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Small Role, Big Impact

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"It seemed that my lot in life was to either have big parts in small films or small parts in big films."
Bruce Campbell, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor

Small Role, Big Impact is when a minor character - an "Under-Five" (lines) player, as they used to say - who, through their actions or words, has an impact on the story far, far beyond what such a minor character ought to have normally. Note the difference between this and a One-Scene Wonder, a character who has limited screen time but their actions or words have a huge impact on the audience.


This can occasionally overlap with Unwitting Instigator of Doom, One-Scene Wonder, One-Shot Character, Posthumous Character, The Ghost, Spear Carrier. Also see Plot-Triggering Death, where this person's end is the beginning of the story. An Unknown Character takes this trope to its logical conclusion by not having them appear at all.

Compare Chekhov's Gunman, someone who looks insignificant who turns out to have some significance to the plot.

Contrast with Minor Major Character, which is a main character who has little if any plot relevancy, or very little screentime.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Grisha Jaegar. No one has seen hide nor hair of him since very early in the series. Even so, it's heavily implied he knows many mysteries about the Titans, and is the one who gave Eren his Titan Shifting powers, via a mysterious injection. All of this is confirmed through a flashback, plus the reason why he isn't there.
    • Perhaps even more so is Eren Kruger, who only appears in the flashbacks of the character mentioned above, but is essentially responsible for all the events in the series turning out the way they did — Grisha met Kruger when he was a child and was present on the day Grisha's sister was killed. He's the reason why Grisha joined La Résistance and met his first wife Dina and it's because of him that Zeke Yeager, the Beast Titan, was born. Zeke then betrayed his parents and they ended up on Paradis Island with the other members of their group. Kruger was then the one who saved Grisha's life and gave him the powers of the Attack Titan, which Grisha then bequeathed to his son. To top it all off, he's also the inspiration behind the protagonist's name. Safe to say that the story would be very different if he and Grisha had never met.
  • Zoe is an extremely minor goat character in Beastars that most people don't even know the name of. But if he hadn't went looking for Legosi right when he did, Legosi would have eaten Haru, resulting in a very, very different story than what we got.
  • Dying Breed rarely appear in Beck, but they inspire both Ryuusuke and Koyuki to push the band to great heights, and Eddie Lee's death causes a Heroic BSoD from almost the entire music world. Not only that, but rumors of an unreleased song of theirs drive a huge portion of the plot.
  • Berserk has Adonis, the son of Count Julius and cousin to Princess Charlotte. He gets little to no lines and his only purpose is to get killed by Guts, when he ends up seeing his father getting killed by him. But Guts is clearly broken up about killing the kid, which is among the reasons that he decides to leave the Band of Hawks, and Griffith, to pursue his own dream. And that decision ended up influencing Griffith so far that it spiraled out of control and into the events of The Eclipse.
  • Choujin Sensen: Even though Haruna is no more than Love Interest of Tomobiki, it was her that encouraged Tomobiki to search up the [Superhuman Game] online and participate the death match (although Tomobiki didn't exactly expect that his life is on the line). You can say that she's the whole reason why Tomobiki starts to fight for his (somewhat pathetic) life.
  • Interestingly enough, despite being the protagonist in Code Geass in the side story Code Geass: Akito the Exiled "Julius Kingsley" aka Lelouch is this. He's only really involved during the third OVA, but without the impact of the Ark Fleet and his coup against the Grand Duke of Euro Britannia, neither Gene Smilas or Shaing could have gotten their plans off the ground so quickly, which resulted in the climax in canon and likely the Earn Your Happy Ending that Akito and co got.
  • In Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, Hikaru, the programmer that disappears before the story begins. Without Hikaru helping, Ichiro Suzuki is forced to do a programming "Death March" of 80+ work weeks to meet a deadline to finish a game. When he finishes and falls asleep, the next he knows is that he has been returned to his 15-year-old body and sent to the fantasy world where the entire story takes place.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba,
    • At the start of the series, Tanjiro is on his way back home from selling charcoal when an old man named Saburo insists that he stay the night at his house, since it's getting dark and demons attack at night. Tanjiro accepts despite not believing in the existence of demons, and this saves him from Muzan Kibutsuji's attack on his family, which resulted in Tanjiro's sister Nezuko being turned into a demon and the rest of the family being killed. Tanjiro's survival sets him on the quest to return his sister to being human, resulting in him becoming a Demon Slayer and The Hero of the story.
    • Kyojuro is the first Hashira the main trio: Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke are officially drafted on a mission with, Kyojuro dies on that same mission, but he leaves quite the impression on Tanjiro, as a mentor figure and friend; while not performers of the same Breathings, Flame Breathing and Hinokami Kagura had its synergy with Tanjiro first thinking Kyojuro would have the answers to know more about his new Breathing, but even if the Breathings weren't the same Kyojuro's flaming determination became a part of Tanjiro quite literally, as Kyojuro's original sword guard was preserved and then embedded on Tanjiro's third sword in the series. Kyojuro's death is also the first one Inosuke reacts with proper sorrow.
  • Digimon Tamers:
    • IceDevimon was a Monster of the Week who kidnapped Rika with the intent of making her his Tamer. While he was destroyed at the end of his episode, Rika's encounter with him was so traumatizing that she declared her hatred of all Digimon including her own partner Renamon. She and Renamon wouldn't reunite until an episode later which was the beginning of a massive change in Rika's attitude towards Renamon and Digimon as a whole.
    • The Horse Deva, Indramon, only appeared in two episodes, the second of which was his death. However, his vicious beatdown on Impmon set in motion the events that led to Impmon making a deal with the Devas to become Beezlemon.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Grandpa Gohan is dead by the original Dragon Ball's beginning and only appears in person during the Fortuneteller Baba Saga, but it was his finding Goku and raising him that turned Goku from the future destroyer of humanity to the altruistic All-Loving Hero we know and love. Furthermore, Goku's first born son is named in his honor.
    • Believe it or not, Raditz is essentially the catalyst for the entire second half of the Dragon Ball manga (or Dragon Ball Z, as it's usually named). Had Raditz not remembered his little brother and come to Earth, the entire series would have been turned on its head: Piccolo and Goku would never have teamed up and thus Piccolo wouldn't have joined the Z-Fighters. He may have even remained evil, and continued on with a plan to terrorize planet Earth, had he and Goku not joined forces. Goku wouldn't have trained with King Kai, but merely at his own pace, and would have been far too weak to combat the androids by the time they arrived, assuming he hadn't already died from the heart virus he was to contract. Gohan would never have been trained by Piccolo, and thus would never have become a fighter at all. Vegeta and Nappa would never have received the transmission involving the Dragon Balls, and thus would never have visited the Earth, thus remaining under Freeza's thumb — Freeza himself would also never have been killed, allowing the Cold family to continue terrorizing the universe. And who knows what trouble Babidi would've caused if he'd arrived earlier and unleashed Buu unchallenged. Despite being the weakest villain at the start of the series, Raditz coming to Earth is what allowed the Z series to be what it became.
    • Dr. Gero. He's long dead in Trunks' timeline and is only around for a few episodes as Android 20 before being killed by Android 17. However, it is Gero who created all the androids, including Cell, and his actions turns two timelines into a living hell and nearly destroys the solar system of the main timeline. Literally everything bad that happens in the Android/Cell Saga is his fault.
      • And then in Dragon Ball Super, even though Gero's creations aren't actually involved, the entire Future Trunks saga where Goku Black and Zamasu wreak havoc on the future timeline was caused because Bulma invented time travel to undo the damage left behind by the Cyborgs/Androids. And on the bright side, Dr. Gero also indirectly saved the multiverse by creating Androids 17 and 18, who were key players in the Universe Survival tournament, with the former ending up the ultimate victor and passing the Secret Test of Character behind the tournament by wishing for the others' return.
    • Bibidi is long dead by the time the Buu saga begins, but he's the one who instigated it by summoning Majin Buu in the first place. And while his 'son'/doppelganger Babidi is continuing the plan in his place, Babidi doesn't have all of Bibidi's knowledge, and so doesn't know the spell that actually unseals Buu, forcing him to steal energy to do it. Babidi is also verbally abusive to Buu and controls him through the threat of being sealed away, unlike Bibidi who preferred to use cake as a reward, which got him killed when Buu finally made it clear that he didn't appreciate the poor treatment.
    • Van Zant, the Ax-Crazy gunman who shot Mr. Satan and Bee, triggers the latter half of the Buu Saga. He only appears in two episodes, but his attack on Mr. Satan and Bee, whom Majin Buu had befriended, directly results in the creation of Evil Buu, who in turn eats his good half and becomes Super Buu.
    • The Yardrat race barely appears in the anime and not at all in the manga, but them teaching Goku Instant Transmission off-screen ends up saving the earth several times over.
    • As of Dragon Ball Minus, Bardock and Gine. They were the ones to send Goku to Earth. If they hadn't, Goku would have died along with their planet. And without Goku, Pilaf would've become ruler of earth thanks to the Dragon Balls.
    • Lord Zuno, the smartest being in the universe; despite him showing up for only two scenes in the Future Trunks Saga, it's him telling Zamasu about the Super Dragon Balls and Goku that gives Zamasu the information needed to begin his plans, first by killing his master to become a Supreme Kai and taking the Time Ring, using it to go a year into the future, and making a wish on the Super Dragon Balls to take Goku's body, creating Goku Black.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, the three muggers who try to rob Goku unknowingly cause the Universe Survival arc.
  • Elfen Lied:
    • Tomoo appears in one episode and one manga chapter, but it was his actions that ultimately played the biggest role in turning Lucy into a bitter figure who hated humanity (namely he beat her puppy to death with a rock/vase and made Lucy watch when he did). Lucy snapped and brutally executed him and his cronies, as well as someone who may or may not have meant to betray her. It was all downhill from there.
    • Speaking of someone who may or may not have meant to betray Lucy, the unnamed "orphanage girl" also has a small role, but has just as big an impact on the plot as Tomoo: the reason Tomoo found out that Lucy even had a puppy was because the orphanage girl told him about it, even though the orphanage girl had previously promised Lucy to keep the puppy's existence a secret. So while Tomoo's murder of a puppy sent Lucy down the path of misanthropy, it was the unnamed orphanage girl who made Tomoo's actions possible. The girl later claims that she blabbed about the puppy by accident, but Lucy thinks the girl betrayed her on purpose out of malice. It's left ambiguous which interpretation is correct.
    • Aiko Takada has an equally brief appearance, but she's Lucy's second human friend, and it was her death that resulted in Lucy being captured and imprisoned in the Diclonius Research Institute, as well as the catalyst for Lucy's long-running vendetta with Kurama.
    • Diclonius Silpleit # 3 died quickly in a flashback, but not before infecting Kurama and his original assistant with the virus that caused their children to be born Diclonius. This led to Mariko's birth, the realization of the manner of Diclonius propagation, and down the line, the existence of Lucy.
  • Kyoko Honda is a Posthumous Character when Fruits Basket begins, but her influence is felt through her daughter Tohru's idealism and a few other characters she helped before she died. Her death is also what kicks off the plot, as Tohru would likely never have become involved with the Sohma family otherwise.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Nina Tucker clearly plays a very significant role in the Elric brothers' lives for someone who died so early in their career. Additionally, the element she was connected to, chimeras, comes up again and again in the series.
  • Gundam:
  • Hayate's parents in Hayate the Combat Butler, who only appear a few times in flashbacks at least until the very end of the manga and don't even have faces, but their monstrous negligence and abuse of Hayate is ultimately what turned him into a Broken Ace, and both directly led to him meeting Athena and thus learning all of his combat skills and eventually trying to kidnap Nagi, which then led to him becoming her butler.
  • InuYasha:
    • The dark priestess Tsubaki is only around for five episodes, and appears in flashbacks in two more, but she is the one who placed the curse on Kikyo which ended up weakening her spiritual powers, leaving her vulnerable to Naraku's attack which led to her death and Inuyasha being framed and pinned to a tree for fifty years.
    • The demon necromancer Urasue is only around for two episodes, but she has quite the impact on the series, having been the one to resurrect Kikyo.
    • The moth demon bandit Gatenmaru only appears in two episodes as well, but he forces Inuyasha into his Superpowered Evil Side, resulting in his death and the deaths of quite a few of his human minions; it's this incident that finally convinces Inuyasha to give up his plan of using the Shikon Jewel to become a full-fledged demon.
  • Admiral Robert J. Hanner, United Planets Space Force (ret.), from Irresponsible Captain Tylor appears only about four times in the 26 episode series, and only once in a speaking role. However, directly or indirectly, he's responsible for Tylor becoming a starship captain, the Soyokaze crew getting demoted, the war with the Raalgon being able to conclude without additional bloodshed, and his death sparks a Heroic BSoD from Tylor.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • A petty thief named Dario Brando abused his only son and treated him like crap. Imagine for a second; if this petty pick-pocket, a nobody in the grand scheme of the universe, had instead been a Doting Parent who worked hard and treated his family with kindness all his life, Dio Brando, The Tyrant who remade The World, would have grown up to be just another honest yet equally faceless laborman in Victorian London, and more importantly; the Joestar/Kujo family's legacy as Warriors and Heroes would never have been awakened without him finding George, accidentally saving his life, which in turn led to Dio's vicious bullying of Jonathan in childhood. Like-father Like-Son, after all. Though, even if the Joestar/Kujo's legacy would never awaken, no threats would come to the world because Dio would grew as a honest man.
    • An even more extreme example would be the nameless vagrant who harassed Dio and became the first victim of the Stone Mask. His transformation into a vampire was what gave Dio the idea to use it on himself, and subsequently become an immortal menace who haunted the entire Joestar line.
    • After the battle against Dio ended, a nameless vampire managed to escape detection, and became an officer in the British air force. He killed George "Jorge" Joestar II- Jonathan's son and Joseph's father- when George uncovered is identity, and while George's widow Elizabeth was able to kill him, it resulted in her being wanted as a murderer and having to go into hiding as Lisa Lisa. Because of one minor character who's dead by the start of Part 2, Joseph never knew his parents for much of his childhood.
    • Gray Fly is the Starter Villain of part 3, who attacks the protagonists while they're on a plane out of Japan, and he is never mentioned after his defeat. However, were it not for him, the epic quest across multiple countries that makes up the bulk of the story would have been reduced to a mere plane flight and ended in a few days. The reason is because his actions caused the plane to crash and endangered the lives of the passengers, the protagonists realize that they can't risk getting civilians caught up in their battles, even it forces them to take a longer route to Egypt.
    • Leaky-Eye Luka in Part 5. He only appears for one chapter, has no stand ability, and pretty much defeats himself, but his death is what causes Buccellati to track down Giorno, resulting in the plot between the two of them to take over and reform Passione that drives the rest of the storyline.
      • Similarly in Part 5, Polpo appears in only two scenes (his own stand has more page-time than him,) but his death drives the plot just as much as Luka's, both in the revelation that he had a massive treasure hoard hidden away (that Buccelati uses to boost themselves to Operator status) and the revelation that he was responsible for keeping safe Trish, the daughter of The Don of Passione, and now that he's dead the responsibility is passed on to Buccellati.
  • Kagerou Project: Tsukihiko, Azami's husband, appears very briefly in the anime, and in only one of the music PVs, yet his love and acceptance of Azami was what led her to develop her own emotions, resulting in the creation of the Heat Haze World and the Favouring Eyes Snake, born of her love for her husband and child, and the snake that is the key to saving everyone. Azami herself could count, as she is the source of the main cast's powers and the grandmother of Marry, and she appears nearly as little as her husband does.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • The Mass Media Club president only shows up once during a flashback, and the only thing she does is fall in a swamp and nearly drown. Despite this, she has a major influence on the overall story since Kaguya rescuing her is what caused Shirogane to fall in love in the first place. She has a slightly larger presence in the We Want to Talk About Kaguya spin-off (as the main characters there are both members of her club), but she still mostly stays in the background.
    • Ogino only shows up in 3 chapters (and all those appearances are in flashbacks), but he's single-handedly responsible for turning Ishigami into the person he was at the beginning of the manga.
    • The previous Student Council President also never shows up outside of flashbacks (barring an Early-Bird Cameo in episode 17 of the anime), yet his actions led to the story's two longest ongoing plotlines. Shirogane never would have fallen in love with Kaguya if he hadn't reached out to him and taken him to the swamp the Mass Media Club president fell in on that fateful day, and Tsubasa never would have confessed to Kashiwagi if he hadn't established the practice of allowing students to seek advice from the Student Council.
  • The Number Due from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Despite being the most minor of the twelve Numbers, she's responsible how the Big Bad Jail Scaglietti got Olivie Sägebrecht's DNA and could create the Sankt Kaiser's clone Vivio Takamachi, who is the Vessel of the Saint's Cradle and the main character of ViVid. Due was Quattro's mentor, the most vicious of Scaglietti's three Co-Dragons, who inherited many traits of Due's psyche and personal ambitions as a result of the time that they spent together. She also provides Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work by killing the TSAB High Council and Regius Gaiz, which goes a long way towards making sure the Bureau doesn't repeat their mistakes.
  • Gai Daigouji in Martian Successor Nadesico, a Sacrificial Lion only lasts for 3 episodes before dying a tragically ignoble death. His death, however, has a lasting impact on main character Akito, and he's the guy who introduces Gekiganger 3 to the crew of the Nadesico, which becomes very important when it turns out that the "Jovian lizards" have based their entire culture around it.
  • The bandit from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. She only shows up in a single chapter as part of a flashback and isn't even given a name, but meeting her changed Tohru's entire world view and is a big part of the reason why Tohru became Kobayashi's maid.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • The Sludge Villain from early on in the series is such a Starter Villain that he doesn't even get a proper name in the story, yet his role is crucial, allowing the protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, to meet his idol as well as inherit his superpowers, as well as providing an initial wake-up call for Bakugo that he's not as big a badass as he thinks he is.
    • Stain, the Hero Killer, while a fan-favorite and a massive Knight of Cerebus, was still ultimately an Arc Villain, who was defeated in his first on-screen battle before being sent to Tartarus Prison for the rest of the series. However, his impact on the story and setting were massive, having inspired dozens of new villains with his philosophy. Of those he inspired, many, like Toga and Dabi, would join Shigaraki's League Of Villains -due to a misconception that the two were associated that Shigaraki capitalized on -and become prominent recurring villains. What's more, the intensity of his beliefs were what drove Shigaraki to develop a solid philosophy and goals of his own, which was when he started growing out his Psychopathic Man Child tendencies, and into a much more dangerous villain. And all of this was caused solely by Stain's reputation.
    • Doctor Tsubasa can be considered this for being the one to tell Izuku that he doesn't have a quirk, and thus drastically affect Izuku's life, views, and relationships from that point onward. 'Can be' being the key word, as a doctor looking very much like him was shown as All for One's physician, up to sharing voice actors, leaving it ambiguous just how small his role in the story is.
    • The Chainsaw Nomu appears in the Training Camp arc, chases Momo and Yousetsu around a bit, and then leaves. But before he does, the two are able to attach a tracking device to him, leading the heroes right to the Nomu Factory, which in turn sets up events with ramifications throughout the rest of the story.
  • Naruto:
    • Rin Nohara, as her death caused a major villain's Start of Darkness, and by extension nearly every significant event in the plot.
    • Sasuke in The Last. He may have been Demoted to Extra, but if he hadn't arrived in Konoha when he did with Hiashi in tow, then the Hokage Monument would have been reduced to dust, Kakashi and countless others would have been killed and the Raikage would have blown up the moon, killing Naruto and co.
    • Iruka, Naruto's teacher at the Academy, doesn't really have much to do with the series' action. But if it wasn't for his faith that Naruto was a good person and not the Kyuubi reborn, Naruto might well have turned out as Ax-Crazy as Gaara from the All of the Other Reindeer treatment he recieved all his childhood. And it was because of Iruka's teaching and example that Naruto decided to try to befriend the Kyuubi.
    • Zabuza and Haku were the Starter Villains of the series, appearing during the first proper story arc, when the manga's chapters were still in the low double digits, and dying only 15-20 chapters later. Yet, they still had a profound impact on Naruto and inspired him to create his own philosophy that rejected the concept of ninjas as tools, and instead emphasized their existence as human beings... Essentially, if it hadn't been for Zabuza and Haku, Naruto would never have become the Messianic Archetype he eventually turned into. This is much later acknowledged in-series by Kakashi who informs the resurrected Zabuza and Haku that Naruto found his own path in life thanks to them, and Kakashi himself expresses gratitude that they were Naruto's first opponents.
  • Kaworu Nagisa from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite only appearing in one episode, he serves major plot relevance as the final angel, has a prominent role in Shinji's development as a character, and has some of the most poignant scenes in the entire series.
  • In, One Piece:
    • A minor Marine character named Shu who, despite appearing in only one episode of the anime, managed to actually destroy one of Zoro's swords thanks to his Rust Rust Fruit powers. Not only did he rust up the sword that Zoro personally received from a man who respected him, but Zoro ends up using two swords for awhile until he finally gets a permanent replacement in the middle of the Thriller Bark arc.
    • Sora Vinsmoke is a minor character from the North Blue who's long dead by the time of the story and only interacts with one of the main characters. But her actions indirectly saved the Straw Hats several times over. She's Sanji's mother, if she hadn't taken a dangerous drug to reverse the gene surgery on Sanji, he would have turned out like his brothers- superpowerful, but completely lacking in empathy and would never have joined the Straw Hats.
    • Captain Nezu, a corrupt Marine only present for the Arlong arc, is the reason that Luffy received a bounty in the first place. Without him it may have taken longer to earn, if not just having been a far less eyecatching thirty-million at the start.
  • Hibari and Hikari from Penguindrum. For a long time, their only appearances were in the background on advertisements and in the ending credits, and then they showed up briefly in a backstory episode to give some insight into Himari's past. However, they end up being absolutely integral to the ending when they show up for less than five minutes in the final episode to drop off their new album, which holds Himari's favourite phrase and the fate-transfer spell that allows her to live.
  • Lord Asano is never actually seen in Princess Mononoke, but those are his samurai who are dangerously close to conquering Iron Town, and it may also have been his men that Ashitaka saw brutalizing the countryside before.
  • Enrico, Massimo, and Federico of Reborn! (2004) were the sons of the 9th and the previous Vongola members in line for the role of 10th, with Federico in particular being the favored son. Their influence amounted to little more than footnotes in the first chapter explaining how they died, and they've never been mentioned since. Had it not been for their untimely deaths, the family wouldn't have gone searching for the closest genetic link possible and ending up at wimpy Tsunayoshi's house, Tsuna wouldn't have learned about his family's ties to the Vongola, nobody would have gotten the strength to properly fight off the Kokuyo Gang, Xanxus might have gone through with his strong-arming and ruthless regime, the Millefiore family would definitely have wiped the Vongola out in 10 years, there wouldn't have been potential allies through the Simon family, the Arcobaleno curse would have remained on the tutors with no end in sight, and most importantly, they wouldn't have gotten the candidate whose ideals and friends match the founding lineup of the Vongola itself and set the family on the path that led them back to its former glory.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena has an example in Mrs. Ohtori, the mother of Akio's fiance Kanae and the wife to the actual chairman of the board at Ohtori Academy. She has less than a minute of screen time but every single thing about her ties into all the overall themes of the series. There's even a website which analyzes the symbolism within her first and only appearance, called Mother Dearest.
  • Saint Seiya: Sagitta Ptolemy is just another Silver Saint who shows up for a few minutes and easily dies at the hands of Seiya. But not before he embeds one of his arrows in Saori/Athena's heart, giving her only 12 hours to live unless someone shines the light of her shield on her. It so happens that the shield is located at the top of the Sanctuary and Saori's Bronze Saints have to fight the phenomenally powerful Gold Saints to get to it. That's 30-plus episodes of struggling that never would've happened had the mook Ptolemy not done what he did, as the Gold Saints would have just stood to attention if they had met Saori.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • Vassago Casals/PoH. He has very little screentime in Aincrad compared to Akihiko Kayaba but his actions have an impact that extends far beyond him. Him establishing the Player Killing guild Laughing Coffin and corrupting many a player into becoming player killers and even real-life serial killers is what directly causes the Phantom Bullet and Alicization arcs.
    • Atsushi Kanamoto/Johnny Black. He's a minor but named member of Laughing Coffin, and later plays a small role in Phantom Bullet, since the Shinkawa brothers needed an additional accomplice to carry out the murders on the day of BoB. However, his real impact comes at the start of the Alicization arc, in which he injects Kirito with his succhyoline, forcing him to be hooked up to the STL and essentially causing the storyline to happen.
  • Ukina from Tokyo Ghoul. Her existence heavily influences the plot of the series, though she only appears in a handful of flashbacks and little is known about her. An undercover reporter that fell in love with a young Yoshimura, she gave birth to a Half-Human Hybrid while working on investigating V. When she was found out, his superiors forced Yoshimura to kill her as punishment... leading him to retire, and hide their child elsewhere. Yoshimura took control of the 20th Ward, seeking to foster peace between humans and ghouls — taking in Kaneki after his surgery. On the other hand, her journal drove Eto Yoshimura/Sen Takatsuki to seek revenge for her mother... first as the One-Eyed Owl, and later as the founder of Aogiri.
  • The evil alien prince Lacospo in To Love-Ru that hired Yami to assassinate Rito. He only has one episode in the anime, and even less of a presence in the manga, only appearing in a cameo or two, but without him Yami, and later Mea and Nemesis would never have come to Earth.
  • Nanami's father from Kamisama Kiss only appears in the first chapter and a few flashbacks, but it's him running away to escape his gambling debt that leads to Nanami becoming homeless and accepting a strange man's offer of giving her his home. The home turned out to be a shrine, and by giving it to her, he made her the new kami. The plot is about her dealing with this position.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice:
    • The Nishigori triplets are relatively minor characters who tend to provide comic relief and exposition about how figure skating competitions work. However, they're also the ones responsible for kicking off the plot by recording Yuri's reenactment of famous figure skater Victor Nikiforov's program and uploading it online; the video soon goes viral, which catches Victor's attention and leads him to become Yuri's coach.
    • Celestino, Yuri's former coach, is also a minor character, but if he hadn't dragged Yuri to a banquet that Yuri really didn't want to go to, Yuri and Victor would never have met properly, and Victor wouldn't have already been interested in Yuri before seeing the viral video, which ends up being important to the plot since it's strongly implied that this was when Victor began to fall in love with Yuri, leading to them becoming an Official Couple.

