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Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome

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So your story was a smash success, and you've gotten enough interest or capital to do a sequel. However, you fear that you fully explored all of the characters in the first story and of course it would stale your writing ability to retread the same characters and events from the first story. So you need a way to not only stretch your storytelling chops, but also hand out enough twists to keep the audience surprised. How do you do this?

Why, by turning one of the main good guys into a bad guy!

When done correctly, a Face–Heel Turn can be shocking, compelling and tragic. Few things tug at the heartstrings like when a cutie is broken or when The Paragon crosses the Despair Event Horizon and goes bonkers over the unfairness of it all. When done poorly, the turn comes out of absolutely nowhere or betrays the expectations that had been set by the character's portrayal up til then. Audiences tend to become attached to their heroes and some become more "icons" than characters, leading to the audience feeling betrayed by not only that character, but the writers themselves. On the other hand, giving enough foreshadowing and glimpses into a darker side of the character makes it feel less like a cop-out and more like a natural progression.

If this is a prequel, and an enemy from the original is part of the group, then this is Doomed by Canon to happen.

A subtrope of Face–Heel Turn. Separate from (but not mutually exclusive to) Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. The opposite of a Heel–Face Return.

Super-Trope of Rogue Protagonist, Fallen Hero, and The Paragon Always Rebels. See also Ron the Death Eater for fanfiction, and Adaptational Villainy. Contrast Protagonist Journey to Villain, which is all about showing their slide to villainy onscreen.

WARNING: Contains major spoilers.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Joker, the head of the British Library special forces in Read or Die. Between the OVA, where he's on the side of the good guys, and R.O.D The TV, the death of Gentleman (the Man Behind the Man of hundreds of years of British history who envisioned a sort of Utopia under the British Empire) shifts Joker into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, working toward what he sees as Gentleman's dream by means ranging from ethically dubious to outright evil.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 4 turned Mai Valentine, the gang's Cool Big Sis, into an angst-ridden member of a villainous biker gang. It turns out she was under More than Mind Control by the Arc Villain, Dartz.
  • In the sequel to Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Gasser switches sides and becomes a hair hunter to protect his previously unmentioned sister from harm.
  • In the third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard, Kai (the resident Invincible Hero) is on the receiving end of a Hannibal Lecture and ends up Brainwashed and Crazy, becoming the emissary for the main bad guys.
  • Season 3 of Shakugan no Shana has the male protagonist, Yuji Sakai, of the first two seasons, suddenly becoming the Big Bad, leaving the female lead and love interest Shana shocked and confused.
  • Played straight and zigzagged in Tokyo Ghoul:Re, which takes place after a two year Time Skip:
    • Hinami Fueguchi was enticed to join Aogiri Tree, through her desire to become stronger. She returns as a prominent member handling the group's intelligence network.
    • Plucky Comic Relief Seidou Takizawa turns out to be Not Quite Dead, and returns as an Ax-Crazy One-Eyed Ghoul serving as Aogiri's first successful Super-Soldier. He proceeds to slaughter his way through every Investigator he crosses paths with, taking the time to chat with a former pupil before tearing her head off because she used to talk during lectures.
    • Played with, depending on which side has the Sympathetic P.O.V.. Ken Kaneki returns as Amnesiac Hero Haise Sasaki, working for the CCG as a Ghoul Investigator and mentor to an experimental squad of Super Soldiers. While he remains the protagonist, his former friends now have to worry about him hunting them down if they cross paths again.
  • Happens to Gennai in Digimon Adventure tri., who was originally The Mentor for the kids. Here, he's one of the bad guys. Or so we thought. The Man in Black is actually a shapeshifting creature with its own evil plans and stole Gennai's form.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, the hero Jonathan is joined by Straizo, a fellow Hamon wielder. 50 years later after Dio's defeat, Straizo returns in Battle Tendency, where he's revealed to have such a great fear of growing old that he turned himself into a vampire and tries killing Joseph, Jonathan's grandson.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, Arthur Pendragon and Jericho was steadfast allies of the country Liones and the heroes. In the sequel, Four Knights of the Apocalypse, Arthur has turned into a paranoid and xenophobic king due to seeing the atrocities of nonhuman races and is determined to make Camelot survive, no matter what it takes or how many people he kills. He even declares war on Liones due to a prophecy saying four kids from there are destined to destroy him. Jericho defected to Arthur's side due to him promising a world where she could have Lancelot's love.

