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The Emperor

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When ruling just one country isn't enough.

"No world shall be beyond my rule. No enemy shall be beyond my wrath."
The Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind, Warhammer 40,000

The ruler of an empire,note  usually but not always The Empire. Historically, Emperors outranked Kings, so when you need an authority figure to convey the highest possible power and rank, you can't get any higher than making them The Emperor (unless you go to The Pope, or into the otherworldly realms of Galactic Conquerors, Demon Lords and Archdevils, Celestial Paragons and Archangels, and at the most accepted highest tier, God-Emperor). The previous steps are God Save Us from the Queen!, The High Queen, She Is the King, The Good King and President Evil.

If a ruler is known as The Emperor, it is almost a sure sign that he is an Evil Overlord and the Big Bad of the story, or at least a major villain, especially if you are in a Fantasy setting. Kings, Princes, and Presidents are as likely to be good (The Good King, The Wise Prince, President Superhero) as they are to be bad (The Caligula, The Evil Prince, President Evil) but somehow The Emperor is almost always a villain of some sort. This is probably for the same reasons as Good Republic, Evil Empire. Though, the Emperor is often distinct from the Evil Overlord in that he is much more likely to be the ruler of the world, or at least the ruler of the largest and most influential country in it, instead of simply being a Sauron/Kim Jong-Il dictator cackling it up over in Latveria/Mordorland. They will frequently invoke Rank Scales with Asskicking, which can often make them the most dangerous man on the planet.

At the same time, Emperors have a tendency to be Disc One Final Bosses. It is very common for a villainous version to be hyped up as the main villain initially, before being superseded by a Greater-Scope Villain (perhaps a Sealed Evil in a Can that they released), The Man Behind the Man, or The Dragon after their defeat by the heroes and/or after betrayal from within their organization. When used like this, it is often for escalation purposes, as the initial Emperor is usually fairly normal within the setting besides his political power and (sometimes) exceptional skills, wheras their successor often has far more intimidating powers at their command.

This villainous depiction is ubiquitous in Western media. Only in historic plotlines involving the leaders of the real-life Roman Empire will they get any sympathetic depiction at all, and even then they are usually portrayed as incompetent or otherwise unflatteringly. In contrast, in China, Emperors actually served as legitimate rulers for most of recorded history, and thus Eastern media (particularly Chinese wuxia films, but also occasionally anime) do have the occasional non-evil Emperor. However, if the Emperor is legitimate and non-malevolent, his role in the plot is usually purely as a background character, often serving as an impotent foil to an Evil Chancellor who holds the true reins of power; plot-significant Emperors usually serve in the role of Big Bad.

The Emperor might be:

This trope isn't necessarily related to God-Emperor, but it may be.

Not to Be Confused with the Black Metal band Emperor.

Of course, just because the trope is titled "The Emperor" doesn't preclude the existence of actual Empresses, as some of the examples in both fiction and Real Life illustrate. An Empress is likely to be depicted more sympathetically than an Emperor. Less sympathetic female rulers are more often queens. However, some older works do presuppose that the occupant of the throne is always an Emperor, never an Empress Regnant.

See also The High King, for a king with so much power and authority that other kings are subordinate to him.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Yhwach, the King of the Quincies and the Emperor of the Vandenreich, is the final arc's Big Bad. He's a hands-on military leader, not the "isolated on the golden throne" type, who is as willing to kill his own troops as his enemies. When he fights, he becomes an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight. There's an indication that his soul thrives on war to keep functioning. Without the ability to absorb the souls of those he kills, he would be nothing more than a vegetable who can neither move nor has functioning senses. As a result, he incites war and violence wherever he can.
  • Souther from Fist of the North Star follows the Evil Overlord template to a tee. He calls himself the "Saint Emperor" and has his minions kidnap children to use as slave labor in the construction of a giant pyramid dedicated to his dead master, and he is one of the few villains in the series to hand Kenshiro an outright defeat.
  • The Big Bad Emperor Charles zi Britannia in Code Geass presides over a World Half Empty, and does everything in his power to keep it that way. This appearance is actually a front for his Assimilation Plot.
    • Empresses Jiang Lihua and Nunnally vi Britannia are the good version.
  • The Big Bad of The Vision of Escaflowne is the Zaibach Empire's Emperor Dornkirk, who is actually Sir Isaac Newton, and is currently a 200-year-old man inside a pickle jar with a telescope attached.
  • Samurai 7 has the unnamed Emperor who kidnaps women from peasant villages and implants clones of himself within them to create a perfect line of successors. He apparently had a lot of such clones: Ukyo, the series' true Big Bad, is revealed to be his 49th clone. He promptly kills the old Emperor and takes his throne for the purpose of world domination.
  • In Digimon, Ken's villain persona "the Digimon Emperor" fits this trope as well as his name would suggest. A whip-wielding Evil Overlord with a Floating Base of Doom and a costume which includes gold shoulder pads and a cape, his goal is to enslave all Digimon and take over their world. All at the tender age of eleven, too.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Frieza, having spent his entire life at the top of a galaxy-spanning empire, likes to refer to himself as "emperor of the universe" while posturing. He's very much the Evil Overlord type, with his diplomatic skills amounting to "do what I say and maybe I won't kill you and destroy your entire planet."
    • Frieza's briefly-seen father, by contrast, is exclusively referred to as King Cold.
  • Tenchi Muyo!:
    • Azusa Masaki Jurai, the Juraian Emperor, is an interesting case. In the anime he is somewhat of a jerk, but actually leans to the Benevolent Emperor category, and is a kind of a ditz, easily controlled by his mother-in-law, for whom he still keeps an immense crush, despite being Happily Married (twice). You see, Juraian royalty are indeed one Big, Screwed-Up Family.
    • His mother-in-law can control him more than because he has a crush on her. She's one of the most dangerous people in the universe to anyone: to her enemies because she is an expert tactician and leader; to her allies because she loves to use them for humor, often causing sheer chaos.
  • Shi Ryuuki from The Story of Saiunkoku is a rare benevolent emperor and a main character of his show.
  • Emperor Hotohori or Saihitei from Fushigi Yuugi is another example of a Benevolent Emperor who genuinely cares and works for the improvement of his nation. When he first visited Tamahome's house, he was surprised by the poverty he found there and is seen making a mental resolution to do something about the problem, although Tamahome was his rival in love. He also went to war for his country and died fighting.
    • He has a Foil in the form of the Kutou Emperor. Where Hotohori is young, very handsome, chaste, and does his best to rule with fairness and kindness, the Kutou Emperor is (relatively) old (maybe in his late 40s or early 50s), Hollywood Homely, lecherous, and rules with an iron fist.
    • Later, we meet Hotohori's son and sucessor, little Boushin alias Emperor Reiteizei. With the help of his kind mother, Empress Dowager Houki, he's shaping into a Reasonable Authority Figure, and he tells Mayo to shut up and stop lying about Miaka.
  • Grenadier gives us a benevolent Empress, though she is imprisoned and impersonated by her identical (villainous) bodyguard for the most of the story, so her other identical bodyguard has to free her.
  • Crest of the Stars has the Humankind Empire Abh as the series' focus and at the top is none other than Empress Ramaj. A relatively benevolent figure considering she responded to provocation by plunging half of humanity into war with the other half.
  • The Empire in Legend of the Galactic Heroes is, naturally, ruled by The Emperor, an inherited title of the ruling House Goldenbaum, whose dynasty has continued unbroken since the Empire's foundation. The emperor at the beginning of the series is Friedrich IV, a peace-loving old man who never aspired to the throne due to being far down on the list of claimants in his youth. He's uninterested in ruling or the ongoing war with The Federation and content with living in peace and enjoying the finer things in life, like his private rose garden, and lets his chief of staff and admirals run things. He's consequently quite impotent as an actual ruler, but reasonable and harmless and quite fond of main character Reinhart von Lohengramm.
    • His natural death of old age one third through the series kicks off an imperial civil war between the old noble houses who seek to keep the status quo, and a reformist faction of the military and lesser houses led by Reinhard. Reinhard wins a crushing victory and takes effective control of the empire, eventually disposing of the Goldenbaum dynasty nonviolently and establishing the Lohengramm dynasty in its stead. Reinhard becomes a reformer and rules as an enlightened and quite benevolent emperor, though he thinks nothing of using his imperial authority to force reforms through.
  • Emperor Ganishka of Berserk is of the Evil Sorcerer/Evil Overlord variety. His typical M.O. is of the Shadow Emperor variety, although he can back it up with a great deal of magical mojo when required.
  • And here's a fascinating absence. Japan, home of anime, is ruled by an emperor. Yet in any anime set in the "real" Japan, modern, historical, or future, the actual emperor of Japan never makes an appearance. Ever. Go on, try to think of any remotely successful anime where a real Emperor of Japan has so much as a cameo.
    • It should probably be pointed out, though, that for much of its history, the Emperor of Japan had very little concrete power. For many centuries, Japan was ruled by the Shoguns, and nowadays the country is ruled by the democratically elected government led by the Prime Minister. The most well known period when the emperor directly ruled the country is known as Imperial Japan (from the Meiji Restoration to WWII). There's also the Chrysanthemum taboo where you're not supposed to make fun of him and his family.
  • One Piece:
    • The Four Emperors (Yonko), the four most powerful pirates in the world, and the rulers of the New World. Currently among them is:
      • Shanks, generally the nicest one and Luffy's childhood idol.
      • Big Mom, a woman who doesn't give a damn about anything except her candy.
      • Blackbeard, major contender for overall series Big Bad
      • Kaido, who is the closest to the actual trope in terms of being an Evil Overlord.
      • Former includes Whitebeard, the World's Strongest Man, who died at the Paramount War.
      • As one of the many twists in the Reverie Arc, Luffy is declared the Fifth Emperor following his bounty hitting 1.5 billion Berries.
      • Following the Wano Arc, Kaido and Big Mom are deposed, with Luffy officially replacing one of them and Buggy the Clown (of all people) taking the other spot, once again making the number four.
    • The story later introduces Im, the secret leader of the World Government who rules over the 170 nations therein and is the only person who can sit on the Empty Throne.
  • In Transformers, the Decepticon leader commonly carries the title of Emperor of Destruction. This has recently started to come up in the American media.
  • In Fairy Tail, Emperor Spriggan aka Black Mage Zeref is the ruler of the Albareth Empire. Said empire was formed when Spriggan single-handedly united all 700+ Light and Dark guilds on the western continent and formed a magocracy that overthrew that continent's previous governments and Magic Council. Ishgar is quite wary of the man who could accomplish that. Yajeel, one of Spriggan's subordinates, claims that the Emperor is actually a Reasonable Authority Figure. He's often absent from court for years, but he has also helped maintain peace by keeping the more Hot-Blooded people like the Spriggan Twelve in check.
  • Emperor Jircniv in Overlord (2012) is a (mostly) benevolent example. Although he is known as "The Bloody Emperor" for his ruthless culling of the nobility upon coming to power, most of these nobles were rich parasites draining the country. Jircniv seems to genuinely desire to better the lives of his people, and he turned the Baharuth Empire into a prosperous country very much contrasting the rotten cesspit of corruption that is the Re-Estize Kingom. Ainz himself likes to observe him remotely using scrying spells to learn from his leadership style.
  • Nasubi Hui Guo Rou in Hunter × Hunter is the ruler of the Kakin Empire who is publicly a jolly person, but is actually a ruthless man who makes his children fight for the throne's succession.