    Comic Books 
  • 100 Bullets:
    • Arms dealer Abe Rothstein appears in precisely one issue of a 100-issue series (issue #89), and he's killed at the end of that issue. In said issue, though, we learn that he was the source of Agent Graves' attachés all along. His death signals the end of Graves' "game" with the leaders of the Trust.
    • Joan D'Arcy is one of the less seen Trust heads and the last one to be formally introduced. However, her hiring of the man that kills Rothstein and Javier Vasco is the lynchpin for the beginning of the end.
  • Star Wars: Legacy has Arc Villain Zenoc Quah, a treacherous Yuuzhan Vong Shaper. He only physically appears in a three-issue arc and is killed off at the end of it, but he sticks around just long enough for it to be revealed that it was he who sabotaged the Ossus Project and framed both his own race and the Jedi for it, kicking off the entire plot.
  • Martian Manhunter villain Commander Blanx appeared in a grand total of two JLA stories. In the first of those stories, however, he engineered the destruction of the entire Martian race, transforming J'onn J'onnz from the jovial crime fighter he was in the Silver Age and into the introspective loner he is today.
  • The Green Goblin in The Pulse. He's only in a few issues, but it was his final unmasking.
  • Xiao Meng like most of the Handicapped Warriors/Crippled Legion in The Ravages of Time has a small role relative to the canon cast, the major chain of events in Ravages begins with Xiao Meng sacrificing himself (non-fatally) during a mission: The group's leader Liaoyuan Huo was so distraught by this as to leave the Handicapped Warriors and go freelance, with one of his contracts being an assassination attempt against Cao Caonote , the thwarting of which was immediately followed by a retaliatory purge of the Sima clannote , spurring both Sima Yi's revenge-motivated political ambition and Xiao Meng's participation in Lu Bu's war with Cao Caonote , the former of which coalesced into Sima Yi's long-term plan and the latter of which culminates in one final assassination attempt against Cao Cao, the failure of which endangered Sima Yi's climb to the top so he sold out Xiao Meng to lynching... which both led to Huo's wrecking Yuan Tan's army while searching for Meng's corpsenote , permanently damaging Tan's standing in the Yuan clannote , and to the split between Huo and Yi that led to Huo permanently taking up his cover identity: Zhao Yun.
    • Assuming that the dream that opens the first chapter and is referenced multiple times after is actually the canon ending of Ravages, then the chain of events begun with Xiao Meng's self-sacrifice ends with Zhao Yun killing Sima Yi over fifty years after Meng's death.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: The Great Gazoo. He shows up at the end of the crossover with The Flintstones to send the meddling kids back to their own time but he mistakenly sends them to the Jetsons' time, allowing the next issue to happen.
  • Bob from The Walking Dead is only in two issues and initially seems to be around for a minor Pet the Dog moment for The Governor. His second appearance has him reveal his Hidden Depths as a former Army Medic and has him save The Governor's life after Michonne tortures him, allowing him to attack The Prison and kill half the cast.
  • In Bamse, two characters fit into this in Vargen's sad backstory. The first one is a lady, who recognizes the very young Vargen as the boy, who helped a gang of thieves with stealing her purse, so she calls the shop where Vargen works and gets him fired. And there is also the shop-keeper himself, who tells poor Vargen "once a thief, always a thief" before he fires him. None of these two characters had more than a few lines, but by refusing to give a young orphan a second chance, they were the ones who made Vargen become the most infamous criminal in the area, until Bamse was able to make him reform many years later.
  • Green Arrow villain Veronica Dale, aka Hyrax, was a minor villain who appeared in a single story before dying, but in that single story she accomplished what no other villain had ever been able to do: she killed Oliver Queen. And he stayed dead for eight years, pretty impressive for a B-list hero.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The villain Belladonna appeared for all of one plotline, and wasn't much of a challenge for Spider-Man. The wall-crawler crossed paths with her when she tried to kill a Corrupt Corporate Executive who had ruined her business. The name of that executive? Roderick Kingsley, alias the Hobgoblin. Belladonna's attempts to murder Kinglsey left him determined to never be that vulnerable again, prompting him to look for ways to defend himself. The Hobgoblin went on to become one of Spider-Man's defining villains in the 1980s, in his prime ranking with the likes of Norman Osborn and Doctor Octopus.
    • Emil Gregg, the compulsive confessor in Eddie Brock's backstory. Gregg falsely confessed to Eddie that he was the serial killer known as the Sin Eater, a story Eddie published in his newspaper the Daily Globe. However, Spider-Man captured the real Sin Eater, exposing Gregg as a fraud and turning Eddie into a laughing stock. This resulted in Eddie's Irrational Hatred of Spider-Man which he tried to purge by going from church to church, praying for forgiveness. One of those churches turned out to be the place where Spider-Man had left the alien symbiote costume he had acquired in Secret Wars (1984) and the rest is history.
  • Pat Patriot: America's Joan of Arc: The foreman only appears for one eight-page issue, and doesn't even get a name, but he's responsible for Pat's superhero career by firing her, which led to her exposing his smuggling operation.
  • Yellowjacket: Jake Mallon only shows up for the first issue, but he ends up kickstarting Vince Harley's superhero career by leaving him to be stung to death by bees, causing our hero to discover his control over them.
  • The Wraith: Silky Weaver only appears for one half of one issue, but is responsible for the entire comic due to killing our hero, who rises from the grave to stop him.
  • The Steel Fist: Ludlow only appears in the first issue, but he's responsible for the Steel Fist's existence, due to his mutilating the hand that ends up being empowered.
  • The Blue Streak: Scarface only appears in the first issue, but inspires the hero's superhero career by killing his brother.
  • Ace of Space: The Slogons only appear in the first issue, but are responsible for the whole plot due to killing the alien who held Ace's power-granting belt, thus leading to him acquiring it. The alien also fits, due to dying within the first couple pages of the first issue but empowering the hero.
  • Dr. Bolivar Trask in X-Men. He appeared in exactly three issues before his death in a 1965 issue, but his creations—the Sentinels—regularly menace the X-Men to this day, and they serve as a potent symbol of anti-Mutant prejudice. Many of his surviving relatives are also major supporting characters in the X-Men mythos: his son Larry appeared in a notable Roy Thomas arc, his daughter Tanya (aka "Madame Sanctity") is the leader of the Sisterhood of the Askani, his brother Simon is a famous anti-Mutant activist, and his nephew Donald (himself an example of the trope) helped Cassandra Nova decimate the population of Genosha in New X-Men.
  • Empowered: Imperial Pimpotron Alpha graces all of six pages yet leaves two major legacies: Empowered's body image issues, and the Imperial Cosmichains that Emp later uses to subdue and seal a similarly sesquipedalian supervillain whose stay proves significantly more substantial—Demonwolf.

    Fan Works 
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: the homophobe and the bully appear in one chapter each and weren't given actual names. However, their actions make Germany and Japan all the more protective and possessive over Italy in addition to heightening their jealousy over each other, culminating in a massive Cock Fight which pushed Italy to confess to both of them.
  • In a Digimon fan fiction Zero 2: A Revision, Demon from the original timeline only appeared in one chapter explaining Shaun's backstory but it is ultimately his manipulations and genocide of the Digidestined that drove Shaun into trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and subsequently starts the whole Zero 2 universe.
  • A few characters in Angel of the Bat appear to be this, but have actually had large roles, just off-camera. (Deacon Blackfire only appears in a flashback but did a lot to create the Big Bad The Seraphim, Joshua Lebowitz only has a few scenes but has spent years in defiance for The Seraphim etc.). But Jason Todd/ Red Hood's role in the story is simply acting as a hired killer for a few scenes. Despite this, defeating him helps bring closure to Stephanie's story arc and his knowledge of infiltrating The Seraphim's base is what leads to one of the two climaxes.
  • In Final Fantasy VII fanfic The Fifth Act, Yuffie is only present for a few scenes and is only there as the Plucky Comic Relief. But she makes a huge impact as Cloud rescuing her gets him an audience with the Emperor of Wutai, her father. Her habit of stealing materia saves her father's life and forces Cloud to work a diplomatic solution when assassinating her father for his Honor Before Reason stubborness was not a option. Cloud manages to convince Lord Kisaragi to surrender to Shin-Ra on his own terms which in turn attracts further attention from Shin-Ra. Further attention from Shin-Ra gets him recruited into the company in turn turn has major consequences in the latter half of the story.
    • Young Cloud is only present for two chapters but he's privotal in getting the elder Cloud's cover to fall part and his rescue of Kunsel tells the rest of the cast where Cloud is being held.
    • Vincent has very few scenes but he turns the Turks against Hojo and is the one who kills him.
  • The The Loud House fanfic Requiem for a Loud has Adrien, a boy slightly older than Lincoln, who suffers from an advanced form of Leukemia. He only appears in chapter 5, but both this meeting and the letter he writes Lincoln later mark a turning point for Lincoln, and the story as a whole, since it causes Lincoln to accept his fate and try to make the most of the time he has left.
  • In Birth of An Abomination, the canon Ruby only appears in one scene after she is shattered, so she doesn't even have lines, but it's because of her that another Ruby joins the Crystal Gems and a third Ruby is motivated to get revenge on Sapphire and kills Greg, essentially starting the rest of the series.
  • In True Heroes, Mighty Mom and Dyno Dad are never seen, and if the author had plans to reveal what happened (outside of a throwaway line where the Nega-Chin implies he killed them), the author quit writing before they came to fruition. It's there disappearance that leads to the Crimson Chin to take Timmy in as Cleft, which leads to the events of the series proper.
  • The first Wham Episode of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines happened because of a guy named Tokiomi Borealis, who is only mentioned in passing to be a Wealthy Philanthropist who helped revive Gringy City and make it a nice place to live. As it turns out, his disowning of his daughter Aurora for being a bloodliner led the story's Knight of Cerebus Belladonna Tyrian to cross paths with Ash, and gave the revelation that our hero's look-alikes all over Kanto and abroad aren't pure coincidence.
  • Mr and Mrs Gold: Belle’s release from Regina’s torture (and all the For Want of a Nail) was done when the Genie of the Mirror grew a consciouce and told Rumpel about it.
  • In the RWBY fic series The Makings of Team CRME, Brigit Stark from My Name Is Cinder only shows up in two chapters of the whole story. However, she ends up being an insanely important character in retrospect. Brigit abusing Cinder and killing her father is what drove Cinder to become a sociopath.note  Cinder killing her left her on her own where she was picked up by bandits and Salem took interest in how damaged she was. In turn, Salem raised Cinder into becoming the power-hungry egomaniac she is in the show. Cinder assembling the team helped Emerald get off the streets and ended up being the reason Mercury is still alive. If Cinder weren't looking for Marcus when she did, Mercury would've bled out and died shortly after killing him. And then, Cinder hired Roman to commit the Dust robberies, including the one Ruby stopped in the pilot of the show. Had that robbery not gone on, Ozpin wouldn't have noticed Ruby's abilities and Ruby wouldn't have been accepted into Beacon early. Thus removing the catalyst for the whole show in the first place! Basically (as far as the CRME-verse is concerned), without the actions of Brigit Stark, RWBY would have never happened.
  • A Man of Iron has Renly Baratheon. He's very much on the periphery in Book 1, but Book 2 reveals that he was responsible for Tony's kidnapping by those bandits. Which makes him indirectly responsible for the existence of Iron Man, who emboldened other mystics and metahumans to make themselves known.
  • Mrs Horaki has very little in the way of characterization and only appears in a few scenes of Advice and Trust, but she was single handedly responsible for keeping Kaworu from crossing the Despair Event Horizon and causing The End of the World as We Know It after Rei's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Shiji and Asuka's daughter Aki is only physically present for two chapters in The Second Try (technically four, but they only show up in two of them at the very end), yet they shaped the entire course of the story since she formed the bulk of Asuka and Shinji's Character Development, was the entire reason for Kaworu sending them back in time in the first place, and was the one who convinced Rei not to initiate Third Impact.
  • A group of Japanese wizards in training in Eternal Fantasy set up a spell to make their favorite RPG come to life inside the building they're playing in. One of them accidentally inverted part of the boundary field, marking the building's interior as the outside of the field, and causing the entirety of Earth to fuse with the videogame.
  • Mastermind: Strategist for Hire: A forum poster going by Whyher0es301 appears in only the first two chapters of the fic: his use of the plan Izuku gave him to murder Mt. Lady and get away with it, along with him telling his friends about Izuku's account, M4sterM1nd404, plants the seeds for Izuku becoming the villain Mastermind.
  • Tazuna's presence in Son of the Sannin is almost completely glossed over due to the events of the Wave mission not being handled by Naruto's team and taking place offscreen, yet his actions directly lead to Mei Terumi seeking Konoha's help in the Kirigakure civil war (and by extention, the formation of the Konoha/Suna/Kiri alliance) due to Zabuza being the one assigned to protect him as part of his parole.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail:
    • Chloe's classmate Akemi becomes an Unwitting Instigator of Doom when she discusses the Alola League with her at lunch. This leads to Chloe learning that Ash is the Alola Champion, and several other classmates who overhear this harass her into challenging him, setting off a cascade of events that push Chloe past her Rage Breaking Point and culminate in her boarding the Train.
    • Leon innocently telling his little brother Hop about Ash potentially being the one to fight him causes Hop — reeling from Bede's Breaking Speech — to fall into a Heroic BSoD that causes the Infinity Train to take him away.
  • A Carnal Mistake: Two events at once that affected Lelouch. First was C.C. remove all Geass commands from Lelouch, with the intent of removing the Geass he put on himself for fighting Mao and make him able to use Geass again. The second was a Sex-Ed at Ashford, which leads to a discussion about sex history among the student council. This leads Lelouch to recall seeing his parents having sex, which he couldn't remember before because his father used his Geass to erase that memory. It now means Lelouch knows his father's power.
  • The Octonauts fanfiction Junior Officers has Zulimar Zebra. She was only mentioned once in "The Undersea Twister", but her quitting the team years ago was the first of several events that led to Barnacles becoming captain.
  • Telling Lies No Mama: Aurore and Mirelle only make a brief appearance in the first chapter, which isn’t even at the school where 90% of the story takes place. However, they are the ones who set the story in motion. When they overhear that Lila’s mother at the bakery, saying who she is related to, they get excited and show her the interviews of Lila on the Ladyblog lying her butt off about saving a rockstar’s cat and being besties with Ladybug, unwittingly exposing her lies to her mother. With that revealed, Madame Rossi goes digging and finds out that the school had not been closed like her daughter said, and storms over there to confront Lila and confirm to her classmates that she is a liar.
  • The Weaver Option:
    • The Last Ultramarine appears for only the final part of the first scene in the story, but in that brief appearance he disrupts Tzeentch's ritual. This ensures that Taylor and the other parahumans arrive in the 35th Millennium free from Chaos, setting in motion the plot.
    • Nostradomus Vandire has only a handful of appearances during which he is easily deposed by Taylor and sent to an abrupt death in a Penal Legion. However, his death infuriates his father, Xerxes Vandire, who uses his position to turn the Adeptus Administratum against Taylor.
    • Vyrion Kaeran does little beyond picking a fight with Taylor and getting himself killed. His death infruiates his home craftworld, whose quest to gain revenge on the Mon-Keigh who dared to kill an Eldar Farseer turns Biel-Tan into one of her more persistent enemies. This also means Vyrion is indirectly responsible for Biel-Tan's destruction for interfering with the Mark of Commorragh.