    Comics 
  • Fantastic Four: In Roy Thomas's run, the 50s hero Marvel Boy returns as The Crusader, apparently having gone insane since his home on Uranus was destroyed by mysterious causes, and is now on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against some bankers he holds as partially responsible. A few decades later this was retconned as being an insane, defective clone of Marvel Boy the Uranians cooked up. The real Marvel Boy's just fine and dandy.
  • Jean Loring in Identity Crisis (2004), who went completely off her rocker to try winning back the affection of her ex-husband, Ray Palmer.
  • The survivors of doomed worlds from Crisis on Infinite Earths (Earth-Two Superman, Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor Jr.) were brought back as the villains of Infinite Crisis, becoming contemptuous of the Modern Age DC Universe and launching a scheme to forcefully return things to the Silver Age status quo.
  • Supergirl: Post-Crisis Linda Danvers retired from superheroics after Many Happy Returns, but returned in Shadowpact, transformed into a vengeful "Fallen Angel".
  • Batgirl (2000): Cassandra Cain during DC's One Year Later storyarc. This was not a popular storyline (she was quite Out of Character even aside from the evil) and eventually got Ret Conned into mind control.
  • Maxwell Lord had always been depicted as a somewhat egotistical businessman who recreated the Justice League in part to make himself look good but ultimately proved to be a fairly honorable person. Then came Infinite Crisis, in which he turns out he originally founded the new League in order to undermine all superheroes. And, while originally, the reveal was that he was always evil, despite readers having seen his inner thoughts at multiple points in that Justice League run to prove otherwise, it was later expanded on him having family members negatively affected by superheroes that made him want to undermine, or at least monitor them.
  • In World War Hulk we learn that Miek, who was a friend and ally of Hulk in Planet Hulk, was the one who let the explosion destroy Sakaar just so Hulk would reach the WorldBreaker stage. This was at least was foreshadowed by him passing a Despair Event Horizon at the apparent extinction of his species, leaving him the only one of the Warbound without a happy ending.
  • In The Ultimates 2, Black Widow is revealed to be The Mole working for the Liberators and her native country, Russia.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Penny Dreadful, who has been working for the D.E.O. for years, shows up as part of Circe's giant collection of female villains with no explanation. Her subsequent appearances all have her as a villain and she ends up dying as one, with the sudden Face–Heel Turn never explained.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Inverted in The Prayer Warriors, Clarisse, Annabeth and Grover were villains in The Evil Gods Part 1, but they inexplicably get brought back as being on the Prayer Warriors' side (in addition to being brought Back from the Dead, but that's another issue). Then again, this might be a straight example when you consider that the Prayer Warriors murder anyone who disagrees with them.
    • Played straight with Hagrid. He's introduced in "Battle With The Witches" as a "secret Christian" inside Hogwarts, and helps the Prayer Warriors. He continues to do so in "Titans Strike Back," but when Draco meets with him while planning on infiltrating the rebuilt Hogwarts, Hagrid springs a trap on him and reveals that he was Evil All Along.
  • In Half-Life: Full Life Consequences, Gordon Freeman, The Hero from canon and the protagonist's heroic brother in this fanfic, comes Back from the Dead in "What Has to Be Done", as a "zombie goast" who wants to kill his brother out of revenge, and again as a Brainwashed and Crazy slave of the Combines in "Free Man", although once he's defeated, he dies as himself.

    Film — Animated 
  • Talia Al Ghul in Son of Batman was shown to be a very caring mother to Damien enough that she left him with Bruce after Deathstroke near killed everyone in the League of Shadows. However when she returns in Batman: Bad Blood, she has suddenly gone evil, tries to brainwash Batman into following her plans, and has no scruples about trying to kill her son. Even making a clone of him, aged him up and then killing him when he gets too clingy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Babysitter (2017), Melanie is Cole's 12-year-old neighbor and his only friend at school. She even lets him take refuge at her dad's house so he can hide from Bee and her cult. However, by the start of The Babysitter: Killer Queen, Melanie has joined the cultists as their new leader and plots to kill her former friend, without remorse.
  • In RoboCop (1987), the CEO of Omni Consumer Products is largely uninvolved in the story. In RoboCop 2, he takes center stage as the Corrupt Corporate Executive driving the villainous plot.
  • TRON: Legacy:
    • CLU is the Big Bad of the film after being Flynn's heroic program in the original.
    • Tron himself a.k.a. Rinzler, courtesy of being corrupted and reprogrammed by Clu.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country turns Admiral Cartwight from Star Trek IV into a co-conspirator with the bad guys.
  • Mission: Impossible (1996) turns Jim Phelps, the unwavering mastermind of the original series, into a bitter cynic who betrays his team for a multi-million-dollar payoff. To say that fans of the series were angry would be an understatement. Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier in the original, walked out of the movie in disgust, while Peter Graves and Martin Landau also voiced their displeasure (Graves turned down an offer to reprise his role as Phelps because of this).
  • Ugg the alien bounty hunter who was one of the heroes in the first three Critters film is the main villain in the fourth film.
  • Terminator Genisys: John Connor is turned into a Terminator and sent back in time after Sarah and Kyle.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
    • The film reveals that the eponymous Winter Soldier is Cap's old war buddy Bucky Barnes, now Brainwashed and Crazy. Luckily, he's redeemed at the end.
    • It also does this to many SHIELD agents who had appeared throughout the MCU's existence who were revealed to be Hydra moles, including Jasper Sitwell and Senator Stern.
  • Although neither side was ever shown to be completely in the right or wrong (being a Captain America movie, we can assume that Team Cap were the "heroes" and Team Iron Man the "villains"), the two sides of Captain America: Civil War rapidly approach lethal measures in the airport fight, culminating in a shot meant for Falcon from Vision's Mind Stone instead hitting War Machine's Arc Reactor, cutting off the suit's power and paralyzing him from the waist down in the resulting crash. Despite this, Iron Man still relents upon finding Cap and Bucky in Siberia, until Zemo reveals that the Winter Soldier killed Stark's parents, launching Iron Man into a rage-fueled, No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the pair.
  • Koba in Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn't the nicest ape, but he still had justification for the things he did and supported Caesar. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, he becomes the Big Bad as his hatred of the humans becomes so great that he attempts to assassinate Caesar and sets fire to their camp and blames the humans to start a war against them.
  • Jurassic World, Henry Wu is a Morally Ambiguous Doctorate who strikes a deal with the Big Bad to explore the possibility of weaponizing dinosaurs. He deliberately engineers the I. Rex to be strong and smart enough that it will inevitably escape, even though this would endanger everyone on the island (implied to be thousands of people when it happens) and destroy any future the park might have had as a business. Harboring no loyalty towards Masrani (his boss) or the dream of the late John Hammond, his sole motivation in the film seems to be For Science!. This is rather jarring when compared to his appearance in the first movie, where he never showed any antagonism towards the other characters or malevolent intent in creating dinosaurs (though admittedly, he was a pretty minor character). He grows to regret his actions by the time of Jurassic World Dominion, managing to redeem himself in the end.
  • Pacific Rim: Uprising has Newt become the Big Bad after his repeated drifting with a Kaiju Brain allows the Precursors to get inside his head.
  • In Transformers: The Last Knight, William Lennox, one of the Autobots' human allies in the original trilogy, has reluctantly been forced to join the TRF, a task force designed specifically to hunt both Autobots and Decepticons alike.

