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Predecessor Villain

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"Long before the Ishgardians and their base betrayal, there lived still more wicked men whose ambitions knew no bounds. Fearful of our might and covetous of our power, they devised a means to enslave dragonkind... Their vile misdeeds did set in motion a train of events whose repercussions are felt to this day."
Midgardsormr, Final Fantasy XIV

At some point in the backstory, a villain existed who was the forerunner to the current Big Bad—either because they were both part of a direct line of succession, or just because the Big Bad uses similar methods and espouses similar beliefs. The Predecessor Villain may appear in flashbacks, but will usually have no direct role in the story (unless it turns out to be Hijacked by Ganon, from an in-universe standpoint)—usually, though not always, they are a Posthumous Character.

May be used to reinforce a theme of a Vicious Cycle, or just to give the current Big Bad a well of secrets and power to mine. Sometimes, particularly if the current Big Bad is the Evil Counterpart to The Hero, then the Predecessor Villain will be the same to Precursor Heroes—and may have been their Arch-Enemy at one point.

Can overlap with Villainous Legacy, where the current plot is more or less the direct repercussion of a villainous figure's past actions (whether or not there is a current villain for it to have preceded). Compare and contrast Greater-Scope Villain for villains that still exist during the story but take little to no active role in it, rather than having existed in the story's past. For cases where the Big Bad goes down and is replaced by a Bastard Understudy or underling during a work, see Dragon Ascendant.

No relation to the trope Hero's Evil Predecessor.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Bleach: Long before Sosuke Aizen engineered a conspiracy against the Seireitei and defected from the Gotei 13, Yhwach - the Quincy King - conquered the human world and waged a bloody war of annihilation against both Hollows and Soul Reapers alike. His rivalry with Yamamoto was said to be legendary, and Yhwach's defeat eventually led to genocide against the Quincy. Yhwach's cruelty and brutality were so extreme, even Yamamoto and Unohana, both said to be little more than thugs and mass murderers, willingly Took a Level in Kindness to avoid such a catastrophic war ever again. But there's a catch: we never find out about this until after Yhwach himself is introduced in the main story. This means Yhwach is the Predecessor Villain, the ultimate Big Bad of the story, and the Final Boss of the series.
  • In a case of where the villain is still alive, in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Bohemian Rhapsody," a series of warp gate bombings provoke the Bebop crew to find the man responsible for those incidents. As it turns out, he had already set the plan in motion 50 years prior and has since grown senile, having no knowledge or recollection whatsoever of this plan. All that he knows how to do anymore is play chess.
  • Dragon Ball
    • Dragon Ball Z: Bibidi, Babidi's father and the creator of Majin Buu, who was killed by the Supreme Kai long before the series began.
    • Frieza and King Cold receive one in Lord Chilled in Dragon Ball – Episode of Bardock.
    • Dragon Ball GT: Vegeta's father, King Vegeta III, counts because if he hadn't driven the Tuffle race to near-extinction, Dr. Myuu would've had no reason to create Baby or to co-create Super 17. Without him, Dragon Ball GT wouldn't have happened (except maybe for the Shadow Dragons Saga). This also makes him indirectly responsible for Dragon Ball: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans.
  • Rau Le Creuset, Big Bad of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is this to Gilbert Durandal, Big Bad of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. The two of them were friends, and the former's depression and disgust with the world are what ultimately led to the latter becoming the man he is today. Similarly, Blue Cosmos leader Lord Djibril inherited his position, power, influence, and raving racism from his predecessor, Muruta Azrael.
  • Naruto and its relentless Gambit Pileup makes it difficult to work out who's who at first glance, but ultimately the true Predecessor Villain turns out to be Princess Kaguya Otsutsuki, the Physical God ancestor of the Uchiha and Senju clans, who gave the Big Bad his powers and who he (unknowingly) seeks to resurrect with his plan.
  • In One Piece, it's eventually revealed that way back during the Roger Pirates' heyday, there was a pirate called Rocks D. Xebec, who threatened the world. While little is known about who he is or what he did, he managed to keep together an extremely powerful crew who all hated each other by sheer force. Roger and Garp eventually had to team up to kill him, upon which his crewmembers went their separate ways, with three of them forming three-fourths of the Four Emperors: Whitebeard, Big Mom, and Kaido. A fourth member of this crew was Shiki, who would go on to be a personal rival of Roger's and later serve as the Big Bad of the film Strong World.
  • In StrikerS Sound Stage X, Toredia Graze turns out to have been Dead All Along, and Runessa is the real killer, following in his footsteps.
  • Kayaba Akihito of Sword Art Online is the source for the next two Big Bads, as his game helped influence them in some way. One of them is his rival who used his game as a template for his own and the other was a survivor of Akihito's game who wasn't quite done with his fun.

    Comic Books 
  • While believed to be dead, Norman Osborn was this to any other villain who wore a Goblin costume.
  • Apocalypse is this in Uncanny X-Force. He himself is killed effortlessly in the very first arc as a result of rejuvenating himself into a helpless child body, but almost every subsequent villain is working to either recreate him or find a successor for him. The arc even carried over into writer Rick Remender's next book, Uncanny Avengers.
  • Baron Heinrich Zemo is the father and predecessor of Baron Helmut Zemo, and fought Captain America and the Howling Commandos during World War II.
  • Wonder Woman: Earth One: Hercules is a large part of why Themysciran society is dangerously misandrist in this universe, though he was killed long ago by Hippolyta for his attack and rape of her people.
  • Paperinik New Adventures has Evron, the progenitor of the Evronians. His one appearance in a brief comic strip describes him as even more evil than the Evronians - and thankfully killed by his children.