    Film — Animation 
  • Pixar:
    • For the first three films in the Toy Story film series: Andy. He doesn't do much as a character, but the main characters' entire lives and motivations revolve around him. Meanwhile, the Little Green Aliens becomes this in Toy Story 3, upon rescuing the toys from the incinerator.
    • Finding Nemo has the Barracuda. Throughout the entire film, he appears exactly once: in the opening scene, where he kills Marlin's wife, Coral, and all of their babies save one. This directly creates Marlin's Fatal Flaw: he becomes an Overprotective Dad to said surviving baby, Nemo, whose attempt at rebelling years later causes him to be captured by Dr. Sherman, starting Marlin's frantic search and the film's main plot. Said search, by the way, also brings Marlin and Dory together, thus without the Barracuda, the events of Finding Dory wouldn't happen, either.
    • The Incredibles has three.
      • Edna Mode. She appears three times, all in the first half of the film. She's the one who alerts Helen to her husband's moonlighting hero work, and convinces Helen to go track Bob down.
      • Bomb Voyage. He's the one who throws the bomb onto Buddy, which causes the train crash, which helps lead to the Super Registration Act, and is part of Buddy's impetus for turning into Syndrome.
      • And probably the biggest of the three, Oliver Sansweet. The guy only has two scenes, but his attempted suicide and lawsuit against Mr. Incredible once he stops him and injures him in the process are the catalyst for the Registration Act.
    • Cars has the four tuners- Boost, DJ, Wingo, and Snot Rod- who decide to mess with Mack after he has trouble staying awake. Had they chosen not to bother him, Lightning would not have fallen out of him and wound up in Radiator Springs. They do later show up in a post credits scene where they get arrested by Sheriff for speeding and continue to appear in other media around the movie, so this is downplayed.
    • Ellie in Up, whose death is responsible for Carl's attitude for most of the film, and the construction worker Steve whose being (accidentally) assaulted by Carl caused Carl to be committed to Shady Oaks Retirement Community, which was the triggering event that caused Carl to float his house to Paradise Falls.
    • "Frightening" Frank McCay in Monsters University only shows up in the beginning of the film but he is the one who encouraged Mike to become a scarer in the first place, thus setting off the plot of this film and the previous one.
    • The Good Dinosaur: Forrest Woodbrush briefly shows up to try to adopt Spot and that's what prompts Arlo to name the "critter".
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
    • Rafiki in The Lion King (1994) and especially in the 2019 remake. For the first two-thirds of the film he's seen mostly sticking to himself with the occasional chuckle and saying of Simba's name. In the penultimate act, upon realizing Simba is alive, he finds him to deliver the lesson that just running away from his past and his problems may help at avoiding pain, but only by returning and confronting them can he actually move past it.
    • Sleeping Beauty took a creative twist by making the good fairies the main characters instead of the titular princess; as such, Aurora herself only has eighteen lines in a movie whose entire plot revolves around her.
    • The anonymous sentry on the Great Wall in Mulan. Facing down Shan Yu, he defiantly lights the signal beacon on his tower that alerts the others that they're under attack. Without that, it might have taken a lot longer for the army to realize the Huns had invaded.
    • Susan Hegarty the rescue lady in Lilo & Stitch. She was the person who oversaw Lilo's legal adoption of Stitch. The rest of the film and its franchise would have turned out very differently if she denied the adoption.
    • Frozen
      • Anna and Elsa's parents are only alive for the first 15 minutes. Yet their isolation of the sisters causes the entire plot of the movie.
      • The Trolls. They have just as much screen time as the parents, yet they contribute just as equally.
    • King Runeard from Frozen II only appear in a flashback during A Minor Kidroduction along with a recreation during Elsa's ice figure representation but it's his attempt at oppresing the citizens of Northuldra that not only led to the cursed mist blocking it but also what led to Elsa getting her ice powers in the first place as an indirect consequence of his actions.
    • Emmitt Otterton from Zootopia only appears a few times and doesn't even say a single word onscreen, but it's his disappearance that causes Judy to become involved in the investigation that drives much of the story, and he's also inadvertently the cause of her meeting Nick to begin with.
  • "Green Arrow" in "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" shows up very late into the comic book (and animated adaptation), but shoots a Kryptonite-tipped arrow which is central to weakening Superman before the end of his fight with Batman.
  • If it weren't for Gru's nosy neighbor Jillian setting him up on a terrible blind date in Despicable Me 2, Gru would not have realized that he has feelings for Lucy.
  • The plot of most of the Ice Age films is usually kicked off by Scrat's acorn-related antics, which often indirectly affect the story.
  • The fisherman in The Iron Giant only appears in the first few scenes of the film, but it's these scenes that set the plot in motion. After crashing into the eponymous Giant in a storm, he tells the government and some friends at a diner about his encounter. While no one seems to believe his story, it's enough to lead agent Kent Mansley and curious child Hogarth Hughes, respectively, to investigate the strange happenings in Rockwell and discover the true nature of the "invader from Mars".
  • In the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, the unnamed parents of Lord Shen only appear during one brief flashback at the beginning of Kung Fu Panda 2. However, had they not asked the Soothsayer to predict their son's future, the events of the trilogy would have been very different. Indeed, because of this prophecy, Shen tried to exterminate all pandas, which ultimately resulted in Po being found and adopted by Mr. Ping and growing up near the Jade Palace, becoming the Dragon Warrior years later. Had Shen's parents not asked for this prophecy, Po may have still lived with his parents in their village far from the Jade Palace and never have become the Dragon Warrior.
  • The Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is demoted from his usual Big Bad status, instead being portrayed as one of the Kingpin's lackeys. However, he's the one who beats down the Peter Parker of Miles' universe enough that Kingpin can finish him off, which pushes Miles into becoming Spider-Man, and shoving Parker into Kingpin's supercollider is what drags all the other Spiders into Miles' universe, kick-starting the rest of the plot.
  • In Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, Captain America only appears for a minute at the end of the movie, but he indirectly helped form the team.
  • In Shrek, Lord Farquaad only appears in a handful of scenes and has little interaction with the main characters. However, his sending of the fairy tale creatures to Shrek's swamp caused Shrek to intervene and be sent by Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona so Farquaad could marry her and officially call himself king of Duloc. Fiona then falls in love with Shrek and marries him, thus foiling the plans of every subsequent villain and changing the fates of both Duloc and Far Far Away.
  • Meta-example in Howard Ashman. The only two films he completed note  both won the Academy Award for Best Song Score (as it was then known) and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, became critically-acclaimed and highly successful, and eventually conferred with "classic" status from both fans and Disney.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Apollonia in The Godfather was barely seen despite being Michael's wife back in Italy. Her death at the hands of a car bomb drove Michael to become the Corleone's head Don for the entire trilogy.
  • Craig and Mary-Ann, the two teens in the opening of Sleepaway Camp who accidentally cause the boating accident that kills most of the Baker family and kicks off the entire franchise. There's also Aunt Martha, who only appears in a handful of scenes, and is the reason why Angela, or rather Peter, kills.
  • Babe: Pig in the City has Snoop the airport sniffer dog. He only appears briefly, but in his limited screen time when demonstrating how he does his job at the airport, he unintentionally misinforms the airport security that Esme and Babe are carrying illegal substances and gets them temporarily arrested. This causes them to miss their connecting flight and the whole plot of the movie kicks off from here.
  • The Blind Seer in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is only in the movie for a couple of minutes or so at the beginning of the film, and for less than a minute at the very end, but his initial scene sets up the adventures of the main characters.
  • In the 1999 movie version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hippolyta (the vanquished Amazonian Queen marrying Duke Theseus) is mostly a background figure. However, in the movie when the Duke and his party discover the lovers in the morning, Hippolyta pulls Theseus aside and has some words with him, which go unheard by both the audience and other characters. Afterward Theseus announces that the lovers may marry according to their own wishes, rather than according to the decree of their families.
  • Ricardo Montalbán once said that he almost passed on coming back for Star Trek II because, as it is written in the script, Khan is actually only onscreen for about fifteen total minutes over the course of the entire movie, and his actual spoken dialogue is pretty minimal as well when compared to the main characters. But then he realized, as he read the story, that Khan's impact on the other characters is present on every single page of the script, and immediately agreed to reprise the role. (It's worth noting that Khan's name hadn't been put in the title yet.)
  • In The Third Man, the chillingly evil Harry Lime is at the center of the plot but appears for less than 10 minutes on screen. Orson Welles plays him as just a normal guy you wouldn't look twice at, and takes three seconds in a search-light and a somewhat sheepish 'you caught me' grin to completely upstage Joseph Cotten's excellent performance and steal the film.
  • Jack Palance had a film career of 50 years and over 70 movies, but when he died in 2006, one film role consistently stood out in all the obituaries and tributes dedicated to him: the role of the taunting, smiling hired gun Jack Wilson in Shane. Palance's Wilson is widely regarded as the definitive Western bad guy. Total screen time: eight minutes. Total words spoken by Wilson: less than fifty, but he makes the most out of two of them: "Prove it."
  • Sarah Paulson's single scene in Serenity sets up the whole third act of the film.
    • As an interesting bit of trivia, for this reason Joss Whedon cut down the role of the Operative as Mr Exposition, because he thought it was just far, far scarier for him to to be the Implacable Man, and he isn't being implacable when making speeches about Mal as the worthy adversary.
  • Joker (2019): The three jerks working for Wayne Enterprises only appear for 5 minutes and get killed off by Arthur, but their deaths start the downfall of Arthur and the rise of The Joker. Their deaths also leads to a massive riot against the upper class of Gotham with a clown mask as their symbol, which also leads to the death of their employer Thomas Wayne and his son Bruce Wayne's origin as the vigilante superhero, Batman.
  • Star Wars:
    • Darth Vader himself only has a handful of scenes in A New Hope and was originally just The Dragon to Grand Moff Tarkin, but he's the one with a history as Obi-Wan's student and the one who supposedly killed Luke's father, kills Obi-Wan shortly after the halfway point, destroys most of the Rebel Fighters attacking the Death Star and suggests Luke to be a Worthy Opponent. It's no wonder that he graduated to be the primary antagonist in The Empire Strikes Back and revealed to actually BE Luke's father (evidence suggests that Vader and Anakin Skywalker were originally intended to be two different people, but were merged in later drafts of The Empire Strikes Back).
    • Darth Maul, for all his popularity, does precisely one thing in The Phantom Menace: kill Qui-Gon Jinn. By doing so, he ensures Anakin is taught by a newly-Knighted Jedi instead of a wise Master with decades of teaching experience, which plays a huge role in his frustration with the Jedi Order and inability to deal with his phenomenal powers, which in turn plays a huge role in his eventual fall and transformation into Darth Vader. Even still, a number of people thought he would be the Darth Vader of the prequels, and were surprised he was killed (presumed at the time) after one film.
    • Valorum, the Grand Chancelor before Palpatine, had a rather small role in the entire prequel trilogy, and was replaced by Palpatine halfway through the first movie. However, he was the one who sent Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to Naboo, which forced Sidious to reveal the existence of the Sith early, and led Obi-Wan to take on Anakin as a padawan.
    • Jar Jar Binks got progressively less screentime in the prequels, and only a non-speaking cameo in the last film, but Attack of the Clones had him as a senator propose Chancellor Palpatine get emergency powers in order to militarize the republic and fight the Clone Wars, giving Palpatine's power big legitimacy and the vital step needed to convert the Republic into The Empire in the following film.
    • Ensemble Dark Horse status aside, Boba Fett is just one of many bounty hunters sent after Han Solo, only gets marginally more screentime than the rest, and is then anticlimactically killed off by a blinded Han Solo (by accident.) Later materials show him to be alive after killing the Sarlacc. However, he's the one who succeeded in tracking Han, Leia and the gang to Cloud City, meaning everything from Han's capture, to the loss of Luke's hand, the iconic I Am Your Father scene and the entire beginning of Return of the Jedi is all thanks to him.
    • One of the Rebel ships in Rogue One is the Lightmaker. By ramming two Star Destroyers into Scarif's shield gate, it allowed the Rebels to obtain the plans of the Death Star, kickstarting the series of events that would end in the destruction of the Death Star and give the Rebellion a fighting chance.
  • In Top Gun, It's because of Cougar's Heroic BSoD in the beginning that Maverick and Goose get to go to Top Gun.
  • The Emperor in Onmyōji is hardly in it bar a couple of scenes in which he does very little that's useful, but it's his rejection of Sukehime that leads to most of the villain's attempts to kill the imperial family via her angry father and her eventual transformation into a demon.
  • Mink in Miller's Crossing only has two short scenes (one of those over the phone), and dies less than halfway in, and yet his "relationship" with both Bernie and Eddie Dane sets off a large part of the plot.
  • Dom DeLuise as Bernie the agent in The Muppet Movie gets only a few minutes near the start of the film, but kicks off the plot by convincing Kermit to go to Hollywood and get into showbiz.
  • James Bond:
    Bond: I admire your courage, Miss...?
    Trench: Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mister...?
    Bond: Bond. (lights cigarette) James Bond.
    • Even though everyone pictures Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he only plays him in one film, You Only Live Twice, and even then his face is only revealed for less than a half-hour.
  • The Wicked Witch of the West appears onscreen for only about nine minutes of the 101-minute runtime of The Wizard of Oz (with Margaret Hamilton's other character, Miss Gulch, appearing for about three minutes). And yet she is without question the character in the film who has had the greatest impact on popular culture, being remembered as one of the most frightening villains in movie history, and is the Trope Codifier for the Wicked Witch. Both Wicked and Oz the Great and Powerful are plainly inspired by her portrayal.
  • In The Bourne Identity, Clive Owen has only 3 minutes of screentime as "The Professor", and he never talks until his final scene, almost a half-hour from the end, in which he delivers the series' Arc Words "Look at us. Look at what they make you give."
  • WarGames: The missile crewmen played by John Spencer and Michael Madsen in the beginning. It is due to their disagreement during the opening simulation that NORAD decides to replace the missile crews with the WOPR system.
  • The plot of The Gods Must Be Crazy gets underway when an airplane pilot, who never speaks and whose name we never learn, finishes drinking from a Coca-Cola bottle and then throws it out the window, down to the Kalahari Desert below. When the bottle is discovered by a tribe of Bushmen, it triggers a social revolution that results in violence breaking out in Bushman society for the first time, prompting the protagonist to save his village by taking the bottle hundreds of miles across the desert and throwing it into the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, he encounters white people — and black people too, for that matter, since the Bushmen are technically of a different African racial stock — for the first time, gets his first glimpse of 20th-century Western society, and almost single-handedly captures a band of revolutionary terrorists who had already come close to overthrowing the government of Angola.
  • In Big Daddy, the character of Kevin Gerrity (Jon Stewart) is onscreen for only 20 minutes at the most — less than a quarter of the movie's running time — yet the crux of the film's plot hinges on the protagonist being mistaken for him, a mistake that Gerrity himself can't clear up because he's out of the country for most of the story. He then shows up unexpectedly during the climax and resolves the plot for a happy ending at literally the last possible second.
  • Most of the 1963 Disney film Summer Magic takes place in and around a little country house in Maine sometime before World War I. The house is being leased by the absentee landlord Tom Hamilton, who, despite being at the very least the third-most powerful person in the town, does not appear until less than 30 minutes before the movie ends — and even when he does, it takes a scene or two for him to actually be identified by name.
  • A very young Rita Moreno appears in Singin' in the Rain as Zelda Zanders exactly four times, the first three with no lines; once as part of the red carpet procession of stars at the premiere of "The Royal Rascal" (accompanied by "J. Cumberland Spendrill III, that well-known eligible bachelor"); once dancing at the after party with some other rich old guy; once watching the "Beautiful Girl" sequence; and once when she sets the climax in motion, leading Lina to the sound studio where Don and Kathy are celebrating the last dub of Lina's lines with a long, passionate kiss.
  • The titular Beetlejuice is considered one of Michael Keaton's greatest performances, and the character is still so iconic that he gets referenced often in popular culture nearly 30 years later. Also, he's on-screen less than eighteen minutes, and he doesn't meet the protagonists until the literal halfway point of the movie.
  • Anthony Hopkins' first appearance as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs last for roughly fifteen minutes. It is an iconic villain role that made him famous and spawned a sequel and a prequel with the actor.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Yinsen from Iron Man undeniably fits this trope. He only appeared for a small part of the original Iron Man and made a brief cameo in Iron Man 3. He shares almost as much responsibility for the creation of Iron Man (and by extension the entire MCU) as Tony himself — not only by keeping Tony alive, but by driving him to become a better person, all the way to Tony's heroic sacrifice stopping Thanos and saving the universe.
    • Samuel L. Jackson's role as Nick Fury is one of the more famous roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he has appeared in many of the movies and in a few episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Despite this, he is usually a One-Scene Wonder, appearing in a single scene, some of which, are The Stinger for those films. He likely only has about one hour of screentime spread out throughout the first two phases of the franchise.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the anonymous SHIELD tech who delayed launching the Insight helicarriers long enough to allow Cap to stop them truly saved the day, considering just how little time Cap had left when he succeeded.
    • After having a huge screentime as the Big Bad Villain Protagonist in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos from Avengers: Endgame has a significantly reduced role in that he only lives as far as the first 15 minutes of the movie before the heroes bring him down for good. However, the fact that he destroys the stones before his death means that the heroes have no way of undoing his fingersnap that turned half the world into dust, leaving them to pick up the rest of the shattered pieces for five years until Ant-Man discovers a way to travel through time to retrieve the stones in order to reverse the effect. This in effect attracts the attention of the Thanos from the past as he learns what his future self did and decides to travel through the present time with the help of Nebula which causes the entire climax of the movie.
      • An bigger example in the movie would have to be that stray rat who accidentally pushed the button that allow Ant-Man to escape from the Quantum Realm. Because of his experience there, he managed to find a method that could allow him to time travel back to the past in order to retrieve the Infinity Stones to the present day to successfully undo the effects of Thanos's fingersnap and bring back everyone who were previously killed by him. So in a way, the entire plot of the movie and triumph over the Titan happens because of a mere rat that came at exactly the right moment, right time.
    • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, J. Jonah Jameson gets approximately 30 seconds of screentime in The Stinger. With those 30 seconds, he manages to out Peter Parker as Spider-Man and implicate him in the attack on London and the "murder" of Quentin Beck.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): Marilyn Batson, Billy's biological mother, has only made two appearances in the film: First is when she is shown with Billy as a toddler getting separated; second is when Billy finally meets up with her and learns the true background behind the separation. Yet she gives the purpose of showing Billy's personal background of him searching for his mother for past decade, whether it was breaking the law or ditching his foster homes, and his acceptance to embrace his current foster family after realizing that his mother purposely abandoned him at the fair due to a difficult time raising him as a young single mother (she got disowned by her own parents for having Billy at 17-years-old, then her boyfriend got arrested and she was left to raise Billy on her own). Also, without the abandonment, Billy would have never met Freddy Freeman and defended him from bullies which led to him becoming the legendary Shazam.
  • Back to the Future:
  • The Navy SEALs in Zero Dark Thirty don't appear until the last 20-30 remaining minutes, yet they are the ones who finally raid Bin Laden's compound. The SEAL who kills the very man barely has any dialogue, has little screen time and isn't as prominent as his team members.
    • There is also Debbie, a young analyst and admirer to Maya's work, who gives the information that Abu Ahmed may have faked his death because his deceased brother looked like him, prompting the CIA to track him and lead to his home: Bin Laden's compound.
  • Matthew McConaughey's Mark Hanna from The Wolf of Wall Street only appears in the first half of the film, yet he is one of the main influences to Jordan Belfort to be a ruthless broker and a substance abuser.
  • The plot of Saving Private Ryan is kicked off by one woman typing up condolence letters in an office. Through sheer coincidence, she types up the three brothers' letters at once and brings it to the attention of her superior. She has no lines and does not appear past this scene, yet this is what inspires the government to arrange for the fourth brother to be brought home.
  • Shaolin Martial Arts: The entire movie's overall conflict, a fierce duel between the Shaolin and Wing Chun clans, is kicked off when an unnamed Wing Chun student kills a Shaolin student in a supposedly friendly contest, resulting in both sides repeatedly challenging each other, with a dozen deaths before the film ends.
  • The Hunger Games: Primrose "Prim" Everdeen isn't present for most of the plot, but it's because of her that Katniss ends up in the Games in the first place.
  • The Uncle in The Innocents, played by Michael Redgrave, appears only for about five minutes at the beginning, but features constantly in Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) and the housekeeper's conversations. The fact that Miss Giddens is attracted to him also drives a major plot point, namely Miss Giddens' attraction towards the nephew, Miles, who resembles his uncle very much. Ultimately, the children's tragic fate is as much due to Miss Giddens' warped psychology as the Uncle's constant absence, as he might have dismissed Miss Giddens before the situation went out of control.
  • Home Alone
    • The first film has the McAllister's neighbor who comes over to watch them leave. While he's curiously checking the transportation shuttle out he gets mistaken for Kevin during a headcount, which is what results in Kevin being left alone.
    • Lost in New York The man whose coat is identical to Peter's. If not for his presence at the airport, Kevin wouldn't have entered a plane to New York.
  • In The Big Short, Lewis Ranieri only appears in a flashback scene in the first few minutes of the film. However, because he was the person who first suggested the idea of mortgage-backed securities in 1977, he is responsible for the inflation and eventual bursting of the housing bubble that drives the actions of every major character in the rest of the film. Jared Vennett even observes in his opening narration that most people have never heard of Ranieri, and yet he has had a greater impact on our lives than the social media revolution.
  • The salvation of the human race in Independence Day can be traced back to Julius Levinson. While he might appear unassuming as David's sarcastic father, he is able to drive his son all the way to Washington to warn David's ex-wife and the President, which is how they're able to survive. Later, Julius rambles on about Area 51 and its captured spaceship...only to learn that it's totally true. Finally, while David is in a drunken despondent haze, Julius inadvertently gives him the idea to plant a computer virus in the alien mothership in order to allow humanity to fight back.
  • The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016). Firstly, as shown in Flashback, he's responsible for turning Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn. His attempted Gunship Rescue of Harley from the Squad is the start of the mission, which had been going (relatively) smoothly until then, going all to hell, and Harley uses his apparent death to trick Enchantress, claiming she will join the mad god in exchange for Joker being brought back to life... so she can get close enough to cut Entrantress' heart out, giving the Squad a chance to save the day.
    Bruce Wayne: Maybe it's the Gotham City in me. We just have a bad history with freaks dressed like clowns.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, it's one of the low-ranking sub's cooks who singlehandedly prevents Raimey's plan to defect (with the sub) from going smoothly, kicking off the second half of the thriller.
  • The first Lancelot is in Kingsman: The Secret Service for only two scenes at the start, but it's his death what kicks off both storylines given that it opens the position for a new Lancelot and prompts Harry to finish his mission.
  • Friday the 13th Part III: Shelly is little more than The Prankster and one of Jason's many victims, but it's his hockey mask that Jason acquires, netting him his iconic look for the rest of the series.
  • TRON Dr. Lora Baines (later, Dr. Lora Baines-Bradley) is on screen for less than ten minutes in the first film, and is Sequel Non-Entity in both canons (TRON 2.0 kills her off, TRON: Legacy canon effectively exiles her in Washington DC). However? She co-invented the laser that gets the protagonists to Cyberspace. She's the one who convinces Alan to warn Flynn, she's the one who solidifies them into a Power Trio and comes up with the plan to break into Encom. Oh, and she wrote Yori, who is this trope in her own right (designing, building, and piloting the Solar Sailer, using her connection to Dumont to get Tron access to the tower, etc.)
  • Trevor Hanaway in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol only shows up in the opening scene and later in a flashback but his failure to obtain the nuclear launch codes is what drives the plot. Also his death at the hands of Sabine is what heavily affects fellow agent (and love interest) Jane's performance in Dubai.
  • Vasquez in Aliens. She makes the choice to disregard Gorman's orders not to discharge their weapons while in the Alien hive and conspires with Drake to reactivate their smartguns as soon as Sgt. Apone's back is turned. This leads to the coolant system being ruptured when she and Drake subsequently fire on the aliens. The Marines are later faced with spending 17 days waiting for a rescue, and it's only when Bishop discovers the reactor is going to blow that they come up with the plan to bring the other dropship down from the Sulaco. Given that the aliens later overun their position anyway, had they not brought the second dropship down, they'd have had no means of rescuing Newt, let alone escaping. There's a chance that Ripley, Bishop and a severely wounded Hicks would survive 17 days on LV-426 with no ammunition, but it seems unlikely. That then means no Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection... all because Vasquez brought spare batteries for her smartgun and disobeyed a direct order.
  • The Comedian in Watchmen, just as in the original the original graphic novel. He dies in the very first scene, and only appears in a few flashbacks afterward—but his death kicks off the entire plot, as Rorschach's investigation into his murder leads to the revelation that he was killed by Ozymandias after discovering his twisted plot to end the Cold War. Notably, Jeffrey Dean Morgan nearly turned down the role for this reason, not wanting to play a character who spent most of the movie dead; his agent convinced him to reconsider, pointing out that (much like Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) the Comedian's presence hangs over the entire movie, even when he's not onscreen.
  • John "Dr. Death" Bishop in the first Child's Play movie has only a few minutes of screen time and serves as little more than another person for Chucky to kill. However, John’s role in the series is significant, as Chucky mentions that John was the one who taught him the Dembella chant in the first place, meaning if John hadn’t been around, Chucky would have never been able to transfer his soul into the doll.
  • Bruce Lee in Ip Man 4 appears in a handful of scenes but his role impacts a lot of what happens in the film. His teachings inspires his student Hartman Wu to promote Chinese martial arts to the military, resulting in Geddes coming after the Chinese Benevolence Association (CBA). Bruce being Ip's prior student is also what causes tension between Ip and the CBA when Ip tries to apply for an American school for his son.
  • Sophie's Choice: The titular characters Sadistic Choice is thrust upon her by an unnamed junior S.S officer. Purely for no reason, other than she happened to be standing there at that point when he walked by.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: John's street hooligan friend Tim practically saves the entire human race when he warns John about the "cop" looking for him in the mall and tells him to split. Without him being there, the T-1000 would have found John and assassinated him before the T-800 was able to locate him.