    Literature 
  • In the first story of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown series, detective Aristide Valentin of the Paris police force is a likable Inspector Lestrade to the title character, totally fooled by Father Brown's Obfuscating Stupidity but competent enough to follow the trail of clues the little priest leaves for him. In the next story, however, he becomes a Straw Atheist who murders a man to prevent him from leaving money to the church in his will. (And, for extra irony points, the villain from the first story is subsequently given a Heel–Faith Turn to become The Watson.)
  • In Inheritance Cycle, Murtagh initially looks like he ran afoul of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome with No Body Left Behind from an ambush at the start of the second book, but appears at the end alive...and now Forced into Evil and another Dragon Rider because he was actually captured and brought back to Galbatorix, who tortured him and used his true name to bind him to his will. With that said, Murtagh goes for Bothering by the Book and resisting where he can, refusing to take Eragon captive after curbstomping him, merely taking his father's sword back. Galbatorix, however, gets wise to this and mind-controls Murtagh for special messages. In the last book, Galbatorix torturing Nasuada allows Murtagh to change his true name and gain his freedom.
  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.
    • Dr. Victor is just a quirky coroner in Unnatural Acts, but is a major antagonist of the next book, Hair Raising, where he inadvertently starts a werewolf war by not-so-inadvertently scalping several werewolves (albeit nonfatally) as part of a Mad Scientist experiment to cure his baldness.
    • In Tastes Like Chicken, mail-order sorcerer Alterro may be a greedy scammer, but he is also a useful and underappreciated ally, inventing a useful combat spell that Dan uses in a fight against a Serial Killer and letting Dan know about the sinister truth behind some magic that the Big Bad is using. When he returns in Bats in the Belfry, he is kidnapping zombies, decapitating them, and selling their still conscious heads as souvenirs.
  • In Dora Wilk Series, after being Dora's staunch ally for first five books, Katarzyna turns against her in the sixth one, suddenly having issues with Dora's mixed blood - a fact known even before the series started. She mostly has problems with the fact that by the series finale, Dora doesn't even try to hide her mixed heritage, which Katarzyna finds disgusting.
  • Atticus Finch, an iconic hero in To Kill a Mockingbird, becomes a senile old racist in its sequel, Go Set a Watchman (written first but published and set afterwards). This is shocking both in and out of universe, with Jean-Louise expressing her distaste, and many critics have also voiced displeasure at the dismantling of one of the most inspiring heroes in American history.
  • Harry Potter:

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Superhero Taisen, former Gokai Red Marvelous actually takes command of a Legion of Doom to further his quest for the Greatest Treasure. All a plan between the Super Sentai and the Kamen Riders to manipulate the bad guys, of course.
    • All the Gokaigers in the usual teamup with Go-Busters. Naturally, they were also faking it.
  • During the original run of Doctor Who, Chancellor Borusa had in the past been depicted as a politically motivated member of the Time Lords High Council, but ultimately someone whom the Doctor could work with and even regard as a friend. In "The Five Doctors", he turned out to be the villain, orchestrating a mad scheme to resurrect Rassilon and gain immortality.
    • Admittedly, every time the show returned to Gallifrey, it seemed that more of the cracks in the Time Lords' "perfect society" would show, to the point where the Doctor would call them out, declaring them, "the oldest civilization, decadent, degenerate and rotten to the core!" By the time of the new series, the entire Time Lords species had crossed a collective Moral Event Horizon, plotting to destroy all of time to preserve themselves. This ended up being retconned, however, as the actions of a small minority of Time Lords, after which they save the Doctor's life by granting him a new regeneration cycle.
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, The Woobie hires Michael to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In the next episode, the same man is the villain, as his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the men responsible claims innocent lives and Michael takes it upon himself to stop him.
  • Charmed:
    • Cole Turner began as a straight up Anti-Villain before undergoing a Heel–Face Turn. He was possessed by an evil entity in Season 4 and forced to be killed. When he returns in Season 5 he's presented as a straight-up villain.
    • The Crone was a True Neutral in her first Season 5 appearance - calling a truce between good and evil to prevent bloodshed over Wyatt Halliwell. Her second appearance has her as a villain who tries to kidnap the child herself.
  • RoboCop: Prime Directives sees Alex Murphy's son, Jimmy, as an executive of OCP—a typical OCP executive as a result of the death of his father (and unknown to him until later, becoming RoboCop) and later his mother. That said, he does pull a Heel–Face Turn at the end of part 3.
  • Angel:
    • There were plans were to bring (good guy) Doyle back as an antagonist in Season 5, but Glenn Quinn's death put a stop to those. This was changed to bringing back Lindsey to fulfill the role. While Lindsey had originally been an antagonist, by the time he left in Season 2, he'd morphed into more of an Anti-Hero who had buried the hatchet with Angel and moved on from working with the villains. Much like it would have done with Doyle, Season 5 returned him in an antagonist role.
    • The demon Skip was a seemingly benevolent entity or Good Is Not Nice persona in his first two Season 3 appearances. Then it turns out he was working for the Big Bad Jasmine the whole time when he shows up in Season 4.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This often happens to some wrestlers who are lower down on the card, especially in developmental. While creative works out the kinks in their character, they may just randomly appear in a different role on a new episode. For example they might be a face in their first few appearances and then inexplicably switch to heel.
  • Nikita made her first SHIMMER appearance as a face. In her second, she turned heel.
  • Dominik Dijakovic and Mia Yim are both faces in NXT. In the main roster, they are heels as a part of Retribution and change ringname into T-Bar and Reckoning.
  • Aliyah debuted as a face in an NXT battle royal. In her second appearance - a singles match against Carmella - she appeared as a heel.
  • Billie Kay appeared as a face jobber on NXT at first, before eventually adopting a Femme Fatale heel character.
  • Inverted for Bayley, who debuted as a heelish jobber at first, before settling into the All-Loving Hero gimmick she became famous for.
    • Also inverted for Bobby Roode, who started his WWE career in NXT and spent his entire time there as a heel, but turned face when he debuted on SmackDown Live in August 2017.
  • The Riott Squad made their main roster debut as a trio of heels. All three of their members - Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan - had been faces on NXT.
  • Solo Sikoa competed on NXT as a face before debuting on the main roster as a heel by joining the Bloodline.
  • Inverted and subverted with Xia Li. She was a heel in NXT, but turned face upon her main roster debut by "protecting" other faces....only to turn heel again a few weeks later when she decided no one was worthy of her protection anymore and only wanted to protect herself.

