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You don't see the Emperor slaughtering rebels -
you see this guy.

"Every search for a hero must begin with something that every hero requires: a villain."
Dr. Nekhorvich, Mission: Impossible II
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In theatre jargon, the Heavy is the character that provides the most conflict in the story. The heavy is The Antagonist that creates obstacles for The Protagonist to overcome. At least to the audience, this character type is the face of the opposition to the protagonist.

In other words, this is the antagonist with the most screen time, the one that the audience is most familiar with as a character. This is the origin of the trope name, which comes as far back as the 1800s. The Heavy is a big role for an actor, sometimes the biggest role in the work, eclipsing even the main character. This means that the Heavy tends to have the most lines, and therefore the heaviest script.

The Heavy is an antagonist trope, not a villain trope, so this can be a Hero Antagonist standing in the way of a Villain Protagonist just as easily as being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain all the way up to the Big Bad. The Heavy can act as The Dragon, as keeping the Big Bad out of the limelight makes this character more mysterious, and thus scarier. That role often overlaps with a Non-Action Big Bad, where the Heavy is providing the muscle. But it is the relation of the Heavy to the audience that defines this type, not the interaction with the Protagonist.

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Not to be confused with the band of the same name, or the Heavy Weapons Guy, though a skilled player can certainly MAKE him qualify. Also not to be confused with The Big Guy, although the two can overlap, or with The Load or The Millstone.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Animation 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach has longtime Big Bad, Sosuke Aizen. To start, Ichigo, his sisters and Uryu would literally not exist without his interference.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin of Kill la Kill claims to know details concerning the death of Ryuko's father and forces her to participate in her dictatorship-like high school to give her said details and making her life difficult at every turn. Late in the show, Satsuki makes a Heel–Face Turn and the real Big Bad, Ragyo Kiryuin and her Dragon, Nui Harime, share this role from thereon out.
  • Zouken Matou in the "Heaven's Feel" route in Fate/stay night. While Kotomine is his rival Big Bad, he always sends others to do his work and runs out of those quickly in Heavens Feel. Kotomine isn't even seen as an enemy until the very end, and it's possible that no one even remembers that he was since Shirou is the only one who was there and his memory of the events is more than a little hazy, for good reason.
  • Tojuro Hattori in Nabari no Ou is the leader of the Iga clan and the Kairoushuu, and drives most of the plot, but he isn't actually the Big BadFuuma is.
  • Tobi aka Obito Uchiha from Naruto. He was responsible for the Nine-Tails attack on Konoha and therefore the deaths of Naruto's mother and father, as well as Naruto's life as a Jinchuuriki and as a consequence, Naruto's dream of becoming Hokage. Later this incident led to the Uchiha Clan Massacre in which he also participated, causing Sasuke's Start of Darkness, and he threw Kirigakure to hell by controlling the Fourth Mizukage, which, in turn, would be the beginning for two Starter Villains who would be the major influence behind Naruto's personal code. Also he was responsible for Kakashi's Sharingan, and his personality. He's the leader of Akatsuki and is directly responsible for existence and activities of the organization in the form in which we know it now. Also he's responsible for indirectly causing a ton of other problems, like determining the damage done in Orochimaru's invasion of Konoha because he killed Minato, who could've stopped him. Obito's "death" was a huge catalyst for everything in the plot of the series.
  • One Piece has Charlotte Katakuri in the Whole Cake Island arc, who's Big Mom's second son and strongest commander. Although Big Mom is the Big Bad, her strength is too much for any of the protagonists to overcome, so Katakuri is frequently the more direct threat to the protagonists, particularly Luffy, and receives significant development while Big Mom is sidetracked by a food rampage.
  • Eyeshield 21: Reiji Marco is this during the Kantou Regionals, with his obsessions and schemes driving most of the plot, and helping to totally upset the way the tournament was supposed to go. During the Youth World Cup, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Clifford D. Louis and Mr. Don take over as the main threat to the Devil-Bats, with their seeming invincibility driving the story for the remainder of the arc.
  • The first arc of Magical Girl Raising Project has Ayana Sakanagi, aka Swim Swim. While she is not the Big Bad (with that role going to Cranberry and Fav), Swim Swim has the highest body count in the killing game (with two of her victims being Top Speed and Hardgore Alice), making her the most dangerous antagonist of the arc. She even outlives Cranberry, and her final fight with Ripple provides the climax of the first arc.
  • Noragami has the mysterious Shinki girl, Nora. Not only does she have a personal history with Yato, but she is the most recurring antagonist in nearly all story arcs and usually takes more direct action than Yato's "Father".
  • Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan has Sanmoto Gorōzaemon, leader of the Hyaku Monogatari clan. He was the one who manipulated both Shikoku and Kyoto, caused the death of Rikuo's father, and resurrects the Nue/Abe No Seimei, the true Big Bad, for his own purposes.
  • Akame ga Kill! has General Esdeath. While she does work for Prime Minister Honest, she is the most frequent and dangerous threat to Night Raid, being leader of the Jaegers and having the most authority over the missions The Empire sets against Night Raid.
  • Berserk has the Deuteragonist, Griffith, aka Femto, of the Godhand. While he is not the only Big Bad, he is one most directly involved in the plot and serves as the most personal foe of Guts.
  • Gundam:
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has Kawarino, He's responsible for the invasion and destruction of the Palmier Kingdom, he manipulates and abuses all other villains, and he's the one who makes Desparaiah's wish coming true. And if the Palmier Kingdom was never destroyed, the Pretty Cure 5 wouldn't even exist.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime and manga have one each arc. Usually they are the Big Bad of that arc, but not always. They are:
    • Schah Dee in the Trial of the Mind arc, where he takes control of Anzu to test Dark Yugi. Not evil, but he has different morals.
    • Seto Kaiba in the Death T arc, forcing Yugi and friends to compete in a multitude of deadly games because an earlier match with Dark Yugi ended in a Penalty Game that left Kaiba sleepless for months.
    • The Spirit of the Millennium Ring in the Monster World R.P.G. traps those who play the eponymous R.P.G. with Bakura inside mini-figures. When Yugi and the gang get involved, Dark Yugi has to finish the game.
    • Pegasus J. Crawford during Duelist Kingdom, whose kidnapping of Yugi's grandfather and Kaiba's brother serves as the motivation for both of them.
    • Mr. Clown during the manga-only Dragons, Dice & Dungeons arc (the anime has this arc too, but it's completely rewritten as a filler and Mr. Clown is replaced by his own son), with his vengeful ambitions towards the Mutou family causing his son to battle Yugi in a series of games for the Millennium Puzzle and the title of King of Games, and nearly caused Yugi and Jonouchi to die in a fire.
    • Marik Ishtar during Battle City, with his plans to kill the Pharaoh and seize the power of the three Egyptian God Cards eventually dragging in everyone.
    • Noa Kaiba during the anime only Virtual Nightmare arc. While his father Gozaburo is the Big Bad, Noa is the actual threat, and does most of the work.
    • Dark Marik during the Battle City finals; defeating him is the end goal of Yugi, Jonouchi, and Kaiba.
    • Dartz during the anime only DOMA arc, as he's the one behind the entire arc.
    • Siegfried Schröder during the anime only Kaiba Corp Grand Prix; it's his plan to derail Kaiba's tournament, and he's the one who forces Leon to help him.