  • Sistine Chapel: The “Delivery of the Keys” includes the Arch of Constantine, a monument synonymous with the Christian emperor, to remind the audience that Saint Peter was not just given spiritual authority, but aso earthly authority to make the Papacy a legitimate successor of the Roman Emperor.

    Card Games 
  • In the Tarot the Major Arcana usually include the Empress (III) and the Emperor (IV). While encarnating different and opposite ideas (the Empress fecundity and feminity and the Emperor power and masculinity), they share to be represented seated in thrones holding symbols of power.

    Comic Books 
  • Ming the Merciless of Flash Gordon, Emperor of Planet Mongo. Decadently evil, magical powers (in some adaptations), the works.
  • Star Wars: Legacy is a comic that takes place a hundred and thirty years after the movies. The Sith are all over the place, the Empire is back in power, there is an Emperor - but the Sith and the Empire aren't on the same side. Emperor Fel (confirmed as the descendant of Soontir Fel and the sister of Wedge Antilles, possibly also Leia and Han) isn't quite evil, though in that setting there's not a whole lot of difference.
    • Big Bad Darth Krayt also uses the title Emperor (of the Sith and Sith-aligned Imperials). So the series has two emperors, one unambigiously evil, and the other ruthless but well-meaning. In fact, Roan Fel's empire not only lets women and aliens serve as stormtroopers, but also has more reasonable economic solutions and foreign policy. The remnants of Fel's empire even join the Jedi to fight Krayt's resurgent Sith.
  • Tsar Vladimir the Conqueror in Nikolai Dante is somewhere between the evil overlord and shadow emperor.
  • Fables seems to have been written by someone taking notes from this page. The Emperor: Spikes of evil and shoulders of doom, check. Nigh-Invulnerable in battle, check. Built like a tank, check. (He's maybe 30-50 feet tall.) Abuses and executes subjects, check. Secretly controlled by an unassuming ordinary man hiding in the shadows, check.
  • Serpentor from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) is a cloned amalgamation of some of the greatest warrior/conquerors of all time, and it isn't long after his creation that he usurps power from Cobra Commander and declares himself ruler of Cobra Island.
  • One story in The Sandman involves the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar spending a day disguised as a beggar. He is rather personable and sympathetic, but may not quite qualify as benevolent: he plots to undermine the Roman Empire and bring it to an early end, with the implication that he sees this as revenge against his Creepy Uncle Julius.
  • Issue 12 of the Invader Zim (Oni) comics sees Zim and Dib accidentally sent into a Bad Future where Earth has been successfully conquered by Zim's future self, who now styles himself as "Emperor Zim" and rules with an iron fist (and a goatee).
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Volume 1: The Saturnain Emperor rules over the bodies orbiting Saturn with an iron fist, has developed a ranking within the nobility based entirely on Asskicking Leads to Leadership with failures in battle harshly punished, and is plotting to invade earth using abducted human slaves to build the infrastructure needed to do so. For bonus points he looks like a horned Devil.
    • Volume 2: The Sangtee Emperor is the Emperor of an Empire that spans at least two star systems. Her Empire has a history of cruel and deadly misogyny and chattel slavery but under the current Emperor they're moving away from these practices.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Chinese Emperor in Mulan is depicted as noble and wise, even grandfatherly.
  • Lord Shen from Kung Fu Panda 2, who is the tyrannical peacock ruler of China who actually wants to threaten his subjects with a barrage of cannons and destroy kung fu.
  • Emperor Kuzco, the antihero of The Emperor's New Groove, is a rare example of an Emperor who is neither old, evil, powerful, or particularly impressive at all. Rather, he's a foppish, immature young man mostly interested in satisfying his own whims. At the end, after he's learned his lesson, he starts edging into Benevolent Emperor territory.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars is probably the archetypical example, being an Evil Overlord, the series' main Big Bad, and an incredibly powerful Sith Lord famous for blasting people with lightning.
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor features the Emperor of China (who knows Kung Fu and has superpowers) as the main villain.
  • In Hero (2002), the Emperor of China fills an ambivalently antagonistic role. The heroes of the story want to kill him due to the losses they suffered in his war to unify the five kingdoms into a single country (they were from the four losing kingdoms), and because they consider him as a tyrant. Ultimately the main character decides to spare the Emperor's life, since unifying the kingdoms is the only way to stop them from constantly fighting each other and thus bring peace. Regardless, midway through the film a failed assassination fight scene shows the Emperor is perfectly capable of matching a master swordsman blow-for-blow.
  • Gladiator shows Marcus Aurelius as a Benevolent Emperor, and his son and successor Commodus, not so benevolent.
  • The Emperor of the Galaxy from Starcrash. An interesting subversion is that the Emperor is one of the Good Guys.
  • Emperor Hirohito is the namesake of Emperor (2012). As portrayed near the end, he's actually really awesome!
  • Empress Sabina in Dungeons & Dragons (2000) is an unique example that she is both female and benevolent while at the same time in charge of an corrupt and decadent regime due to the mage court. She does want to extend equal rights to her non-mage subjects, but is opposed by The Archmage Profion.