    Fan Works 
  • Inner Demons has the alicorn known as Midnight, who was the original Queen of Darkness. When defeated by Bayonet, the original Master of Harmony, she cursed Equestria with her dying breath. Hence her eventual reincarnation as Twilight Sparkle, who was therefore destined to repeat her fall from grace.
  • The Powers of Harmony has Zemblani, whose attempt to force open the Gate of Tartarus twenty years ago is what set up the plot in the first place. Possibly subverted, however, as she was working for Cetus at the time.
  • My Little Mages: The Nightmare's Return:
    • Discord is briefly mentioned by Celestia as being responsible for Luna's fall, as his last act was to plant within her the seed of dark magic that became Nightmare Moon.
    • Chrysalis is the Demoted to Dragon variant. Fifty years ago, she led one side of a war between the living and the Undead but was defeated and forced to go into hiding before Nightmare Moon recruited her.
  • Queen of All Oni has the Elders, the former rulers of the Shadowkhan who were overthrown by Tarakudo, and are thus this to both him and Jade. Speaking of which, since Tarakudo is reduced to staying a Sealed Evil in a Can in this universe, he's pretty much this trope to Jade as well.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • Discord for the second and third parts. While he was the Big Bad proper in the first part, with Loneliness and then Princess Gaia/Nightmare Whisper the Big Bads for the second and third parts, Discord's actions in the first part (and the actual show) are the reason one, possibly both, of them even exists at all and everything in the entire fic can be traced back to Discord, even though he's been Sealed Evil in a Can the entire time. He is set free and becomes the Big Bad for the final arc.
    • Queen Cocoon, Queen Chrysalis' predecessor as Changeling Queen. While Chrysalis killed her and took her throne, her ingraining Fantastic Racism into the Changelings and treatment of Chrysalis and others gave Chrysalis the means to manipulate the Changelings to her whims and take over.
    • General Admiral Makarov is this for the Wedding Arc as his actions made Chrysalis a Peggy Sue and lead to her being a much bigger threat than she originally was, even though he himself was long erased from time.
    • Umbra Breeze/Obsidian Zephyr/Nyarlathotrot is this for anything involving King Sombra, as he created him. Rabia is also another aspect of him, as revealed when he was defeated.
    • Lilith the Witch Queen was this for every evil magic user in the Age of Wonders (G1), as she was the First Witch to ever exist having discovered dark magic before anyone else on the planet. In addition, she is this for the Alicorn Amulet and any who use it, as her evil power is sealed inside it and is what corrupts the user. She's also this for Tirek as well, as the monsters and plague she created lured him to where he'd gain his power in the first place.
  • In The Nuptialverse Queen Chrysalis serves as the Greater-Scope Villain, while Discord serves as this, as he made Chrysalis what she is in the first place.
  • Discord again in Secrets and Lies. Twilight's fear that he is attempting to escape once more, and that he provoked her into killing another pony in order to weaken the Elements of Harmony, kick off the events of the story, and Topsy Turvy, said other pony, in fact planned it in order to sow enough chaos to release him.
  • It's revealed in Hope for the Heartless that Arawn, the Death Lord of Annuvin, existed centuries before his apprentice and best warrior, the Horned King (who is over a thousand years old himself). After Arawn was somehow defeated and imprisoned inside the Black Cauldron in his quest to find and use it to Take Over the World, his apprentice took his place and searched for the Cauldron for the same reasons.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines features a few notable examples:
    • Twenty Gyarados Bill is mentioned in the main story as a notable criminal who terrorized the coast of Johto forty years ago, and the reason why the six-Pokémon limit was established. His backstory is explored in his own gaiden.
    • Team Zenith, the original Hoenn villainous team of which Maxie and Archie split from to form teams Magma and Aqua respectively, is featured in the Steven Interlude. Their leader, Zevie, has a personal story with the Hoenn Champion himself.
    • Heratia, a heinous criminal from the times when Gligarman was active as a superhero, is long dead by the present time, but her legacy continues to live through her seven children, six of which grew up to become notorious criminals in their own right after they killed her. One of those children grew up to become the Bloodline King, and the father of Ash Ketchum.
  • A Possible Encounter for a Phantom: Danny discovers that Pariah Dark was in fact the sixth king of ghosts. There was a first, who took a vested interest in a prehistoric race of creatures called Terakons, that Vlad is planning to bring back to life as an army.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 

    Game Book 
  • Agarash the Damned and Darklord Vashna from Lone Wolf. Agarash was sealed away in a prison dimension by the Elder Magi long ago and never shows up in the series proper though he reappears as The Man Behind the Man in the World of Lone Wolf spinoff series, but he left behind countless servants and artifacts. Darklord Vashna was the mightiest of the Darklords and the first one to be slain by the Sommerswerd. Vashna is long dead, but he and his defeated army's spirits haunt the Maakengorge, awaiting any opportunity to come back from the dead to claim vengeance. Two of the books are centered on foiling plots to revive him.

  • In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron is the Dark Lord, but the job was originally held by Morgoth, his old master, a God of Evil who was worse and on a grander scale.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Salazar Slytherin was once a friend of Godric Gryffindor, before becoming obsessed with wizard superiority. It is implied that he was not nearly as bad as people treated him.
    • Gellert Grindelwald, an evil wizard Dumbledore defeated and the previous Dark Lord before Voldemort, is given a passing reference in the first book. In the seventh, it turns out he and Dumbledore were also "friends", and imagined a world where wizards ruled over Muggles "for the greater good". This came to a rather sharp end when Gellert attacked Albus's brother and one of them killed his sister in the ensuing melee. In the end he was imprisoned after his defeat (in the same prison he built for his enemies, no less), and many years later he refused to help Voldemort when Voldemort called on him (Voldemort ultimately got what he wanted anyway, but Grindelwald still didn't help him). Per Word of Gay, it was revealed that he was apparently also Dumbledore's First Love — although how much Grindelwald ever truly reciprocated is open to interpretation.