    • The Spirit of the Millenium Ring again during the Millenium World arc, both as The Chessmaster in the present, and by possessing himself in the past in the anime.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has the Barian Emperor named Vector, an all-around menace whose ambitions are central to how the second half of the anime plays out. He's a selfish, mawkish, crafty bastard who works great under pressure or when things don't go his way, and he's not afraid to make bitter enemies out of everyone he knows (including the other Barian Emperors), only for power. He is also behind the evil doings of Dr. Faker and Tron in season 1.
  • Durarara!!: Izaya Orihara. Nearly every conflict in the series is somehow connected to him — and Shizuo, being Shizuo, is the only one who recognizes that. Despite this, it is Namie Yagiri who serves as the main antagonist, until Izaya, who has been using her, usurps her and makes her his secretary. Despite being the season 1 Big Bad, it's questionable whether he actually is the overarching main antagonist, thanks to the actions of Yodogiri Jinnai, who, despite being in the background so far, is implied to be even worse than he is.
    • Season 2 has Kasane Kujiragi, who is hired by Yodogiri Jinnai to do his work and capture the Ikebukuro monsters. Like Izaya, it turns out she is the one really in charge, as Jinnai is long dead.
  • Genma Wars has Parome. Though her husband is the Big Bad, she is a constant thorn to Loof and Gin's side because they his bastard children, whom Parome absolutely despises as a reminder of his constant unfaithfulness. She sends many enemies to destroy them and ends up killing their real mother Non and Loof's girlfriend Meena, making her more of a personal enemy to the brothers.
  • Tomura Shigaraki in My Hero Academia. For most of the first hundred chapters, he's technically beneath All For One in the League of Villains' heirarchy, and All For One has more importance in the backstory, but Shigaraki is the one who interacts far more with the protagonists. Plus, even in the early parts of the story, the League's actions are driven by Shigaraki's whims and goals with All For One merely providing him with support. It's even invoked as All For One takes a back seat in order to facilitate Shigaraki's evolution into a great villain, only reluctantly stepping into the foreground when his apprentice is threatened with overwhelming force.
  • Belkman from Izetta: The Last Witch is the first antagonist introduced and seems to be the Kaiser's most competent and trustworthy underling, charged with coming up with a plan to defeat and (re)capture Izetta.
  • Kin and Gin in Yo-Kai Watch serve as this, as every time warp which happens to reveal Whisper and Jibanyan's backstories is conducted directly by them, whereas 'the leader' spends more time behind the scenes until she serves as the Big Bad for the first movie.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, not only is Dio Brando the Big Bad in two separate arcs where most antagonists get one, his actions in those arcs directly or indirectly lead to the events of the other four arcs before Steel Ball Run. And even in that arc an alternate universe version of him is one of the arc's main antagonists. Jojolion is the only arc in the entire series that can be said to be free of Dio's influence.
    • Kars and Diavolo qualify as well, though their influence is more indirect. Kars by creating the Stone Mask that turned Dio into a vampire, without which he would not have been able to menace the Joestars as effectively, and Diavolo by selling Enya the Stand arrows, without which Dio, Yoshikage Kira, and Enrico Pucci would have never gained Stands and thus would have been much less dangerous if at all.
  • Finé from Senki Zesshou Symphogear. While the Big Bad in only the first season, the second season deals almost entirely with the fallout of her scheme and the leftovers from her research, and the next three seasons deal with the Pavarian Illuminati, who have had contact of their own with her. More importantly, she created the Symphogears that give the heroes their powers; without her, none of the villains would be effectively opposed at all.
  • Dragon Ball's Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest: While Dr. Kochin served as The Dragon to Dr. Wheelo, it was he who enacted the plot of the movie. He gathered the Dragon Balls, wished for his master to be free, and through the Bio-Warriors and Bio-Men he created, has kidnapped Master Roshi, Bulma, and Piccolo.
  • Ingress: Even though the Collaborators are the ones pulling his strings, the one carrying most of the villainous plot is Liu. Even when his bosses take the reigns, they get swiftly dispatched by Brandt's scheme, and Liu ends up being the last known Collaborator villain to die in the end.
  • RahXephon: While Lord Bähbem and his Ancient Conspiracy are behind most of the things that drive the plot, the Mu are the primary antagonists fought throughout the series.
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    Comic Books 
  • Arawn: Math is the most prominent antagonist in the series, since his murderous rivalry with Arawn drives the plot, but he is under the influence of the Black Cauldron, who is the real Big Bad.
  • De cape et de crocs: Mendoza is the series' most iconic and recurring villain. Much like Olrik, he usually works as the Dragon with an Agenda / The Starscream for other villains.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Changelings Have a King, the eponymous King Carapace is this. While Queen Chrysalis created him (by transforming Prince Blueblood into a changeling) to serve as a progenitor of new "pure" changelings and a source of love/power, and the two of them nominally oversee the hive and the invasion together, he takes a much more active role in planning and carrying out the invasion, while Chrysalis is mainly concerned with her brood, and it's implied he's isolating and manipulating her.
  • The Bridge has an overarching Big Bad Bagan with an Arc Villain for each story arc that is under its command, thus technically making them all this as said Big Bad has a case of justified Orcus on His Throne. Most prominent example would be Enjin for the Equestria Girls arc, who is a Scarily Competent Tracker and full blown Knight of Cerebus. The threat of it alone is enough to spur an Enemy Mine team-up.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps completely reshaped Earth's views on aliens and space. The destruction wrought during the Lantern War, a clash between the Red Lantern Corp and the Green Lantern Corp, turned public opinion against aliens and led them to call for the ousting or extermination of all extraterrestrials, even previously loved superheros like Starfire and Martian Manhunter. All investments into space travel were shunted aside as humans became terrified of what existed outside of their planet. In the present, it's precisely this level of Fantastic Racism that gives Izuku his incredible self-loathing and dysphoria, as he's constantly berating himself for what he did to Bakugou and for being an alien on a planet that hates them as a whole.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, the Prowler is All For One's liaison to Mysterio and the primary driving force of the plot in the early parts of the story. She's responsible for raiding an illegal biology lab, which let the spider that bit Izuku to escape. Her bungled attempt to assassinate Peter led Izuku to run in to help him, which in turn inspires All Might to give Izuku the confidence to become a Hero. Her new equipment also draws the eye of law enforcement, which gets them to start looking into Mysterio.
  • Parado and the Military Uniform Princess both share this role in Blood on the Hands of a Healer. While the powers of the latter are what causes the Serial Escalation, it is the actions of the former that allowed Kamen Rider Chronicle to be completed and allow said crossing over to occur in the first place.
  • Burning Bridges, Building Confidence: While Lila is responsible for turning most of the class against Marinette, Alya is the one who openly confronts and harasses her and Cole. Convinced that Marinette was actually secretly bullying Lila — and that Cole is a Jerkass who's been insulting everyone without reason, she constantly insults and belittles them. The only thing that distracts her from doing so? Rena Rouge being replaced as the Fox, which blows up into its own set of issues that she causes from her outrage. This reaches the point that Alya openly assaults both of them in class, after sharpening her fingernails in hopes of maximizing the amount of damage she does while trying to claw their faces.
  • The Magical Girl Crisis Crossover Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights features Chaos as its Crossover Villain-in-Chief, but since it's a Sentient Cosmic Force without physical form, it needs someone else to lead Dead End in the mortal world. Enter Joker, Dead End's field leader, a sadistic and psychopathic Villainous Harlequin who goes around causing as much suffering as possible. By the time the titular Morning Lights are officially formed, Joker has heroes from five different universes gunning for his head.