  • Anaander Mianaai from Imperial Radch. She's not evil, exactly, but she does oversee the aggressive militaristic expansion of her multi-system empire to create a buffer zone for the Dyson Sphere at its center, and she has no problem with turning people into meat puppets for her ships' A.I.s. Oh, and she oversees everything personally by using thousands of linked identical clone bodies and has been alive for a few thousand years.
  • Emperor Jagang is a communist Evil Overlord and the Big Bad of the Sword of Truth series, especially the later books in the series. Protagonist Richard Rahl also rules an Empire, although he doesn't use the title himself.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan's father was known as the Emperor-Across-the-Sea. Also, when the Pevensie children are made rulers of Narnia, one of Peter's titles as High King is Emperor of the Lone Islands.
  • In El Conquistador there are several ones, in three continents.
  • The Neverending Story (and the films based on the same) featured the benevolent Childlike Empress.
  • Leto Atriedes II, the God-Emperor of Dune. And before him, his father Paul who usurped the position from Shaddam Corrino IV. Leto especially appears to his subjects to be the Evil Overlord, but thanks to the omniscient narrator viewpoint, readers can see his ultimate goal is actually quite benevolent.
    • All Padishah-Emperors and Paul and Leto II can be traced back to the ruling dynasty of the Old Empire. The Corrino line was founded by Faykan Butler (who took the name Faykan Corrino at crowning) and his wife, who is descended from the Old Emperors. Paul Atreides also has Corrino lineage through his grandmother Helena.
  • Emperor Gregor Vorbarra of the Vorkosigan Saga ascends to the throne as a frightened young boy, comes into full power at twenty-one when Lord Regent Aral Vorkosigan steps down, and matures over the series into a noble, good-hearted, and just ruler. If you didn't frequently get to see him in non-Emperor mode he'd be too good to be true. Contrasted (sort of) with Emperor the haut Fletchir Giaja of Cetaganda, who isn't precisely evil per se, but is definitely not someone you'd trust further than you could comfortably spit a dead rat.
    • Contrasted much more directly with his grandfather, the late Emperor Ezar Vorbarra, who was such a scheming bastard that he died praying there was no such thing as an afterlife, because he knew the kind of welcome he'd get if there actually was one. But all his machinations ended up getting Barrayar more or less on the right track, as well as putting grandson Gregor on the throne as opposed to his son Prince Serg, so it was definitely a case of doing what he had to do.
    • All of the above are much better than Emperor Yuri, who appears in such backstory references as "Yuri's massacre", "Yuri Vorbarra's Defenestration of the Privy Council", and "the Dismemberment of Mad Emperor Yuri".
  • In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, each of the Seven T'ang, or kings, rules a part of the world-city Chung Kuo, and together they exercise a sort of collegial emperorship.
  • Emperor Mage Ozorne of the The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce. He's power-hungry, narcissistic, and vengeful, ending up as the Big Bad of the next book too. His nephew, Kaddar, who takes the throne after him, is a much nicer person who actually cares about ruling the country properly.
  • Two examples in the third series of Pierce's Circle of Magic books.
    • Empress Berenene of Namorn, who makes no bones about enjoying sport and the company of handsome young men, but is also an extremely skilled politician and ruler who has the love (and fear) of her courtiers and no intention of having her wishes subverted. The whole book is titled The Will of the Empress. She's based on Catherine the Great of Russia, which Namorn is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of.
    • Emperor Weishu of Yanjing is emperor of Circleverse China, more militant and capricious than Berenene. He likes to flaunt his considerable power, deals lethal punishment for the tiniest mistakes, and wants to conquer Gyongxe to increase his standing.
  • In David Eddings' Belgariad, Emperor Zakath of Mallorea is depicted as being effective, ruthless and at first, apparently urbane and civilised. Which he is. He's also somewhat Crazy Sane, cold and emotionless, fixated on killing Taur Urgas and destroying the entire Murgo race as a prelude to world domination, firmly believing that he and Garion are on a collision course that will leave one man standing. In The Malloreon, it's implied that he's a Death Seeker and his past is revealed to be a major plot point - the short version is that as a young man, he was smart, sensitive, and wise, all set to become one of Mallorea's greatest and most civilised Emperors. Then Taur Urgas, spotting a potential rival, bought the family of Zakath's girlfriend to get them to have her murder him. Zakath found out, went berserk, exterminated everyone involved, then found out that his girlfriend was innocent. Cue a brutal Heroic BSoD that lasted for a month, followed by a Face–Heel Turn into a cold-blooded monster who amused himself by sending Taur Urgas pieces of his relatives in jars, with highly insulting notes attached. Even after he performs a Heel–Face Turn after some Epiphany Therapy, since the Light Prophecy needed the most powerful Angarak monarch in good mental shape to spread Eriond's gospel (which serves as Zakath's karmic payback, since it'll take the rest of his life), he remains this, patiently explaining that he can't be a conventional Good King like Garion; while he's technically Overlord of the West, most of the time Garion only actually rules a medium-sized island and knows many of his law-abiding and dutiful subjects by sight, if not by name. Zakath, by contrast, rules a continent full of fractious states and petty kingdoms, many of which still have strong self-identities and try to secede whenever they get the chance, and has to contend with the influence of the Grolim Church until the end of The Malloreon.
  • David Eddings likes this trope. In The Tamuli, Emperor Sarabian is personally charming, intelligent and one of the few people at court who isn't corrupt. Bizarrely, his eventual coup which overthrows the quasi-democratic government and institutes an absolute monarchy under martial law.
  • In Nick Perumov's Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword, we have a good emperor, fighting against the evil Magocracy, which turns out not so evil (and by fighting them he actually helps the true baddies, though he understands this in time to help ruin their plans). He is ruthless enough (when needed), however, to be a realistic emperor portrayal.
  • In the Sten series (Bunch, C and Cole, A), the Immortal Emperor starts out as a pretty nice guy, devoted to laissez-faire capitalism, and long-forgotten recipes and skills, who only sends in the troops when the realm is genuinely threatened with instability. It helps that he has a nigh-unbreakable monopoly on AM2, the fuel that the Empire runs on, and it is worth noting that someone developing/finding another source of AM2 counts as a threat of destabilising the Empire. And then a successful assassination attempt and a random bit of meteor damage to his Resurrection Ship turn him into a megalomaniacal despot who is not only ridiculously tyrannical, but no longer capable of supplying AM2 and, more importantly, no longer immortal.
  • In The Song of Roland, there are the good and the bad kind, Charlemagne and Baligant. Naturally, they end up in a personal life-and-death clash of civilizations.
  • Emperor Titus from the two Dark Lord of Derkholm books by Diana Wynn Jones is a case of a benevolent emperor being surrounded by corruption. He was shown in a very positive light, in sharp contrast to the corrupt politicians of the senate trying to undermine his authority and kill his sister for being of marsh-woman blood.
  • Emperor Mornhaven of the Green Rider series. He's the heir to the Emperire of Arcosia, although after sailing to Sacoridia and losing contact with the Empire he declares himself Emperor of a new empire, Mornhavia.
  • Empress Lionstone XIV of the early Deathstalker series was the original Big Bad and after her death she stayed a boogey-man. Not even the Recreated could truly supplant her.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Empress Radhanan of the Seanchan Empire is only known by name in the books, and is later succeeded by her daughter, Tuon, who becomes Empress Fortuona. Whilst the Seanchan are antagonists, they are not evil (excepting the slave trade), just very different.
  • King Gorice of Witchland in E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, Evil Overlord and Big Bad of the book.
  • The Lord Ruler in Mistborn is somewhere between the Evil Overlord and Shadow Emperor types until he's killed off. In the last book Elend becomes Emperor, and though he tries his hardest to be a Benevolent Emperor he's very worried about following in the Lord Ruler's footseps.
  • Several of the characters in the Belisarius Series are Emperors(or some sort of equivalent title) which makes sense as it is about an epic war between Empires. The Malwan Emperor(before being overthrown that is) is Evil and the rest are to a greater or lesser degree Reasonable Authority Figure s.
  • The Empress of Taysar in the Spaceforce books rules many worlds as an absolute monarch, and technically owns, personally, 'every rock and stone' on those worlds. It seems that Taysar always has an Empress, not an Emperor.
  • Trapped on Draconica: The first one is Gothon, emperor of Baalaria, who expands his domain by swallowing those of others. The second is Taurok, who succeeds Gothon. Rana elavates from Princess to Empress by marrying him.
  • In The Psalms of Isaak, Ahm Y'Zir is a Shadow Emperor; the founder and ruler of The Empire of Y'Zir (which reveres him as a living god), he's a hideous cyborg kept alive by a combination of Lost Technology and Blood Magic. Exactly how much direct power he has remains unclear (Regent Eliz Xhum handles the day-to-day running of things and Ahm's daughter the Crimson Empress is being groomed to take the throne once she comes of age), even his physical location remains hidden, and the processes which keep him alive have left him quite insane, but it's made clear that the Empire marches to the design he set for it two thousand years ago, and he still has hold of his ancestor's spellbook and with it enough power to pop into his enemies' dreams and threaten them.
  • In The Witcher-saga Emperor Emhyr var Emreis of the brutal and expansionist Nilfgaard Empire, also known as the White Flame Who Dances Upon the Barrows of His Foes, is a major antagonist in the main storyline, but develops into a more well-rounded character than his Evil Overlord reputation might suggest. He's still an amoral tyrant, but not entirely without sympathetic goals or standards.
  • Sanlitun Malkeenian Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is of the Benevolent Emperor variation, though not everyone thinks so. His son Kaden, the current Emperor of Annur, is hopelessly inept but slowly moving down the same route.
  • Emperor Grey in Line of Delirium. He is mostly hands-off, as far as ruling the Human Empire, and everyone still remembers how he came to power (a high-ranking Space Navy officer, who disobeyed his incompetent superiors and took charge of Earth and its colonies, prevented humanity's defeat at alien hands, established the Empire, and turned it into a galactic power). He is almost two centuries old thanks to aTan and has mostly lost interest in governance, preferring the individual worlds to run themselves, as long as they obey the Imperial laws. In his own palace on Planet Terra, he exercises his prerogative to follow any planetary law in his domain he chooses. His current sexual preferences involve prepubescent teenage girls, following a certain world's practices (he treats them with respect, though, and their families reap the benefits). He does have some harsh laws, such as a strict ban on genetic engineering and cloning. He also doesn't tolerate attempts to secede from the Empire. The population of a world attempting it ended up getting brutally slaughtered by Imperial-hired mercenaries. Also, when the Shedar colonies were invaded by the Sakkra, he had the colonies undergo Orbital Bombardment, killing all the invaders and members of La Résistance (no one really blames him, though, as attempting to retake the planets would've cost many more lives). He then proceeded to exterminate all the Sakkra in the galaxy as punishment.
  • In Seekers of the Sky, the Roman Empire never collapsed and continues to dominate Europe (now known as the State). The ruler of the State is called the Possessor, although he's an Emperor in all but name. The backstory also mentions that the Redeemer (another Messiah sent by God after Jesus's death as a baby) became the Roman Emperor 2000 years ago, later realizing that, by doing that, he had failed God's mission.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, Maia, the eponymous emperor. Though he's actually just half-goblin, from his mother's side. When he inherits the throne of the Elflands, many are not happy, even though Maia tries very hard to be a good emperor. The fact that he has to arrange a marriage for himself, in which the chosen lady of course will not get a veto to secure his reign, father a heir and discourage conspirators from using his underage nephew against him, does not help. It is the expected thing to do for a good emperor, but Maia feels that it is not exactly something a good person ought to do.
  • Emperor Kellanved, instigator and ruler of the Malazan Empire in Malazan Book of the Fallen, who started out as the owner of a bar in Malaz City and assembled a group of highly competent friends with wich he took over first little Malaz Island and then entire continents.
  • The King of Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire is an Emperor in everything but name as he's the ruler of a large Empire made by several semi-autonomous kingdoms with their respective local lords and in one case, a prince. The man who originally united the realm, Aegon the Conqueror, pretty much did the opposite thing to the historical German Empire by demoting all of the previous Kings to High Lords rather than naming himself something like "King of Kings". The one province where the rulers are still called "prince" is the only one they weren't able to subjugate through force.