  • Watson's friend Stamford has about two lines, doesn't make it past the first chapter of A Study in Scarlet, and is promptly never seen again. But he introduced John Watson and Sherlock Holmes to each other, resulting in their forming a life-long friendship, and kicking off one of the most well-known and enjoyable mystery series of modern literature.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Balon Greyjoy is one of the eponymous monarchs in the War of Five Kings. He barely has any time interacting with the POV characters, and appears in only small parts of two chapters in the second book, and doesn't reappear before dying off screen in the third. However his decision in the second book to go to war with the North rather than joining them effectively ends the chances of that king to win their war.
    • Mirri Maz Duur only appeared in four chapters (three episodes) of A Game of Thrones, including the one where she is killed. The only POV character she interacts with is Daenerys. However, her actions become not only the driving force behind much of Daenerys's story arc, but also the reason that dragons (and in turn, stronger magic), have returned to the world. (Given that said dragons are expected to defend the Wall against the Others, Mirri Maz Duur might end up having a greater hand in saving Westeros than anyone besides Daenerys.)
    • Lord Walder Frey appears in only three chapters of the series (or episodes of the show). He is still able to orchestrate a Wham Episode in which he helps win the war for his side by killing off several important characters.
    • Lysa Arryn has very little pagetime, but while Saying Too Much in her last chapter she reveals that she is directly responsible for the events that lead to the War of the Five Kings (murdering Jon Arryn, causing Robert to ask Ned to be his Hand; implying the Lannisters as his murderer to Catelyn causing her to eventually take Tyrion captive and anger Tywin Lannister).
    • Lyanna Stark only appears as a statue and in the memories of Ned Stark, but she had one of the largest influences in the plot: her kidnapping led to the death of Ned's father and brother and Robert's Rebellion, her death turned Robert Baratheon into a depressed man whose disdain for ruling caused no short end to problems and she might be mother to Jon Snow, a character whose role in the books has been incredibly important.
  • Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. He's a minor character in the novel (and in the film he's on screen for only fifteen minutes or so), and yet he drives the plot forward on several occasions all by himself. (Amusingly, Anthony Hopkins set a record by winning the Best Actor Oscar in the shortest amount of screen time.)
    • This is even more the case in the preceding novel, Red Dragon. Unlike his relationship with Clarice, which formed the real meat of Silence of the Lambs, his relationship with Will Graham is mostly restricted to a mutual hatred. He appears on a total of seven pages, and new scenes had to be written for him in the Edward Norton adaptation to justify his billing. His actions continue impact the story long after his final appearance, however.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Lily Evans really doesn't show up a lot, but her actions drove the entire characterization of Snape, and her Heroic Sacrifice set up the entire plot.
    • The eponymous Goblet of Fire only gets a couple appearances early on the book and then is (almost) never mentioned again. It, however, kickstarts the book's main plot.
    • Narcissa Malfoy in the latter Harry Potter books. In terms of facetime and notoriety, she takes backseat to her husband and son and mostly just another snobby wizard supremacist. However, in the sixth book, her binding Snape to the Unbreakable vow is ultimately responsible for the climax of the story. And in book 7, her willingness to lie to Voldemort about Harry's death is what gives Harry the chance to win the war once and for all.
    • Lucius Malfoy’s role in the story also by far eclipses his actual screen (err page) time. Dumbledore had suspected all along that Voldemort had made horcruxes at some point but didn’t: have any proof, know how many there could be, know what kind of objects they’d be, and have a time frame. When Lucius slips Ginny the diary horcrux in second book, he puts into motion the events of the rest of the series. Dumbledore was able to work backwards and figure out everything he didn’t know (that he’d made them in his young adult years, they were objects based around the Hogwarts founders, and since he’s not deaf that there were more) to ultimately take him down. When Ginny uses the diary to open the Chamber of Secrets, it also let them get basilisk venom which is one of the few things that can destroy horcuxes.
    • Kreacher. When screenwriter Michael Goldenberg tried to adapt him out, J. K. Rowling told him that doing so would put a Spanner in the Works of the seventh film. (Goldenberg can be forgiven for attempting it, since Kreacher's one plot-critical moment had, at the time, not yet been published.)
    • The sixth book introduces many characters who appear only via Pensieve Flashback, most — if not all — of whom are also long gone by the time the series start: Marvolo, Morfin, and Merope Gaunt; Bob Ogden; Tom Riddle, Sr.; Mrs. Cole; and Hepzibah Smith and her House Elf, Hokey. They're all connected to Voldemort's backstory: Marvolo, Morfin, Merope, and Riddle Sr. are Voldemort's maternal grandfather, uncle, mother, and father, respectively; Ogden's encounter with them eventually led to Voldemort's birth at the orphanage Mrs. Cole would be running by the time Dumbledore went there, and Voldemort met Hepzibah Smith and Hokey when he was employed to liaise with Hepzibah for her antique collections, two of which eventually fell into Voldemort's hands.
    • Dumbledore's siblings, Aberforth & Ariana, don't show up until very late in the series (Aberforth is mentioned in passing a few times and shows up about three quarters through Deathly Hallows but Ariana goes completely unmentioned until the beginning of that book) but are very important to his backstory and the story in general. To make a long story short, some Muggle boys did something horrible to Ariana when they saw her doing magic when she was a kid. It's implied but not outright stated to have been some sort of sexual abuse and their dad went to prison for attacking them in Revenge. The trauma caused Ariana to repress her magic and become unstable. She accidentally killed their mom. Dumbledore got a Promotion to Parent and didn't take it well because he wanted to go see the world but he wanted Aberforth to finish school and so he stayed. Gellert Grindelwald came knocking on their village and Albus wanted to go on his trip with him to Take Over the World and take Ariana with them. Aberforth put his foot down and a Mêlée à Trois ensued with poor Ariana caught in the middle, she got killed even though they don't know who actually killed her. Her death made Albus realize that power went to his head and explains why the greatest wizard of his age became a teacher instead of an Evil Overlord. He still hates himself for it, so much that the only time he ever actually mentions her is in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald while trying to empathize with Leta Lestrange who similarly still hates herself for incidentally causing her younger sibling’s death as a kid. Aberforth also feels incredibly guilty for it and it’s why the brothers aren’t necessarily close as adults. She's been dead for about a hundred years by the time of his death but wanting to see her to apologize to her in the Resurrection Stone is how he gets the curse that kills him. It's also clear on a re-read that Aberforth uses his role as the barkeeper at the Hog's Head to spy on Death Eaters for his brother. In fact, he's the one who kicked Snape out of the bar halfway through the prophecy, setting in motion the event that cause Harry's parents' death and in turn Snape turning spy against Voldemort,
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Sasha in Warrior Cats: The New Prophecy. Although she only appears once or twice, she mothered the villain's children, who go on to become super important characters.
    • Socks and Ruby in the manga The Rise of Scourge. Both were mean to Tiny, causing him to run away and become Scourge. Also Tigerclaw, but only in the manga.
  • The Maltese Falcon: General Kemidov is The Ghost, but even before the story begins, when Gutman wanted to buy the McGuffin, he realized that it would be important and replaced it with a MockGuffin that the gang found very easy to steal, making him the real Magnificent Bastard of the story.
  • The Lord of the Rings books are full of this. You have characters like Erkenbrand, a Marshall of Rohan leading the troops that Gandalf collects to save everyone at Helm's Deep, or Ghan-buri-Ghan, a Noble Savage tribesman who leads the Rohirrim around an ambush so they can arrive at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in time and at full strength. And, all puns aside, let's not forget that three of the shortest and least competent characters are the ones who won the war—Frodo, Sam and Gollum.
  • Also occurs in The Hobbit with characters like Bard, and elsewhere as well — Tolkien was obviously very fond of the idea that everyone, not just the protagonists or the most powerful beings, can have a major influence on the world.
  • Arianna Ortega in The Dresden Files interacts only with Harry, and appears in a grand total of three chapters before biting it. Her plans result in Harry damning his soul forever, and sets the plots for book 12 and 13 in motion.
    • The minor Red Court Vampire "Bianca St. Claire" only appears in Books 1 & 3. However her falling out and subsequent attempts at petty revenge against Harry both start off the war with the White Council and eventually gives Harry the opportunity to wipe out her entire species. Whoops?
    • He Who Walks Behind. He is a powerful demon knight on the levels of being a Physical God. As of book 14 Cold Days, he was only in a single chapter flashback in book 13 Ghost Story. Besides that, he was referenced maybe five times in the entire series. But his actions in Harry's past, the brutal murder of a gas station attendant Harry tried robbing drove him to avenge the little guy and develop the Chronic Hero Syndrome that would make Harry face down forces that no mortal had tried challenging before.
  • The Story Within a Story in Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates about a boy plugging a dike with his finger and preventing a flood is more famous than the actual story of Hans Brinker and his skates.
  • Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451 is obscurely written out of the story very early on; however, her influence on Guy Montag instigates the entire plot and every event that happens therein. (Some adaptations even write her back in later.)
  • In the present-day The Wheel of Time, Aginor is one of the least appearing, least accomplished members of the Forsaken ( he dies twice without accomplishing much that's noteworthy). In the backstory, on the other hand, he created the Shadowspawn races, meaning he was responsible for most of the mooks the heroes fight and for untold suffering caused by his "children" over the millennia.
  • In the Fear Street spin-off series Fear Street Seniors, the first actual senior to die was Danielle Cortez. She only appears in a few pages and doesn't even receive the courtesy of a yearbook entry until the sixth volume, which is three books after her death, but the fact remains that she dies on the very first day of the new school year, which sets the mood for the rest of the school year. Her death is the harbinger for the rest of the seniors who die throughout the year.
  • The ghost of James Incandenza in Infinite Jest doesn't even have any lines, but single-handedly sets almost the whole novel's plot into motion which culminates in the apocalypse.
  • Primrose "Prim" Everdeen from The Hunger Games in the first book. She isn't present for most of the plot, but it's because of her that Katniss ends up in the Games in the first place.
    • And by extension, Katniss's role in those Games were what ended up sparking the rebellion.
  • In Looking for Alaska, the title character has a boyfriend, a college student named Jake, who is repeatedly referred to throughout the book but actually seen a grand total of once. Nevertheless, his influence is felt throughout the story, his existence being the reason Alaska and protagonist Miles never act on their feelings for each other, causing no shortage of angst for him (and, it's implied, her as well). And then, just when you've probably forgotten him, a phone call from him at exactly the wrong time about exactly the wrong subject causes something very, very bad to happen.
  • An unnamed Medusan native who wandered into the human enclave on the planet and ended up dead due to a drug overdose was responsible for much of the Honor Harrington series. It was his possession of a firearm that shouldn't have been possible for the native population to develop on their own and ravings about a religious leader that alerted the Manticorans something serious was going on. The resulting series of events secured Harrington a promotion and the notice of her superiors, which put her into position for more critical events that the junior captain of an old destroyer wouldn't have been.
  • The Cold Moons: Tendril appears in only one chapter, the second chapter, and it's heavily implied that she died off-screen. However, without her, the Decoy Protagonist Bamber would have died and, with him, all the other badgers would have likely perished as well.
  • The Crocodile God's main antagonist is one of Mirasol's Spanish employers in the newly-colonized Philippines, and the story only refers to him as Mirasol's master or "the Spaniard." His major action is to shoot the heavily-pregnant Mirasol so her husband Haik shuts up about being the Tagalog tribe's sea-god. This means he has committed Deicide by killing their unborn daughter, clinched the Death of the Old Gods in the Philippines after Haik has long assumed the rest of the pantheon is dead, and sent their Reincarnation Romance into a spiral of trauma and separation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Even people who haven't seen the show are likely aware of the cultural phenomenon that is Mandy (aka "Naked Mandy"), the cold, ruthless chessmaster assassin who routinely evaded capture only to make a sudden, shocking, bombastic return when the heroes least expected her. Fans of the show, however, know that she only ever appeared in seven episodes, almost never for more than one scene, and she only ever made two "shocking returns" (and it was never a surprise for any of the heroes — none of them met her or knew who she was until her last arc in Season 4 — only for the audience). Still, she did make quite a splash whenever she did show up, most notably in the Season 2 finale, where in her one minute of screentime she managed to single-handedly turn the upbeat, triumphant ending into a horribly uncertain Downer Ending.
    • There's also Conrad Haas who only appears in one episode (the Season 5 premier), but he made a tremendous (and shocking) impact on the season/show as a whole by assassinating former president David Palmer.
    • Mitch Anderson is a minor villain in Season 4 whose appearances can be counted on one hand. But by the final time he appears he ends up shooting Air Force One and putting the current President out of commission... causing the series' iconic villain Charles Logan to get sworn in his stead. Logan winds up causing trouble for rest of the show, even if at times it's indirectly for arcs where he's absent, and all of it can be traced back to what Anderson did.
  • Arrow had this with Justin Claybourne, and in a season five flashback too. He was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who The Hood killed after his company went around making poor people sick. However, his death led to his illegitimate son swearing revenge. He was trained by Talia Al Ghul, and went on to become Prometheus, arguably the biggest villain on the show to date.
  • Band of Brothers shows Moose Heyliger being shot in a case of Unfriendly Fire by an unnamed sentry. The man in real life was quickly transferred to another regiment for his own safety and does not appear in the series again. Nonetheless this results in the incompetent Norman Dike being put in charge of Easy Company through the Battle of the Bulge. Many men lost their lives (or limbs) due to the man's poor leadership skills.
  • Before Batman the Riddler had all of two appearances in the comics, neither in over a decade. Frank Gorshin's performance single-handedly saved the character from obscurity, the Riddler himself is considered a core villain in Batman lore, with most adaptations drawing heavily on Gorshin's version of the character.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Christian "Combo" Ortega is one of Heisenberg's flunkies and also his first casualty; he has so little screen time that Walter's not even sure which one he is when notified of his death. However, Combo has two major effects on the series; Firstly, his death led to a bloody chain of events that would consume the Heisenberg empire. Secondly, it's later revealed that he, not Jesse, procured the RV that proved so crucial to Walter's operation.
    • Brock Cantillo. He may be a little kid with very few appearances, but when Jesse found out Walter poisoned him back in Season 4, he permanently cuts ties with Walter and becomes a significant threat.
    • Dr. Delcavoli. He's only used as exposition for Walt's cancer, barely being seen for the first two seasons. However, his treatment helped Walt's cancer enter remission; it may have altered Walt's attempts to break bad in the meth business since he assumed that he would die and leave his family a sizable amount of cash before going in too deep.
    • Drew Sharp, a child who appears for literally less than a minute, completely changes the entire show upon his murder at Todd's hands, as this single moment is the reason why Jesse and Mike want out of Walt's empire for good, setting up the rest of the conflict for Season 5A.
  • Dancing on the Edge: Jessie Taylor (Angel Coulby), whose role is to sing and get murdered, but remains one of the most memorable aspects of the miniseries.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Gordon Tipple's incarnation of the Master in The TV Movie appears for mere seconds, and what few lines he had were cut in the official release of the episode, but his Thanatos Gambit sets the whole plot running (and indirectly causes the Seventh Doctor's regeneration into the Eighth).
    • Harriet Jones, Prime Minister (yes, we know who she is), played by Penelope Wilton, appears in a grand total of four episodes. In the third of those, the Doctor's reaction to something she does changes the entire course of history and has serious consequences for the next three seasons of that show and all of Torchwood. Then, despite having been thoroughly screwed over by said Doctor, she proceeds to help save the world with a tear-jerking Heroic Sacrifice. She's also a Four-Episode Wonder, as she's one of the most iconic supporting characters of the new series and a fan favourite.
    • "The Fires of Pompeii": Caecilius and his family only appear in this one episode, but they have a big enough impact on the Doctor that he subconsciously models an incarnation on the man's face over a thousand years later.
    • Cass, in the "Night of the Doctor" minisode. She appears in Doctor Who for all of six minutes, most of which is after her death. But her death is what pushes the Doctor over the Despair Event Horizon and into participating in the Time War, which had a HUGE impact on the rest of the series.
  • Friends has Mr. Waltham, Rachel's boss in Season 4. He's only in two episodes, but in his second and last appearance, he asks Rachel to give his niece a tour of America as she's visiting. His niece? Emily, who becomes an important character in Ross's life with their relationship and subsequent failed marriage, which hangs over Ross for the rest of the series.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Lyanna had one of the largest influences in the plot: her kidnapping led to the death of Ned's father and brother and Robert's Rebellion, her death turned Robert Baratheon into a depressed man whose disdain for ruling caused no short end to problems and casts a constant shadow in his marriage to Cersei. And most of all, she is mother to Jon Snow, an incredibly important character.
    • Wyman Manderly shows up for about one short scene at the end of the sixth season, but after Lady Mormont declared her endorsement of Jon Snow as King in The North, his agreement is what catalyzes the motion.
    • Martyn and Willem Lannister are two small, sacrificial characters. Their murders lead to Robb losing the support of House Karstark, to an apparently renewed alliance with House Frey and to the Red Wedding.
  • Rory Flanagan from Glee only had a few episodes in the spotlight, and was relegated to the background for most of season three before disappearing afterwards. However his brief infatuation with Brittany led to Santana becoming more defensive of her, which further exacerbated the rift between her and the rest of the glee club, ultimately leading not only to the formation of the Troubletones but Santana being outed by Finn.
  • In Gotham, Jerome only shows up in a few episodes, dies in the third episode of Season Two, and also causes enough chaos that watching a video recording of his antics causes people across Gotham to snap, thus making Jerome, in all likelihood, the inspiration for a certain clown.
  • From Hannibal:
    • Garrett Jacob Hobbes, the serial killer known as the Minnesota Shrike. He appears as the primary antagonist of the first episode, and his crime spree is stopped by the end of the episode when he is shot to death by protagonist Will Graham. However, the guilt Will feels over killing Hobbes, combined with the guilt Hobbes' daughter Abigail feels for having an indirect hand in her father's murders, contributes a great deal to both Will and Abigail's storylines in Season One. The incident also sets up the Arc Symbol of the raven-feathered stag, and foreshadows the climax of Season Two.
    • Neal Frank. He's a Posthumous Character whose death is a major part of Dr. Bedelia du Maurier's story arc and was established to have been a patient who died under her care and led her to retire from active practice. The flashback episode reveals that Hannibal was his actual therapist that he was seeing for insomnia. Instead, Hannibal hypnotized him into choking when he gets upset, and he was actually nothing more than another innocent victim caught in Hannibal's games. Bedelia was even going to prescribe the same therapy he was getting from Hannibal when he complains to her about his treatment. When he calls her out on it and starts to choke, she shoved his tongue down his throat instead of saving him. In other words, she lied about his death, which throws all of her previous characterization for a loop and implies she's actually Not So Different from Hannibal when she's talking to Will Graham.
  • House: While not as important as his name would suggest, the appearance of Jack Moriarty, the man who shot House, had repercussions beyond his brief appearance. He appeared in only one episode, and almost all his scenes took place in House's head, but his shooting House led to House's ketamine treatment, which led to him temporarily being able to walk pain-free.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the Mother's First Love Max isn't even seen on-screen but his death was enough for the Mother to swear off dating and be unable to move on in any relationship.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O is a crossover series involving time travel and meeting the characters from previous Kamen Rider shows. Of these, the role with the biggest impact is that of Kamen Rider Gaim, one of the few other Riders capable of time travel, who in his few minutes of screentime sets off a butterfly effect ultimately leading to the show breaking out of the Stable Time Loop the main cast had unknowingly been perpetuating.
  • In Lost, Jacob never appeared onscreen until the end of the fifth season... in an episode in which he was killed at the end. In the next season he appeared just a handful of times as a ghost or in flashbacks. Nevertheless, he is one of the major characters in the Myth Arc of the series.
  • On the fourth season finale of Madam Secretary, a colonel is served divorce papers by his wife when she finds him with another woman. At work, the colonel is the highest ranking officer when the radar shows a massive Russian nuclear launch on the U.S. The President orders a counterstrike but the colonel can't enter the codes as his security clearance has been revoked because of the divorce. This delays the launch long enough for a general to arrive and reveal the "attack" is all a simulation. Lampshaded by the Chief of Staff.
    Russell: So the world is saved thanks to a philandering general. Maybe the mistress should get a medal.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • Phil Davis appeared in a guest spot that lasts no more than five minutes. In that time he mortally wounds King Uther, a major character who had been on the show since the beginning, and changes the entire course of the show.
    • Kara, Mordred's Girl of the Week whose execution at Arthur's behest starts the Disaster Dominoes that leads directly to Mordred's Face–Heel Turn and the Grand Finale.
  • In NCIS, Ari Haswari first appeared two-thirds of the way through the first season, and wasn't actually named until his second appearance in the season finale. He dies in his fifth appearance, in the second episode of season three. Over his five appearances, he crippled Ducky's fist assistant, causing Jimmy (who is still on the cast as of season 14) to replace him, killed Kate, causing Ziva (who stayed on the show until the beginning of season 11) to replace her on the team, and people Ari had connections with keep running into Team Gibbs and impacting their lives (such as Ari's half-brother showing up and murdering Gibbs' second ex-wife Diane), even though he's been dead for a decade now.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Zelena's birth father appears in only one episode, simply as a palace gardener disguising as a prince. He seduces Cora and gets her pregnant, but does not appear again except asking for a bribe. Because of the illegitimate pregnancy, Cora abandons Zelena in the forest — which leads to her getting taken to Oz and becoming the Wicked Witch of the West.
    • Dorothy Gale likewise only appears in one episode. All she does is arrive from Kansas and mistakenly throw the water on Zelena. However she acts as a Face Heel Door Slam and Zelena turns down her redemption and sets out on her path to villainy.
    • The Duke of Weselton courts Princess Helga and then makes a pass at her older sister Ingrid. In trying to save her sister from an attack, Ingrid accidentally kills Helga and is sealed in an urn by her other sister Gerda.
    • Isla only appears in one episode, but is the reason why the Land Without Magic is what it is.
  • Mrs Inglis, the HR manager who fires Victor Meldrew in the first episode of One Foot in the Grave, thereby setting up the rest of the series. Played by Susie Blake — quite a big name cameo — she even gets the opening line of the entire series but her role is over within the first ten minutes.
  • In the opening scene of Orphan Black, Sarah Manning sees a woman who looks exactly like her, Beth Childs, at a train station. Then Beth throws herself in front of a train and Sarah steals her identity, kicking off a series of events that soon leads to the revelation that they are clones, the whole premise of the show. Although Sarah spends most of the first season pretending to be Beth, she has only properly appeared since the opening scene in a video and a brief dream sequence. Her death plays a major role in the arcs of Paul Dierden and Art Bell, and her presence is very much felt even well into the third season.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The astronauts who unwittingly released Rita Repulsa from her prison. They are never seen nor mentioned again and we don't even learn their names, yet their mistake had massive consequences for Earth that would be felt for years.
      • Season 3 has the gymnastics coach, Gunter Schmidt who only appears for three episodes yet plays a factor in Kimberly's decision to leave for the Pan-Olympic Games and pick Kat as her successor.
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie: Mirroring the situation above, we have the construction workers who uncover the egg Ivan Ooze was trapped in by Zordon.
    • Power Rangers Turbo: Goldgoyle was a Monster of the Week who in his single appearance destroyed all of the Rangers' zords. This was only the beginning of the heroes' Darkest Hour.
      • In turn, this leads to a positive example of this trope, and probably the biggest in this franchise since the case with Rita. General Norquist, the base commander of NASADA, with only minor appearances between two episodes of this season and three of the next, has no reason to believe a kid who looks like he came from a war zone that the Power Rangers need their super-advanced space shuttle. And yet, upon hearing the name of the planet Eltar (that he somehow knows and, given his reaction, knows the importance of), he drops everything to have the shuttle launch immediately with four equally beat-up looking teenagers, who he also has no reason to believe are the Rangers, and a robot onboard. But with this one act, Norquist unwittingly causes a chain of events that result in the salvation of the entire universe from the greater evil about to befall it. And arguably, even the means for more Rangers to rise to save the day in the years to come.
    • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: Psycho Pink appeared in only two episodes in the season (though she and the other Psycho Rangers were major villains in the previous season) yet she was pivotal in one of the most memorable moments in not only Lost Galaxy but the Power Rangers franchise as a whole: the death of the Galaxy Pink Ranger Kendrix Morgan.
      • From the same season, we have the old lady from the first episode whom Leo saves from a mugging. Her words that the new world would need people like him is what spurs Leo to stowaway unto the shuttle and leads to the events of him becoming the Red Ranger.
    • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue: The nameless nomads who open the tomb containing the demons allowing them to return to menace Mariner Bay. Humans bringing doom is a common theme in Power Rangers.
    • Power Rangers Time Force: Venomark was a Monster of the Week whose connection to the Big Bad Ransik ended up playing a role in the creation of another major villain Frax. Venomark bit Ransik and the venom of his bite resulted in Ransik's condition of his mutation causing him pain. Dr Ferricks saved Ransik by providing him with a special serum only for Ransik to turn on him and nearly kill him. Ferricks survives and transforms himself into the robot Frax. In the present, Frax unleashes Venomark to distract Ransik while he destroys Ransik's entire serum supply and finally makes his own move for world domination.
    • Power Rangers Wild Force: Onikage only appeared in two episodes, but his presence resulted in major events for the remaining few episodes. Heralding in the return of Master Org, his appearance led to Princess Shayla being kidnapped, the deaths of Mandilok and Toxica, Jindrax defecting from the Orgs, and set the stage for Master's Org's end game in the series finale.
    • Power Rangers RPM: Prior to the present events of the show, Alphabet Soup was a corrupt government facility which kidnapped young children and forced them to create secret military projects. One of their victims was Doctor K who in an attempt to escape the facility created the Venjix virus but was captured before she could activate the firewall to stop it from spreading to the rest of the world.
  • Throughout the first season of The Resident, Olive Tan is a "frequent flyer" hypochondriac keeps showing up, complaining of illnesses she doesn't have. In her last visit, she says her latest must be connected to her cancer. Used to her antics, Devon calmly tells her she doesn't have cancer. Tan protests that she does and furthmore has been receiving chemotherapy from Dr. Lane Hunter. This leads to the discovery that Hunter has been pulling a massive fraud by giving perfectly healthy patients fake cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy just to get rich on the insurance payments and make herself look like a "miracle" healer. Tan's lack of any cancer symptoms is the evidence needed to bust her.
  • The Sopranos has Dr. Bruce Cusamano, Tony's doctor. He only appears in a supporting role in a paltry handful of episodes, but he kicks off the plot of the entire series by referring Tony to a psychiatrist after his panic attack, leading to him going to Dr. Melfi for therapy in the first episode. In fact, one of the very first lines of the series (before he's actually appeared) is about him.
    Dr. Melfi: My understanding from Dr. Cusamano, your family physician, is that you had a panic attack.
  • Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Samuels from Stargate SG-1. Despite only appearing in four episodes, he's the one who approaches Jack O'Neill in the pilot, brings him back to the SGC, and basically starts O'Neill's many years of serving in the Stargate Program.
  • Star Trek
    • John Colicos played Kor, the first ever Klingon, only once on Star Trek: The Original Series before reprising the role decades later on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, yet his Genghis Khan-influenced performance set the standard for all Klingons throughout the whole franchise.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Morn is little more than a recurring extra that hangs out at the bar and never speaks. The turning point in the war that took up the series' main arc was his smuggling crucial information inside a present for his mother.
  • Pilar has only a couple of scenes in the first episode of Velvet. However, her refusal to guarantee that the workers would keep their jobs if she paid off Velvet's debts ensures the course of Ana and Alberto's true love run anything but smooth. Her actions take on a more deliberately villainous light after her season 3 arc.
    • Don Rafael is dead by the end of episode 1. However, his actions in this episode and the Backstory planted the seeds for almost every major conflict in the series.
  • Judah Botwin is dead before Weeds even begins, and he only appears twice, briefly, in video footage taken before his death. However, it quickly becomes clear that he had a very stabilizing influence on his family, who almost immediately begin acting out once he's gone. His wife, with no idea how to provide for the family in his absence, turns to dealing marijuana, and his sons begin exhibiting sociopathic behavior, particularly Shane, for whom Judah was one of the only people who truly understood him and encouraged him to be himself, and area in which his mother is clearly out of her depth.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Eris in Classical Mythology's Trojan War cycle. All the other gods were invited to a wedding, but as the goddess of chaos, she was excluded. She responded by sneaking up to the reception and throwing in a golden apple that read "For the Fairest." Three goddesses fought over it, and chose Paris, the prince of Troy, to judge their beauty contest. He chose Aphrodite, but only because she bribed him with the love of the World's Most Beautiful Woman, Helen. Unfortunately, Helen was already married, and when she and Paris ran off, her husband Menelaus led all of Greece to war against Troy. The end result? Ten years of fighting, Troy being razed, and even many of the victors dying or suffering on the journey back home.
    • For that matter, Helen herself; she only has a few scenes in The Iliad, and mostly just lounged around in Troy while everyone fought over her. Even Paris wasn't the city's main fighter; his brother Hector was the protagonist of the Trojans' side.
    • The Odyssey:
      • The Laestrygonians are only around for about four paragraphs and are never mentioned before or again. However, they have by far the largest impact on Odysseus's followers of any of the threats he faces, reducing Odysseus's fleet down to a single ship; it's this massive turn of events that causes Odysseus to seek the land of the dead.
      • Helios only appears for one scene, but ends up being responsible for the destruction of Odysseus's last ship, and his exile on the island of Calypso.

