as Miranda points out, you need a tech expert. Jack and Samara are obvious biotic badasses who can easily hold up a biotic field against seeker swarms, though despite her comments, Miranda isn't). But there's a couple of seemingly good choices that could come as a nasty surprise to the player, as well as a seemingly bad choice that actually works. Zaeed Massani seems at first glance like he'd be perfect to lead the fire team. Didn't he help co-found the Blue Suns? And doesn't he always survive when getting into fights? But, a fire team leader can't succeed unless he also protects his team, and Zaeed has a history of getting his team killed. Also, Tali seems like a good choice to lead the fire team- after all, she led squads on Haestrom and Freedom's Progress, and she's the daughter of an admiral. But she doesn't have a good track record of being a good leader- half her squad on Freedom's Progress refused to obey her and got killed as a result. Let's also hope you didn't interpret Thane's rapid analysis of the Citadel's weakpoints and security as squad-worthy tactical awareness; he's an assassin, and thus used to working alone. Likewise, some players might pick Mordin to go through the vents and hack the doors open; isn't he a genius? But, Mordin's expertise is entirely in the life sciences; he has no computer experience at all. As for the seemingly bad choice, when Miranda volunteers to lead the fire team, Jack will complain that nobody trusts her, or if Jack was killed by the Oculus laser Garrus will raise the complaint instead. But, as Miranda said, it's not a popularity contest. Miranda has years of leadership experience, so Jack and Garrus' objections notwithstanding, she is a good fire team leader choice!
  • Mass Effect 3: Since this is the game where all your choices come together, it's natural that there are some cases of this. Usually it's the "heroic" (i.e. Paragon) decisions that pay off, but there are some exceptions.
    • Some players wanted to avoid genocide against geth by rewriting the heretic geth in Mass Effect 2, but that actually makes peace between quarians and geth harder as the rewritten geth join the forces fighting the quarians. Of course if you succeed anyway or side with the Geth, that's more war assets for you.
    • Also, if you destroyed the Collector Base instead of saving it, you get a weaker War Asset from the Cerberus base than you would have if you'd preserved the base. Additionally, you can get locked into the bad "Destroy" ending if your EMS is too low, while preserving the Collector base ensures that the "Control" ending (which is the preferable option in low EMS runs) is always available.
    • As the Extended Cut ending DLC reveals in one of its slides, if you cured the genophage with Wreav as the leader instead of Wrex, Wreav gathers a huge krogan army to make war on the galaxy, a point Shepard can touch on if convincing Mordin to fake curing the genophage if Wrex and Eve are dead.
    • The only way to get both Salarian as well as Krogan support is by killing Wrex in Mass Effect - that way, the Krogan are led by the warlike and stupid Wreav. If you provided the Krogans with a competent leadership, another STG mole will rat you out to the Krogans should you decide to sabotage the genophage cure, resulting in them withdrawing their support to the war effort, while if you did cure the genophage, the Salarians will withdraw theirs. If Wreav is in command, however, he will be fooled by a fake genophage cure, getting you everyone's support.
    • You can also approve a soldier's transfer to the fight against the Reapers, so that she can avoid possibly having to kill her brother in Cerberus. However, your war assets will take a hit as Alliance forces take casualties from a lack of engineers in the fight against Cerberus. Detail-oriented players may have noticed the N7: Cerberus Lab mission contains journal entries from the soldier's brother. They reveal he's already been "integrated", which erased his personality, and it's possible he's one of the mooks you killed in that mission anyway.
    • There's an asari with post-traumatic stress disorder you can overhear telling her story to a counselor. Eventually she begs to have a gun, and since you-as-Shepard have Spectre authority, you can use the Spectre Terminal to authorize giving her a gun. But if you do that, she kills herself, and this traumatizes the medical workers to such an extent that your War Assets take a hit as the doctors' minds aren't completely on the job.
    • Putting pressure on a dock officer to allow more refugees into the Citadel will decrease the value of your Citadel Defense Force war asset due to an overflow of refugees.