  • There's a lot of antagonistic figures waiting in the wings in Fate/Zero fanfic A Poisoned Chalice, but none have caused more havoc than Ibaraki Douji, who was small potatoes in her game of origin, but is more in her element here...which means terror and tragedy for the residents of Fuyuki. To put it simply, she starts her reign of terror by devouring every patron of a bar and just gets worse from there, dictating much of the plot through her ruthless actions.

    Films — Animation 
  • Deconstructed in Wreck-It Ralph. The eponymous Villain Protagonist's job is to destroy the town of Niceland, in which Fix-It Felix, Jr. has to repair the damage done. Because of this, the Nicelanders consider Ralph as a Hate Sink and generally shun him. Fed up with the treatment, the villain decides to break out on his own to prove that he is capable of being a hero like Felix. There's just one problem: Ralph is a vital part of the game. Without him, the game literally won't function, which will cause the game to be decommissioned, which will make every resident either dead or homeless, and Felix is apparently the only one who knows this. By the time Ralph returns to make amends and the Nicelanders realize how much they took him for granted, the game is hours away from being unplugged for good.
  • Waternoose is the Big Bad of Monsters, Inc., but Randall is the main threat for the majority of the film, both in confronting the heroes and doing most of the work for his plan. Fittingly, Randall is confronted physically in a long, climactic chase scene, while Waternoose is quickly defeated afterwards via Engineered Public Confession.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Colonel Miles Quaritch of Avatar. He doesn't run the RDA, but Jake and the Na'vi must fight Quaritch and his army to save the day.
  • Loki does such a good job of driving the plot in The Avengers (2012) that it's easy to miss his brief conversations with "the Other" about the mysterious head honcho who gave him the scepter and a mission. The Stinger reveals he's actually a pawn in Thanos's scheme.
  • The 1955 version of Biff Tannen in Back to the Future. Half the conflict is trying to get Marty McFly back to 1985, the other half is Biff bullying Marty’s father George, which directly threatens Marty because George might not have the courage to court Lorraine, which would lead to Marty being erased from existence. Biff graduates to Big Bad for Part II, while his Famous Ancestor Buford “Mad Dog” Tanner serves the same role for Part III.
  • The leader of the Replicants, Roy Batty, is the main antagonist of Blade Runner and in a way can be considered a villain, but along with his brethren whom he coordinates, he merely seeks his freedom and the chance to live like natural humans. Are they the real instigators of this conflict? No, that role goes to Dr. Tyrell and his Tyrell Corporation, who not only created them as slaves and gave them a soon-to-be expiration date, but also forbade their presence on Earth under penalty of death, no retirement.
  • Luv from Blade Runner 2049 has more screentime than Niander Wallace, tracks K down up to Deckard's hideout and fights K to the death at the end.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While the titular antagonist is not the Big Bad, he is the one who drives most of the action (to the point that the final, climatic fight is between him and Steve), and has the most emotional impact on the plot thanks to his true identity: a brainwashed Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers's long-thought dead best friend.
  • In Cube Zero, Jax is the most palpable human threat in the film as the evil organization's field man who directly cleans up after their experiment goes awry when one of the technicians revolts. He's shown receiving orders over the phone from people higher up in the chain, but they're never seen.
  • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, acting as the leader of the resurrected League of Shadows. He has almost as much screen time as Batman and Catwoman combined, and his actions against Gotham drive the majority of the plot until he's revealed to be The Dragon to the true mastermind, Talia Al Gul.
  • While Dr. Howell is the instigator and the Big Bad of Death Warmed Up, his flunky Spider drives most of the plot in his (eventually personal) pursuit of the main characters.
  • Die Hard is something of a subversion. While Hans Gruber does set the events of the movie into motion, forcing other characters into action, and otherwise driving the entire plot of the movie, John McClane also sends the plot into other directions by being proactive and antagonizing Gruber. Their battle of wits, both men acting and reacting to the other, sets the general cat-and-mouse tone of the movie, with both taking turns in either role.
  • District 9: Although Piet Smit is technically the main antagonist of the movie, Koobus Venter is the one who commands all the mercenary soldiers going after the main character.
  • Kaecilius serves as the main antagonist of Doctor Strange (2016) as he is the clearly the main threat of the movie. But even then, he is little more than a servant to Dormammu who only shows up briefly during the climax.
  • Elysium: As the leader of Elysium's secret police force on Earth, Agent Kruger serves as Delacourt's primary instrument against Max and the band of freedom fighters with whom he aligns himself. He later replaces Delacourt as the film's main antagonist by murdering Delacourt in a plot to seize control of Elysium for himself.
  • While he's one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate in GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, Destro's a bit more proactive than The Doctor. In the sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation, while Cobra Commander is the Big Bad, Zartan is the most prominent antagonist and does more to set Cobra's evil plan in motion.
  • In Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, there's a werewolf who's constantly stalking Brigitte, but even with the revelation of the true Big Bad, the werewolf's still the Final Boss.
  • While perhaps most slasher movie villains would qualify, few play this trope as straight as Halloween (2018) - from the start, before he's even let loose, Michael Myers is the focus of every main character's attention (specially our protagonist, who's seemingly been obsessed with him for 40 years) and everything happens either because of him or other character's efforts of getting to him.
  • The Hateful Eight: Jody is a special case of this. He appears only in one shot when he is revealed, then in a flashback, and is then immediately killed off in the next scene. However, while he appears the least, he has the biggest impact on the story, being the leader of the gang, planning the trap at Minnie's Haberdashery, and then escalating the situation by shooting Warren.
  • Mars Attacks!: The Martian ambassador gets more screentime and contributes more than his leader.
  • Mission: Impossible II lacks a straightforward example of the trope, but the page quote summarizes the plot brilliantly; the good Doctor spliced together every influenza strain known to man into a superflu he codenamed "Chimera" - in order to develop a perfect influenza cure. That worked out perfectly, and would have been worth billions. Unfortunately, he didn't realize he was working for an Evil Drug Company, resulting in the plot; the EDC realized that his superflu would be worth hundreds of billions to the right buyer, and that a superflu outbreak would make a universal cure worth trillions. In turn, an agent sent to rescue him and the cure goes rogue to steal them. In turn, the hero is sent after both the rogue and the EDC. All of it happens because of Chimera.
  • In The NeverEnding Story, Gmork fills this role in the first movie. The Nothing is probably the actual Big Bad, but Atreyu has to fight him. Gmork even says something to this effect:
    Atreyu: Who are you, really?
    G'mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.
  • "Smith" in Nick of Time, the Psycho for Hire who kidnaps the daughter of the main character to blackmail him into assassinating a governor and threatens him continually, doing as Walken does. The apparent Big Bad behind the plot is an unnamed lobbyist who only appears once before riding away near the very end of the movie.
  • In Norbit, Rasputia takes this title. She is also the mastermind behind the plan to turn the orphanage into a strip club, having her brothers to pass it off as their own idea.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Barbossa in the first film, who leads the cursed pirates into getting rid of the curse and represents them, Davy Jones in the second (where his deal-making that is meant to take advantage of the mortal fear takes center stage) and third (where he is no longer in charge but is still a very forceful presence and the film is as much about defeating Beckett as much as dealing with Jones for Jack and Will) films, and Blackbeard in the fourth film.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Even though he's working under Dietrich, Belloq is the villain with the most effect on the plot and effectively the main antagonist.