  • Nikolai Darius was a small time supervillain of the Red Panda Adventures known as Doctor Bumblebee. He was one of the first supervillains the Red Panda faced in the series' backstory, and only made one appearance in-person as Monster of the Week in the episode "Flight of the Bumblebee". However, his impact on the series as a whole can not be understated. The exoskeleton he invented and used in his first run as Doctor Bumblebee was taken by the Red Panda and its technology used to create many of his own crime fighting gadgets, such as his trademark static shoes which let him and the Flying Squirrel climb sheer surfaces and do Roofhopping. In his appearance in the show, he's created a Super Serum that eliminates hunger and even gives superpowers. This serum is co-opted by the Canadian military to try and create super soldiers for World War II. It creates the Monster of the Week in "Barbarian at the Gates," as well as the superheroes Mr. Amazing and the Black Eagle, the latter of whom would succeed the Red Panda as the protector of Toronto.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE is, by its own nature, a male-centered show, with the Divas usually not having a major impact on the main-event storylines. However...
    • Did you enjoy watching Monday Night Raw between 2002 and 2005? Well, you have Stacy Keibler to thank for a small part of that. In 2002, Keibler came to Thursday Night SmackDown as General Manager Stephanie McMahon's executive assistant. But what no one knew at the time was that Keibler had actually been signed to Raw, and was only on SmackDown as Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff's corporate spy. While in Stephanie's office, Stacy forged a number of documents that made it appear as if certain SmackDown Superstars had, like her, actually contracted with Raw; fatefully, two of these Superstars were Batista and Randy Orton. This didn't result in anything huge at first, as Batista became a "Deacon" and one of Keibler's allies in The Dudley Boys faction, while Orton was injured soon after his debut and had his career sidelined for the rest of the year. But in early 2003, Triple H and Ric Flair introduced both of these men as the junior members of their new Evolution stable. Batista and Orton proved quite useful to HHH, to say the least: they helped him retain his World Heavyweight Championship for far longer than he deserved, and against the likes of Scott Steiner, Booker T and Goldberg. They also played a crucial role in causing Kane to lose the match whose stipulation was that he would have to unmask, costing Kane what last shreds of his sanity remained so that he turned against his brother and former ally The Undertaker and buried him alive — causing 'Taker to be resurrected as his "Deadman" persona once again in 2004 after having been a biker character for the past four years. And of course, Evolution would set the stage for the titanic power struggle between HHH and Orton, which started in 2004 and continued off and on for nearly five whole years after that! (The two wouldn't bury the hatchet permanently until 2013, when they joined forces as members of The Authority.)
    • Alicia Fox killed Edge in 2008. Well, indirectly, and only temporarily. It was the videotape of her being romanced by the Rated-R Superstar on the day of his wedding to then-General Manager of SmackDown Vickie Guerrero (leaked by Triple H during the ceremony) that caused Vickie to turn vindictively on her fiancé and rehire the Undertaker (who had been permanently banished from WWE about a month earlier), whom she then pitted against Edge in a main event Hell in a Cell Match at that year's SummerSlam. In that match, the Undertaker chokeslammed Edge right through the ring that created a hole, and then caused flames to erupt from it, the implication being that Edge had literally been sent to Hell. But bringing 'Taker back was the worst possible thing that Vickie could have done, since the "Deadman" turned his wrath on her as well as Edge (he having much more reason to hate her, after all). His attempt to choke Vickie's soul out of her body resulted in The Big Show turning heel to save her, which, in turn, resulted in Big Show becoming Vickie's new boyfriend, until Edge returned. This sparked a bitter feud between Undertaker and Big Show that lasted for the rest of the year and continued into 2009 before Vickie and Edge got back together.
    • AJ Lee has perhaps exerted the greatest direct influence on WWE of any Diva in history:
      An inadvertent blow to the neck from The Big Show nearly crippled her, turned boyfriend Daniel Bryan into an overprotective and possessive jerk, and ultimately caused Bryan to lash out at Lee for nearly everything she did, including his losing the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrestleMania, thus leading Bryan to virulently dump AJ on the following week's episode of WWE SmackDown. Daniel's cruelty apparently caused AJ's mind to snap, resulting in her behavior becoming ever more erratic and her profile on television to rise, as airtime was steadily eaten up by her bizarre antics. Indeed, AJ was transformed into such an outrageous scene stealer that Vince McMahon appointed her as General Manager of WWE Raw later that summer — much to the chagrin of Daniel Bryan, who had assumed that she had agreed to marry him in the ring when in fact she had accepted the GM position.
      This cruel prank, in turn, caused Bryan to lose his mind, which in turn led to him having to seek psychological group therapy along with Kane... which culminated in the two of them forming a comedic tag team called Team Hell No that turned both characters face again. This marked the beginning of Daniel Bryan's true rocket to stardom in WWE, making him so popular that not only did he go on to win the WWE Championship three times, but when he was respectively excluded from and (relatively) quickly eliminated in the 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumble matches, fan disillusionment ran so deep that the WWE Universe turned virulently on the men who did win those matches: Batista and Roman Reigns. While Batista turned this situation into heel heat for what eventually led to Bryan's title win at WrestleMania 30, Reigns never regained the adoration he had during his days with The Shield, is still heavily booed despite being a face, and has had to acknowledge that fact within kayfabe.
      Also affected by AJ-mania? Dolph Ziggler, whose popularity was heavily propelled by AJ becoming his manager in December of 2012, leading him to his first true World Heavyweight Championship reign. Also, The New Day, an enormously popular trio that might have not existed if Big E Langston was never given the role he got in the Ziggler/Lee faction. Not to mention, the breakup and solo success of the members of The Shield, as without the formation of The Authority and the return of Evolution, which can respectively be attributed to Bryan's rise to popularity and the outcry over Batista winning the Rumble (which as previously mentioned was largely because of Bryan’s absence from the match), their arc would not have played out the same.
    • Paige's actions as Smackdown Live!'s General Manager played a huge role in the creation of "The Man". She booked a Triple Threat match where the champion Carmella would face Becky and Charlotte Flair for Summerslam 2018. At the end of said match, with Charlotte stealing the victory and the championship from her hands at the last minutes of the match, and feeling that everything she worked for has been stolen again, Becky turned heel on Charlotte, and their friendship was destroyed. This, in turn, would lead to the revamp of Becky as a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin-like character (with the audience refusing to boo her), a series of well-received matches against Charlotte (including a four-and-three-quarter-star-rated Last Man Standing match at WWE Evolution), the Twitter feud with Ronda Rousey, Becky being injured by Nia Jax in the Raw go-home episode for Survivor Series 2018 (and the resulting injury from Nia's botch making Becky look like a warrior), Becky being left out of SS due to said injury, and the main event of WrestleMania 35 being changed from Ronda vs. Charlotte into a Triple Threat match with Becky inserted as a challenger between the two champions in a "Winner Takes All" match... which she won, resulting in Becky being the first Women's Champion holding both the Raw and Smackdown Women's titles at the same time and becoming the new face of the WWE's "New Era". Oh, and if that wasn't enough, in Real Life, her new persona being called "The Man" led to a series of Twitter quips with Seth Rollins, who also called himself "The Man"... and who eventually not only would become his boyfriend, but also the father of her child.
  • The Big Show heel turn mentioned above had another bit player besides Alicia Fox. Brian Kendrick won a match to qualify for a WWE championship shot against Triple H. Big Show thought he won, so he stepped out of the ring over the top rope and walked back to the locker room. Little did he know Kendrick was being hoisted on his bodyguard Ezekiel Jackson’s shoulders. After Show left ringside, Kendrick was rolled back into the ring to claim victory. Frustration over this loss ultimately may have caused Show to snap that fateful night.
  • A random guy on Twitter doing a question to Dave Meltzer led to a bet with Cody Rhodes which also involved The Young Bucks. A year later this strange chain of events led to the creation of All In, the biggest indie PPV, and half a year later, it ended up in the creation of All Elite Wrestling, the first serious competitor to the WWE ever since the end of WCW.
  • Despite his run with Bullet Club lasting less than a year before he left NJPW for WWE, Fergal Devitt (WWE's Finn Bálor) influence on the course of the stable's and the company's history can be felt nearly five years following his departure:
    • The foundation he created for Bullet Club with its The Kliq-style covenant motif enabled AJ Styles to seamlessly step into the front seat the same night he departed and complete the dream of BC winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on its official one-year anniversary. The camaraderie, cool T-shirt, and general badass antics of the Club, all of which were established by Devitt and his friends, combined with the high-profile presence of Styles in his stead, made them a worldwide phenomenon so powerful that taking the name of Bullet Club as a cash cow became a central part of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks' "world-changing" agenda when it was time for Styles and The Good Brothers to leave; and even after The Elite's antics became too much to be sustainable within the group's core values, rather than dying out or letting them fully absorb the title of Bullet Club, the core members he started with were able to band together and hatch a successful plan to take The Club back.
    • The biggest seed of Devitt's influence, however, would come where Jay White, the young man who tagged with Devitt once in the United Kingdom and impressed him so much that The Prince got Jay in touch with Bad Luck Fale to bring him into NJPW, would step forward and take his place at the front of Bullet Club as the culmination of both the BCOG/Firing Squad scheme and White's personal mission to sabotage rival faction CHAOS. White would then bring the same IWGP Heavyweight Championship back to Bullet Club in short order, winning it from Hiroshi Tanahashi just over a month after Tanahashi claimed the title from a departing Omega, validating his ascent as The Club's true weapon of choice to succeed Devitt after Styles. And Devitt responded by Tweeting his name and wearing the same color ring gear as him. This has only strengthened with the addition of KENTA at the end of the 2019 G1 tour.
    • And if all of the above aren't enough, The Elite being ousted from the stable (and later New Japan itself, though this was because the Elite decided to let their contracts with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor run out and not re-sign) also led to the creation of All Elite Wrestling. A WWE superstar created the stable that would, in turn, create the first serious rival for the WWE ever since the folding of WCW.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: The masked martial artist Ouyang Lin. She finds and frees the Sacred Dragon Bone Sword, and convinces Yeh Hsiao-chai to forgive Su Huan-chen.