    • Not taking the Renegade Option when speaking to Kelly Chambers (advising her to change her identity) will result in her being executed by Cerberus troops during the invasion of the Citadel.
    • If you side with Tali during her argument with Admiral Xen (pressuring Xen into using her research ships to search for survivors rather than salvage the remains of the Geth dreadnought), you will lose out on a pretty hefty War Asset for the Crucible.
    • Taking the Paragon option and letting Javik touch the memory shard will cause him to decide to kill himself once the war is over.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: A few quests through the game turn out this way, such as one talking to a set of angara on Aya, where the dialogue has a choice between two slightly different options. Choosing the wrong one annoys the angara in question. Another quest Ryder either chose to lie to an angara or tell them the truth. Lying actually nets better in-game rewards than telling him the truth.
  • In Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, you'll come across a woman who has built a shrine and is caring for a sleeping celestial searching for his one true love. Later on in the game, you can discover that she is the woman the celestial has been searching for the entire time. Not playing your cards exactly right results in her rejecting her destined lover since she feels she is unworthy of his feelings and dooming the celestial to an eternity of searching for her in vain. Do it right, however, and they stay together.
    • In the sequel, the player can learn from party member Gan that he was abandoned as a child and never knew his parents. Expressing sympathy might seem like the natural course of action.... except that Gan is both still not over it, and an intensely proud man. Saying that you are sorry immediately prompts him to invoke a Don't You Dare Pity Me! and announce he's better off this way.
  • In Octopath Traveler, apothecary Alfyn, being the All-Loving Hero he is, decides to save the life of a thief named Miguel, despite protest from villagers and a fellow apothecary, simply because he believed it was the right thing to do. Not even a day later, the now recovered Miguel kidnaps a child and Alfyn is forced to fight and kill him.
  • In Persona 4, the trope is handled in a similar way to the anime adaptation above. After Nanako apparently dies, the rest of the team corners Namatame in the hospital and consider throwing him into the TV, knowing that he'll never be convicted of the crimes. If you give in or fail to talk them out of it, you get a bad ending in which Namatame dies. If you talk them out of it, but fail to convince them that the case isn't over yet, you get another bad ending, in which Namatame lives but the culprit is never found, resulting in Dojima asking the Player Character (as well as you) if you really made all the right choices. If you let Namatame live and convince the others that the case isn't over, the game will ask if you made the right decision, but questioning Namatame will reveal that while he was responsible for the kidnappings, he didn't kill anyone. Some investigating and one critical decision later, you can identify the true culprit.
  • Zen doing this essentially causes the entire conflict of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. As Chronos, in order to get Niko/Rei to speak, he created a fake Yasogami from her memories. It worked, but it only drove her deeper into despair due to being shown something that she ultimately could not have anymore and caused her to try to gouge out her eyes. He stopped her by removing her memories, decided to stay with her until she could find the meaning to her life, created the labyrinths, sealed half of his power in the clock tower, and then removed his own memories. To say that this leads to a few problems would be a big understatement; Zen even acknowledges that he simply "hid his mistake" and doesn't even argue back when Naoto gives him a What the Hell, Hero?.
  • Portal 2 gets hit hard by this. At first, it seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to hijack GLaDOS and put Wheatley in her place. However, as GLaDOS sarcastically points out, what you've effectively done is put a complete idiot in charge of a highly complex yet poorly designed scientific facility, which promptly starts to self-destruct. Attempting to fix your mistake by returning GLaDOS to her throne may also be a potentially bad move, as seen when she deletes Caroline from her brain, effectively leaving her with full power and not even the memory of a conscience...maybe.
  • In The Sand Man, while Unicorn's reluctant to explain exactly what the pink jewel is, his reaction clearly indicates it's important. However, refusing to let him keep it actually locks Sophie into a bad ending.