  • From the Dragon Crown War series, the actions of a Sorcerous Overlord named Kirun play a large role in shaping the settings' history, but the Big Bad is his ex-Bastard Understudy, Chytrine.
  • In The Dresden Files novel Dead Beat, the necromancer Kemmler. He orchestrated World War I and caused absolute havoc during World War 2, and he was such a horrible person that even usually amoral entities like Bob and Queen Mab unironically call him a monster. It took the entire White Council seven tries to make his death stick, but stick it eventually did, and now his influence is felt mostly through his surviving students.
  • In Dragonlance, Fistandantilus is the predecessor or Raistlin, made more complicated when Raistlin travels back in time, kills Fistandantilus, steals his secrets, and usurps his place in the timeline.
  • Baron Ether in Soon I Will Be Invincible is a retired supervillain now living under house arrest. Dr. Impossible, one of the book's two viewpoint characters sees him as a mentor and visits him twice for advice while trying to get his Evil Plan set up.
  • The Tenabran Trilogy is set a generation after the armies of a Sorcerous Overlord were defeated, and opens as rumors stir that he is returning. It turns out that the rumors are down to a new would-be overlord who has recreated the old one's methods. After a while, the protagonist realizes that there are not one but several people independently following the old overlord's m.o. for various reasons of their own — including the head of the military order set up to guard against the old overlord's return, who is deliberately staging attacks against her own forces in order to bolster her own prestige.
  • The Wizard-King Xhum Y'zir is the forerunner of many of the villains from the Psalms of Isaak series, some of whom worship him as a god while others, like Sethbert just use his leftover weapons. For a while, it was implied that he was still alive and secretly the Big Bad but it turned out that it was his youngest son Ahm Y'Zir, also a Wizard-King, who was being kept alive with Magitek and has been actually pulling the strings.
  • The Authority on His Dark Materials lashed out against those angels who denied that he had created the world and is implied to have founded the church but at the time of the story he is so senile that he cannot speak and dies when his life-supporting cage is destroyed.
  • Thistleclaw of Warrior Cats. He was the mentor of Tigerstar (the primary antagonist of the series), the Arch-Enemy of Firestar's mentor Bluestar, and the cause of many major events in the series (such as the rise of Scourge, although he wasn't intending that). The Prequel Crookedstar's Promise gives Thistleclaw his own Predecessor Villain in the form of Silverhawk,note  who mentored Thistleclaw in the Dark Forest, and caused him to turn from an Anti-Hero into a full-fledged villain.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: Mevolent is responsible for the Great Offscreen War, onetime direct superior of the first two novels' Big Bads and Skulduggery's Superpowered Evil Side, a significant onetime ally of the Diablerie and the Church of the Faceless, and supreme Evil Overlord of a parallel universe where he's still alive. Notably, he himself had an Evil Mentor who was essentially the Predecessor Villain to him.
  • Greg Kawakita is this in Reliquary. At the end of the first book, he undergoes a Face–Heel Turn and is set up to be the main antagonist of the sequel but is dead by the time of it, with Dr. Frock serving as the real Big Bad. However, none of that book's events could have happened if it wasn't for his actions at the end of the first book.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte for two Paul Féval novels, John Devil (1862) and The Mysteries of London (1843-44) adapted for the stage as Gentlemen of the Night. The Big Bad of each claims to have met Napoleon on St. Helena in about 1815-1816. Both have their own reasons for the Wars against England however, and Henri Belcamp in John Devil could have actually benefited Napoleon (since the other's main narrative is set after he died), and Henri even more so is really about his own ambition, he really wants to be the next Napoleon; freeing the first is merely for a Passing the Torch moment. O'Brean in Gentlemen of the Night is motivated by liberating and avenging Ireland. Both are made in continuity with each other via The Black Coats.
  • Charles "Trout" Walker in Holes, the even worse deceased grandfather to the Big Bad. The entire plot ultimately stems from his racially-motivated murder of Sam the Onion Man, which caused Green Lake to dry up and Sam's lover Kate Barlow to cross the Despair Event Horizon and become an outlaw, ultimately burying treasure in the desolate lakebed. Trout became obsessed with finding the treasure, even forcing his granddaughter to help him dig, which is why she forces other children to dig in the present.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Although "Mad King" Aerys II Targaryen was overthrown and killed fifteen years before the events of A Game of Thrones, many characters who lived through the rebellion, such as Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister, are still haunted by memories of him. When Joffrey becomes king following the death of Robert Baratheon and reveals himself as one of the worst rulers in the history of Westeros, it doesn't take long before some disturbing similarities between him and Aerys become apparent.
    • On a lesser scale, there was the Kingswood Brotherhood, an outlaw band that operated in the crown lands, and took their name from their refuge, a large forest located south of King's Landing. The group operated Just Like Robin Hood, but were defeated after Ser Arthur Dayne made successfully appeals to Aerys (yes, the Aerys mentioned above - he hadn't succumbed to insanity yet) to make the lives of commoners easier, after which the Brotherhood was cornered and cut down. Among those who fought them were Barristan Selmy and Jaime Lannister. They're contrasted with the Brotherhood Without Banners formed during the events of the later books, who are much more aggressive and vengeful than them. Part of this is a massive difference in origins and circumstances - the new brotherhood was originally a royal host sent to arrest Ser Gregor Clegane, but Clegane's backers usurped the throne and declared the host outlaws. The Civil War that followed saw armies and bandits committing Rape, Pillage, and Burn on a massive scale (sometimes egged on by their leaders), which led the Brotherhood to expand its aims to oppose anyone committing crimes against those who could not defend themselves. Unlike the Kingswood Brotherhood, the new one enjoys enormous support from both commoners and nobility due to the winners of the conflict being despised for, among other things violating Sacred Hospitality.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe establishes more historical Sith Lords than this page could ever possibly account for. Going all the way back, the very first Sith Lord the rest of the galaxy would recognize was Lord Pall, who merged the Dark Jedi Exiles and the Sith Kingdom to create the Sith of the backstory and movies, many thousands of years later, and whose subordinates created wondrous dark side artifacts that later villains would relentlessly hunt down.