  • Joe in Show Boat. It helps that he has one of the best Broadway songs ever written, "Ol' Man River."
  • It's easy to forget that Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet is only in about 3 scenes in the play. But as Isaac Asimov pointed out succinctly in his analysis of the play, without Tybalt, the rest of the play's events would never have happened.
    • Remember that there was more than one friar? Of course not, because Friar John is in one scene and has about five lines. But because he fails to deliver a letter to Romeo, the tragedy of the climax is allowed to unfold.
      • Not to mention the apothecary, who provides the reason Romeo is dead.
  • Jessica, daughter to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, has very few lines, but the whole play hinges on her elopement and her conversion to Christianity, which drive her dad over the edge. Whether she's seen as a "good" or "bad" character is a key decision when staging the play, and directors tend to give her plenty of extra stage time to pray in Hebrew or look tragic. Lorenzo could also be seen this way—besides being the boy who steals Jessica, he has one of the play's best soliloquies ("How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank...")
  • In The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night only appears in three scenes (and the opera counts them in the "French scenes" way). Two of them consist entirely of an extravagant coloratura aria (and many people only remember the second one). The third is a small part of the second act finale in which she gets in only a few lines before her final defeat.
  • In The Winter's Tale, Antigonus was supposed to kill a small baby, but, unable to do so, he left it in the wilderness instead (mostly because he was eaten by a bear before he could do anything else). That baby ends up being the hero of the story.
  • During "At the End of the Day," a song in Les Misérables, a nameless factory worker snatches a letter from Fantine for no particular reason and reads it aloud to taunt her. The letter reveals that Fantine has an illegitimate daughter, which in turn gets her fired, which in turn forces her into prostitution, which in turn prompts Valjean to pity her, which in turn makes him on the scene to save a man from a runaway cart, which in turn makes Inspector Javert reveal that a man he thinks is Valjean has been arrested, which in turn makes Valjean decide to turn himself in and promise to care for the dying Fantine's daughter, which in know what, it's probably easier to simply say that the Nameless Factory Worker is the most important character in the show.
    • Then there's the Bishop, who sets Valjean on a path of righteousness for the entirety of the play. Without him Valjean would likely have continued his self-destructive spiral until rejailed or killed, Fantine would have been arrested and died in prison, Cosette would have stayed with the Thenardiers, causing her to never meet Marius, who would more zealously assist the revolutionaries and die among them. Curiously, Eponine might have survived the show, not ever reaching the Despair Event Horizon caused by Marius and Cosette's relationship. In any case, the Bishop is onstage for around three minutes, tops.
    • And General Lamarque, Les Amis de'l ABC's only ally in the military. He never appears onstage, is dying when we first here of him, and yet, his death is what spurs Enjolras into starting the revolution.
  • The titular character in The Phantom of the Opera thoroughly dominates the musical — and yet is only onstage for 30-40 minutes of a two and a half hour production.
    • Also, Joseph Buquet really doesn't do much while he's alive besides loom about the place, tell the corps de ballet scary stories about the Phantom and set up the Chekhov's Gun of the Punjab lasso — but his shocking death is the final nail in the coffin of Christine deciding the Phantom is bad news and choosing Raoul; all (further) hell breaks loose from there.
  • King Lear:
    • Cordelia appears in just four scenes but she's Lear's clear favourite daughter, and his disinheriting her kicks off the whole plot.
    • Regan's husband Cornwall gets killed off at the end of Act III but not after he's gouged Gloucester's eyes out, among other villainous acts.
  • In both the play and film versions of Six Degrees of Separation, Trent Conway appears in only one scene, but it's because of his information that Paul is able to insinuate himself in the other characters' lives.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: A frequent consequence of reducing the roles of some characters compared to the source material:
    • Lancel Lannister is given all the credit for actually killing Robert, but only gets a brief mention in "Plot Development".
    • Tyrion mentions his life getting saved by his squire near the end of "The Siege of King's Landing". The squire in question isn't heard of before nor after the fact.
    • Robb's wife isn't seen at all, but the fact that she isn't a Frey has a huge impact on the Stark storyline.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Bane in Batman: Arkham Asylum. His only appearance is a brief confrontation, but his Venom serum is the catalyst for the game's plot.
    • The same could be said for the Electrocutioner in Batman: Arkham Origins. The fight with him ends with you hitting him and him hitting the ground, and then he's unceremoniously killed off by the Joker, but the weapons you get from him, the Shock Gloves, have a heavy impact on the rest of the game. Not only are the Shock Gloves just that awesome, but they also allow Batman to save Alfred's life, as well as enable him to get around the Joker's Sadistic Choice by Taking a Third Option.
  • Bloodborne:
    • Gehrman, the closest thing the game gives you to a Mission Control, only shows up about four times in the gamenote , two of which are to direct you to things that aren't even necessary to complete the game (though they are necessary for the Golden Ending, and to completely understand the story). However, he's also the one who founded the Hunters, made all of the early game weapons and Hunter Tools, and was part of the group that inadvertently created the Beast Plague. His pact with the Moon Presence is also what creates the Hunter's Dream, and what gives you your powers as a Hunter. Finally, he's also the second to last boss in the Golden Ending, and the Final Boss in the Bad Ending.
    • Mergo's Wet Nurse counts for this as well. Maybe. It's difficult to say for sure. The entity itself goes completely unmentioned in lore notes and only appears as the Final Boss in the Neutral Ending, or the Penultimate Boss in the Bad Ending, making it come across as a Giant Space Flea Out Of Nowhere, not helped by the fact that, unlike all other beings in the game, it doesn't bleed when struck, instead giving off dark, dusty clouds, almost as if it's just an illusion... The fact that it is the Wet Nurse of Mergo alone makes the entity a significant one however, and while it goes unmentioned in the Lore, there's a very prominent statue in the Grand Cathedral sporting the signature robed, winged, headless traits of the Wet Nurse; a statue that pours a liquid down upon the main altar and the worshipping effigies below, which may represent the Wet Nurse bestowing the Healing Church with Old Blood, a possibility that's reinforced by the fact that the Wet Nurse dons a pendant bearing a striking resemblance to the Communion Rune. The fact that it does not bleed may also qualify it as "the bloodless" that the Fishing Hamlet Priest calls to in the Old Hunters DLC. Finally there's the fact that the Wet Nurse's invisible nature, namelessness and potential ties to Blood Ministration makes it one of the prime candidates for being Formless Oedon... which, if true, would make it the Greater-Scope Villain of the entire game.
  • The "Oriental Gentleman" from Grand Theft Auto III, an unnamed man who just so happens to be a prisoner in the same police convoy the player character is in — the fact that the game consists of typical Grand Theft Auto fare rather than the player being behind bars for the whole game (or at least a few minutes, considering the series) is because the Colombian Cartel decided to hold up the convoy and take this one prisoner.
  • High Templar Karass of Starcraft II fame. He and his men meet up with Zeratul, help him fight through the zerg, and then he and his remaining troops pull a Last Stand Heroic Sacrifice to allow Zeratul to escape. Yet those few minutes, he and his men might have saved the universe.
  • Grand Marshall Garithos from Warcraft III posthumously became this once certain events in World of Warcraft transpired. His fantastic racism was one of the key factors that drove the Blood Elves from the Alliance, causing a small number of them to join will Anti-Villain Illidan Stormrage, and the rest to eventually side with the Horde. To a much lesser extent, he helped Sylvannas Windrunner retake the capital of Lordaeron, which led to it being taken by the Forsaken, though in this case Sylvannas actually promised to hand the city over to him and betrayed him when she was done using him.
  • Mother:
    • In Earthbound Beginnings, the plot kicks off years before the start of the game as the protagonist's grandfather stole knowledge of PSI from the species of the alien he and his wife adopted. George is dead by the time the game begins, and makes no appearance whatsoever. In fact, every single thing that goes wrong in the entire series can be traced back to George, up to and including humanity's eventual destruction.
    • In the sequel, EarthBound, the protagonist is visited by a bee (or not) from the future that starts up the plot of the game, is unceremoniously killed off moments later, and doesn't appear again until the credits.
    • In Mother 3, Hinawa, Lucas and Claus' mother, is only seen in the prologue of the game then dies offscreen during Chapter 1. Even so, she has a big impact in the story afterward, since she later saves Lucas' life through her father's dreams, then helps bring Claus to his senses despite him being robotically controlled.
  • Fatal Frame:
    • Kunihiko Asou. He was an occult philosopher and brilliant researcher, focusing on Japanese folklore and the spirit world during the second half of the 19th century. Despite not even physically appearing until the fifth game, Asou has influenced the entire franchise. He is the creator of the Camera Obscura, as well as other tools to battle against spirits, and left them to his descendants. And outside of this general influence, his personal interaction with Ouse Kurosawa was among the reasons her ritual failed, cursing Mt Hikami.
    • Mafuyu Hinasaki. His role for the entire game mostly consists of a minor tutorial, before focus shifts onto Miku, and to eventually choose to remain behind with Kirie at the Hellgate. However, his sacrifice and actions cause Miku huge amounts of guilt and grief, to the point that they are the reason Miku ends up wandering the Manor of Sleep in the third game, and even influences her actions in the fifth game.
  • Reddas in Final Fantasy XII. His backstory reveals that he was the one Judge who nuked Nabradia with nethicite, and that leads to such a hatred of it that he destroys the Sun-Cryst, banishing the Occuria's influence from Ivalice and, in a sense, completing the Big Bad's not-so-evil plan.
  • Two characters introduced in raid questlines from Final Fantasy XIV ends up having a major impact later in the story: G'raha Tia was introduced during the Crystal Tower raid questline from A Realm Reborn, which ends with him sealing himself within the Crystal Tower. Later in Shadowbringers, the Crystal Tower appears again in the world of the First. It is later revealed that in a Bad Future where Hydaelyn was poisoned by Deadly Gas that was made all the more deadly by the destruction of the First, a group of survivors unsealed the Crystal Tower and found G'raha. Together with knowledge gleaned from Alexander, a time-bending primal from a Heavensward raid questline, G'raha travels across time and space to the First a few hundred years before its destruction, allowing him to set up the Crystarium and lead it as the Crystal Exarch before bringing the Player Character over to prevent a calamity.
  • Fallout 3: The player character's mother, Catherine. She has roughly 3 lines, dies within a minute of your birth, and is the driving motivation for James' escape from the vault (and try and restart Project Purity) and, consequently, your reason for doing the same.
  • In the Metal Gear franchise, it turns out that the members of Naked Snake's support team in Metal Gear Solid 3 would become the founders of the Patriots. Additionally, Aleksandr Leonovitch Granin, the Russian scientist whom Naked Snake had been tasked with extracting as part of the Virtuous Mission, was the man who created the concept of the Metal Gear bipedal tank.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening, as is the norm for the series, has a massive cast with most of the characters having little to no actual part in the storyline. Early on in the game, Maribelle, who herself has only a slightly larger part than most of the other playable units and loses all plot relevance shortly into the game, is held hostage by Plegia and used as a scapegoat to start its war with Ylisse, kickstarting the storyline as a whole.
    • Previously in Binding Blade and Blazing Blade, there's also King Desmond of Bern. What he did was to be a downright abusive father to his son Zephiel, at first The Ace and overall Nice Guy. It took only one chapter for his appearance, and then sent assassins to have him dead. It failed because of the heroes. But he did not repent, and even tried to kill him one last time off-screen. The result? By Binding Blade, Zephiel ended up being disillusioned with humanity thanks to his father's actions to him and becomes a ruthless tyrant and tried to take down the whole continent with the power of dragons, many innocents die... all because one father just refuses to have an epiphany of what an asshole he has been.
  • The G-Man of Half-Life fame features, in the main, only in the intro and outro cutscenes of each game — his other appearances are mostly of the "you spot the G-Man in the distance, he walks behind a corner and vanishes" variety. (He does have a significant scene in the middle of Episode 2 when he gives Gordon a "heart-to-heart".) Everything about him is mysterious, but he's widely suspected of being responsible for, literally, the entire plot of the series from start to finish. Well, as finished as it'll ever be.
  • First Lieutenant McPherson of the Damned 33rd, from Spec Ops: The Line. Because of him, Walker decides to buck orders and turn Delta Squad's recon mission into a rescue op. And when they actually find him...
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Riku spends most of the game absent, and when he does show up occasionally he doesn't do much. However, his interactions with Xion make her realize that she needs to give up her existence and return to Sora so he can wake up.
  • The Toy Box world in Kingdom Hearts III seems to be another Disney world for Sora to visit with the appeal of a Verum Rex brand featuring Yozora as the main character. However, it later turns out that Yozora is Real After All where he appear both in the Secret Ending as well as a Bonus Boss as a Sequel Hook character. In other words, the entire Toy Box world serves as an Early-Bird Cameo for a character who undoubtedly become significant in the sequels.
  • Assassin's Creed has Khemu, the son of Bayek and Aya who is murdered by the Order of the Ancients. His death is what motivates his parents to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the group and form the Hidden Ones, the ancient precursors to the Assassin Brotherhood who would become The Rival to the Templar Order.
  • The Hanged Man has George Schmid, whose full name only comes up twice. Once on a quote written on a photograph, and once as the owner of a black notebook that Ed is looking for. George was one of the inmates living in the asylum-turned-homeless-shelter, and began to come up with the idea that society considered people like him to be 'bad', and made themselves happy by shoving them into this shelter. This made him think that the unhappy inmates could do something similar; by killing the 'bad' inmates, the others could 'become happy again'. His twisted thinking resulted in the Happy Murders, which caused the shelter to be shut down and abandoned for good. Having written this 'method' into his notebook, he sparks a desire in Ed to return to the shelter and look for the notebook. Which results in Ed planning to kill Will, and Keith in some endings, to 'become happy again', before he heads to the police and atones for having killed his father.
  • PAYDAY 2 has Hoxton, one of the characters from the first game, thrown in jail after being caught by the FBI. Nobody knows who ratted him out until the Hoxton Revenge heist comes into play. Said rat turns out to be Hector, who is just a contractor for the PAYDAY gang that offered jobs for money and is nothing more beyond that. Hector worked with the gang without any of them knowing that he was the one that got Hoxton caught by the police. The crew winds up having to do a few jobs for The Dentist, who has information and power to help the crew get Hoxton out of jail. After the events of the Hoxton Breakout heist where the crew frees Hoxton, they go over the FBI server they stole and find out where Hector is hiding. Once the crew discovers that Hector is the traitor, they waste no time killing him and Bain is shocked to see that someone unassuming like Hector was the one that ratted out Hoxton. Hector's actions caused the crew dynamic to be changed since they had to replace Hoxton with Houston and they had to jump through a lot of hoops just to get Hoxton freed.
  • Dead Rising: Larry the cannibalistic butcher comes out of nowhere and kills Carlito, the Big Bad of the entire game, in his only appearance.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 4, Mayumi Yamano's presence has a huge impact on two antagonists the Investigation Team encounters. Namatame is motivated to "save" the other victims due to Yamano's death and Adachi discovers the ability to travel through the television after pushing Yamano into a TV during a confrontation.
    • Persona 5:
      • Shiho Suzui. She's the best friend of Ann and a member of the Shujin Academy's volleyball club, meaning she's under Kamoshida's abusive thumb. And outside of a few lines to the protagonist, she has no real connection. However, when the physical and sexual abuse of Kamoshida's gets too much for her, her attempted suicide ends up sparking the Phantom Thieves of Heart to be created. Before, the protagonist and Ryuji were hesitant to steal Kamoshida's heart, too worried of the potentially lethal consequences messing with a person's inner cognitive might do. But her attempted suicide shows them the ramifications of letting Kamoshida continue on, and it drives Ann to follow the protagonist and Ryuji into the Metaverse, gaining her own Persona, and making things personal for all three members. Shiho started to roll the ball, though she remains in a coma for months after and only has a small cameo in Ann's Rank 9 Confidant event.
      • Suguru Kamoshida. The first target of the Phantom Thieves of Heart and basically a Starter Villain for them. Unlike later targets, he has no connection to the Conspiracy and only gets seriously targeted when the above Shiho's actions make things personal for the initial party members. However, it's Kamoshida's change of heart that shows the Phantom Thieves that their methods work, and tip off the principal that the Phantom Thieves of Heart actually exist. This causes him to discuss things with the Conspiracy and eventually make Makoto Niijima try to find out the thieves' identities, leading to Makoto becoming a Phantom Thief herself, and further plot events occuring.
      • Ichiryusai Madarame. Beyond being the second target and his personal connection being with Yusuke, Madarame is quickly forgotten. However, he is the one to first mention a second Metaverse user in the form of the Black Mask, letting the party know that they aren't the only Persona users around and getting a hint towards the real reason behind the Mental Breakdowns occuring.
      • Natsuhiko Nakanohara. Introduced as a stalker and introductory target for Mementos, he turns out to lead the Phantom Thieves further down their path. He mentions Madarame, who turns out to be their next big target, and gives them a connection to their next team member in Yusuke. Once again, his prodding leads to Madarame becoming a personal target.
      • Wakaba Isshiki. As little as her role is in being Futaba's deceased mother and Sojiro's former friend-implied-love-interest, her handprint is all over the background plot. Wakaba was a researcher and was focusing on learning about Cognition, eventually leading her to find out about the Metaverse, Cognitive Dissonance and similar. Her research and knowledge in this allowed Shido to realize how he can use the Metaverse and Cognition to his personal advantages. He chose to have her killed, making it look like an accident/suicide, and stole her research to use Mental Breakdowns to further his plans of becoming the next Prime Minister.
  • The Ghosts in Xenoblade Chronicles X only appear in the opening cutscene as one side in the war that destroys Earth and later as the side that attacks the White Whale, causing it to crash on Mira. Pretty much none of the plot would happen without them, but they aren't even named in the game with the name "Ghost" comming from the game's Japanese artbook.
  • The Joker from Injustice: Gods Among Us only appears in a single cut-scene in the game itself and the first four panels of the prequel comics before being killed by Superman but it is ultimately his actions to nuke Metropolis, murdering Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and corrupt Superman that kickstarted the whole events of Injustice universe. Of course, there's another Joker running around, but he's from the main universe.
    • And while the Injustice version of Joker appears as a fear-induced hallucination in Injustice 2, his role as The Corrupter towards Harley Quinn is still felt there, as is his twisted legacy of causing Supes' Start of Darkness.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon has Mohn, caretaker of the Poké Pelago islands. He's heavily implied to be the former Aether Foundation president and Lusamine's husband, who disappeared in an Ultra Wormhole years ago and was never seen again. His disappearance turned his wife into a sociopath gone cuckoo for Ultra Beasts, and thus several years of child abuse and the entire plot of the game happens as a result. And yet you'll never see him outside of Poké Pelago, which is an entirely optional feature.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Trask Ulgo is dead before the end of the tutorial level, charging into a hopeless battle against Darth Bandon in order to buy the Player Character time to escape. There's a passing mention by a Hutt in game about the "Ulgo" noble house of Alderaan. Come Star Wars: The Old Republic, that incident drives almost every arc on Alderaan! A distant relative of Trask's declares himself king, and asserts Alderaan's independence from both the Republic and the Sith Empire, with Trask remembered on Alderaan as a martyr who was betrayed by both factions.
  • Dragon Quest XI: Jarvis is encountered very early on and dealt with in minutes, but he's the reason Veronica spends the whole game in the form of a child.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The King of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is never seen on screen, but is shown meeting with Ganondorf in Hyrule Castle. Princess Zelda has visions where she sees Ganondorf stealing the Triforce, but her father doesn't believe her when she tells him what she saw. Had he actually listened, the events of the entire game could have been prevented.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, the original purpose of Queen Ambi's Evil Tower of Ominousness, the construction of which led to her corruption and eventual possession by Veran, was a lighthouse to guide her unnamed sailor sweetheart back to her. Who's that character? The unnamed skeleton pirate captain from Oracle of Seasons.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
      • Kass's teacher. An unnamed Posthumous Character, he is responsible for teaching Kass the various songs the latter uses to guide Link in uncovering Shrines. Furthermore, a century ago he was a Hopeless Suitor for Princess Zelda who resented Link for being the object of her affections instead of him; Kass's revelation of this makes it clearer than at any other point that she was in love with Link.
      • One character from a previous Zelda game manages to make a surprise appearance in this capacity. That character being Fi from Skyward Sword. Although her physical form is unseen, she manages to communicate to Zelda in the final Memory when Link is mortally wounded by several Guardians. She manages to provide Zelda with the information needed to save Link from biting it for good.
  • Scab from Mad Max, a former War Boy who suffered a crippling injury and was converted into a human blood bag before being sold off by Scrotus, and who wants revenge for being cast aside. He only appears briefly in two scenes, but his blood saves Max from a fatal injury, and he later tells Max where to find Scrotus for the final confrontation. He even gleefully declares that he's gotten his revenge because it's someone who's received his blood who will kill Scrotus.
  • Marisbury Animusphere from Fate/Grand Order; the deceased founder of the Chaldea Security Organization which the protagonist and Mash Kyrielight are members of, he won the Fuyuki Holy Grail War in 2004 with King Solomon and allowed his Servant to have his own wish, setting up the eventual defeat of the game's primary antagonist by using Solomon's final magic ring as a catalyst and leaving it behind for Solomon after his death. He's also revealed to have signed off on several projects with several consequences in the present, with Mash being a Demi-Servant because of his attempts to protect the future by creating a Heroic Spirit army and human experimentation in a private oil rig unintentionally providing the means and power of world-ending threat Kiara Sesshouin.
  • Argath in Final Fantasy Tactics is a noble and squad member of Ramza's party in the beginning of the game. He absoluetely cannot stand commoners and believes only those with noble blood have the right to rule. Ramza eventually kicks him out of the group, but this causes Argath to work with Zalbaag and, in a hostage situation later on, is given the order to shoot through Tietra to kill a member of the Corpse Brigade. Argath's murder of Tietra gets him killed by Delita and Ramza, but Argath's actions causes major shifts in Delita and Ramza's characters; Delita distrust all nobles and works to overthrow them from behind the scenes so that he can rise to power and make things right. Ramza distances himself from his brothers and begins work as a mercenary while still fighting for justice.
  • The Puppeteer from LittleBigPlanet Vita. You're told early on through Exposition from Colonel Flounder that he's the Big Bad (being the creator of the Hollows you see wreaking havoc in the various worlds). Despite this fact, you don't even get to hear him until a cutscene near the end of the final world, which features his recorded voice, and you don't get to see him in person until the final cutscene of the game.
  • In The Warriors, Ash is a new recruit to the Warriors gang, but he's basically a Flat Character serving as a player 2 (or another generic gang member if you are playing solo) and doesn't evolve beyond that. He gets killed off screen by the rival gang, the Destroyers, and his death kick starts a climatic showdown between the two gangs.
  • Joel's daughter Sarah dies roughly 20 minutes into The Last of Us but the trauma from it is still affecting him 20 years into the future. Over the events of the game, Joel begins to see Ellie as a Replacement Goldfish for Sarah. It ultimately drives him to essentially damn the world of its best shot to cure the virus that caused the zombie outbreak. Ellie is immune and having the surgery to get the mutated virus out of her brain will kill her. Joel rips her off the operating table before the surgery can start because he can't bear to lose another daughter.
  • The Mars People in Metal Slug 2/X would've wiped out both the P.F. squad and the Rebel Army with one blast of their Wave-Motion Gun if it weren't for the Heroic Sacrifice of a random Rebel Army Red Shirt crashing his plane into it in a Shout-Out to Independence Day.
  • Magma Dragoon plays a huge role in Zero's Character Development throughout the Mega Man X series despite just being a Maverick boss who only sticks around for one game. He's the one who destroyed Sky Lagoon in Mega Man X4, the event which sparked the civil war between the Maverick Hunters and Repliforce and eventually led to Iris' death at Zero's hands, which haunts him even after the game. The Repliforce incident is also the first instance of the Maverick label being used against a group of uninfected Reploids, eventually leading to the term Maverick being used as a McCarthyist label to mark dissidents for execution in Mega Man Zero.
    • Passy, a Cyber-Elf in Mega Man Zero who sacrifices herself to revive and restore Zero at the very beginning of the series, and is never mentioned again. However, if it weren't for her, Ciel would've been killed by the approaching Neo Arcadian forces and that would've been the end of the Resistance.
  • The unnamed Genius Girl seen in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle only shows up for a few minutes in the intro and the 100% ending for the Donkey Kong Adventure DLC, but she's the one responsible for building the SupaMerge machine that sets the entire plot into motion and serves as the main source of conflict. Beep-0, the character you play as during the game's overworld segments, is implied to be one of her creations as well.
  • A character who's only ever brought up three times (once while fishing with Jack, once to either Reverend Swanson or Sister Calderon, and once to Rains Fall) in the course of the game plays a huge part in explaining many of Arthur Morgan's decisions in Red Dead Redemption 2, his deceased son Isaac. He died at an unspecified point before the events of the game but his death hardened Arthur and explains much of his self-loathing. He believes that Isaac dying was his karma for his choices in life. It also explains why he's still so resentful of John for his treatment of Jack. It's also why he decides to sacrifice himself to give John a chance at a normal life with Jack and Abigail. He wanted John to have what he couldn't.
    • Dutch Van Der Linde murders a young woman by the name of Heidi McCourt in cold blood in the botched Blackwater ferry job that happened right before the beginning of the game. Allegedly, the job was going well until he was goaded into killing her by Micah. This got the law on their tail and made them stash the take (worth over $4 million today when adjusted for inflation) which was enough for them all two dozen or so of them to retire from the outlaw life. It was their One Last Job. The law follows them for the rest of the game and Dutch comes up with increasingly erratic plans to replace the take with another last big score, including picking a fight with the US Army. The botched job is essentially the noose around the whole gang’s necks. Had he not killed her, the events of both this and the first game wouldn’t have happened at all. She's so important to the story that a strange man John meets in I who's implied to be God, The Devil, or the incarnation of death brings her up.
    • Thomas Downes dies about a third of the way through Chapter 2, but he gives Arthur tuberculosis, eventually resulting in the latter's death.
  • Star Stealing Prince: Lorel, the first boss, only shows up for that boss fight and a Hopeless Boss Fight beforehand. It's essentially a wild creature unconnected to any other antagonists or the overall plot. Then Ephemeral Prince reveals that Snowe died in that Hopeless Boss Fight and is only "alive" because of Xiri's magic.
  • Cassius Bright makes a small but significant role in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV as he ends up forming a Sempai Kouhai relationship with Rean and ends up testing to see if his junior is ready to become a Divine Blade which Rean passes with flying colors. He's also commanding the army resisting against the Erebonian Empire who are at war against the entire Western Zemuria continent because of events that had happened in Cold Steel III (an attempted assassination to the emperor happens and the perpetrator used a gun made in Calvard) and is buying time for the heroes to save the day.
  • Jason in Heavy Rain is one of two sons to Ethan. Jason is introduced in the prologue and is quickly killed off in a freak accident via being hit by a car, even though Ethan tried to jump in front of the car to save him. Despite Jason's very short screen time, his death kickstarts the entire plot. Scott Shelby, who couldn't save his brother when they were both kids due to their abusive and neglectful father, wanted to find a father that would do anything for their sons. Scott witnessed Ethan's attempt to save Jason, giving him the idea of kidnapping a bunch of young boys and slowly drowning them in a pit being filled with rainwater unless their fathers can find and save them. Thus the Origami Killer was created.
  • Resident Evil has a few:
    • Resident Evil happens because helicopter pilot Brad gets spooked by a group of zombie dogs and flies away, abandoning the rest of the S.T.A.R.S. team as they're forced to seek shelter at a nearby mansion that is filled with monsters and traps. He doesn't appear again until at the end of the game where he comes back to rescue the remainder of the team.
    • A group of Umbrella soldiers in Resident Evil 2 appear for a small scene in a flashback where they wind up nearly killing William Birkin for his G-Virus sample. Birkin is Not Quite Dead and uses his G-Virus on himself, transforming himself into a monster as he gets revenge on the soldiers and spreads the virus to the whole city via rats ingesting the spilled virus samples dropped by a soldier.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, it's revealed through a collectible that an unnamed programmer made the machines code uncrackable, which meant that if they glitched (which they eventually did), there was no way to regain control of them.
  • The crew of the UMS Vortex Rikers in Unreal: They only appear as dead corpses whose logs you could read in the early levels, but if their ship wasn't caught in the magnetic field of planet Na Pali, Prisoner 849 wouldn't have gone From Nobody to Nightmare, the Skaarj Queen and her Warlords wouldn't have been slaughtered, the Nali wouldn't have escaped from being a meek slave race into an uprising, the Skaarj wouldn't have been interested in humanity and their discoveries, the Seven Years War and humanity's near extinction would never took place, and most important of them all, the Terran Colonial Authority and the New Earth Government wouldn't have been formed, and the legendary Liandri Grand Tournament would have never existed.
    • Also to a lesser extent, FenTech Incorporated. Their small role? They were only mentioned in Unreal Tournament, and in only two separate bios from two players from separate teams who were created by them. Their big impact? One of said players is Malcolm, a chemical killer who went on to lead Thunder Crash, dethrone corrupt champion Xan Kriegor and dominate the Liandri Grand Tournament for almost a decade. And that's just In-Universe, as Malcolm also became the Series Mascot.
  • In Mad Rat Dead, Mad Rat and Heart come across a group of stray rats in the forest. The only thing their onscreen roles culminate to is yelling about cheese and dying. However, one of the rats cries out "Thank you Rat God!" as it is killed, giving the player a big clue that the Rat God isn't as benevolent as she seems.
  • Yakra XIII from Chrono Trigger, who impersonates the Chancellor from 1000 A.D. to take Revenge on the Guardia lineage for the death of his ancestor from 600 A.D., attempts to frame Crono for the abduction of Marle and get him executed, which leads to Crono, Marle and Lucca taking the Gate to the ruined future of 2300 A.D. and finding out about Lavos. The group doesn't get the chance to fight Yakra XIII until after Crono is resurrected on Death Peak after being killed by Lavos in the Ocean Palace, and his fight is completely optional.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The murderer of Mia Fey, Redd White, is an example of a character's role being relatively small because of their large impact. You wouldn't want to spoil the ending of one of the first cases in the series for people playing out of order, would you?
    • Doug Swallow from Trials and Tribulations. He's a victim of a tutorial case in third game with just a few seconds of screentime. But his attempt to warn Phoenix about Dahlia is what not only saved Phoenix from Dahlia and lead to her arrest but also to Phoenix meeting Mia and becoming her apprentice which in turn made him responsible for significant part of the original trilogy.
    • Yutaka Kazami (Dane Gustavia in the Fan Translation) from Ace Attorney Investigations 2. Looking at just that game, abandoning his son was the first step in his son's transformation to a sociopath and the Big Bad of the game. He's also one of the few characters from the Investigations duology to have a major impact on the franchise as a whole: He was the murderer in Gregory Edgeworth's final case, which led to Manfred von Karma getting a penalty and killing Edgeworth for revenge. This was the starting point of the franchise, with every major character from the original trilogy being motivated by von Karma's actions in some way.
      • His victim, Isaku Hyoudou (Isaac Dover in the fan translation) has an even smaller role, but a slightly bigger impact. We never see him alive in the present, but his betrayal and attempted blackmail of Gustavia is what made him commit murder, kickstarting the events of the plot of the whole series, and his kidnapping of Dover's son is what causes the events of Investigations 2 to happen.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has Chihiro Fujisaki. While he quickly dies, becoming the victim of the second case, effectively the 4th death of the game, it turns out that he used the old laptop the group found in the library to create an AI of his image that can hack and collect information inside the network of the school, eventually saving Makoto's life from his execution and helping the group to get out of the school. By the second game, it turns out he was the one that developed the Neo World Program, as well as setting up the basis for the AI Chiaki that helped Hinata.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, the creepy stalker Reon appears for a single scene halfway through Julie’s route, where he attempts to murder her in broad daylight during a public handshake event. While the police promptly arrest him, his actions leave Julie with physical and psychological scars and Starnova in dire financial straights for the remainder of the route.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Yuri's only role is as the tutorial boss, and she doesn't get much development beyond her bond with Ami and Kaoru - however, it's that bond that causes Ami, and by extension, the protagonist Akira, to get involved with Kakuya's game.
  • Umineko: When They Cry has Beatrice Castiglioni; she only appears in Kinzo's flashbacks during the seventh arc, but Kinzo's relationship with her and her later Death by Childbirth have a huge impact on the plot.