  • In Sdorica, Naïve Newcomer Elio has a heart to heart conversation with Taught by Experience Princess Angelia about the nature of the war the latter is fighting against King Theodore, the uncle who raised her, where she admits she still cares for him. Several chapters later, Angelia's successfully Out-Gambitted her uncle, who prepares to die as he feels compelled to fight to keep the throne even if he now recognizes Angelia is worthy of it. Enter Elio: Theodore's secret son, member of the near-mythical Feather Tribe, and recently convinced of his father's secret goodness. He saves and escapes with his father, and asks where his mother is... only for Theodore to explain he killed his lover, that Elio means nothing to him, and he's already planning how to overthrow Angelia. At least Angelia didn't have to kill her uncle herself...?
  • In Until Dawn, in order to save everyone and get the Good Ending, you will have to do some questionable things.
  • The Witcher: Sparing Adda is hard, but she's Foltest's baby girl. Then you find out in the sequels that if she lives she will marry King Radovid and promptly shit over anything having to do with Temeria.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, any action you take is likely to end up with some innocent person paying dearly for it, whether the act was good, bad or neutral.
    • Try to make a stand on freedom, nonhumans get massacred.
    • Try to solve a murder, an innocent man dies.
    • Allow Roche to topple a tyrant and avenge the horrific deaths of his comrades? The North is destabilized and left defenseless against the coming Nilfgaardian invasion.
      • Worth noting that if said tyrant is allowed to live, he will die in battle against the Nilfgaardian forces in the next game.
    • Any choice that seems to be the most noble should be approached with utmost care.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt turns over some "accidentally help the Nilfgaardians gain more war assets" events you perpetrated in The Witcher 2 by revealing that King Radovid, the current leader of the Northern Alliance, has devolved into a full-blown The Caligula, mass-murdering sorceresses and nonhumans in the biggest Witch Hunt in the North's history, and Emhyr's ruthless but well-planned Nilfgaardian conquest might be the only thing that can stop it. Sparing Radovid will cause him to win the war but damn the north and ESPECIALLY Temaria to further decades of war and genocide, while you can resolve the whole "Nilfgaard conquers the entire world and sends it to hell" issue by simply grooming a true heroine, Ciri, as next in line for Empress. Still, SOME of the war assets end up turning against Emhyr because of his constant would-be usurpers, but you'll never know which.
    • Want to save the White Orchard barmaid from being savagely beaten up by the drunken thugs? Her attackers are her neighbours and she is left mortified when you kill them in the ensuing fight. She demands you leave her inn and never come back. This happens in the prologue region of the game, and highlights early on that some solutions may seem obviously right but may also carry unforeseen consequences.
    • Refuse to cook a baby? Turns out it's a trick to Logic Bomb a grudge spirit, and now you have to fight it the hard way. Still, Geralt is less disturbed by the "prank" if he refuses to participate. On the other hand, you are asked to trust the person who tells you to do it ahead of time, regardless of what she asks you to do (due to reasons, she can't let you know ahead of time.)
    • A girl is attacked and badly wounded by a griffin and expected to die despite the village healer's best efforts. You can hand over a Swallow potion as a last-ditch attempt to heal her, but you find out later that witcher potions aren't intended for human consumption and while the potion did allow her to physically recover, the toxins caused the girl immense pain and drove her insane. When you run into the healer again she feels like punching you for condemning her to a Fate Worse than Death.
    • You meet a ghost who tells you a horrific tale about how she was paralysed and eaten alive by a swarm of rats while her lover was helpless to prevent her death. Agreeing to her request to be reunited with him leads to the catastrophic reveal that she is a pesta, a kind of wraith with powers over disease. She kills her lover and now freed from her curse goes out and spreads disease across the land, eventually leading to the downfall of a small kingdom.
    • If you don't resolve "the Nilfgaard thing" and they conquer the world while corrupt, solving the murder mystery at Skellige results in a peaceful ruler who does not defy Nilfgaard, while allowing the perpetrator to go unpunished results in her "wimpy" son taking over, then tearing the peace treaty with Nilfgaard in half and beginning a legendary war against them as one of the greatest and well-respected Nord kings in history. Averted if you can redeem Nilfgaard through.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: In one side mission, a man hires your team to clear all of the dangerous indigens out of a cave. Upon exploring the cave, it's discovered that the creatures inhabiting the cave are all juveniles, prompting the man who hired you to decide that you shouldn't kill them all. If you decide to listen to him and leave the creatures alone, they eventually grow up into extremely dangerous monsters that end up killing a number of people, including the guy who originally hired you to clear out the cave.