  • Clarence Boddicker in RoboCop (1987). Sure, he takes orders from Dick Jones, but Boddicker is the person actively terrorizing the streets of Detroit whereas Jones avoids getting his hands dirty.
  • Although Billy Loomis works with a partner in Scream (1996), he's a much more personal antagonist to Sidney and has a bigger stake in the murders than said partner, who does what he does For the Evulz and out of "peer pressure."
  • In Serenity, the Operative is a secret government agent who represents the Alliance's interests and carries out their plans to use extreme measures to create a better world. The government elite who give him his orders remain unseen, so he's the closest to an overarching villain in the movie and presents the biggest threat to the heroes.
  • Star Wars:
    • Darth Vader, especially The Empire Strikes Back, is the most famous example, the defacto face of evil in the Galaxy, but ultimately subservient to Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Sidious. In A New Hope, Vader is a direct participant in the Battle of Yavin, whereas Tarkin simply watches from the sidelines. Even in Return of the Jedi, where Emperor Palpatine takes a more direct role, Vader is the one who actually brings Luke before the Emperor after sensing his presence on Endor, which was something even Palpatine failed to notice, and Vader is the one Luke faces in a lightsaber duel. Palpatine only attacks Luke at the end of the film, during a Villainous Breakdown after his plans to corrupt Luke have failed.
      • In the novel Death Star Vader is even described as "the Emperor's wrist-hawk".
    • The Phantom Menace: Darth Maul, since Sidious (the true mastermind behind the invasion of Naboo) is operating behind the scenes, and Viceroy Nute Gunray (the leader of the Trade Federation, who the In-Universe heroes believe to be behind the invasion) tries to stay as far away from the action as possible. Darth Maul hunts the heroes on Tatooine after Gunray can't find them, and the revelation of his existence alarms the Jedi Council so much that they send Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan back to Naboo with Queen Amidala just so they can draw him out. Maul's apprentice at the battle prevents the Jedi from participating in the capture attempt on Gunray, and Maul is the final opponent in the film to be defeated after the capture of Gunray and the sabotage of the Droid Army.
    • Attack of the Clones: Count Dooku is the leader of the Separatists, the man who arranged the assassination attempts on Senator Amidala, and is later revealed to be the incumbent apprentice of Darth Sidious.
    • Revenge of the Sith: Palpatine / Sidious himself finally takes a direct role this time around. He influences Anakin throughout the film, including deliberately revealing his identity as a Sith to Anakin, resulting in a lightsaber duel between Palpatine and Mace Windu after Anakin informs the latter, which results in Palpatine killing Mace, convincing Anakin to become Darth Vader. Then he activates Order 66, establishes the Galactic Empire, duels Master Yoda concurrently to Vader's own duel with Obi-Wan during the film's climax, reconstructs Vader into the cyborg we see in the Original Trilogy, and drives the final nail in the coffin to Vader's fate by informing him of his (Vader's) role in Padmé's death.
    • Kylo Ren, Vader's own grandson, holds the position in The Force Awakens, as the public face of the First Order, but is in complete thrall to Supreme Leader Snoke. That is, until he gives himself a Klingon Promotion in The Last Jedi, and becomes Supreme Leader himself. In The Rise of Skywalker he's back in the position (until his Heel–Face Turn) doing the will of the resurrected Emperor.
    • Rogue One: Director Orson Krennic has the most direct connection to the Death Star saboteurs (being the one who separated Jyn Erso from her parents) but answers to the Imperial leadership...who are not shy about reminding him of it.
    • Solo: Dryden Vos acts as the public face of the Crimson Dawn and is the main antagonist to Han Solo during the film, but is merely a subordinate to Maul.
  • In Terminator, each Terminator sent back in time serves this role for the film they appear in. Special mention goes to the T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original film as he headlines the film as its star.
  • In Terror in a Texas Town, The Gunslinger Johnny Crale acts as the Big Bad McNeil's enforcer. He commits all of the dirty acts required so McNeil can keep his hands clean. So while it is McNeil's scheme that drives the plot, it is Crale's acts that put the match to the powder keg.

    Literature 
  • In most variations of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is plot driver underneath Prince John's Big Bad.
  • Sauron is the Big Bad of The Lord of the Rings, but Saruman (and to an extent the Witch-King and the other Ringwraiths) are much more visible and involved villains, especially in the movies. Broadly speaking, each of the six "books" that the story is internally divided into has its own Heavy, with the exception of Book II and Book VI:
    • Book I: The Black Riders collectively, who pursue the hobbits across Eriador and are the first tangible representatives of the power of Sauron they encounter.
    • Book III: Saruman, though introduced in the previous Book, takes center stage here as the immediate threat to Rohan and Aragorn's side of the broken Fellowship, who must be dealt with before the heroes can take the fight directly to Sauron.
    • Book IV: Gollum, who is forced to serve as Frodo and Sam's guide while serving as a dark foil to both of them, while planning to betray them and take the Ring for most of that time.
    • Book V: The Witch-Kingnote 
  • For The Silmarillion, Morgoth is the Heavy as well as the Big Bad for most of the story, however the episodic nature of its mythical narrative allows other characters like Feanor, Sauron, and Glaurung to all have their time in the spotlight.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, Kronos is the Big Bad, but Luke drives the plot, as Kronos has no physical form until Battle of the Labyrinth, when he possess Luke, and can only plot and scheme.
  • Though Lord Voldemort is the Big Bad of Harry Potter, he's only directed the plot from afar until the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The role of the plot driver is therefore often taken by another character, who may or may not be working for him:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Professor Quirinus Quirrell, though not a Death Eater, wants to steal the titular Philosopher's Stone to help to bring back his weakened master who lives inside Quirrell like a parasite.
    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Lucius Malfoy places the Tom Riddle diary, which contains a piece of Voldemort's soul, in Ginny Weasley's textbooks, causing her to free the Salazar Slytherin monster from the Chamber of Secrets to kill Muggleborns.
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Sirius Black, said to be Voldemort's right hand man. Until it is revealed to be a Red Herring, as the real traitor is Peter Pettigrew, "Wormtail", who was disguised as Ron's pet rat Scabbers, framed Sirius for selling Harry's parents' lives to Voldemort, and killed thirteen muggles in an explosion.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Bartemius Crouch Jr., using the Polyjuice Potion to disguise himself as Alastor "Madeye" Moody, plots an encounter between Voldemort and Harry to help his master to regain his full body during the Triwizard Tournament. And he succeeds.
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Dolores Jane Umbridge is the only major antagonist in the series not related to Voldemort and his Death Eaters, at least until the seventh book. She is the villain during the first half of the book when she is proclaimed as High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, turning the school into some kind of a dictatorial state and she also sent the Dementors against Harry during the summer. The next half, when Harry and his friends enter the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries, the antagonism goes to Voldemort and his followers.
    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Voldemort tasks Draco Malfoy to kill Dumbledore as a punishment to Lucius Malfoy for failing him in the Department of Mysteries, and Draco's increasingly frantic attempts result in several people having brushes with death throughout the year. Draco's mother, Narcissa, makes an Unbreakable Vow with Severus Snape to aid her son to fulfill his mission in case he fails. Snape does so and kills Dumbledore and he is revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince whose book had caused some mishaps in Harry's behaviour.