  • Czar Alexander IV in Victoria, the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, who rules a restored Russian Empire in the story's near-future setting. He is depicted by the author as a Good King.
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant has an unusual example in the Masked Emperor, who sits on the Faceless Throne of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest. Because modern Falcrest is a republic founded by an anti-monarchist revolution, its Emperor is not some famous royal heir but a meritorious citizen appointed in secret for a five-year term, which It spends masked and completely anonymous even to Itself. Every Emperor drinks an amnestic potion when It takes the throne, wiping out Its memories for the duration of Its term while keeping all other knowledge and faculties intact. Without identity, It has no self-interest except the common good, ensuring just and fair rule. However, all of the above is a lie. Falcrest's chemists never figured out how to make the potion. The Emperor is some random schmuck who gets lobotomized into a drooling vegetable and propped up on the throne for five years. All power is held by the Throne, a camarilla of “special advisers to the Emperor”, which uses the Emperor’s seal as a convenient source of absolute authority.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, this was Dayless's official title when he ruled the Dawn Empire. Notably, he actually met the legal definition (a male monarch in charge of more than one country).
  • In Animorphs, the Yeerk Empire is led by the Council of Thirteen, which is officially headed by an Emperor. However, for security reasons, no one outside of the Council knows which member is the Emperor, so effectively the group rules by committee.
  • Although the villain of the Inheritance Cycle, Galbatorix, just styles himself as the King of Humans, he rules over Alagaësia, and all the races therein, through what is called the Broddring Empire.
  • Justinian is, of course, a historical Byzantine emperor, but The Divine Comedy reflects this by making his monologue a grand re-telling of the Roman Empire's history. It begins by invoking the imperial eagle, continues into a genealogy of the kings and emperors who preceded and succeeded Justinian, and winding down with a sweeping criticism of Italy's current politicians have tarnished the empire's legacy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ubiquitous in Chinese historical and fantasy series, for obvious reasons.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Dalek Emperors. Davros, their Kaled creator, held the title of Dalek Emperor for some time, sparking a civil war between Imperial (Davros) and Renegade factions. The most recent one showed up at the end of the 2005 series, having narrowly survived the Time War and developed a god complex after saving its followers from extinction.
    • The Draconian Emperor from "Frontier in Space" is a Reasonable Authority Figure who doesn't favour war with Earth. The Doctor was apparently on good terms with the 15th Emperor for saving the Draconians from a plague and was made a nobleman.
    • Oddly enough, one iteration of the Daleks has apparently eschewed Emperors and employs a parliamentary democracy, complete with a Dalek Prime Minister!
  • I, Claudius, across its truly epic span, takes in Augustus (who only avoids looking evil by comparison to what comes after him), his scheming Magnificent Bastard of a wife Livia, her son Tiberius (a colossal pervert and largely useless as a ruler), the original Caligula (for more detail, consult his page), Claudius (unwillingly thrust onto the throne, but proves rather good at it - except for his complete blindness to the machinations of his own scheming third wife), and, in its last moments, Nero.
  • The emperor of the Centauri Republic in Babylon 5 was a rather benevolent ruler at the start of the series, even apologizing to the Narn for his predecessor's atrocities. Unfortunately he died early in the second season and was replaced by Cartagia, who was assassinated by Vir Cotto and Londo Mollari and succeeded by Londo who was in turn succeeded by Vir.
  • Power Rangers has a few villains that fit this trope:
    • The first season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has Rita Repulsa, who her minions frequently call her the Empress of Evil. The second season introduces Lord Zedd, who, in his first appearance, proclaims to be the 'Emperor of all he sees'. Later the two villains form an Unholy Matrimony.
    • Power Rangers Zeo starts with Rita and Lord Zedd being chased away by the evil Machine Empire. Like the British Empire in Real Life, the monarchs of this political body, Mondo and Machina, call themselves king and queen, rather than emperor and empress.
    • Power Rangers in Space reveals that above mentioned empires (along with a band of space pirates) are mere vassals of the Dimension Lord Dark Specter, who leads the United Alliance of Evil and proclaims to be the Monarch of all Evil himself, thus also fitting type 1 of this trope. Strangely enough, when Astronema takes over after Dark Specter's destruction, she is proclaimed to be the queen of all evil, rather than empress.
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. has Emperor Gruum as Big Bad and ruler over the Troobian Empire until it is revealed Gruum has a Man Behind the Man in the form of Omni the Magnificence, which is a huge godlike being rivaling Dark Specter in terms of size and power.
    • Power Rangers Super Mega Force has Emperor Mavro of the Armada.
  • Considering a good chunk of evil factions in Super Sentai are Empires (or at least, called an "Empire", it's natural that many of factions are led by Emperors.
    • Kagaku Sentai Dynaman's Emperor Aton is the earliest example, leading the Tailed-People Clan Jashinka Empire.
    • Choushinsei Flashman has the Great Emperor Ra Deus, who's invaded many different planets albeit mainly just to obtain more Human Resources for his Evil Genius Lee Keflen to use to create more monsters.
    • Hikari Sentai Mask Man has Earth Emperor Zeba, ruler of the Underground Empire Tube, who in fact meets the actual definition of a Emperor as Tube is shown to be made up of several different tribes.
    • Galactic Empress Meadow in Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman has at least 999 planetary conquests to her name, though instead of ruling over the planets she conquers she instead has her followers wipe out all life on them as a sacrifice for a ritual to give her immortality.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger features Emperor Ackdos Gill, ruler of the Space Empire Zangyack, who has a multitude of planets in his domain.
  • The Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1 were divided between a number of Evil Overlords with claims to godhood, but several aspired to control over the entire Goa'uld domain. Ra of the first movie was retconned to have been a symbolic Emperor who maintained the fiction of unity, with subsequent infighting breaking out among the other System Lords over his succession. Several come close (including Lord Yu, who is a Composite Character of two mythical or semi-mythical Chinese emperors), but Ba'al is the only one to outright claim to be the 'Sovereign of the Goa'uld Domain' in his near-victory.
  • Star Trek has the Romulan Emperor, ruler of the Romulan Star Empire. The Klingons also use to have an Emperor but the position was abolished somewhere around three centuries before the first series begins. The office gets restored under solely religious and decorative functions once the clone of Khaless (the first emperor) is created in the 24th century. The Mirror Universe has the Terran Emperor, though the only one we ever see is the mirror counterpart of Philippa Georgiou in Star Trek: Discovery, whose full title is Her most Imperial Majesty, Mother of the Fatherland, Overlord of Vulcan, Dominus of Qo'noS, Regina Andor, Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius.
  • As mentioned in the literature section, the King of Westeros in Game of Thrones is in reality the textbook definition of an emperor despite the name "King", as he is the ruler of seven kingdoms, each with their own laws and local nobilities.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: The Skeksis Emperor skekSo is an example at the start of the series, commanding his Decadent Court and the various Gelfling clans with an iron grip. Halfway through the series, he grabs the Villain Ball with an iron grip, which causes the Gelflings to rebel. By the start of the film, his empire is essentially limited to the nine remaining Skeksis and the Garthim.
  • Foundation (2021): The Galactic Empire essentially has three emperors at once, as part of their "genetic dynasty" tradition. Each of the three is a clone of the original Emperor Cleon I, created at different points and thus being at different ages — Brother Dawn is a child, Brother Day is a man in his prime, and Brother Dusk is an elder. And while strictly speaking they rule as equals, in practice the current Day clone is always the reigning monarch, as Dawn is still learning from experience and Dusk is more of an elder statesman acting as an advisor.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer has Karl Franz of The Empire, one of the few benevolent figures in the setting, a savvy ruler, and a military genius who leads from the back of his griffon while wielding the titular warhammer. Other emperor figures include Lord Settra The Imperishable of Khemri, who is able to boss around the other Tomb Kings, and the dragon-riding Witch King Malekith of the Dark Elves, who is a real momma's boy.
  • Warhammer 40,000: One of the major figures is an individual known only as the God-Emperor of Mankind. An incredibly powerful psychic genius, he guided humanity as a Shadow Emperor before launching the Great Crusade to reunite mankind in an enlightened, secular galactic empire. But the Horus Heresy wrecked all that, so the Emperor has spent the last ten thousand years stuck on a soul-eating life support system that powers the psychic lighthouse necessary for interstellar travel, while his Imperium has devolved into a totalitarian Vestigial Empire that praises him as its god even while jumping over the Moral Event Horizon in His name.
    • The fluff suggests that the modern Imperium's worst actions are misinterpretations of the Emperor's original intent, but the more we learn about the guy in the Horus Heresy series, the more morally ambiguous he comes across as. He definitely wanted the best for humanity, but to that end he ruthlessly suppressed religion in an attempt to starve the Chaos Gods, and while not as xenocidal as the modern Imperium, still offered human colonies influenced by alien civilizations a choice between forsaking their old ways and annihilation. His intelligence and psyker powers led him to claim an Omniscient Morality License, but he made some catastrophically poor decisions leading up to the Horus Heresy, and was a terrible parent to his clone-sons. All in all, the Emperor wavers between the Messianic Archetype and a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • The Scarlet Empress in Exalted cultivates an appearance of moral ambivalence: while responsible for saving the world, and running one of the most stable nations she also ruthlessly pursued war, and deliberately made her government so that it would fall apart with out her and raised her children to fight among themselves for her favor. In actuality, she originally gained control of the Imperial Defense Grid via human sacrifice, and just recently sacrificed her youngest daughter (just 12 years old!) to one of the rulers of Hell in a failed attempt to gain immortality... and at least in the first case, saved Creation by doing so. The setting goes out of its way to make the Empress' morality as grey as possible.
  • Empress Kiova in Heroscape started out evil, but turned good. Also, oddly enough, her husband bears the title of "General."
  • Legend of the Five Rings has had several emperors over three dynasties. As the game is based on East Asian myths, the emperors are usually the benevolent variety, but at least one was the Evil Overlord variety, and another was a mix of that and the Shadow Emperor style after a Demonic Possession.
  • Emperor Strephon in the Traveller default time of the GURPS version is a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Queen Abrogail II of Cheliax in Pathfinder. Though she doesn't bear the title of empress, she still rules over not just Cheliax but also the neighboring lands of Nidal and Isger, who follow her edicts through puppet governments.
    • On the other hand, the only character in the Inner Sea region who actually calls himself an emperor (among other titles) is Grand Prince Stavian III of the Empire of Taldor—a small, sniveling little man too small for his imperial crown who can barely keep his shambled empire together. He claims rulership over all of Taldor's former holdings, including Cheliax, but has no power to actually enforce his rule. He barely does anything as emperor, leaving the actual rule of Taldor to the empire's overburdened and inefficient bureaucracy.
  • The Giovanni dynasty and later the Barbados one in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Not only Emperors (Empress in the case of the current one), concentrating on them both the political and militar powers, but also the heads of the Church of Abel. All but one of them can be considered to fall more or less into the benevolent category of above.
  • The Emperors of the Third Imperium in Traveller. For the most part they are presented by canon as Reasonable Authority Figures.
  • BattleTech: In last days of the Terran Hegemony, Stefan Amaris assassinated the young First Lord Richard Cameron, and the rest of the Cameron line, and took over the Hegemony, he stamped out rebellion with nukes, and executed anyone who failed him the slightest. In the end Aleksandr Kerensky and the SLDF captured him and was executed by the Star League. Even today Amaris remembered as the most sinister man in the Inner Sphere.