    • In another side mission, you're introduced to a guy who often harms other soldiers and takes the credit for their missions. When you're later assigned to find a rock, you see him in trouble running from an indigen. Should you give him the benefit of the doubt, he'll reveal that it was (partly) a ruse, and takes the rock and takes the credit for that mission. Should you refuse to help him, he gets eaten, you complete the mission, and it's stated that what he got was karma (plus there's one less traitor within the army).
  • In Yes, Your Grace, this is a frequent twist to seemingly benevolent choices:
    • The classic case is Eryk turning out to have "helped" a very convincing conman, sometimes at the price of helping someone who really needed the money or supplies.
    • The alliance with Atana ends up effectively consisting of Eryk marrying his daughter off to an abusive jerk who, regardless of the route taken, eventually kills her and withdraws the help the marriage was "paying" for first chance he gets.
    • The Etton vs Lurs choice first seems like a "Would you rather have Oracle Dust money or a clear conscience ?" choice. Siding with Lurs and jailing the Oracle Dust seller results in not only Etton, but many of his friends boycotting Lurs' spice business. The boycotting results in Lurs resorting to trade with Radovians to stay afloat. The only alternative is for Eryk to buy Lurs' spices himself, and he may not be able to afford it. And if Eryk can neither afford to support Lurs' business nor stand having an ally who's trading with Radovians, he can say bye-bye to Lurs' soldiers before he can even get them.
  • Used quite frustratingly in Yggdra Union, where there are three examples of the trope.
    • Starting at the end of Chapter 7, when the Royal Army begins its invasion of Bronquia, they devastate the country and destroy several innocent towns but don't stop because Yggdra is afraid that Gulcasa will just invade Fantasinia again. The venture winds up not just utterly destroying Bronquia's capital and killing everyone in the Imperial Army, but costing the life of Milanor's best friend and love interest, Kylier.
    • And finally, the player's choices mean that there is no real good ending. If Yggdra gives up the Gran Centurio and decides to reign in peace, the real villain is allowed to continue his plans unchecked and the system that abused and broke Nessiah is allowed to flourish, but if she follows in Nessiah's footsteps and chooses to Rage Against the Heavens, she winds up endangering her own world and the cycle of pain and sacrifice just goes on for much longer. There is no happy ending for Nessiah, who the Royal Army looks at as a villain either way, and everyone who died still died (in some cases pretty needlessly).

    Visual Novels 
  • In Corpse Party: Cross Fear, Sayako obtains a Tragic Keepsake that belonged to Kaori's sister. While handing this over to Kaori seems like the most compassionate choice, doing so is actually one of the requirements for Ending B, the biggest downer of the lot.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
    • In the 5th trial, a student makes a claim that is very obviously a lie, and you have easy means to prove it. Considering revealing lies in testimonies is what you've been doing the entire game until this point, and that the only other suspect in the case is the Player Character, revealing the lie seems like the obvious choice, but doing this leads to the Bad Ending. Despite resulting in the main character being voted guilty and sentenced to execution, not revealing the lie actually ends up being the best choice for everyone.
    • In the third chapter, Makoto takes Taka to see Alter Ego, against Kyoko's wishes- Alter Ego's creator, Chihiro, had just been murdered by Taka's best friend Mondo, so Taka was hoping for some way to apologize to Chihiro and ease his conscience, since he blames himself for what happened. During the meeting, Alter Ego then takes on Mondo's appearance and mannerisms, causing Taka to break out of his Heroic BSoD and become the incredibly Hot-Blooded "Kiyondo," as well as becoming a bit obsessed with Alter Ego. This turn of events, and Kiyondo's resulting rivalry with Hifumi, enable Celeste to put a plan for murder into action, manipulating Hifumi into killing Kiyondo, then killing Hifumi.