  • Counselors and Kings has a subversion. Akhlaur is frequently name-dropped in the first book, but while his legacy hangs in the background of all the book's conflicts, Akhlaur himself was defeated centuries ago and is presumed dead by everyone. Then the prologue of the second book reveals that Akhlaur is very much alive and plotting to regain power, and that apparent Big Bad Kiva actually intends to bring him back.
  • Forging Hephaestus has Balaam as the Big Bad. Before him, the most notorious villain was Fornax, who was nearly unbeatable in his prime. However, he is eventually defeated by Lodestar, who convinces Fornax to give up villainy. Fornax (now going by his real name Ivan Gerhardt as a civilian and Pseudonym as his retired villain persona) now spends his days working as a mid-level manager at an office building, with his kids staying with him every other weekend (i.e. a typical divorced dad). One of Balaam's goals is to reawaken Fornax, his idol, and unleash him on the city.
  • Genome has an interstellar war nearly instigated by the book's Big Bad. The prequel Dances on the Snow has The Empire being subverted from within by a growing alliance, using More than Mind Control to turn entire planetary populations to their side. The prequel's Big Bad turns out to be an Opposite-Sex Clone of a character from the original novel.
  • Dan Abnett’s Ravenor trilogy has Lilean Chase, a former Inquisitor who went rogue and founded the heretical Cognitae institution. Though Chase is long dead by the time the trilogy takes place, many of the villains are either related to her by blood or graduates of her Cognitae program.
  • Darken Rahl in the Sword of Truth books has followed in the footsteps of his father, Panis Rahl, whose own bid for world domination was foiled decades before the start of the series. Interestingly, for all that he venerates his father's memory, he seems to be trying a different approach than him: while Panis tried to conquer the world with armies supported by sorcery, Darken prefers to rely on deception and brainwashing while pursuing a way to gain ultimate magical power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Lexx, the Great Insect Wars are mentioned a few times. Humanity was once at war with a race of giant alien bugs known as the Insect Civilization. Led by the Brunnen-G, humanity's greater resourcefulness overcame their opponents' greater resources. The Wars never actually ended. The Divine Shadow was really the last survivor of the Insects. By passing on its essence to humans, it created the Divine Order that reduced humanity to its slaves and livestock.
  • 24:
    • The first season has Victor Drazen, a deceased Serbian war criminal whose sons are carrying out the terrorist plot in his honor. Subverted when Victor turns up alive and becomes the season's ultimate Big Bad.
    • 24: Live Another Day plays this straight with Mahmoud Al-Harazi, an Al-Qaeda terrorist whose death years ago motivates his widow to seek revenge.
  • Kamen Rider OOO has The Original OOO, who had alchemists make the Core Medals, including the ones that'd give birth to the Greeeds, in an attempt to take over the world.
  • Power Rangers:
    • A twofer from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Scorpius starts out as the Big Bad of the season but after being killed by Leo in episode 21, his daughter Trakeena takes over as the main villain for the rest of the series. Treacheron is a general who served Scorpius and was the Noble Demon among the villains. When Trakeena takes over as the villain, she appoints Villamax as her general who has a very similar personality to Treacheron.
    • An interesting variation in Power Rangers Wild Force. It is ultimately revealed that the Master Org that has been the main villain for the first half of the season is actually Dr Viktor Adler, a human who consumed the remains of the original Master Org. When Jindrax and Toxica learn of this, they revive an Org general named Mandilok who kills Adler and takes over as the main villain for the series until the real Master Org returns and kills him.
      • The Machine Empire were the main villains of Power Rangers Zeo before their leaders were killed off along with every other "Zordon Era" villain in Power Rangers in Space. In Wild Force, it is revealed that remnants of the Machine Empire still exist and are planning to continue their fallen leaders' work by using Serpentera - Lord Zedd's own evil zord - to conquer Earth. This requires Cole, the Red Ranger of Wild Force, to team up with every single Red Ranger from the previous seasons to stop them.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive: Fourteen years after his parents Rita and Zedd originally threatened the Earth, Thrax makes his own play for world domination by uniting the various villainous factions of the season. This necessitates the current team to join forces with Ranger veterans from previous teams including one from the team that fought Thrax's parents.
    • Power Rangers RPM: Alphabet Soup was a corrupt government facility that kidnapped child geniuses and forced them to work for them and drove them either to being near-emotionless (Dr. K) or completely child-like (Gem and Gemma). Dr. K created Venjix for them, who broke free and began his assault on humanity. By the events of the series, its members were either arrested, captured by Venjix, or killed.
  • Stargate SG-1: Ra was the first Goa'uld to find Earth and use a human as a host, which gave him and other Goa'uld a massive supply of hosts, soldiers, and slaves and allowed them to spread all across the galaxy, with Ra as the top System Lord for over ten thousand years. He's killed off in the original film before the series, but the lesser System Lords pose the main threat for most of the series.
  • Gotham makes heavy use of this trope as a way to incorporate classic Batman villains' motifs into a pre-Batman setting. Such as the father of Jonathan Crane (the Scarecrow) and Jerome, a laughing psychopath who's implied to be the Joker's inspiration have emulated their successors' murderous obsessions.
  • Once Upon a Time: Season 5 reveals that the lineage of Dark Ones began with Nimue, who only became the first Dark One due to their desire for revenge on the warlord Vortigen, who destroyed their home and family in his quest for the Holy Grail.