  • Fire Emblem On Forums: Fitting the game's origins, there are quite a few examples of these:
    • FEF2: Emperor Yurgen, the Final Boss and Big Bad of the entire game.
    • Chains of Horai: Empress Genmyo / Yukito Yamauchi, the Empress of Amatsu, Cursed God of the Zodiac and the Big Bad of the game. While she's a selfish, obsessive tyrant in the present day, it's heavily implied something drove her mad, with flashbacks portraying her as an incredibly kind, sweet and bubbly woman.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Takeshi Ofuchi is the Emperor of Yamato at the beginning of the Unification of Yamato arc in the Third Age. He's very much a selfish tyrant and a Sorcerous Overlord, but he's eventually betrayed by one of his trusted generals, Shogun Masamori Hyuga, who assassinates him and takes his place as the leader of Yamato (albeit Masamori never crowns himself emperor and instead keeps using the title shogun).

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy II was the first JRPG to play with this trope in detail, though it's since become genre standard fare. Emperor Mateus starts out as a typical Big Bad who commands monsters from hell and wants to conquer the world, well, just because. Then the heroes kill him, which has unforeseen consequences: his spirit goes to Hell, takes over, and comes back stronger than before. The GBA remake adds a sidestory where we learn that his soul was actually split in half at death, and his 'good' side has not only gone to Heaven, but taken over there as well. Light Is Not Good, indeed.
  • Final Fantasy VI likewise features The Empire as the main enemy, led by Emperor Gestahl. Until one of his lieutenants, Kefka Palazzo, already a messed-up-in-the-head Psycho for Hire, decides to go Omnicidal Maniac...
  • Dirge of Cerberus, which takes place after Final Fantasy VII, introduces Weiss. He is the supreme commander of the Deepground forces, and his title in the original Japanese is Emperor.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
  • Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda series is arguably this, considering that he repeatedly is shown as ruler of the whole Dark World, a shadow mirror of the game's world.
    • He would become one whenever he takes over Hyrule on top of whatever dark realm he had control of at the beginning of the game, otherwise, he's referred to as "The King of Evil" (or "Thieves", before the evil).
  • Suikoden features the Scarlet Moon Emperor as the Big Bad and Final Boss, although the real villain is the (Wo)man Behind the Man, Lady Windy.
  • Breath of Fire I features as antagonists the Dark Dragons, who are led by the Big Bad Emperor Zog (who, oddly, is the only Dark Dragon who is actually, you know, a dragon. All the other Dark Dragons are insectile monster thingys). Furthermore, while Zog is the Emperor, the Dark Dragons' organization never seems to be referred to as an Empire.
    • Breath of Fire IV features Fou Lu, the founder and first emperor of the Fou Empire, being persecuted by the very empire he founded under the orders of incumbent Emperor Soniel.
  • In Ninja Gaiden, the enemies are all members of the demonic Vigoor Empire, and naturally the game's Big Bad is a superdemon known only as the Vigoor Emperor.
  • Jade Empire features the Emperor as the Big Bad. He's also a kungfu-fighting undead ghost... thingy. After he's dead, The Starscream claims the throne and takes over as the Big Bad. On the other hand, the Open Palm ending has the first Emperor's daughter ascending to the throne, and the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue says she's a good leader. In the Closed Fist ending you decide The Starscream had the right idea, but didn't go far enough.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series and in the backstory, the leaders of various Cyrodiilic Empires have held the title of Emperor. Dozens are noted throughout the series lore, and while they vary greatly in personality and actions, the vast majority have leaned toward the "benevolent" end of the spectrum. Some of the particularly notable examples:
    • The very first Cyrodiilic Emperor was St. Alessia, also known as the "Slave Queen". Born into Slavery during the Ayleid rule of Cyrodiil, she escaped and prayed to the Aedra for aid. As the Ayleids were primarily Daedra worshipers, the Aedra answered her prayers as part of a Bargain with Heaven. They sent Alessia divine aid, both in subtle and direct ways, allowing Alessia to defeat the Ayleids and drive the survivors out of Cyrodiil. Alessia was crowned as the first Empress of Cyrodiil, declared that the religion of the Eight Divines (which worships the Aedra who sent her aid) would be the official religion of her new Empire, was "imbued with Dragon Blood" by Akatosh (the draconic chief deity of the Aedra), and had her soul placed in the central stone of the Amulet of Kings which symbolized Akatosh's covenant with mankind to protect Mundus (the mortal plane) from the forces of Oblivion (the Daedra). This also meant that all recognized Cyrodiilic emperors would also be Barrier Maidens, able to perform the ritual of lighting the "Dragonfires", which limit the power and influence of the Daedric Princes within Mundus.
    • Over a thousand years later, the Alessian Empire would fall apart due to religious infighting and provincial uprisings. The Ruby Throne of Cyrodiil would sit empty until Reman Cyrodiil rose to power. His father, the petty king Hrol, would be visited in a vision by the spirit of St. Alessia and Akatosh himself, with this union creating Reman. Reman was birthed from the land of Cyrodiil itself, found born atop a mound of mud the size of a small mountain with the Amulet of Kings, long since lost, in hand. He was coronated as a child and rose to the height of his power after defeating the Akaviri invaders. Though he never took the title of Emperor himself, his lineage founded the Second Cyrodiilic Empire, which would come to dominate nearly all of Tamriel.
    • Following a series of assassinations, the Reman line would end, leading to the beginning of the 2nd Era of Tamriellic history. During a period known as the Interregnum, Tamriel would descend into chaos with various groups vying for control. Out of this chaos came one of Tamriel's most legendary figures - Tiber Septim. He was believed to be of Nordic descent, but beyond that, he has several highly-conflicting origin stories with the truth likely lost forever to history, as well as buried under centuries of Imperial propaganda, and possibly even permanently changed following his apotheosis. He was either born as Talos Stormcrown in Atmora or Hjalti Early-Beard in High Rock. In either case, he spent his youth in Skyrim and rose to prominence when he, at the age of 20, used the Voice to defeat the Witchmen at Old Hroldan. He was declared "Ysmir, Dragon of the North" by the Greybeards and then came into the service of the Colovian Petty King Cuhlecain as a General. When Cuhlecain was assassinated, Septim took over Cuhlecain's young empire. From there, he would become many things - hero, conqueror, villain - and ultimately, the Emperor of the first truly pan-Tamrielic Empire. He is said to be descended metaphysically from the Slave Queen Alessia, as well as Reman Cyrodiil. As a Dragonborn (in both senses of the word), his dynasty was one of several supernatural barriers to keep Tamriel and Oblivion distinct. Septim (possibly among others), through unclear and hotly debated means, would become the Deity of Human Origin Talos after his death, becoming the Ninth Divine.
    • Uriel Septim VII was the 21st Emperor of the Septim line, and the Emperor during each game from Arena to his death in Oblivion. Uriel VII was both The Good King and a Reasonable Authority Figure, genuinely caring for the people of Tamriel. Nearly everything he did as Emperor wass for the greater good of the people of Tamriel. Due to the lost strength of his legions and rampant unrest in the provinces, he has to rely on his wit in order to avert multiple crises for the Empire. Uriel VII would unfortunately be assassinated by the Mythic Dawn to begin the Oblivion Crisis.
    • Martin Septim was the bastard son (and Hidden Backup Prince) of Uriel VII. He plays a major part in the events of Oblivion, as a Supporting Leader and Reasonable Authority Figure. Ultimately, he sacrifices himself to end the Oblivion Crisis and to permanently seal the barrier between Oblivion and Mundus.
    • Between Oblivion and Skyrim, the Septim Empire severely crumbles. The local warlord Titus Mede is able to capture the Ruby Throne, and declares himself Emperor. Later, Mede's grandson, Titus Mede II, inherits the throne. The reformed Aldmeri Dominion, the ancient enemy of the Cyrodiilic Empires under the leadership of the extremist Thalmor, goes to war with Mede's Empire. Titus Mede II was responsible for both leading the Empire to victory against and signing the highly controversial White-Gold Concordat, a treaty which (among other things) bans the worship of Talos throughout the Empire (though it is heavily hinted to be a purely political move to buy the Legion time to prepare for the inevitable next war with the Dominion). Due to Talos' popularity there, Skyrim erupts into Civil War over this move. In-game, he is met at the end of the Dark Brotherhood questline, where he's your target. He comes off as a surprisingly personable individual and remarkably calm for a man facing his killer. When you take into consideration all the things he has done up until your meeting, the worst thing that can be said about him is that his successes are overshadowed by his failures.
  • An alien Emperor is the Big Bad and final boss of MDK 2. He's so big that part of the fight involves him eating you, and you fighting his internal organs.
  • Emperor Percival Tachyon, the Big Bad of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. "Emperor" is likely a self-imposed title, but he has conquered a galaxy, so not many folk are in a position to object.
  • Tales of the Abyss has Emperor Peony IX, a Benevolent Emperor — this is the man that commissions battle costumes for the party and goes incognito to fight crime. Despite his goofy tendencies and extreme informality, he's the most reliable Reasonable Authority Figure in the game.
  • Since Avernum features The Empire, it makes sense that it features emperors as well. Emperor Hawthorne was a Big Bad in Avernum 1. After your adventuring party assassinates him, Empress Prazac takes charge and is definitely benevolent. She gets assassinated in turn at the start of Avernum 5 and the choices your adventuring party makes decides who becomes the next emperor.
  • The Emperor of Cantha in Guild Wars is shown to be a decent and well-meaning man, but one who's hopelessly out of touch with the people he rules.
  • One player in each galaxy plays the emperor in Imperium Nova. Because an actual player plays the emperor, the style of rulership in the game is quite varied. Every one of them is inevitably labeled an Evil Overlord by his or her opponents.
  • Emperor Solarius of Overlord II is of the Shadow Emperor variety, having risen from power by taking advantage of the people's fear of magic due to the plague which he himself unintentionally caused by presenting himself as something of a Dark Messiah out to exterminate magical beings. He's never seen personally addressing his people, a duty he leaves for his Professional Butt-Kisser Marius and constantly hides behind a mask to hid the fact that he's an Elf. His true plan however is to collect all the magic from the lands to prepare for his ascension to Godhood.
  • Emperor Geldoblame of Baten Kaitos is an Evil Overlord Big Bad. He eventually gets deceived and betrayed by Melodia, but that's not to say he didn't have it coming.
  • The Emperor is the Big Bad in Secret of Mana, sending out his Dragons to undo seals on the Mana Seeds in order to unleash a Forgotten Super Weapon in order to Take Over the World. But gets taken out by the Man Behind the Man Thanatos, who wishes to destroy it.
  • The usual Big Bad of Mortal Kombat, Shao Kahn. In storyline, Onaga came before him, though.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has Emperor Yoshiro, who also believes in Rank Scales with Asskicking.
  • Emperor Strada from Asura's Wrath, a rare good guy example. He gets killed off by Lord Deus in the second episode of the game.
  • StarCraft when Mengsk overthrew the Confederacy, he immediately makes himself as the Emperor of the new Terran Dominion.
  • In a figurative sense we have Street Fighter's Sagat, whose Red Baron title is "Emperor of Muay Thai". He has no political power, but is one of the most badass fighters in the whole series. (Plus he was a high-ranked member of the Shadaloo organization, but ultimately left them.)
  • Out of all the rulers seen in Fire Emblem, the ones that hold the Emperor/Empress title are few:
  • While his official title is merely "Demon King", Bowser of the Super Mario Bros. series fits this trope, as he has a massive empire that he plans to expand, sometimes across the entire universe. He even has countless Kings as mere high-ranking minions of his.
  • In Final Fantasy Dimensions, the Emperor of Avalon also known as Elgo looks like an Evil Overlord Tin Tyrant type at least his empty suit of armor does but he's actually a Shadow Emperor scheming to obtain eternal life and power from the Crystals. He's such a serious threat that the Crystals split the world into two dimensions just to get away from him. He "aids" the Warriors of Light and Darkness so he can personally rip the Crystals' power out of them.
  • From Battleborn:
    • The Empress Lenore former monarch of the star-spanning Jennerit Empire before Lothar Rendain usurped her.
    • Having usurped Empress Lenore to become the leader of her empire now renamed the Jennerit Imperium, Big Bad Lothar Rendain is naturally this by position.
  • In Ravenmark, the Empire of Estellion has recently lost its beloved Emperor Sergius Corvius, kicking off a Succession Crisis. While the late Emperor's daughter Adrise has no desire to become Empress, Adrise's younger brother Gratian wants nothing less than that. The crisis comes from Sergius not wanting his son from ascending to the Obsidian Perch after his death, secretly grooming another successor from the numerous ranks of royal bastards. In the sequel, Empress Livia Corvius (AKA the Scarlet Empress) has become ruthless in her determination to crush her enemies, costing the Empire its allies and starting a Mêlée à Trois with the Commonwealth of Esotre (a former ally) and the newly-risen Varishah Federation (made up of former Imperial conquests and the remaining Kaysani.
  • The highest attainable title in Crusader Kings is Emperor, which the player can attain once their territorial holdings encompass multiple kingdoms. Alternatively, it is possible to simply choose to play as an emperor from the outset of a campaign if the player chooses, for example, to play as the Holy Roman or Byzantine imperial families. Then the challenge is staying in power.
  • From Dragon Age:
    • Empress Celene of the Orlesian Empire is a female example. She might appear like The High Queen at first glance, but is an utterly ruthless Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, since she doesn't consider elves worthy of living (except for her lover Briala) and is willing to make an mountain out of their corpses if it means securing her power. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, she may become better if reconciling with Briala or else she will remain the same. If the Inquisitor plays their cards right, she can be replaced by her cousin Grand Duke Gaspard, who is a straight example of this trope, since his policies are expantionism, warmongering and ruling through force rather than diplomacy.
    • The Tevinter Imperium has the Archon, which is an position similar to the Roman Emperor (either by blood relation, apprenticeship to the previous holder or being elected by the legislative body). Throughout the history of Thedas, Archons had a sinister reputation as Sorcerous Overlords among the southern nations. However, the current one by the time the series takes place, Archon Radonis, is portrayed as a Reasonable Authority Figure with a soft spot for cats.
  • In Fate/EXTRA, The playable Saber-Class servant is this. More specifically, her true identity happens to be Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Fifth Emperor of the Roman Empire, making this a three-way cross between this trope, She Is the King (as she insists on referring to herself as Emperor) and Historical Gender Flip- the third of which is a Nasuverse staple. As revealed by her backstory, she's actually somewhat on the benevolent side, as her poor reputation turns out to be undeserved, and she was beloved by her people.
  • In Crying Suns, Emperor Oberon is the founder and ruler of the Galactic Empire, a position he has held for the last 700 years. He dies at the end of Chapter 5, and you if you chose to off him yourself you'll end up taking his place.
  • The Empire of Erebonia from the Trails Series is obviously headed by an Emperor, however...he doesn't hold nearly as much power as it first seems. The Empire of Erebonia is actually a constitutional monarchy, thus the power of the Emperor are rather limited, in fact the Emperor we see throughout the games isn't a bad guy at all, and most expansionistic wars done by Erebonia were done in spite of him, not because of him. Ironically, Chancellor Osborne fits the mold of the typical Emperor much better, having extreme, almost totalitarian control over the government, annexing smaller countries through manipulation and realpolitiks, threatening war with the continent's other major superpower, etc.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Princess Voluptua's dad is the Emperor of the local space empire (which includes Earth, though humanity is unaware of it). She clearly has some issues with him, as do his subjects the dragons of planet Butane, but there have been no indications that he is actually evil.
  • Drive (Dave Kellett): The current Emperor killed his uncle for the position, and framed one of the protagonists. He fits the President Charisma description above.
  • Karate Bears have a very SMALL empire.
  • While all the Demiurges of Kill Six Billion Demons are described as emperors — and are Dimension Lords, which pretty much automatically qualifies them for ruling over other rulers — Solomon David is the truest example, being the only one who actually governs his domain instead of just lording over it with his overwhelming power. He’s described as a just, even-handed, and incredibly brutal dictator, with at least one massacre attributed to his name, and his Celestial Empire is peaceful and prosperous but low on freedoms.
  • The Meek: Luca deSadar is the leader of the Pasori peoples, and the Emperor of the Northern Territories. Despite his stranglehold on the north, he finds himself losing his grip on his family, his people, and perhaps his sanity.
  • Tower of God: Though called King of the Tower, Jahad is the ruler of the Jahad Empire, comprised of all (continent-sized) floors of the Tower up to number 134. His subordinates include the heads of the Ten Great Families, at least some of whom would qualify as God-Emperor in their own right otherwise. There are also kingdoms in the Outer Tower that have never even heard of him but which he could presumably bring to heel immediately if he needed to.