  • There's a nasty example of this in Date Warp. If the player-as-Janet is doing Nathaniel's route, at one point Janet reads the diary of Bianca, Nathaniel's old girlfriend. From the diary Janet learns that before she started dating Nathaniel, Bianca slept around with multiple men for fun. Naturally, players hoping to win Nathaniel's heart will be tempted to reveal the contents of the diary to Nathaniel, after all, Nathaniel practically worshiped Bianca when she was alive, shouldn't he be told something so important? Oh, and what a bonus, it would open up space for Janet in his heart...well, not quite. See, if you actually tell Nathaniel about the diary, he incredulously wonders what makes you think he didn't already know about this. Actually, he and Bianca talked about this like grown-ups as they were dating, and Nathaniel decided he didn't care so they could move on. Janet on the other hand is a child because she was snooping in someone else's private diary and tattling on the writer.
  • In Dream Daddy, you can tumble (or get tumbled by) Robert on your first night in the neighborhood, but doing so means he stops seeing you as a potential romantic interest, locking out his Good Ending.
  • Fate/stay night, during the Heaven's Feel route, the protagonist faces the choice of killing Sakura, an innocent abuse victim who he loves, or sparing her and risking her killing innocent people entirely unintentionally. The former choice has Shirou emulating his foster father Kiritsugu and killing his emotions to do what's "right"...and severely disappointing Ilya (who was previously abandoned by Kiritsugu, her father) and Rin (who is then forced to kill her sister), with the implication being that he will eventually kill them too. Even the Tiger Dojo inhabitants are speechless. And the one person with congratulations happens to take pleasure in the suffering of others... The latter choice also cannot be considered the 'right' thing because while you spare an innocent, it results in Sakura being saved, but only after unconsciously devouring many people and putting the world in danger.
  • There's a minor example in Kanon. Usually the choices to get the girls' routes are pretty obvious. But there's a case in Makoto's route where the player might make an understandable screw-up: on January 23rd, first the player needs to look for Amano Mishio... but the next correct choice is to leave without talking to Mishio. The player's first instinct would be to talk to Mishio since Mishio is Makoto's friend, but that's the wrong choice because it won't get you the information you need on this particular day. You need to talk to Mishio later, when she herself is more willing to talk to you.
  • Little Busters!:
    • In Komari's route, Komari starts mentally deteriorating because she realized that she did in fact have a big brother after all, which she forgot on her dying brother's advice since the memory of his loss was so painful. Then Komari starts to use the player character, Riki, as a "surrogate". Given Komari's nasty mental state and how much the truth would break her, it's understandable if the player chooses that yes, Riki will pretend to be Komari's big brother. But doing that means Komari remains in a dream forever, leading to a Bad Ending. To get Komari's good ending you have to tell Komari the truth no matter how painful it is. It hurts Komari at first but then she and Riki end up romantically involved.
    • Kurugaya's route starts with some girls harassing Riki by sticking thumbtacks in his shoes. When Kurugaya asks Riki what's bothering him, he can either tell her the truth, or keep her in the dark. It would be safe to assume that telling her the truth is the best option, but doing so leads to an early bad end. Instead, he must keep Kurugaya in the dark about the situation, though she still ends up figuring out about the girls who were harassing Riki.
    • Early on in Haruka's route, Riki learns which class she's in because of Kanata. When Haruka asks how he learned which class she's in, he can either tell her the truth or lie and say he checked the faculty office. Similar to what happens with Kurugaya, Riki's supposed to lie instead of tell Haruka the truth, as she ends up depressed and assumes that Riki, the one thing she had that her sister Kanata didn't, would prefer Kanata over her.
    • In Kud's route, Riki is given the choice of letting Kud go back to her homeland, or asking her to stay in Japan. It's understandable why one would pick letting her stay, as Tevua is in the middle of an armed conflict and the land is engulfed in riots. However, asking Kud to stay results in a Bad Ending where her relationship with Riki remains stagnant, and with her witnessing the execution of her mother on a live news broadcast.