  • Angelus and Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were two very dreaded vampires, although they were both still quite young (by scale of vampires). And they both are "descendants" of The Master, who was perhaps the oldest and most powerful vampire in the series.
    • The comics show that the creators of the first vampires were demons Maloker and Archaeous.
  • Cobra Kai: The third season features a few flashbacks to John Kreese's time in the Army during the Vietnam War. His commanding officer, Captain Turner, was a ruthless Bad Boss whose teachings (and training in Tang Soo Do) turned Kreese from a kindly waiter to the monstrous asshole he was by the time of The Karate Kid (1984), and still is by The New '10s.
  • Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story points out that Swami Satchidananda Saraswati preceded all of the private zoo owners and their Cult of Personality. In particular, Bhagavan "Doc" Antle was one of Swami's students at his spiritual Yogaville temple, admired the god-like sway he had over his followers, and sought to emulate this in his zoos. Swami was even accused of taking advantage of some of his followers sexually, similarly to how Antle is accused of running a sex cult. But by the time of the series, Swami has been dead for many years.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Morgoth has a short summary of whom he was and what he did in the introduction made by Galadriel. He was barely defeated in the War of Wrath, and Sauron took his place after, following his own agenda of reshaping Middle-earth.
  • Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya: Dokusai and the Sorcerers Clan weren't the first to try and steal the Pako. Years before, Akunobo Sugitani made an attempt to steal the map to it so he could claim it for himself. He also turns out to have been the one who killed Toha's parents.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Hikari Sentai Maskman: Before Emperor Zeba took power in the Tube Empire, his coup de'tat was preceded by Lethal Doggler, a rogue underground beast which attempted to overthrow the Tube royal family. Zeba is also later revealed to share a more direct connection with Lethal Doggler, he's an offspring it left behind after being killed.
    • Ninja Sentai Kakuranger: Nurarihyon led the youkai prior to their defeat in the past. When they return in the present day, they've fallen under the leadership of the Daimaou.
    • Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: Ikki Kasumi was the father of Ikkou and Isshu, and the one who put them through a brutal training regimen so they could become the Gouraigers. He later became obsessed with invoking "It" and plotted to use his sons to do so. He died before he could go through with his preparations, but still imparted his desire onto his sons, who join up with the Jakanja to fulfill it. The Jakanja later use the same strategy Ikki devised (forcing one of the brothers to kill the other) for their first attempt at invoking It.
    • Juken Sentai Gekiranger: The Three Fist Demons are the original founders of the Rinjuken Akugata. Rio revives them in the present day to mentor him in the ways of the style.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ptolus has two
    • Ghul the Skeleton King, the half-god and self-proclaimed half-demon, has terrorized the world with his hordes of undead and plunged it into years-long winter, he famously managed to crave himself a domain halfway through the Spire.
    • Eslathagos Malkith was active seven thousand years before Ghul, who terrorized the world with his hordes of beasts and servants of Galchutt and is said to have been much, much worse than Ghul, best exemplified by the fact he managed to build his castle on top of the very Spire Ghul only got halfway through. He's been so evil his very presence tainted his castle to the point gods themselves had to seal it away after he was gone.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the C'tan, who created the Necrons, indirectly created Chaos with their war against the Old Ones (which in turn allowed the Chaos Gods to be born later), and indirectly led to the creation of the Orks and Eldar (as the Old Ones created them to fight against the C'tan). Originally they served as part of the Big Bad Ensemble, but then the 5th Edition Retcon had them be shattered into pieces tens of millions of years ago.
  • Warhammer has multiple examples, often presented as special characters during their prime but being long-since dead in the current timeline.
    • Gorthor the Cruel for the Beastman, a warlord who flaunted what few rules and codes of conduct the Beastmen had amongst themselves (Beastmen wear human skins as a matter of course but wouldn't dare touch a shaman in anger - Gorthor would kill shamans them and wear their skins) and raised a warherd so big he was able to depopulate the entire Drakwald, destroying all human settlements and slaying two Elector Counts in personal combat. Even though he has been dead for millennia, man and beast still dread his memory.
    • Gorbad Ironclaw for the Orcs. The greatest warboss of all, Gorbad led a WAAAAGH! that crushed multiple dwarf armies and reached Kazak-a-Karak itself, with myth claiming its impregnable gates still have a scratch on them from Gorbad's claw. After the dwarfs refused to meet him in battle Gorbad turned his attention towards the Empire, destroying the region of Solland utterly and killing its Elector Count, depopulating Averland, Stirland, and almost exterminating the halflings of the Moot, razing Nuln to the ground and feeding the current Emperor to a pack of wyverns. Greenskin shamans still tell stories of his deeds millennia later and the region of Solland would never be restored to the status of state of the empire.
    • Grom da Paunch is Gorbad's goblin equivalent, the biggest gobbo to ever live (both figuratively and very literally). Grom's WAAAAGH! took him the same route through dwarfen lands and up Blackfire pass, before his shaman was struck by a prophecy that led Grom to sack Talabecland, Hochland, and Middenland before looting Marienburg to build a massive navy he used to invade Ulthuan, becoming the first greenskin warboss to set foot on the continent. After almost razing the city of Tor Yvresse to the ground, Grom and his shaman also came within inches of permanently destroying the Great Vortex and undoing the world through sheer ignorance. Grom is so famous that any goblin army led by him automatically overcomes their racial fear of elves.
    • Vlad von Carstein, first and greatest of the vampire counts, who created the entire von Carstein bloodline, permanently turned Sylvania into a blighted crapsack where the sun doesn't shine, and nearly toppled the Empire during the first Vampire Wars. If he had not been felled at the Siege of Altdorf through treachery, he would probably have become Emperor and permanently turned the Empire into The Necrocracy ruled by vampires, and even two millennia later his bloodline still rules Sylvania.