  • Paolo Bacigalupi:
  • Several times in The Dresden Files, the most visible villain of a given book would be distinct from the ultimate mastermind.
    • Grave Peril: The Nightmare aka Leonid Kravos is Harry's most consistent opponent across the book, but the actual mastermind is the vampire Bianca.
    • Dead Beat: Grevane, who appears first and most often of the three villainous necromancers and is fought most consistently through the novel, but he's not the most dangerous or the Final Boss - that's Cowl.
    • Proven Guilty: The Scarecrow causes most of the bad things that happen in the book, but he's an enforcer for Winter Court royalty and doesn't act under his own initiative. The actual mastermind is left somewhat ambiguous.
    • White Night: Vittorio Malvora's attempt to overthrow the rest of the White Court serves as the book's primary plot, but the actual chessmaster behind him is Cowl.
    • Turn Coat: Shagnasty the Skinwalker is one of the most terrifying opponents Harry has faced to that point in the series and serves to stymie his search for The Mole on the White Council, but the mole himself is Peabody.
    • Changes: Duchess Arianna sets most of the plot in motion when she poisons the White Council and kidnaps Harry's daughter, but her dad the Red King, who doesn't show up in person until the climax, is the true Big Bad of the book and Disc-One Final Boss of the series as a whole.
    • For the series as the whole, the Red Court of Vampires are the most obvious and heavily featured recurring villains, though the Black Council is shaping up as series-wide Big Bad. With the Reds out of the picture, the Fomor look to be stepping into their vacated role.
  • Nom Anor in the New Jedi Order series. He's not the leader or even a leader of the Yuuzhan Vong, being a mid-ranked but influential intelligence agent, but he's by far the most recurring villain in the novels, and by the last quarter or so the series is as much about him as it is about the heroes.
  • Hawkfrost in the second Warrior Cats arc, The New Prophecy. While his dad Tigerstar is the Big Bad, Hawkfrost's schemes to take over the Clans are the main driving point, partially because his dad is dead and only appears as a Spirit Advisor.
  • Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men, the most menacing and visible of those searching for the drug money. In theory, there is a Big Bad Ensemble of the major players who hired Chigurh and the various Mexicans (implied to be the "Matacumbe Petroleum Group" and real-life drug lord Pablo Acosta), but they're ultimately rendered irrelevant by Chigurh's inscrutable, single-minded rampage, a point driven home when Chigurh kills the guy who apparently hired both him and Carson Wells for interfering with his work, then negotiates a new contract with the man at the very top.
    Accountant: He felt, the more people searching-
    Anton: That's foolish. You pick the one right tool.
  • Krait, the assassin in Dean Koontz's The Good Guy. He spends most of the book as the sole enemy hunting down Linda on behalf of a vaguely defined shadow government that is both explained and destroyed near the end of the book. Played with, as Tim also helps drive the plot by intervening in the hit, similar to the Die Hard example above.
  • If you could really call him a "villain" per say, Pepe el Romano in The House of Bernada Alba manages to drive the story without even appearing once. His presence in the background causes sister to bitterly turn against sister, and eventually undermine's Bernada's authority over the house, as Adela rebels.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Mediochre, Mr. Antler drives the plot for most of the book, up until Maelstrom catches up and eventually overtakes him in this regard. Neither of them is the Big Bad - they both at least nominally work for Sapphire - and it's actually the tempomancer who is implied to be the most dangerous villain present, working for some sort of Greater-Scope Villain Nebulous Evil Organisation. Antler and Maelstrom are the Heavies because both Sapphire and the tempomancer prefer to work indirectly from the shadows.
  • The Requiem for Dragons trilogy from Dragons of Requiem has Mercy Deus. Out of all the villains, she has the most screentime and is directly responsible for almost all of the death and destruction throughout the novels. However, she's Just Following Orders from her mother Beatrix, who is the actual Big Bad.
  • Diogenes Pendergast in Agent Pendergast books Dance of Death and Book of the Dead. He is the driving force for both books and even manages to get more screentime than his brother in each of them.
  • In Animorphs, Visser Three is leading the Yeerk invasion of Earth, but the Yeerk Empire is actually ruled by the Council of Thirteen, who only appear in one book. He's also technically outranked by his rival, Visser One, who started the invasion but is only a recurring villain in the series. There's also a Greater-Scope Villain, Crayak, who is pulling the strings of the Yeerk invasion (and just about every other evil thing in the galaxy) but can't do much directly, being limited by the arcane rules of his game with the Ellimist.
  • In the second and third Old Kingdom books, the necromancer Hedge is the most visible villain and the most direct threat to the heroes, though it's implied throughout that he's getting his marching orders from elsewhere. He's actually working for Orannis the Destroyer, a powerful Sealed Evil in a Can; because of said sealing, Orannis has very limited ability to interact with the world beyond sporadically taking over Nick and using him as a mouthpiece, therefore leaving most of the heavy lifting on evil's behalf to Hedge by necessity.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, Jack Frost's actions start the plot of every series.
  • In The Behemoth, Stephen Burton kicks off the plot through murder, and evades capture at every turn, but is not actually the Big Bad.
  • Daemon: The Major is technically just a (highly-placed) enforcer for the conspiracy. However, he's the most visible and active of the antagonists.
  • The Codex Alera series has Lady Invidia Aquitaine. While never the Big Bad (though she does flirt with the position a few times), she appears in every book, either as the one pulling the strings of the book's main antagonist or in an Enemy Mine with the heroes in order to eliminate the competition and was responsible for engineering the death of the crown prince in the backstory, kicking off the main plot. Altogether, this makes her the series' most visible and prominent villain.
  • While Monks is the architect behind the hardships that Oliver Twist has to deal with after the first part of the story, he has thanks to his money and influence, Fagin and by extension Bill Sykes do his dirty work to the point that he is often forgotten by readers. They are so much more direct and iconic that lots of adaptations of the book forget his existence as well.
  • The Redwall series has a few examples of the most prominent villain in the story being a little less prominent in terms of the setting.
    • Mattimeo has a good example in Slagar the Cruel. Though he's the one who instigates the conflict, he's relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. He's not in charge of the underground empire; it's ruled by Malkariss, and his right hand Nadaz helps to administer it. He's not even a particularly high-ranking minion. However, he does instigate the story's conflict through his kidnapping of the heroes' children, and he's the most prominent antagonist towards both his captives and his pursuers.
  • Utopia 58 has EQL61, the White General within the White Army. He doesn't show up very often in the book, but he's controlling the battalion hunting down Kay and his allies.
  • In The Traitor Son Cycle, Ash is the Big Bad of the story, but his minion Thorn is the main antagonist for the first three books - in fact, until book three, everybody thinks that Thorn is the Big Bad.
  • In The Witchlands, the main opponent of the heroes so far is not the Big Bad (who's currently content with being The Ghost), but his Dragon Esme, who creates the Cleaved and sends them after the protagonists.
  • Emir Abdulaziz in Eurico the Presbyter is merely one of the military commanders of the Arab invasion on Spain and the only authority figures he answers to are his own father Musa and the caliph. However, he drives much of the plot on personal level by kidnapping the noblewoman Hermengarda, who is Eurico's Love Interest, for his own Royal Harem.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: The Cousins are this in season 3. With Juan Bolsa being the Greater-Scope Villain, it is they who have the greatest prominence in the USA and who trigger the greatest conflicts during the first half of the season. Plus, it's they who trigger the biggest conflict between Walter White, Hank, and Gus, after all.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The First is intangible, which means all the physical jobs belong to Caleb. It first showed up in season 3 as a Monster of the Week, and claims to have been the Greater-Scope Villain for the entirety of the series, but only becomes relevant in season 7.