    • An example occurs in Haruka's route that isn't connected to player choices, but rather the decision Kanata made when she was a kid to lie about an allergy to eggs. She did it when her and Haruka's extended family forced them to compete against each other by comparing their cooking skills, and did so because she didn't want Haruka to face even more abuse from their family. However, the family thought that Haruka was trying to induce an allergic reaction to harm Kanata, so she faced even worse beatings than usual.
  • The player's first instincts are probably wrong when playing Mayu's or Mizuka's routes in One Kagayaku Kisetsu E. This is because in Mayu's route, you need to keep pushing her to do things other than what she wants so that Mayu will move past her animal-like behavior. And in Mizuka's route, the Jerkass choices are the right ones, even the choice that leads to Mizuka in a dark room with random men copping a feel. Why? Because in order to become involved with Mizuka, Kouhei has to stop taking her for granted, and he only does that if he realizes that Mizuka loves him so much she'll put up with him even when he's a jerk.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
    • There's a more merciful example of this trope than usual in the DS-exclusive fifth case to the first game in the series. Phoenix Wright recovers a piece of cloth cut from a murder victim's chest, which appears to be crucial evidence Phoenix Wright needs. Then Damon Gant, the police chief whose safe you took this evidence from, says he knows you have a piece of evidence, wouldn't you like to show it to the court? But he phrases his request as a taunt, as if he wants you to present the evidence; this should raise the player's suspicions which is why this example of this trope is more merciful than usual. If you present the evidence the first time Damon Gant asks you for it, the fingerprints on the cloth belong to Ema Skye, which gives Lana Skye a reasonable motive both to cover up the supposed Joe Darke murder and to kill Bruce Goodman, who was asked to review evidence of that case. That causes you to instantly lose. The correct response is to hide the cloth, then present it later when you're later capable of proving that while the prints on the cloth belong to Ema, the condition of the cloth proves that Damon Gant was the murderer. Damon Gant will try to call you out on withholding evidence, but you can then point out that it wasn't relevant until he proved it was, thereby defeating him once and for all.
    • A story example happens in the second case of the second game. Having realized that Morgan Fey helped mastermind the murder plot in order to frame her niece Maya, Phoenix has Pearl channel Mia's spirit, a process that renders Pearl unconscious for the duration of the channeling, so she won't have to learn the truth about her mother. As a result, while Pearl is saddened to learn about Morgan being imprisoned after the case, she continues to trust her mother. In the third game, this leads to Morgan manipulating Pearl into nearly channeling the spirit of Dahlia Hawthorne in an attempt to kill Maya and/or frame her for murder, a plan that Godot thwarts at the cost of Misty Fey's life.
  • Steins;Gate 0 involves one of these leading to the eventss of this game/timeline. During the events of the True Ending of the first game, Mayuri managed to snap Okabe out of a Heroic BSoD with a slap to the face and a pep talk about how he shouldn't give up, which, coupled with a plan from his future self, led to him saving Kurisu, and stopping World War 3 before it even started while he was at it. 0, howover, takes place after an alternate version of that event where instead, taking pity on his state at the time, Mayuri encouraged Suzuha to let him recover from his experience before trying to time travel again. Instead, Okabe dove right into the Despair Event Horizon, and by the time he finally snaps out of it, he's missed his window of opportunity to make things right. Thus, in order to Set Right What Once Went Wrong...the attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, Mayuri travels to the past to encourage her past self to get Okabe not to give up at that pivotal moment, while Okabe proceeds to become the future version of himself who would give his past self the plan to set everything right.
  • In the first half of Time Hollow, this happens to Ethan a lot. His first try at fixing each past incident usually makes things worse, and he has to try something else. He has even more trouble in the second half of the game, but this time it's because the bad guy is actively undercutting him.
  • An irritating example occurs at the end of Akiha's route in Tsukihime. Akiha has finally succumbed to her demon blood and become a mindless killer. She made you promise to kill her when this happened. Breaking your promise and letting her live nets you a very depressing ending where Akiha lives out the rest of her life as a mindless doll in a shed that has to suck your blood until you nearly collapse every day. This is her normal end. Keeping your promise and putting her out of her misery nets you a Bad End despite being much less miserable. (To get the best ending, you have to Take a Third Option, but that's beside the point.)