    • Asavar Kul was the former Everchosen of Chaos (there have been thirteen Everchosen... Never let it be said that Chaos were very consistent on that 'ever' part). His Great War of Chaos almost destroyed Kislev and almost toppled the Empire two hundred years before the current time period, and forced the High Elves to get directly involved in protecting the Old World. This included teaching humanity magic.

  • BIONICLE: Pridak, leader of the Barraki, is not the most important villain in Bionicle by any stretch, only truly being relevant during the Mahri Nui arc. But his bid to overthrow Mata Nui inspired Makuta, the series's true Big Bad, to make his own attempt, which was far more successful and serves as the primary conflict of the series. In addition, both are Satanic Archetypes.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat:
  • The Templar Order in Assassin's Creed are actually successors of the Order of the Ancients introduced in Assassin's Creed Origins. Also according to Assassin's Creed Encyclopedia, the Order of the Ancients were preceded by the Children of Cain (yes, that Cain), the oldest precursor to the Templars.
  • Brütal Legend has one in the form of Succoria, the former Emperor of the Tainted Coil before Doviculus took her place. Bits of lore found throughout the game reveal that some time after the fall of the original Black Tear Rebellion, Succoria sought to learn the secrets of the Titans in order to secure the Tainted Coil's dominance over humanity and the world for all eternity, and performed a ritual that allowed her to travel to the future with some of her slaves to do just that. Her plan hit an unforeseen snag, however, when upon reaching the future she learned that it was not the demons but humanity that ruled the world, and that the demons had faded from memory a long time ago. Horrified and broken, Succoria gave up and released her slaves, unwilling to return to her time knowing that her people were doomed (which allowed Doviculus to take over in her absence). Riggnarok, the former leader of the Black Tear Rebellion who had snuck among Succoria's slaves with the intent to slay her, took pity on Succoria and stayed with her in the future, where the two eventually fell in love with each other since they were no longer bound by the taboos and prejudices of their time. Their romance culminated in the birth of Eddie, the game's protagonist, and Succoria's Death by Childbirth. Years later, Eddie would become a roadie and accidentally activate Succoria's Idol of Ormagöden during a concert, which sent him back to the past to finish what his father started. Rather ironically, it was Succoria giving in to despair that sealed the Tainted Coil's defeat.
  • Walter Bernhard from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is almost directly a prototype of the series's portrayal of Dracula. They're both vampiric Evil Overlords with similar fashion senses, Walter rules a castle that may be the same one Dracula would later take, his magical powers and demon form resemble clumsier versions of Dracula's signature abilities, and at the end of the game, Dracula steals his soul as the final ingredient needed to make himself the true Dark Lord.
  • The Bernhard family in the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. They are long gone in Gabriel's time, but their evil still haunts the world. One of their last acts, summoning the Forgotten One, is the sole reason Dracula even exists in the first place since Gabriel had to sacrifice his very humanity and steal its power to defeat it.
  • In Cave Story, Halder, Anatupone, and Miakido preceded The Doctor in the line of Demon Crown-bearers. Miakido is particularly notable, as you discover (when you're on track for the best ending) that Quote and Curly fought him ten years ago. The damage they took from this fight was the cause of their amnesia.
  • The Devil May Cry series:
    • Arkham is one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening and a human who wants the power of the demon Sparda for himself. While 3 is the third game in the series, it is chronologically the first time Dante fights an evil human who seeks to gain demonic powers.
    • The Devil May Cry 5 prequel novel, Before The Nightmare, reveals that Agnus, one of the villains from the fourth game, once worked for Uroboros. Uroboros was an international enterprise run by Arius, the villain from Devil May Cry 2, who was able to create artificial demons. This makes Arius a predecessor villain to Agnus and by extension, the Order of the Sword as Arius was tasked by Sanctus, the main villain of 4, to do the same thing. On a meta-level, Arius can be considered a predecessor villain to Arkham and Sanctus by being the first human villain with a goal of becoming a demon in the series. In fact, Arius' role in the game would be repeated beat-for-beat by 3 and 4; defeating Dante's main ally in the game, attaining demonic power, being defeated by Dante, and then killed off permanently by the co-protagonist.
    • In Devil May Cry 5, the main villain Urizen a.k.a. Vergil's demonic half made flesh consumes a fruit from the demon tree Qliphoth in order to become the all-powerful ruler of the demon world. According to Trish, this was how Mundus, the main villain from the first game, became the ruler of the demon world. Supplementary material of the game extended it further; there was a previous Demon King before Mundus ate the Qliphoth fruit in order to take his position by force.
  • Dragon Age as a whole had the four previous archdemons who led the four earlier Blights, most obviously the first archdemon, Dumat, in addition to the magisters who, according to legend, were responsible for invading the Golden City and creating the darkspawn and the Blights in the first place. Then one of those magisters, Corypheus, shows up in the present as the Big Bad of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and at least one other - the Architect - is known to have also survived into modern times.
    • The Trespasser DLC for Inquisition reveals a group of even further back predecessor villains in the form of the evanuri, or elvish pantheon of gods, save for Mythal who they stabbed in the back and Fen'Harel, who created the Veil to make them Sealed Evil in a Can and prevent them from destroying the world. It was their actions, and the necessary response to those actions by the hero of the era, which caused a huge amount of the problems of the series, including the rise of Tevinter (and thus the Blights), the problem of mages being possessed by demons, and perhaps even the existence of demons in the first place.
  • Dragon Quest XI has the demon lord Calasmos, who fought the protagonist's predecessor, Erdwin, and corrupted Erdwin's wizard friend into the contemporary Big Bad.