    Web Original 
  • The cleric Asher Walters becomes a literal Messiah-Emperor at the end of The Chronicles of Utopia. After resurrecting an army of warriors that had been forced into serving a lich, he carves out an Empire for himself by deposing the Mad Overking Ivid and taking over his lands, turning it into a bastion of reason and enlightenment in The Chronicles of Utopia Volume II.
  • In Imperium Nova each galaxy has an Emperor, initially the first player on the server but later the senate or the GM can install a new imperial house. Depending on the galaxy and the current RP the emperor may be an all-powerful overlord or an ignored figurehead.
  • Eclipse has Auerbach, the Emperor of the hellish Apocesis - essentially a "domestication" center for Ghouls (demons that are not sufficiently human-looking). He runs it like an officer in a concentration camp and acts in a manner very similar to a Torture Technician.
  • RWBY: Mistral was ruled by an Emperor who was responsible for most of the tension that triggered the Great War. With the help of its trading partner, Mantle, the Mistral Emperor conquered Anima, selectively enforcing Mantle's decree of suppressing the population's emotions as a way to fight the Grimm, and engaging in practices such as exploiting the people and using slave labour. When the Emperor decided to expand into Sanus, clashes with Vale began. This triggered the Great War, with Mistral and Mantle trying to conquer Vale. Only when they tried to force Vacuo to supply them with Dust for their own good, did Vacuo decide that they needed to be stopped — entering the war on Vale's side.