    Radio 
  • Nicholas Adamsworth (voiced by Dick Beals), a minor character from Adventures in Odyssey, was an ethical, well-meaning child-prodigy in his first two appearances. He came back many episodes later as a hacker who changed people's grades to bribe some students and to get revenge on others. His change in character is lampshaded, but the reasons for it are never actually explored beyond a nonchalant handwave on how some people change for the worse over time.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Discussed in Alan Wake. In one chapter, you encounter a dying man who has just been attacked by his Taken best friend, thoroughly confused as to why his best friend suddenly turned on him and comparing his situation to a good movie getting a crappy sequel no one asked for, where the hero's best friend is now suddenly a bad guy for no reason.
  • Masamune in Chrono Cross. In Chrono Trigger, the Masamune is a coveted magical weapon which is said to be the only weapon capable of hurting the wicked sorcerer Magus. It's outright said many times that only the Legendary Hero can wield the sword and at one point, said Hero even goes through a Secret Test of Character which allows the sword to recognize him as its true owner and unlock its full potential. Then, in the sequel, the Masamune is explicitly stated to be an "evil" sword and anyone who wields it will immediately go insane. However, this is Hand Waved in that the Masamune is sentient and inhabited by two mischievous young spirits. When their big sister shows up and smacks some sense into them, the Masamune becomes good again. The PS1 port of Trigger included as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles adds a post-ending cutscene detailing the fall of Guardia and subsequent theft of Masamune, suggesting the change in alignment may be due to the sword racking up a huge body count in the intervening years and getting corrupted in the process, not unlike the origins of Soul Edge.
  • In Metal Gear:
    • Gray Fox, Schneider and Dr. Pettrovich were originally on Solid Snake's side in the first game, Metal Gear. In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, all three defected to Zanzibarland for different reasons.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty cheerfully subverts this — the villain claims to be Solid Snake, but he clearly isn't.
    • Zero, Para-Medic and Sigint, Naked Snake's support crew from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, are revealed to be the founding members of The Patriots (the shadowy organization behind the events of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty) in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. While in retrospect it can be argued that Metal Gear Solid 3 was already setting them up as the future founders of the Patriots, as there were hints of what they would become throughout their interactions with Snake, their nice personalities in the game made them very unlikely they would ever go dark.
    • Dr. "Huey" Emmerich in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was a meek scientist (much like his son Hal) who gets easily intimidated by the game's antagonist, Hot Coldman, and is too shy to confess his love to Dr. Strangelove, who is portrayed as a totally harmless character. In Metal Gear Solid V, he allegedly sells out MSF to XOF, the Cipher Strike Force responsible for the destruction of Mother Base during the events of Ground Zeroes, seemingly kills his wife Strangelove by locking her inside the A.I. Pod and leaving her to starve to death, spreads the Parasite outbreak and helps Eli hijack Sahelanthropus in The Phantom Pain. Granted, we never actually see Huey commit any of these hideous deeds on-screen, but his ever-changing narrative every time he is interrogated over accusations doesn't give him much credibility.
  • In the 2009 Bionic Commando game, the Big Bad is revealed to be Super Joe, the war hero you rescued in the original Bionic Commando.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 inverts it. Tromell Guado was The Dragon to Seymour, actively sending people out to kill the protagonists after they murdered Seymour, along with destroying the evidence that Seymour killed his own father. In the two-year Time Skip the entire Guado race suffered a collective My God, What Have I Done? — and exiled themselves to the Macalania Woods. One sidequest is preventing the Ronso from slaughtering the tribe. If the player does things correctly Tromell will become the new leader of the Guado and direct them towards a brighter future.
  • Diablo II: The protagonist of the original is now the Big Bad.
    • Justified: by the end of the first game the protagonist was driven insane over the course of the adventure into hell. Accidentally killing his little brother instead of Diablo was the final nail in the coffin, and in a state of madness he attempted to force Diablo's soulstone into his brain to contain him. The simple explanation was that it didn't work.
    • The other heroes, the Mage and the Rogue, also become bosses. It is a Crapsack World after all.
  • Lloyd Irving in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Well, sort of. It was an impostor and the real Lloyd was only hindering your goals because he was trying to set things right as well.
  • Wing Commander:
  • Halo: This happens to AI Construct Cortana. At the end of Halo 4, she poignantly sacrifices herself to save others. Come Halo 5: Guardians, she's both inexplicably returned and inexplicably evil, determined to conquer and rule over organic life in order to save it from itself.
  • Soul Series:
    • This happens to heroine-turned-Action Mom, Sophitia Alexandra, in Soulcalibur IV; where she's made to defend Soul Edge in order to save her daughter's life. What's worse, Sophitia begins Slowly Slipping Into Evil because Evil Feels Good, making her even more somber and conflicted. The entire ordeal brings her dangerously close to the Despair Event Horizon.
    • The same game reveals that that eponymous Soul Calibur itself is a Knight Templar at best and Evil All Along at worst. When the sword reaches full power and gains sentience, it's shown that Soul Calibur, long thought to be the "good" sword throughout the series, is technically just as "evil" as its counterpart. The difference is that the Soul Edge likes to spread chaos and misery while Soul Calibur wants tranquility, order and peace... by freezing the entire world solid. The next game ups the ante by having the spirit of Soul Calibur, Elysium, pull a Dead Person Impersonation on Sophitia (who died between games, saving Pyrrha with the Soul Edge shard embedded near her heart from the events of Soul Edge at the cost of her own life) in order to manipulate her vengeful son Patroklos, leading him to kill his own sister Pyrrha after she's become malfested (fortunately, there's a Reset Button courtesy of Edge Master) and later trying to outright take control of Pat via a Battle in the Center of the Mind, with the implication she'll turn him into Soul Calibur's equivalent of Nightmare if she wins. The series did hint at this development a few times prior note , but for many the twist was both unexpected and very poorly done.
  • Vladimir Lem in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. It wasn't that he was a particularly nice guy to begin with, being a high-ranking member of the local Russian mob as well as more fond of explosives than is strictly healthy, but he was a Worthy Opponent in an Enemy Mine situation. As Max himself puts it:
    "Vladimir was one of those old-time bad guys with honor and morals, which made him almost one of the good guys. None of us was a saint."
  • Contra: Shattered Soldier reveals that the Blood Falcon Commander is none other than Lance Bean, Bill Rizer's partner from earlier games. He went insane trying to reveal the Government Conspiracy he and Bill were duped into helping cover up. Likewise, in Neo Contra, Lucia, Player 2 in Shattered Soldier is revealed to be part of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad and dies attempting to kill Bill and exterminate humanity for reasons which are not even vaguely explained.