  • Final Fantasy V has Enuo, a wizard who used the power of the Void to wreak havoc until he was defeated by twelve heroes. To prevent another from taking the power of the Void, the world's crystals were split in two, creating the Interdimensional Rift, and the power of the Void was sealed within. The re-releases on the GBA and mobile platforms let you fight him as a Superboss.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has Emperor Gair of the Loptrian Empire. On an expedition to a different continent (implied to be Archanea), he met the Dark Dragon Loptous and made a Deal with the Devil with him, giving him the power to conquer his home continent upon his return. His empire endured for several generations before being overthrown by the Twelve Crusaders, who would then found the current noble houses of Jugdral, and while his own bloodline has almost completely died out by the time of the games, the revival of his empire is what Big Bad Manfroy is working toward.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn:
    • Ted Faro, the man singularly responsible for not only ending the world by commissioning the killer robots that did it, but also ensuring that, upon its rebirth, the human race would be starting with little more than a kindergarten-level education and Stone Age technology. Partly due to Sanity Slippage turning him into an Evil Luddite who didn't want humanity to repeat its mistake, and partly because he was a self-centered bastard who didn't want humanity to know that the apocalypse was his fault, he deleted the GAIA AI's APOLLO subordinate function, its massive repository of human knowledge and culture. Thanks to him, the first humans were dumped into the wilderness with no preparation for what awaited them. Aloy and Sylens are both utterly disgusted when they find out what he did.
    • A more minor example is VAST SILVER, the first AI to ever go rogue, leading to the passage of the Turing Act in 2044 that prohibited AI systems that can pass the Turing Test. VAST SILVER ultimately foreshadowed the far greater horror of the Faro Plague.
  • Knights of the Old Republic:
    • Mandalore and Exar Kun are responsible for separate wars that both led up to the Jedi Civil War. Revan is the one who started the war in the first place, but in his case he's still around, but no longer on the side of the Sith.
    • This is the game that introduces Ajunta Pall, the founder of the Sith Order and thus the cause behind the vast majority of Star Wars media. However many of his successors are much worse than he was, and it's possible within the game to help his tortured spirit find redemption.
    • The sequel has the role thrown onto Malak, who's long dead while his subordinates continue the war.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Big Bad Demise is not only the forerunner to the series' main Big Bad Ganon but he actually created Ganon in order to curse Link's ancestral line for all eternity as revenge for defeating him. What becomes of Ganon by Breath of the Wild could be seen as the essence of that promise.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time the Big Bad is Princess Shroob, the Shroob leader. Except she's only been the main leader since the beginning of the game; Peach sealed her older sister away offscreen at the very beginning of the game.
  • The Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC reveals the Leviathans, an ancient race who created an "Intelligence" to solve their problem of synthetics wiping out organic races; the Intelligence in turn created the Reapers, who even "reaped" the Leviathans themselves.
  • Dr. Wily from the Mega Man (Classic) series is responsible for the creation of the Maverick Virus and hence the Big Bad Sigma in the Mega Man X series and all the events that come after, extending into the Mega Man Zero series. He does appear to Zero, the original carrier of the virus in a flashback and is officially given credit in X5.
  • Lumine in Mega Man X8 picks up right after Sigma is defeated, who himself was who carried and became a form of the virus created by Dr. Wily.
  • In Might & Magic X: Legacy, a war started by the now-dead Fallen Angel Uriel has caused most of the crisis currently happening in the Agyn Peninsula. (Uriel appeared in person previously in the Heroes of Might and Magic line.)
  • In Psychonauts, The Butcher is the primary reason his son, Coach Oleander is as screwed up as he is, and why he embraces the whole Take Over the World schtick. In a weird variation, defeating the former (or rather a mental projection of him) is key to defeating the latter.
  • Resident Evil 0 introduces us to James Marcus. Or, rather, his Queen Leech taking on his form. His revenge plot against Umbrella was the direct cause of the mansion outbreak from the first Resident Evil, though he dies before that game properly begins.
  • Archibald Henderson serves as this to both The Secret World and The Park. A powerful sorcerer trained by the Illuminati, his insane obsession with "protecting" his family resulted in a reign of terror over Solomon Island that left the locals too scared to even build on his land over fifty years after his death. It's his experiments on the island's hidden power that paves the way for Nathaniel Winter to build the Amusement Park of Doom on Henderson's land and transforming into the Bogeyman that is the Big Bad of The Park and an early menace in The Secret World.
  • Sonic Adventure has Pachacamac, Tikal's father and the chief of the Knuckles Tribe 4,000 years ago, who led an attack on the Altar of the Emeralds to steal the seven Chaos Emeralds and the Master Emeralds. His soldiers trampled the Chao living there, angering the Emeralds' guardian Chaos, who wiped out the entire clan. Tikal was forced to seal Chaos and herself in the Master Emerald until Eggman freed him millennia later.
  • Professor Gerald Robotnik, who was the Big Bad of Sonic Adventure 2 and grandfather to Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik. Eggman looked up to him as his role model and was the reason Eggman went into robotics in the first place, considering Gerald a more competent roboticist than himself. While already dead for 50 years by the start of the game, his plan to posthumously kill off humanity was so twisted and so difficult to stop that Eggman, in a major case of Even Evil Has Standards, formed an Enemy Mine with Sonic in order to avert the catastrophe. Eggman has since seen him as a Broken Pedestal.
  • World of Warcraft has Sargeras, the setting's version of The Devil. While the games feature Archimonde and Kil'jaeden as frequent Big Bads, Sargeras is the one, who originally formed the Burning Legion after his fall. He was far more powerful and dangerous than either of his lieutenants. In fact, everything they do is in his name. 10,000 years before the events of the games, Sargeras nearly managed to come through to Azeroth, which would have allowed him to destroy the entire world. At that point, there'd be no stopping him. Luckily, the portal was closed before he made it through (and because of the Heroic Sacrifice of one brave Orc). As a matter of fact, Sargeras is the one, who engineered the Horde's coming to Azeroth by possessing Medivh and sending Kil'jaeden to trick the Orcs (Kil'jaeden also had his own reasons, namely to use the Orcs to slaughter the Draenei).