    Western Animation 
  • Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When the Big Bad, Fire Nation's Fire Lord Ozai decides to promote himself to ruler of the entire world, the title he comes up with is simply "Phoenix King", even though there is already an "Earth King" (and several lesser Earth Kingdom Kings, like King Bumi). This was probably done because "Phoenix Emperor" is way too many syllables to be practical. The Earth King himself is an example of the Benevolent Emperor, though his Grand Secretariat is the one who actually rules the country.
  • On the other hand, in Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, when Kuvira usurps Earth King Wu, she declares her new nation the Earth Empire, and herself its Emperor. One of the cases where Asskicking Leads to Leadership, as she conquered her way to the title.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Tired of being ignored by her husband and her son, the Queen of Yugopotamia used Baby Poof's scary (by Yugopotamian standards) cuteness to rule through him, passing baby Poof as Emperor.
  • Like his comic book counterpart, Serpentor is the cloned combination of some of history's greatest conquerors, created by Doctor Mindbender and Destro to put the terrorist nation Cobra back on track. But this version of Serpentor is even more bombastic and bold than the print version, making him an even more concrete example of the trope.
  • Samurai Jack has the benevolent flavor in Jack's father, who was the Emperor of Japan when Aku first invaded. He had a magic katana forged from a piece of his own soul and a substantial boon from several pantheons, kicked Aku's ass with it, and when Aku appeared a second time, gave the sword to his son so that he might do the same. In the same vein, Jack himself technically qualifies as a benevolent Emperor since he is his father's only descendant, and is busting his ass to find a way to undo Aku's oppression. However, since his kingdom was destroyed even before he got sent to the future, Jack has nothing to be emperor of anymore. And then he went back to the past in the final episode. What little we see of his royal lifestyle on the epilogue shows that he's doing a good job himself.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has Horde Prime, Emperor of the Galactic Horde, the true Big Bad of the series who rules the entire universe with such impunity and has conquered entire galaxies with his powerful armada.
  • In keeping with its longstanding tradition of getting royal titles wrong, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a notable aversion. There is a place called the Crystal Empire, but its former ruler - a brutal Sorcerous Overlord with shadow powers whose very name induces abject fear into his subjects, a perfect fit for a Type 1 - is known as King Sombra instead. Huh. Granted, from what we see of the Crystal Empire, it seems more like a single city-state than an actual empire, but that's neither here nor there.
    • A more accurate example would be Grogar who was the Emperor of Equestria in ancient times before the three tribes united as one. During his reign he was also known as the "the Father of Monsters" who unleashed monsters to spread their evil across the lands, until Gusty the Great defeated him.
  • Emperor Belos of The Owl House is the reclusive, shadowy dictator, although the first season finale shows he can more than handle himself in a fight if necessary. He claims to be able to speak to the Titan - the giant creature whose corpse makes up the Boiling Isles - and has used this "divine mandate" to set up a restrictive Coven system that forces everyone on the Isles to practice magic his way.