  • Angel: Lindsey and Lilah drive most of the conflicts related to Wolfram & Hart even though they're really only mooks to the actual higher-ups of the firm. Wolfram & Hart's actual director, Linwood Murrow, isn't even seen until season 3 and then gets killed by Lilah a season later. Even then he was still below the Senior Partners who don't show up until the last season.
  • Game of Thrones: Cersei in Season 1. In the series' first story arc, Tywin entrusts her with the task of seizing the throne on behalf of the Lannister clan and ruling King's Landing while he crushes all contesting forces to their family's claim in the field; she performs well at first until her son Joffrey becomes king...
  • Ben on Lost, especially in late season 2 (even without knowing his real name...) and all of season 3.
  • Diana in V (1983) — Jane Badler even got top billing, thanks to alphabetical order. Although Diana commands the Los Angeles mothership during the initial invasion, she shares power in the Visitor fleet hierarchy with several others such as Steven as head of security and several superiors who outrank her in military matters. At the end of the two miniseries, she takes power from Supreme Commander (Fleet Admiral) John and boasts that while she planned the entire operation, he was just a meaningless figurehead.
  • Gatehouse of The Shadow Line. He's a Dragon-in-Chief rather than a Big Bad, but his plans are eventually revealed to be driving almost every aspect of the series's plot, even in the storylines he's apparently uninvolved with.
  • Tony Almeida in the seventh season of 24. Alan Wilson is the true Big Bad of the season, but Tony's actions throughout the entire thing serves one giant Gambit Roulette to kill Wilson which is what serves as Season 7's entire driving force.
  • Bo Crowder takes this role in Season 1 of Justified following his release, with the rest of the show being about his attempt to rebuild his criminal empire. Season 2 has Big Bad Mags Bennett and her Starscream son, Dickie, alternate the role. Season 3 has Robert Quarles. Season 4 sees Nicky Augustine take the role on behalf of Theo Tonin, and Season 5 gives the role to Daryl Crowe Jr.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise had Commander Dolim in Season 3. He was the Xindi-Reptilian leader who had the most influence regarding the events of the plot, and was most devoted to the Sphere Builders. While the Sphere Builders served as the Big Bad (or possibly the Greater-Scope Villain), Dolim did most of the in-the-trenches work.
    • Silik of the Suliban was this for the Temporal Cold War arcs in the first two seasons.
  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man and the Bounty Hunter from The X-Files. While they're technically just agents of the Syndicate, they're the villains Mulder and Scully face the most and provide roles their bosses can't really fill. The Cigarette-Smoking Man provides hints about the extent of the conspiracy, is constantly manipulating the situation, and gives a face to the villainous force behind the plot. Meanwhile the Bounty Hunter serves as a physical archenemy for Mulder and Scully to contrast with CSM's role as a mental enemy.
  • Tensou Sentai Goseiger features Buredoran as the most recurring villain of the Goseigers, allying with each of the evil organizations faced by the Goseigers before revealing himself as the true Big Bad, Brajira of the Messiah, and a Fallen Gosei Angel.
  • While Deboss is the true leader of the Deboss Army, he's sealed and unable to do much for most of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, so it's his subordinate Hundred-Faced High Priest Chaos who directs the Debo Knights and comes up with the Evil Plan each episode.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • The first season has James Wesley, Wilson Fisk's right hand. It's not until the fifth episode that we start seeing Fisk actively do gangster activities, and Wesley is the one taking care of most day-to-day affairs on his behalf and acting as the biggest threat and obstacle to others. Later on, Wesley slides into a more standard Dragon role as Fisk begins to take more initiative himself.
    • In the third season, Ben "Dex" Poindexter is also this for Fisk. Since Fisk is on house arrest (for most of the season, at least) and can't directly go after his enemies himself, Dex essentially becomes his personal assassin and enforcer.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 is all about the Brown Note experiments of Dr. Clayton Forrester. No Dr. Forrester, no show.
  • The various Number Twos play this role in The Prisoner (1967), while still answering to the unseen Number One.
  • Arrow: Malcolm Merlyn, the Big Bad of Season One, is responsible for the events of the entire show, having sabotaged the Queen's Gambit and leaving Oliver stranded on Lian Yu. Nearly all the misfortune in Oliver's life can be blamed on that incident and the five years of hell that followed. Malcolm was also directly responsible for the events of Season Three: he brainwashes Thea into killing Sara, sending Oliver into a collision course with Ra's al Ghul, whose death at the end of the season plays a part in the events of Season Five. In short, nobody has had more impact on Oliver Queen's life, and by extension, the Arrowverse, than Malcolm Merlyn has.
  • In Kamen Rider, the Great Leader of Shocker is this for the Showa era. He's the one directing Shocker and behind the creation of the Kamen Riders in the first place. In the first series though he stepped out of this role after the first few episodes, instead leaving most of the day-to-day management of his organization and deploying the Monster of the Week to one of his top lieutenants. The Great Leader himself never actually appears in person until the final episode, instead directing his subordinates as a Voice with an Internet Connection. The same goes for his successor, the Great Leader of Destron, in Kamen Rider V3.
  • Kamen Rider X has Apollo Geist, G.O.D.'s "Chief of Security", as the most recurring foe of X-Rider and the one responsible for eliminating his girlfriend and her Backup Twin.
  • Kamen Rider Amazon: Ten-Faced Demon Gorgos is the one behind the beastmen of Geddon and the one responsible for destroying Amazon's village.
  • Kamen Rider Stronger has General Shadow. He starts off as Black Satan's replacement for their first lieutenant Mr. Titan, before splitting off from the organization and, after Black Satan's defeat, founding his own group the Delza Army to continue menacing Stronger. Even after getting deposed as leader of Delza, Shadow still serves as an imposing foe to Stronger up until his defeat.
  • Kamen Rider BLACK has High Priest Darom as the one who directed most of the Gorgom Cult's activities until their Dark Messiah Shadow Moon was ready.
  • Kamen Rider BLACK RX has General Jark, military leader of the Crisis Empire and the one in charge of their invasion of Earth. Though subordinate to Grand Lord Crisis, his boss doesn't appear until the end of the show and it's Jark who drives most of the conflict until then.
  • Kamen Rider 555 has The Rival and Secondary Rider Masato Kusaka. While he's nominally on the heroes' side fighting against the Orphnochs, his machinations are responsible for dampening the friendship between Takumi and Kiba and sabotaging peace between humans and Orphnochs. By the final episodes the heroes are mostly dealing with the fallout of his constant sabotage of their efforts to unite, most notably Kiba's turn to the dark side.
  • Kamen Rider Hibiki: The Man and Woman, who are responsible for cultivating the Makamou.
  • Though the Worms are the Monster of the Week in Kamen Rider Kabuto, it's ZECT's Number Two Masato Mishima who causes the most problems for the protagonists, including the creation of Dark Kabuto, and later becomes the final Big Bad as the Gryllus Worm once most of the Worms are dealt with.
  • The Bat Fangire is the one leading the Fangires in the 1984 storyline of Kamen Rider Kiva, though in the 2008 storyline it's Bishop / Swallowtail Fangire who stirs up the most trouble, driving a wedge in Wataru and Taiga's friendship, and later revives the Bat Fangire to defeat Wataru and Taiga.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, Apollo Geist is the most proactive Dai-Shocker commander shown, the one spearheading their invasion of the other A.R. Worlds, and the closest the show has to a Big Bad.