  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Blaike Raven appears in only three strips of the entire comic, 14 years into its run, but his death is the reason Pandora did not reset for centuries and stayed close to her elf son both of which is highly unsual for an Immortal who typically reset every couple centuries and relatively quickly forget they even have descendants. He is also responsible for the existance of Adrian Raven, a major supporting character.
    • The original Grace Sciuridae appears in one panel but is responsible through her Plot-Triggering Death for the existence of the main universe's Grace being what she is instead of a hulking male like General Shade Tail.
  • The Muse of Time/Mysterious Entity from Girl Genius. In her first appearance she spooked Agatha, causing her to run into the alley where her locket was stolen, kicking off the plot.
  • Feferi of Homestuck. In the alpha timeline, she doesn't get up to much, aside from establishing the dreambubbles by using her connection with the Noble Circle of Horrorterrors. The Feferis from other timelines are implied to have had a much bigger impact on their timelines, with one even ascending to God Tier, but aside from that, she's a minor character.
  • Nebula: Ceres appears for only two comics and has no intelligible dialog at all, but through their actions ends up changing the status quo massively enough that afterwards Nothing Is the Same Anymore.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Fyron Pucebuckle (and his son?). Technically, Roy is trying to avenge his/their death(s), despite having never met him/them. Fyron was his father Eugene's mentor before being killed by Xykon; Eugene swore a Blood Oath of Vengeance, and after he died (of natural causes), Roy took up the duty to continue it. The thing is, in the process he discovered that Xykon is threatening the whole cosmos, so by now Fyron's death is sort of an afterthought. (Fyron himself only gets any characterization in Xykon's origin story.)
    • There's also Kraagor, one of the members of The Order of the Scribble. He has had only three lines and three appearances within the story. However, his death contributed to The Order of the Scribble falling apart, and the making of the Gates.
    • There's also the Black Dragon teenager, who guarded the cave that contained the starmetal. While he only appears for a few strips in what seems like a relatively minor story arc, his mother comes back to avenge him by attempting to kill Vaarsuvius' children. Vaarsuvius' actions from that point onward have very drastic consequences.
  • In Spring Trapped, the Fazbear's Fright Guard. He is never seen, and only figures into the first page and a flashback, but he's the one who destroyed Springtrap for good when he burnt down the Fright, which sent the Purple Guy into his afterlife (Five Nights at Freddy's World), which is where the story proper takes place.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent:
    • A couple of troll-inflicted injuries have a long-term impact on the story, while the trolls that inflicted them were killed within a chapter of being introduced.
    • Torbjörn's boss, who only appeared in a flash-back. He's the one who informed Torbjörn of just how valuable Old World books were, and made him realize how much money he could make by getting his hands on some and selling them.
    • Ensi Hotakainen, in Adventure I. To quote Onni during Lalli's My Greatest Failure flash-back:
      Onni: Grandma made one mistake, and see where that got us.
  • Hugo Yoon from Weak Hero is less than a two-bit thug, but he's also the one responsible for the hero's iconic "White Mamba" title, which in turn leads the Yeongdeungpo Union to take him seriously- a fact that Hugo is quick to brag about.