  • In Wicked Willow, every use of the protagonist's magic can backfire, and numerous seemingly innocent choices (like healing Avery's liver) have negative consequences for at least some people.
  • Your Turn to Die: Kanna and her big sister were stuck in a Death Trap that only she escaped, leaving her guilt-ridden over the notion that she might have been able to save her and failed. Two other pairs were trapped in the same fashion; both groups were able to figure out the trick in time. When Kanna approaches them asking how they managed it, Mishima lies, claiming that the solution required physical strength — something the petite middle schooler couldn't pull off on her own. Sara and Joe back him up, but this turns out to have been a poor decision later, as Sue Miley gleefully reveals the Awful Truth to Kanna after executing Mishima, hitting her even harder.
    • Mishima also stumbles into this with how he chose to handle the Test Vote: in order to protect Nao, he convinced her that they should vote for each other, then voted for himself instead, trying to ensure she wouldn't end up with the majority. Problem with this is that not only did it get him killed — and saddle Nao with the guilt of voting for him, it turns out after the fact that it was entirely unnecessary, as a tie would have ensured that nobody had to die.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy made the decision to destroy Girard's Gate in order to prevent Xykon, who was on his way, from getting his hands on it, since the heroes couldn't feasibly protect the gate with Xykon closing in on it. While this does delay the villains' plans, it ends up being the biggest mistake he could make as it destabilizes the prison holding the Snarl enough that the gods begin to consider destroying the world to create a new prison.
  • In Pandora's Tale, Isabelle is the most insistent about freeing Pandora from slavery... only for her actions to result in Pandora imprinting on her, effectively making her Pandora's "owner".
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The aftermath of one of the battles causes Onni to fall into a coma after magically helping the crew long-distance, while his younger sister among the crew, Tuuri, ends up in a situation that could potentially be bad news for her. Knowing Onni doesn't deal well with uncertainity, she asks the other members of Mission Control to not tell Onni about it if he wakes up, planning to do so herself over the radio. However, Reynir, another member of the crew, can still communicate with Onni via Talking in Your Dreams, and ends up checking on Onni as soon as he gets the opportunity to do so. Onni's first instinct is of course to ask Reynir how Tuuri is doing, and Reynir lies to him to respect Tuuri's wishes. However, that battle also left the crew's vehicle in a very precarious state, and it ends up breaking down, dooming the radio in the process, before Onni recovers. Tuuri's situation changes from "possibly bad" to "certainly bad" that very evening. Tuuri's reaction is ultimately to commit suicide, which lets her inform Onni on the way to the afterlife. She however uses phrasing that makes it sound like it's Reynir's fault that Onni wasn't informed earlier.

    Web Original 
  • This trope is a consistent running theme in the second season of Cobra Kai, as multiple characters try their best to do the right thing and fail horribly.
    • Moon is well aware of how the Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do students are one bad day away from killing each other, and does her best to encourage the groups to reconcile. Unfortunately, she does this primarily by inviting both factions to a party without telling either that the other is coming as well. As a result, the night kicks off with both groups feeling ambushed and uneasy.
    • Daniel believes that the aggressive teachings of Cobra Kai require a counter to balance them, and teaches his students the much more passive, peaceful Miyagi-Do school instead. Unfortunately, he emphasizes the martial component of the school more than its philosophy, and constantly alludes to how Cobra Kai is an evil force that requires a counterbalance. As a result, his students wind up contemptuous of their rivals and tend to make only token efforts to avoid combat.
    • During the party in Cobra Kai S2E9 "Pulpo", Hawk briefly tries to adhere to Johnny's teachings about turning the other cheek and showing mercy, an act that does not come easily to the Blood Knight. Unfortunately, Deadpan Snarker Demetri simply takes advantage of Hawk's lack of response to double down on publicly humiliating his former friend, further enraging Hawk and helping to convince him that Johnny has simply gone soft.