    Real Life 
  • The Western tradition of this trope can be traced back to the Emperors of Rome, and in particular Caesar Augustus, who during their reigns ruled one of the greatest empires in the world. The word "emperor" derives from the Latin term Imperator, or "commander" (it's also where we get the word "imperative" from), as Rome had historical reasons to oppose anyone who claimed the title of Rex (king).note  Similarly, the German and Russian words "Kaiser" and "Czar" are both derived from "Caesar".
  • During the Dark and Middle Ages, European rulers who called themselves "emperor" were specifically invoking the Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire was the Roman state so their claim was obvious, the Holy Roman Empire laid claim to the former Roman empire in the West which (initially) they contested with Constantinople (indeed, Charlemagne was originally crowned for the Pope's own purposes: partly over the Iconoclasm controversy with Empress Irene, partly to make Rome independent of Constantinople), the Russian Tsars and Ottoman Sultans both claimed to be Byzantine successors (both monarchs had imperial Byzantine blood), and Serbia and Bulgaria both based it at least partially on Roman/Greek traditions - though Bulgaria had had imperial ambitions since at least the early 9th century and claimed the title during the 10th. This practice continued until nearly the present day: until the mid-twentieth century, there was always at least one European ruler (and sometimes several) in power whose title invoked Caesar, Augustus, or some derivation thereof.
    • Only in later eras did the title become removed from a continuation of the Roman Empire, and became used when a country was really frickin' big or powerful, prime examples being Mexico, Brazil, and Napoleonic France. (When Napoleon declared himself Emperor, it aggravated Ludwig van Beethoven something fierce - he had dedicated his third Symphony, Eroica, to Napoleon when he appeared to be a liberator of the people, but scratched out that dedication so fiercely that the pen ripped through the page.) Other times it was used to make a political point: the Kings of Prussia declared themselves German Emperors to make themselves higher-ranked than other German kings (like the one of Bavaria) without having to demote them (German unification being conducted by integrating the existing German states into a federal structure rather than starting from scratch); Napoleon III did it to link his regime to that of his uncle; the rulers of Austria needed a new title after the Holy Roman Empire disappeared and didn't want to step down in rank; Queen Victoria had herself declared Empress of India to make it clear that Britain was more powerful than Germany (and because she didn't want to be outranked by her daughter, who had married the heir to the German throne)note ; and a couple others besides. However, Jean-Bédel Bokassa's short-lived Empire was little short of a farce.
  • According to The Other Wiki England had already been technically an empire since 1533, however the titles King and Kingdom were retained. It is however unknown, what effects the Acts of Union had on this…
  • The trope codifier in East Asia is Qin Shi Huangdi, the "First Emperor" of China. The word for "emperor" in Chinese and Chinese-influenced languages was first coined by Qin Shi Huangdi himself, by combining the two characters hitherto used for semidivine sage-kings from ancient Chinese mythologies.
    • Outside China, there were four more emperor dynasties in the Sinosphere: the Tennō (literally "Heavenly Sovereign") of Japan (still reigning today) and the extremely short-lived imperial dynasty of the Korean Empire, formed in the late 19th century. No other contenders to the title were there, mostly because no-one else was bold enough to use the title that could challenge the primacy of the Chinese huangdi: Japan, being an island country, was isolated from the rest of East Asia and thus could use whatever title they wanted, while Korea only declared itself an empire when China was in decline and torn by civil war. The monarchs of Vietnam (especially those who had gave invaders from China a good beat) zig-zagged this by proclaiming themselves "emperors" while accepting the title of king from China as the formal recognition of sovereignty and diplomatic relation. There was also the short-lived Empire of Vietnam propped up by the Japanese during World War II.
  • Many polities outside of Europe and East Asia also had imperial titles.
    • The Achaemenid Persian rulers claimed the title Khshayathiyanam Khshayathiya, later corrupted into Shah-en-shah (King of Kings). Later on, this title was changed into Padishah (Great King), used by Persian rulers as well as the Ottoman Sultans.
    • The Islamic world in general has the title of Caliph, meaning "inheritor". It was rougly comparable to the title of Emperor: it implied the bearer was a successor of Prophet Muhammad himself and thus, in theory, given right to rule over the entire Muslim community. However, from the late Middle Ages onwards, the Abbasid caliphs gradually lost power, becoming Puppet Kings to other rulers. Caliphs would once again become the leading power in the Middle East during the early Renaissance, but only because the Ottoman Sultans (mentioned above) took the title for themselves. After the Ottomans, the title is vacant - though the "Islamic State" terrorist group has tried to claim it for their leader.
    • Ancient India had several imperial dynasties stretching from the ancient Maurya and Gupta dynasties to the heavily Persian-influenced Mughal dynasty. Many of the older Emperors during the Buddhist era took on the title "Chakravartin" or "turner of the wheel (of Dharma)" referring to an idealized universal monarch, and "Samrat" or (literally) "Ruler of all", and the Mughals took on the Persian title "Padishah" or "Badshah".
  • Ethiopian monarchs for nearly 3,000 years (according to tradition, at least) used the title Nəgusä Nägäst ("King of Kings"), which was translated as "Emperor". Legend has it that the first Emperor was a son of the Biblical Solomon, which is perhaps the only reason a rather small African nation was able to get away with calling itself an Empire. Well that and the fact that it was the only African nation to successfully resist European colonialism purely by military force, thoroughly embarrassing the Italians in the process.
  • Interesting Real Life twist on the trope: Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. He wasn't really a ruling emperor; he was just some British guy who went a little bonkers following a bad trading deal that left his funds in shambles. He was enormously popular among the inhabitants of San Francisco, though - he got entry to the city's finest restaurants and theatres for free, had his own currency which was officially accepted by the city, single-handedly prevented a violent Anti-Chinese riot from breaking out, the townsfolk rallied to get him released when he was unjustly arrested by the San Francisco Police Department, and his funeral was attended by 30,000 people at a time when San Francisco's population was 230,000.
    • Most of the tales surrounding Emperor Norton are really PR ploy invented by San Francisco's businesses and citizens, however. While many businesses were happy to use Norton as a prop to accentuate the city's image for tolerance and eccentricity, the man himself was actually treated miserably most of the time. His dogs were poisoned. He was kicked out of many business establishments. He lived in a crummy room at a cheap boarding house with only shabby clothes and not much more to his name. Only his funeral, ironically, matched the hype.
  • The Bible had Solomon.
  • Edward I and his grandson Edward III were the closest pre-UK England had for Emperors as they are the only monarchs powerful enough to get the title "Arbiter of Europe".
    • Henry the Second and Henry V had significant continental possessions as well, the latter being the only English monarch to have his claim to the throne of France legitimized in treaty.
    • Later, Queen Victoria took the title "Empress of India". Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI were all styled "Emperor of India" after her until the title was abolished. Sometimes they were referred to as "King-Emperor".
    • As noted above, the status of the British monarchs is complicated, The Other Wiki even has an extra article for British Emperor.
  • Medieval Spain had Several Emperors of all Spain.
  • The first emperor in recorded history was Sargon of Akkad, whose armies overran most of Iraq in the twenty-fourth century, BCE. He was able to do this because he also had the first professional army in recorded history, giving him a decisive edge over his contemporaries. For thousands of years to come the kings of Assyria and Babylon would take Sargon as their idol and aim to equal or succeed his achievements.
  • The First Emperor of México was Agustín de Iturbide, later Agustín I. After a brilliant and undefeated military career in the War of Independence on the side of the royalists, Iturbide crafted his own plan to liberate México. Said plan expressly called for an Independent México, with a Mexican congress but a Spanish ruler, leaving himself out of the possibility of becoming Emperor. After almost single-handedly achieving the Independence in 7 months, a treaty was signed with the last Viceroy of New Spain, who added a clause that allowed for congress to elect the Mexican ruler if Spain declined it's right to appoint a king for México. Spain refused to acknowledge the Mexican Independence, and public opinion turned to Iturbide, who was, for once in this trope, reluctant to take the charge (he already held what would be the equivalent to the presidency at the moment). A public proclamation then took place, hailing him as Emperor. The next day, congress ratified the election and he was made Emperor. But congress had declared itself sovereign from day one, which led to power struggles between the two powers. After members of congress conspired to kill him, Iturbide was forced to disband congress and reform it as a smaller organism, which gave his political enemies a rallying point. Iturbide eventually elected to resign and exile himself and thus ended the First Mexican Empire.
  • The Second Emperor of México was Maximilian of Habsburg. He was installed by the french intervention in México, which in turned was brought about by the Mexican conservatives seeking to counter the U.S support of the liberal party. Maximilian accepted the offer on the condition that he be convinced that the Mexican people wanted him as a ruler. Maximilian was also largely a benevolent ruler, who truly sought to help Mexico become a better country and had many liberal ideas. However, as the U.S emerged from its Civil War to support the liberal government of Juárez, the French retreated their support of Maximilian, as they were facing the coming Franco-Prussian War. Choosing to stand his ground, Maximilian and his forces could not prevail against the U.S backed liberals. He was captured and unjustly executed by President Juárez, who had compromised Mexican sovereignty and territory in order to secure U.S support of his regime.
  • Genghis Khan, first Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The title "Khagan" can be translated as "Khan of Khans", similar to the "King of Kings" titles mentioned in the entries for Persia and Ethiopia above. Began his ruling career leading a small tribe in east Asia, died ruling the largest land empire in history. After his death the empire split into four Khanates which themselves could have been considered empires in terms of size and power, although officially there was only one Khagan to whom the other Khans were subordinate.


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Alternative Title(s): The Empress


Emperor Nefarious

The true main antagonist of Rift Apart. After being impersonated by his alternate self while he was away researching the means to bridge worlds, the Emperor returns with a vengeance and forcefully reclaims his throne, dragging Dr. Nefarious along as he seeks the ultimate prize - to conquer every dimension imaginable.

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