    Web Videos 
  • In the SuperMarioLogan series, both regular Show Within a Shows, Charleyyy and Friends and Doofy the Dragon are responsible for a few major plot elements. Such examples include "Black Yoshi's Job", where Bowser thinks he has chicken pox after seeing a Charleyyy and Friends episode where Charleyyy has the aforementioned disease, and "Bowser's House Fire", where Bowser Junior sees a Doofy episode where Doofy lights himself on fire. This causes Junior to think it would cool to start a fire, and light a candle. When he, Bowser, and Chef Pee Pee get back from McDonald's, they find out their house has burned down, and the candle was the cause of the fire.
  • Red vs. Blue has Sigma. He only appears in a few flashbacks in Season 10 (and died at the end of Season 6), but he's The Man Behind the Man for the Meta, who is ultimately the reason the plot got anywhere outside of Blood Gulch.
    • There's also Captain Butch Flowers. He appears in a couple scenes in The Blood Gulch Chronicles and gets killed off pretty quickly, but he's the actual commander of the Blues, and his pre-series death is the reason why Church is in charge (and why Tucker has cyan armor- it was once his). And he's Agent Florida, who was set to watch over the Alpha AI, and he accidentally allowed the entire series to happen by scrambling the list of people who were to be sent in his place if he died. This is what sent Caboose, Donut, and (later on) Sister to Blood Gulch, which resulted in Tex showing up, and with her O'Malley, which lead to the entire plot of The Blood Gulch Chronicles.
  • Minilife TV: In "That's So Gay!", two particularly rude characters who only have a few seconds of screentime make homophobic remarks about Chris and Ian's gay friend, Todd, which drive Chris and Ian to turn the titular phrase into a positive statement.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: The Van Shoopkeeper didn't appear after season four (and got mentioned in season three), and has made only five appearances so far, but he's the reason Darwin (the main character along with Gumball) got adopted by the Watterson family.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Fire Lord Sozin was the one who started the war and Fire Lord Azulon probably did the most damage during said war, both were dead before the start of the series and got one flashback episode each, but otherwise are only occasionally mentioned.
    • The past Avatars as well, most notably Roku and Kyoshi.
    • Iroh’s son Lu Ten died about a decade before the show began and is only seen in pictures but his impact on the show is huge. With no direct heir left, Ozai asks their father Azulon to forgo Iroh’s birthright and let him be the Fire Lord. Azulon is incredulous about him kicking his brother while he’s down and orders Ozai to lose his oldest son. Ursa works out a deal with Ozai that she’ll poison Azulon to save Zuko’s life which in turn makes Ozai the Fire Lord and leads to both Ursa and Zuko’s banishments. He's also the reason Iroh gives up his seige of Ba Sing Se. Had Lu Ten not died, Iroh might have won the war for the Fire Nation and left Aang without a world to save.
    • If Katara and Sokka's mom Kya hadn't pretended to be the last waterbender to save Katara, Katara would have died and wouldn't have been able to get Aang out of the iceberg.
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • Intrepid Reporter Paige Sinclair only appears in five episodes in the final season, but it's her investigation into the circumstances behind Sarah Lynn's death that set the final arc into motion and results in her exposing Bojack's dirty secrets and misdeeds, particularly that his Murder by Inaction was responsible for Sarah Lynn's death by overdose.
    • Likewise, her partner in journalism, Maximilian Banks, appears in one less episode than her, but it's his comment that he's taking calls from Sarah Lynn's mother that piques Paige's interest and causes her to delay her wedding and resignation to investigate.
  • Danny Phantom:
  • Ms. Manson in Daria. She only speaks in the first episode and rarely even cameos, but her decision to send Daria to the Self-Esteem Class (possibly more due to personal dislike than actually thinking Daria needed it) was what ultimately caused Daria and Jane's friendship.
  • In Elena of Avalor , Elena's cousin Duke Cristobal counts for this. His only major appearance is in "Song Of The Sirenas", where Elena kills Shuriki, the Delgados go on the run where they eventually run into Ash a few episodes later, and Elena's scepter starts malfunctioning (eventually leading her to giving it to the Sunbirds before getting it back in season 3 and it falling into the crystal well of Takiana and gaining new magic powers). Who knew he would leave an impact?
  • The Jetsons: The cat burglar who appeared in Astro's debut episode. He only appears in that episode but it's because of his attempt to rob the Jetsons back then they decided to keep Astro instead of an "apartment approved electronic dog" as their pet.
  • Looney Tunes: Marvin the Martian and the Tasmanian Devil each only appeared in a handful of cartoons, but are among Warner Bros' best-known characters today.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has a few:
    • Harlan Ellison. He appears in a grand total of two episodes (though he's referenced as being on vacation in a third), and the first doesn't appear to be particularly significant to the show's Myth Arc. The second? It's the show's series finale, where he proves to be instrumental to resolving the plot. After the kids rewrite reality by erasing the Evil Entity, Ellison turns out to be the only other person who remembers the old reality, thanks to his experiments in speculative fiction. The show then ends with the kids accepting an invitation to travel to Miskatonic University, where Ellison works as a professor, and planning to solve mysteries under him as the new "Mr. E".
    • Danny Darrow. He only appears in the flesh in "Escape From Mystery Manor", but he also gives the gang the very first Planespheric Disc that they ever get their hands on. And much later, it's revealed that he's the lone surviving member of the Mystery Fellowship—the direct predecessor to the first Mystery Incorporated. Danny's appearance gives us our first real idea of how long the mystery-solving organizations have really been around, and the story of his descent into madness gives us our first real glimpse of the corrupting power of the Evil Entity. Even when Danny's not directly around, Darrow University is a major location in Crystal Cove, and the site of the collapsed Darrow Mansion is considered a major Crystal Cove landmark, reminding us of the Darrow family's enduring legacy. He's important enough that we get to hear about his ultimate fate in the new timeline in the series finale, with the revelation that he grew up to be dean of Darrow College and turned his family's old mansion into a historic site.
    • Abigail Gluck. She's a Posthumous Character, and only her corpse actually appears in the flesh. But she was also the Evil Mentor to Professor Pericles, and her amoral teachings apparently led directly to his Start of Darkness in his early days, and she was the original inventor of the fearsome Kriegstaffelbots that make up the bulk of Pericles' army after he recovers her old factory. Alongside Danny Darrow, she's one of just two characters from previous mystery-solving organizations (other than the first Mystery Inc.) to play a direct role in the series.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Before being unbubbled permanently and being redeemed late in season 5, Bismuth only properly appears in one episode in person and another two briefly in a flashback. Despite this, some of her actions have major consequences:
      • She was the one who poofed Lapis Lazuli, leading to her being imprisoned in a mirror for 5,000 years. Lapis' release halfway through season 1 is the beginning of the Myth Arc.
      • In her self-titled episode, she tells Steven that, on Rose's request, she designed her sword so that it could only poof a Gem, never shatter. This is what makes him suspicious when Blue Diamond yells at his trial that Rose used a sword to shatter Pink Diamond, and more so when the below-mentioned Defence Zircon points out other holes in the story. This ultimately leads to Steven concluding that someone else shattered Pink Diamond, and eventually to The Reveal that Rose was Pink.
    • Blue Zircon only appears in one episode, but she reveals that the circumstances surrounding the death of Pink Diamond don't make sense, and voices that the most likely culprit is not Rose Quartz, but one of the other Diamonds. She is then immediately poofed by Yellow Diamond. Sure enough, it turns out one of the Diamonds did "kill" her — Pink Diamond faked her own death to fully take on her Rose Quartz identity.
    • Greg's former manager Marty only appears in two episodes (with a brief cameo in a third), but if it weren't for him, Greg never would've stayed in Beach City, and thus Steven would've never been born. Later, his brief return to Beach City directly leads to Greg and Pearl ending the tension between them and Pearl finally getting over Rose's death.
  • The Venture Bros.:Dr. Henry Killinger has only three major appearances (with bit roles in few others), but in each of those appearances, plays a significant role in shaping the Venture universe:
    • His first appearance in season 2's I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills has him rebuild the Monarch's organization and reunites him with Dr. Girlfriend. These events lead up to their marriage at the end of season 2 and their evil-doing abilities have gone up a a few levels ever since.
    • His second major appearance in season 3's The Doctor is Sin has him attempt to do the same thing for Doctor Venture and Venture Industries, but ultimately serves to give Venture a Heel Realization. Venture's Jerkass tendencies have been slightly lessened ever since, though he still falls into the Jerkass with a Heart of Gold category more often than not.
    • His third appearance in the pre-Season 6 one-hour special All This and Gargantua-2, has him helping to build up and expand the Revenge Society into a legitimate supervillain organization. He also kills the Investors and saves the Guild of Calamitous Intent after the Sovereign tries to Kill 'Em All. It's a major shakeup in the Venture universe, to be sure.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Minor Role Major Impact


Echidna Tribe

Their total screentime is very short, but they're the entire reason Sonic is on Earth in the first place.

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Main / SmallRoleBigImpact

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Main / SmallRoleBigImpact