  • Alex Mercer becomes the Big Bad in [PROTOTYPE 2] after crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
  • World of Warcraft has gone hard on various characters from the previous games or the expanded universe in order to turn them into bosses which may be killed for loot. "Going mad," is apparently an occupational hazard for lore characters, as it's the most common excuse used to turn them into raid bosses. This list includes Illidan Stormrage, Kael'Thas Sunstrider, Malygos, Norzdormu, Fandral Staghelm, and Archbishop Benedictus.
    • Illidan is a notorious example, to the point where Blizzard vowed to one day bring him back and redeem him to make up for it. They even admitted that they only made him a villain so the expansion would have a popular character to confront and get loot from. In Warcraft III, Illidan was a complex Nominal Hero who used any means necessary to gain power and save his people, in that order, but despite fears from those around him never succumbed to the corruption of the dark powers he was toying with. Come the Burning Crusade expansion, he's been "driven mad" and turned to evil with no adequately satisfying explanation. They finally followed through in the Legion expansion, making him one of the major allies (though calling him "hero" would still be a stretch) and revealing his "driven mad" motivations was more him refusing to explain the reasonings behind his actions to anyone save his closest allies, which made people rather obviously think he was crazy/evil (something he had technically suffered from as early as Warcraft III).
    • Blizzard also expressed regret over Kael'thas's characterization, but after almost immediately bringing him back from the dead as an even more desperate Legion pawn, figured they missed their chance to properly repair his character.
    • Malygos the Spell-weaver was introduced in the books as the Aspect of the Blue Dragonflight and protector of all magic in Azeroth, a friendly and wise dragon, who was only brought down when Deathwing wiped out most of the blues 10,000 years ago. Malygos then participated in the defeat of Deathwing in modern times, and the blues are shown as slowly coming back from the brink. Then he inexplicably decides to wipe out all mortal magic-users and becomes a bad guy, forcing Alextrasza the Life-binder to help put him down. The official line is that Malygos wasn't crazy, however, but rather doing his job properly for the first time in thousands of years. However, this rather jars with his attempts to police mortal mages being more dangerous than the magic itself.
    • The Zandalari trolls were introduced as peaceful and neutral to Horde and Alliance alike, seeking to stop the return of Hakkar and record the history of the collapsing Drakkari troll empire. In Cataclysm they began inciting the Amani and Gurubashi to reclaim their empires due to growing fears about trolls being wiped out. Mists of Pandaria escalated this when the Zandalari willingly joined forces with the Thunder King. Here their reason is finally explained: The Cataclysm is causing their homeland to sink into the ocean; without a new homeland they'll be wiped out. Come Battle for Azeroth, the Horde story campaign revolves around allying with them, eventually making them a playable faction after cleaning up the corrupt factions that caused the war in the first place.
    • This happens to the Horde leaders, most notably Garrosh and Sylvanas. For Garrosh, he was turned into a villain after he received very poor player feedback for being overly aggressive and receiving empty hype, replacing the very popular Thrall in the process. This ended with a civil war where Horde players had to invade their own capital city. The problem with Sylvanas, on the other hand, is more annoyance that another Horde warchief turned into a major villain rather than it seeming out of character for her to be so vicious.
  • The Ax-Crazy Big Bad of Army of Two 3: The Devil's Cartel is revealed to be Salem, one of the two main characters from the first two games.
  • In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Hardin is on the hero's side. In Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem's second book, it is revealed that he has turned evil. This is due to the Big Bad of the first game corrupting him with an Artifact of Doom, which exploited Hardin's insecurities over not being loved by Nyna, whose marriage to him was purely political.
  • Penelope Mouse from Sly Cooper turns bum at some point between the third and fourth game, and it comes right the hell out of nowhere.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Leon Silverburg in the Suikoden series went from a recruitable ally to a Well-Intentioned Extremist in the sequel. This is a justified example, though — the stories are always set in different countries (and different points in time, though II is only several years after I), and so the characters who do reappear will take different approaches based on who they're working for. Leon isn't even a villain anyway, he's just taking a different approach (Suikoden thrives on Grey-and-Gray Morality), so he's not really that different from the original game in terms of personality.
  • Dead Rising:
  • In The Walking Dead: Season Two, it is shown that the group that the protagonists of the 400 Days DLC can possibly join is none other than Bill Carver's group. However, Bonnie ends up helping Clementine and her group escape Carver and ends up going with them by the end.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Junko Enoshima, the Big Bad of the first game, attempts to convince the survivors that Makoto Naegi has fallen victim to this. He hasn't.
  • Though calling Ada Wong a "good" guy is being rather generous, she was never as outright heinously evil as she is in Resident Evil 6 where she mercilessly infects the same soldiers who protected and escorted her to safety just for kicks and is soon discovered to be the leader of a NEO Umbrella that plans to destroy the world. It's revealed that Ada is actually a woman named Carla Radames who has been subjected to Clone by Conversion thanks to the Ada-obsessed Big Bad behind Neo Umbrella. The real Ada is still the same snarky, pragmatic Anti-Villain she always was and is actively working to stop Carla.
  • Knights of the Old Republic:
    • In the first Knights of the Old Republic, Master Vrook is a character who many players saw as a grumpy, grouchy old man. In truth, he only acts this way if the player takes dark side options. If they play light side and talk to Vrook, he'll compliment them on their actions. By the time of the sequel however, Flanderization sets in and he just hates you regardless of how well you act.
    • By the time of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Revan, the protagonist of the first game, has clearly gone insane from his 300 years of captivity. At first, he takes over an old battle station and cooks up a plan to wipe out 98% of the Imperial population (and likely, a good chunk of the Republic's population in the process). Then he returns, waging war on both the Republic and the Empire as the leader of a fanatical cult. Then it turns out that this is only half of Revan, who had become split between his good side and his dark side, with the latter becoming the antagonist cult leader.
  • A minor example in Far Cry 4. CIA agent Willis Huntley, a major character around the mid-point of the previous game, shows up again to give new protagonist Ajay a couple missions. These missions turn out to be eliminating other CIA assets in the area to remove evidence of the CIA's presence in Kyrat, after which he throws Ajay out of his plane, leaving him to be captured by the guards of the person whose lieutenants (the aforementioned other CIA assets) he just killed.
  • In Time Crisis, Robert Baxter was one of the player characters in the second game. Then in the fifth, he becomes the Big Bad.
  • Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising introduces the Chaos faction, as well as a Karma Meter that determines which of your characters is slowly falling to Chaos. In-game, the traitor will wind up being the Sergeant with the most Corruption points by the time you've attacked the Honour Guard stronghold just before the mission to go after them. If you keep everyone pure till then, the traitor will be Techmarine Martellus instead. However, the sequel Retribution establishes that canonically Devastator Sergeant Avitus turns traitor.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Knowledge, in Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC. In previous appearances, including vanilla Skyrim, Mora is always a neutral entity, though he could be a bit ruthless in achieving his goals. In Dragonborn, he orchestrates everything that happens, putting millions of innocent lives at risk, just to obtain the "secrets" of the Skaal.
    • In a case of sudden prequel heel syndrome, Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, is much more malevolent and sinister than he ever was before in The Elder Scrolls Online's Mages Guild arc.
    • To sum it up, whenever Aedra and Daedra are involved, expect Blue-and-Orange Morality to be in full effect. Almalexia, supposedly a benign entity, and Azura, a Daedric Prince, are the greatest examples, and even those may shift depending on the time period and stakes at play.
  • Mass Effect:
    • While Donnel Udina is never a likable character, he is at least consistently presented as an advocate for humanity, and receives several Pet the Dog moments in Mass Effect 3 after the invasion of Earth, which makes it all the more surprising when he turns out to be The Mole for Cerberus and helps with the attempted coup on the Citadel, although it's implied he did so out of desperation following the invasion.
    • The Illusive Man is the founder of the N.G.O. Superpower Cerberus that performs all manner of mad science experiments to ensure humanity's survival. While Cerberus was presented as villains in the first game through their unethical experiments, in the second they bring Shepard Back from the Dead and prove themselves to be Well-Intentioned Extremists by explaining their previous actions and doing everything they can to help him/her stop the Reapers. However by the third game, they turn into full-blown villains due to the Illusive Man's indoctrination by the Reapers and perform actions such as killing civilians, attempting to provoke a war between the Turians and Krogan, attacking the Citadel, hunting down former members, and turning people into Husks.
  • Inverted in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. During Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Nadine Ross is The Dragon and an enemy of Nate. In The Lost Legacy, she retires from the PMC business and takes up treasure hunting as The Lancer to Chloe Frazer. While she's still bitter about the events of the games due to the hand the Drake Brothers had in dismantling her organization and angered that Chloe was working with Sam, she ultimately buries the hatchet with him by game's end.
  • Torchlight: The Alchemist was one of the player characters classes in the first game, but by the time of the sequel, his experiments with the the Heart of Ordrak have turned him into the Big Bad.
  • Puyo Puyo 7 features the sudden introduction of a dark version of Arle as a villain, with Arle usually being a protagonist character throughout the Puyo Puyo series, including in the previous game, 15th Anniversary. Other characters wonder what happened to the real Arle; Dark Arle actually is the real Arle, but under the possession of Ecolo.
  • A rare inversion of this trope occurs in NEO: The World Ends with You: whereas in the original game Sho Minamimoto is a powerful Reaper who causes much havoc and even gives the heroes trouble before he goes down, in the First Week of this game he's supposedly a Player working alongside Rindo and Fret as part of the Wicked Twisters. However, it's eventually revealed that he only assisted the Wicked Twisters throughout the First Week as a means to determine the negative side-effects of Rindo's Rewind powers, and he is fought at Day 4 of the Final Week, prompting Neku to appear and save the day. At the Final Day, though, he assists the heroes and the Shibuya Reapers into containing the Plague Noise.
  • Mega Man Zero begins with the titular Zero being awakened after a century of stasis and being told that X is the leader of Neo Arcadia, and has been systematically been retiring reploids under false pretenses of them having gone Maverick. It's later revealed that this X is a copy created by Ciel to run Neo Arcadia, but who lacked X's moral judgments (and presumably Dr. Light's safeguards) and grew to consider all reploids a threat to humans. The original X no longer has a body and now exists as a Cyber Elf who has been guiding Zero the entire time.
  • Galaxy Angel II: The first installment, Zettai Ryouiki no Tobira, has Forte Stollen, former leader of the original Moon Angel Wing from Galaxy Angel, joining up with rebel forces to take over Planet Seldar, allegedly because they're taking too long to integrate the EDEN technology into their culture. Halfway through the game, it's revealed that Forte had been blackmailed by Verel into leading the coup by holding Milfeulle and the Seldar royal family hostage. She does her best to try and minimize the casualties and, once she's finally able to escape, turns herself in to be judged by her actions.
  • Alvis in Xenoblade Chronicles is a mysterious and cryptic individual who ultimately sides with Shulk and helps him defeat the Evil God who had been planning to destroy and recreate the world of Bionis. Much later, in Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed, Alvis is revealed to have become an enemy to both Shulk and Rex, the protagonist of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It's actually a bit more complicated: As the personification of a microprocessor called Ontos, Alvis lost the ability to feel empathy and make nuanced decisions after the loss of its counterparts Pneuma and Logos—all of whom are meant to balance each other out—and ended up splitting into two beings: Alpha, the cold and logical figure that has Alvis' appearance and whom wants to destroy Aionios and create a new world; and A, who has Alvis' memories and empathy, and thus has sided with the Heroes once more.
  • Chronologically, when Tekken 2 was released, the shock value was that the Final Boss was the first game's protagonist, Kazuya Mishima, while the main focus is the first game's Final Boss, Heihachi Mishima. Kazuya was originally depicted as cookie-cutter as possible in the first game, but by the second game, he's all on board of committing atrocities with a glee. Latter games would later reveal that this was an inevitable outcome: Kazuya has walked the path of villainy even before the first game began, he was just pretty good at hiding it until he reached his initial goal of deposing Heihachi. Ever since then, when Tekken fans see Kazuya returning and acting villainous, no one is surprised anymore.
  • Marathon: In the first game, Tycho (the third A.I. aboard the Marathon) is antagonistic to Durandal on the behalf of humans. Come the sequel and one painful reconstruction/torture by the Pfhor later, and he is firmly in camp evil.
  • Criminal Case: Dr. Ernest Emerson and Dr. Shweta Noorani appear as minor one-shot characters in Criminal Case: World Edition where they end up being innocent of killing the Victim of the Week, before returning as major antagonists in the sequel, Criminal Case: The Conspiracy, with Ernest being an Arc Villain and Shweta The Dragon.
  • Subverted in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom where Yunobo has seemingly turned into a Corrupt Corporate Executive and the fantasy equivalent of a drug lord, but it becomes obvious very quickly that he's being brainwashed (to the point that his Boss Subtitle is "Clearly Not Himself"). Once the mask controlling him has been destroyed, he goes right back to being his old lovable self (though a good deal braver than he was in Breath of the Wild).