    • Before Dai-Shocker's introduction we had Narutaki, who was Decade's main recurring foe up until that point.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim has Ryoma Sengoku, the creator of the Sengoku and Genesis Drivers and the real power behind the Yggdrasill Corporation. He's also indirectly responsible for a number of other villains in spin-off material, including the villain of his own Gaim Gaiden movie.
  • Kamen Rider Drive: The Heart Roidmude is the one spearheading the Roidmude uprising, the front leader of the Roidmude Executives and the main Arch-Enemy of Kamen Rider Drive.
  • In Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Kuroto Dan is the one responsible for much of the woes of our heroes. He's the one who caused the first Bugster virus by turning Emu Hojo into Patient Zero for it, and began the development of Kamen Rider Chronicle as a means to trap everyone inside as a testament to his genius. Even after he's taken out, the effects of his crimes continue to be felt across the series and he later becomes the Big Bad of the post-series "Another Ending" movie trilogy.
  • Kamen Rider Build splits the role between Night Rogue and Juzaburo Namba. Night Rogue is responsible for helping to trigger a Civil War in Japan while Namba manipulated and said war to exploit it to line his pockets and seize power. The real Big Bad (Evolt/Blood Stalk) is there lurking, but it's Night Rogue and Namba's machinations that move the plot along.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O has an odd example in Oma Zi-O, the tyrannical future self of Sougo Tokiwa who is the ruler of a Bad Future in the year 2068. While he doesn't really menace the heroes directly, his presence looms over the show and he is the reason most of the other characters travel back in time, either to prevent his rise (Tsukuyomi, Geiz, the Time Jackers) or ensure it (Woz, Swartz).
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Horobi is the one at the forefront of MetsubouJinrai.net's crusade against humanity, the Mouth of Sauron for the Ark Satellite and the most recurring foe of Zero-One.
  • Legend Heroes has Zhang Jue, a rogue Angel whose machinations within the Dream Battle slowly override the Ryuki-style Battle Royale plot of the show and lead to the remaining heroes uniting against him.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Raina, member of Centipede, tends to be the face of the organization from an audience perspective, given their tendency to let their own members die. Even Raina recognizes that her superiors don't give a crap about her well-being.
  • Resurrection Ertugrul: During the first season, although Petruchio Manzini is the man in charge of the Amanus Mountains Knights Templar, it is Titus (Petruchio’s most elite soldier), hellbent on avenging his slain brother, who is most active in pursuing Ertugrul and initiates many conflicts without any his master's interference.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cromartie is the main threat to the Connors in the first episode and from then on, until they succeed in killing him about a third of the way through the second season.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Jeff Jarrett: In 2004, the Capitol+National Wrestling Alliance-TNA attempted takeover of the International Wrestling Association's Puerto Rican branch used a Big Bad Duumvirate; Ray González (The Mole with shares in the World Wrestling Council, looking to revive its old Capitol trademark) and Panda Energy (suits who were sore about IWA owner Victor Jovica lending money to WWC to prevent them from buying it up). Since none of the Panda suits were wrestlers, the face of the NWA-TNA side was Jarrett, and he had his own agendas.
  • Chris Hero was front and center of the CZW Invasion of Ring of Honor. Hero instigated the hostilities before Zandig and Necro Butcher's later involvement. Zandig was ultimately responsible, due to negligence causing the antipathy between promotions, and when Zandig did act, Hero and Butcher quickly became subservient to him. However, for most of of the "feud" he was nowhere to be seen, leaving Hero and Butcher to do all the heavy lifting and between the two, Hero acted as leader more often than not, had the most to say, had the most grievances, did most of the planning, etc.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Because the Gods of Chaos from Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar are far too powerful to manifest or act directly on the material world, they will often select a mortal champion or send one of their top lieutenants to do their bidding against their enemies. The two most recognizable ones are Archaeon the Everchosen from Fantasy and Age of Sigmar and Abaddon the Despoiler from 40K, both the most powerful Chaos-aligned mortals in their settings who will drive whole narrative campaigns by their actions.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy has a number of them:
    • The Dark Knight in Final Fantasy II is frequently encountered in charge of The Empire's operations.
    • Golbez in Final Fantasy IV leads the heroes through a Gambit Roulette before his Heel–Face Turn and the revelation of the true villain who manipulated him, Zemus.
    • The Mysterious Girl in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years drives the plot with her implacable efforts to seize the Crystals, appearing throughout the individual characters' chapters, often in Hopeless Boss Fights. Her — or rather their — master, the Creator, is conversely not met until the very end of the final dungeon.
    • Kefka in Final Fantasy VI starts out as The Dragon and is the most persistent and recurring villain even before he seizes godlike power and usurps The Emperor as the Big Bad halfway through the game.
    • Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII. Everything that happens to Cloud and co. throughout the game is because of him or a Jenova-generated clone of him.
    • Seymour of Final Fantasy X. The real Big Bad, Sin, is actually a creation of long dead summoner Yu Yevon, who is, according to a few people in the game, by now barely intelligent, neither good nor evil. Hence, while a giant brute is scary (lordy, is Sin scary), he's not really compelling villain material. Enter Seymour, with the most lines and screen presence of all the antagonistic cast, engaged in a plan whose effects drive a great deal of the story.
  • The Purple Guy of Five Nights at Freddy's is the character that kicks off the plot, by murdering the children who would later possess the animatronics in which he had no direct involvement in (though is aware of it) and is indirectly responsible for all the deaths of security guards, and later the restaurant chain being closed down. And yet, throughout the games, we never see the unnamed killer outside of cutscenes (provided that we're not playing AS him in some games) until The Reveal of the third game, where he himself is possessing the sole-remaining animatronic.
  • Bravely Default has the aptly named "Evil One", who, despite remaining a mystery throughout the plot, and being more-or-less a secondary threat to Big Bad Brav Lee, is the one the heroes are trying to stop. Mysterious as this being is, The Reveal that it’s Airy, of all people, drives this home since she's been deceiving the protagonists against Brav Lee to help her master Ouroboros essentially break into the real world and cause havoc.
  • Metal Gear: Ocelot (with other various code names) is one for the series overall, being the chief agent and representative of the shady US government, having more boss fights and encounters than any other antagonist.
  • Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2 is the prominent Big Bad throughout the entire series. His actions or the actions of his corporation, Hyperion, are the primary cause of nearly every event across Pandora.
  • Dead Rising has its share of Heavies whose actions are motivated by a conspiracy by the US government.
    • In the original Dead Rising, Carlito Keyes kicks off the zombie outbreak in Willamette as part of his plan to take revenge for Santa Cabenza, a South American town that housed a wasp that was found to create zombies during the US government's experiments to increase meat production.
    • Dead Rising 2: Tyrone "TK" King, host of the Blood Sport game show "Terror Is Reality", started the zombie outbreak in Fortune City as part of a plan by Phenotrans to harvest queen wasps to make more Zombrex. Eventually, though, he deviated from the plan, motivated by pure, unadulterated greed.
    • Dead Rising 3: General John Hemlock works as both the Heavy and the Big Bad, starting the outbreak in Los Perdidos as part of a plan to seize power in the American government as well as create a bio-weapon that functions like a neutron bomb, zombifying and killing populations while keeping the infrastructure of infected cities intact.