    • In the finale, Miguel shows mercy on a defeated opponent, and even ashamedly apologizes for allowing his rage to get the better of him. Said enemy was less willing to let the fight end than Miguel was, and takes advantage of Miguel's lowered guard to launch an attack that results in a brutal Career-Ending Injury.
  • In the Whateley Universe, religious nut Reverend Englund becomes aware that there is a half-demon student at the school who he thinks will take over the world by enslaving people, killing others and using her mind slaves to breed demon spawn. While the Reverend has fought otherworldly invaders and all manner of creatures who did harm, in this case he's actually wrong: Sara/Kellith has actually decided that she's going to do good for the world and promote peace and love. So the Reverend gets the Syndicate (i.e. the organized bad guys) to help him kill her… and what would have been a controlled attempt to kill just one person gets hijacked by the Chessmaster, resulting in a large part of the school getting blown up, a number of security personnel and teachers getting maimed and/or killed and all the students being incredibly traumatised.

    Western Animation 
  • An early episode of Adventure Time mixes this with Secret Test of Character. While seeking out the heroes' Enchiridion, Finn finds a trio of fairies trapped in quicksand. Naturally, he frees them, only to find that they're evil and quickly use everything he does to justify destroying old ladies. Finn nearly has a Heroic BSoD until Jake reminds him that A. it was still the right decision to make at the time and B. there's no logical reason for all these old ladies to be here, so they have to be illusions and Finn hasn't actually caused any harm.
  • In the Carmen Sandiego episode "The Stockholm Syndrome Caper", Ivy gets captured at the exact time Carmen crashes in the middle of a forest. With Shadow-san occupied elsewhere, Player has to make the call about who to send Zack after first; since Ivy is less trained and skilled than Carmen and she's actively the prisoner of people who A) think she's Carmen and B) wouldn't hesitate to hurt her either way, Player decides to prioritize her over Carmen. This ends up causing Carmen to nearly freeze to death because while Ivy escaped her captors, making her rescue unnecessary, Carmen was injured in her crash and couldn't make it to shelter before succumbing to the elements.
  • Futurama:
    • "Jurassic Bark": Fry changes his mind about resurrecting his dog when he found out Seymour lived far longer without Fry than he did with him, so Fry figured that meant he had a long fulfilling life. Long? Yes. Fulfilling? No — he never got over Fry's disappearance, and spent the rest of his life waiting in front of Fry's old workplace. Fry never finds out about this. We call that a Downer Ending.
    • Thanks to Time Travel in Bender's Big Score this ended up becoming the right thing again. A copy of Fry is sent back in time and lived the other 12 years of Seymour's life with him in the 21st centurynote . This was probably done because the original ending crushed souls with its sadness.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "Signal from Sector Six", Kaz and Poe rescue a woman from a derelict freighter, and she's taken to the Colossus and registered. Unfortunately, she's actually one of the pirates who attacked the ship, and the gang she's part of has been hired to take down the Colossus, so all this does is give her the perfect inroad as a spy.
  • The Weekenders, "Band": Carver writes a note to Chum Bukkit, his favorite band, on a napkin. His handwriting is so terrible that, when the band reads them, they come up with song lyrics which they incorrectly attribute to Carver. Eventually he admits the truth, simply because he thinks that lying about the band dedicating their local show to them was enough lies. Turns out that because of that, Chumbucket doesn't have to pay royalties. Carver is seething.
    Carver: [clenches teeth]
    Tino: You Did the Right Thing.
    Carver: Still... [clenches teeth again]
  • In W.I.T.C.H., the main characters ultimately agree that the best thing to do regarding their friend Elyon being the Princess of Meridian is to not tell her, believing that doing so would cause her unnecessary stress and panic while trying to deal with the Big Bad. This works...until said villain, who is Elyon's older brother, realizes that they're doing this and decides to tell her everything himself, causing her to despise her friends and join his side, making everything worse.

Alternative Title(s): The Wrong Right Thing


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