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon employed this trope with the second installment, Twitch Plays Pokémon Crystal. The previous generation's protagonist, Red, was often portrayed in recaps and "lore" as a boy tortured by the Voices in his head until he clears the Pokemon League. By the time "AJ" (Ethan) reaches him on Mt. Silver, he's become a brainwashed zealot for the Helix fossil, reinterpreted as an all-powerful god, whereas AJ is on a journey to determine his own destiny and slaughter any god he finds. And because of his circumstances as a Host for the voices, Red's determined to oppose anyone who becomes a Host as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Machines: Heroic Maximal and nature-lover Rhinox from Beast Wars is reprogrammed into the evil organic-hating Vehicon general Tankor in this new series. Even after his reprogramming is undone, he still chooses to side with the Big Bad, having changed heavily from character he was in Beast Wars, possibly due to some Sanity Slippage.
  • Futurama has Leo Wong who was Amy's Jerkass father in the series but is The Heavy of the 4th movie "Into the Wild Green Yonder" where he planned to destroy 12% of the Milky Way to build the universe's biggest miniature golf course, and engages in a lot more Corrupt Corporate Executive activities, such as bribing the Professor to justify the destruction of nature for a golf course.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks downplays this with Nick Locarno. During in Star Trek: The Next Generation, he was already an amoral Jerkass, but he was willing to sacrifice his career for his colleagues and was at worst guilty of manslaughter. When he reappears in the fourth season as the Big Bad, he's become a murderous megalomaniac.
  • More than a few minor characters from Totally Spies! (Shirley the aerobics instructor, Myrna Beesbottom the WOOHP nanny and Seth Toyman the inventor of a sentient evil toyline) become the Villain of the Week in their second appearance. Myrna in particular becomes part of the Rogues Gallery.

 
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Cars 4

As Owen Wilson voices scenes for Cars 4, he notices a dramatic change in Lightning's character.

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