    Web Comics 
  • Anecdote of Error: Dolvyn Dal, the head of the Dalgysume, would kill prisoners of war by tearing their limbs off. Yensha killed him by tearing his heart out, but his successors continued his policies, including the war with Batea.
  • The Water Phoenix King: The title character, Yamra, was the God Emperor of the planet of Chalt, enforcing a supernatural caste system that didn't work and led to an uprising that ended with his death. The various villains of the story are both opportunists and victims of the spiritual punishment inflicted on the world for assassinating a god.
    • And before Yamra, his god Gurahl invented Laser-Guided Karma - and completely fucked up, nearly destroying the entire world and resorting to kinslaying to complete his masterpiece, the karmic system Tamantha, which immediately assisted in killing him and then spent millennia punishing people for not being obedient, sociopathic 'paragons'.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, Malware was this to Khyber the Huntsman. But it turned out that he was the Big Bad all along, while Khyber was just his Dragon. Malware comes back on the grid five years after being apparently defeated by Ben.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Fire Lord Sozin was the one who began the war of conquest that dominates the series, but by the time the series begins, he's long dead of old age, and the Fire Nation is ruled by his grandson, Fire Lord Ozai.
    • Also Sozin's son, Azulon. We don't know much about his actions during the war, but he was nasty enough to order Ozai to murder his own son Zuko when Ozai ticked him off. He also ordered the extermination of the waterbenders in the Southern Water Tribe resulting in Katara's mother's death, and Hama's corruption.
    • Chin the Conquerer was a powerful earthbending warlord during Avatar Kyoshi's time. During his campaign he nearly conquered the entire Earth Kingdom save Ba Sing Se and the peninsula that eventually became Kyoshi Island.
  • The Legend of Korra:
  • Beast Wars has the original Megatron who led the Decepticons in the The Transformers, who is long dead by now, but the Megatron leading the Predacons is acting on a plan devised by Decepticon Megatron to alter history so the Autobots wouldn't have defeated the Decepticons.
  • The Simpsons has Wainwright Montgomery Burns, grandfather Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns. He's the reason why Mr. Burns became a malicious and greedy old man since Wainwright took Charles away from his parents and raised him to be selfish.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has Grandfather, the father of the series-wide Big Bad, Father. He's the reason why Father is the way he is, and his actions prior to the series eventually facilitated the founding of the Seventh Age of the Kids Next Door by his other son, Numbuh 0 a.k.a. Monty Uno, Numbuh 1's father. He's eventually the Big Bad of Operation: Z.E.R.O..
  • Gravity Falls reveals Nathaniel Northwest in "Northwest Mansion Mystery", responsible for why the Northwest family are uncaring and unloving, to both their daughter Pacifica and the people of Gravity Falls. As revealed in Season One, his being the founder of Gravity Falls was a lie and was given money for the cover-up. He abused his wealth by having the townsfolk build him his mansion in exchange for letting them be invited to his annual parties, a promise he gleefully refused to keep. This act is also what caused the Monster of the Week, a Lumberjack ghost, to threaten the lives of his successors. His cruel and uncaring ways were passed down for generations, with Pacifica's parents being the current heads of the family and emotionally abusing their daughter into following their legacy.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings in Darth Bane, previously established in literature, in spirit form in the final episode of its original run, making him the earliest known Sith Lord in the series' onscreen canon. He is particularly notable for establishing the Rule of Two adhered to by all the Sith characters in the films, and setting into motion the thousand-year-long plan to overthrow the Republic that would ultimately be achieved by Palpatine.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): The Demon Shredder was the inspiration for Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder, and his reign resulted in the creation of the Ninja Tribunal, whose servant adopted Hamato Yoshi, the Utrom Shredder's eventual victim, which in turn led to Yoshi's pet rat Splinter and four baby turtles to being mutated. Five of his minions were enslaved by the Utrom Shredder, but once he is defeated and they break free, they start reviving their master and he assumes Big Bad status for season 5.
  • In some He-Man and the Masters of the Universe continuities, Hordak is this to Skeletor. He existed as a powerful sorcerer in the distant past who left behind a well of secrets and power to mine, as well as serving as somewhat of a mentor to Skeletor in more recent times from his dimensional prison. Word of God stated that if the series hadn't been canceled he would have escaped and become the Big Bad of the third season. Instead, he surfaced in She-Ra: Princess of Power.
  • Wander over Yonder: Major Threat is Lord Hater's idol and source of inspiration in spite of the two not even living in the same galaxy. Learning that Major Threat or "Jeff" as he currently prefers to be called was "Wanderized" into becoming The Atoner makes Hater afraid of suffering the same fate.
  • Destane from Aladdin: The Series. From what little we know about him he was an evil sorcerer who ruled over the Land of Black Sand before Mozenrath and was so powerful and crazy that even Jafar stayed out of his way. He was the master and father figure of Mozenrath until the latter defeated him and turned him into one of his Mamluk minions sometime prior to the series. One could argue that Jafar serves this role as well.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): The Shredder is killed off at the end of Season 4, but he serves as this for the first arc of Season 5. The Foot Cultists who worship him are revealed to be pseudo-clones of him who were mutated by coming into contact with Shredder's mutagen-tainted blood, which was spilled during his battle with Splinter, and Tiger Claw leads said cultists and seeks to resurrect him using Kavaxas' power.
  • Amphibia: As we find out in his Start of Darkness episode "The Core & The King", King Andrias was shaped into the Evil Overlord he is in the present by the emotional abuse he got from his father. And then there's also the matter of all their ancestors before them, who were all a bunch of planet-looting Multiversal Conquerors who lay the groundwork for everything else that happens in the series.