  • In The Legend of Spyro, Malefor is the Big Bad, but he spends the first two games as Sealed Evil in a Can, so his Dragons serve as the main villains of the first two games, Dark Cynder in the first game and Gaul in the second. He only drives the plot in the third game after being freed.
  • Resident Evil: Ozwell E. Spencer is the series' Big Bad, but never drives the plot, allowing a number of other characters to step into that role.
  • Fear: Alma. Pretty much everything that happens in the game is a direct result of Alma's actions, whether they be conscious or unconscious. What isn't a result of her actions are due to Genevieve Aristide, Harlan Wade, and Paxton Fettel, but none of them have as much presence in the games.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Ghirahim, big time. While he's actually very loyal to his boss, it's his efforts in unsealing the can that drive the whole plot.
    • The same could be said for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks's Chancellor Cole. Like Ghirahim, everything he does is in the name of resurrecting his master, but he has a much greater presence in the plot compared to Malladus himself.
    • In Twilight Princess, Ganondorf is the Big Bad, but the heroes don't even meet him until right before the final battle. The Dragon Zant is the threat for most of the game, and has a closer connection to Midna than Ganondorf does (though arguably not to Link).
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds plays with this with Yuga. His main goal is to resurrect Ganon, but he simply wants the dead Ganon's power for himself. He actually works with Princess Hilda of Lorule, who tries to control him to fight Link. However, he manages to turn the tables and absorb Hilda along with Ganon, elevating him to true Big Bad status.
  • The Tales Series has quite a few.
    • Emeraude in Tales of Graces is probably the most notable example. At no point in the game are they positioned as a main antagonist, but flashbacks reveal that they are the root cause of everything that goes wrong in the story.
    • Duke may be the final antagonist in Tales of Vesperia, but the actions of Alexei (who ends up being a Disc Two Final Boss) drive the plot. Act 3 is mostly concerned with the fallout of his plans, and partaking in a copious amount of sidequests.
    • Grand Maestro Mohs in Tales of the Abyss, as he wants war because Yulia's Score depicts it, but, in the end, he's just an Unwitting Pawn to the real Big Bad, Van Grants.
      • Although, granted, what Van Grants did and does in the game prior to Mohs' actions is driving the plot to move into the direction of Mohs' actions.
    • Though Yggdrasil from Tales of Symphonia doesn't appear until about a third of the way into the game, almost every major villain is either taking orders from or plotting against him, and in fact the entire Journey of Regeneration that the heroes embark on at the start of the game is ultimately his idea, and only serves to further his plans. He does get mentioned at least once before he finally makes his appearance.
    • In Tales of Xillia, the Big Bad is King Nachtigal’s rivals Gaius and Muzet, but there are two characters who drive the plot besides him and her:
      • The first is Gilland, whose actions have a big drive in most of the characters' backgrounds. Because his ship invaded Rieze Maxia, he has given Alvin a life that raised him with a Chronic Back Stabbing Disorder and cause Milla to have such a huge, negative view on spyrix. It's also because of him that Derrick Mathis has left the Exodus Organization, which led to Jude being born and eventually causing Leia's injury as a child. It's also because of him that King Nachtigal is so set on his actions, however bad they may be. He’s even a Climax Boss. But, he is ultimately overshadowed by a greater threat.
      • The crown goes to the real Maxwell, though. It's his actions that have pretty much caused the entire story of Xillia to happen. Without him, Jude and Milla would never have met to begin with. Understandable, because Maxwell was the one who created Milla, and Muzét. Milla's creation made Ivar be so undyingly loyal to her, which backfired when the whole fiasco with the Lance of Kresnik happened, and created the schism that causes the last half of the game. And if it wasn't for this character, then Gilland wouldn't even be in Rieze Maxia. Yet, despite seeming everything like a Final Boss, he is ultimately betrayed by Gaius and Muzet, his own subordinates.
    • Tales of Berseria features a group called the Abbey. Artorius is the Big Bad as shown on the game's back cover and the game's first couple events. However, throughout the game, we learn that Melchior is the heavy to the plan - since it was him who sent Artorius go down the path he went, had Celica reincarnated into a Malak, and had been behind Magilou's backstory. The one thing that Melchior wasn't the cause of was the Daemonblight, which as we learn in the postgame is caused by the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Saren in Mass Effect is established as the apparent Big Bad in the first mission. It's later revealed that he's only the servant of a much bigger threat, but he remains Shepard's most personal enemy in the game even then.
    • Played with in the Collector General in Mass Effect 2, who is responsible for all the actions done by the Collectors and frequently taking over regular Collectors and telling you how futile your fight is. Most of the game is spent trying to get ready to fight him and there are all of a dozen quests (including companion quests) that don't involve him somehow. Ultimately it is revealed that the Collector General is simply a proxy allowing Harbinger to personally intervene, meaning that although Harbinger isn't seen until the very end his presence is felt all the way through the game.
    • Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3 kind of shares the Saren role with the Illusive Man, an exclusively mental opponent who sends Leng to get his hands dirty. As a result, Shepard doesn't bother trying to teach Kai the error of his ways and just kills him.
  • Nameless has the eponymous character. The latter used to belong to protagonist Eri, but has been forgotten about by her over the years, and his love and resentment towards her summon The Wizard to him. This allows him to form a contract with The Wizard that will cause Eri to remember who Nameless is, which leads to her dolls becoming human and forming the basis of the entire game.
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence has a justified example with Sir Nicholas, The Dragon to Grand Inquisitor Vitalis Benevent. Vitalis may be the head of the Inquisition hunting down the de Rune children, but he's in no condition at all to take action, so it's up to his chief enforcer to lead the manhunt for the one carrying the Macula.
  • The World Ends with You: The Composer sits back and lets the Game Masters, led by Megumi Kitaniji, do all of the work. Kitaniji himself lets his underlings do all of the work, and the Game Masters generally stay in the shadows until close to the end. (Minamimoto is the exception, and Konishi was Game Master of a special week). The Composer takes a huge hands-on role in Week 2 under the alias of Yoshiya "Joshua" Kiryuu, and on the final day, you fight Kitaniji three times in a row when he realizes he needs to take care of things personally. The two acted more hands off than usual because of the Game they were participating in to determine the fate of Shibuya. In Another Day, Higashizawa does all of the work for the Black Skullers. Turns out he was using them the whole time and eventually backstabs Uzuki.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins. While the Archdemon and the Darkspawn are the premier threats of the game, Loghain is the biggest obstacle to the player when it comes to trying to get Ferelden to band together.
  • The Joker serves as this in Batman: Arkham City. Although Hugo Strange serves as the real Big Bad with Ra's Al-Ghul as a Greater-Scope Villain, he winds up becoming the cause of most of the actions Batman takes in the game to save everyone in Arkham City, and he is even encountered much more frequently than either of the other villains. Even after Strange and Ra's are both killed, the Joker remains at large and ultimately serves as the Final Boss of the game's story. Metaphorically, at least; Clayface serves as the final fightable boss while Joker just watches.
  • Touhou: From Mountain of Faith until Double Dealing Character, the goddesses of the Moriya Shrine were the driving force in the narrative. When something happened, it was either because of their schemes to gather faith, or the result of their faith gathering.
  • Char Aznable takes on a heavy role in Shin Super Robot Wars's storyline because he sides with the Ze Belmary Empire, builds the Angel Halo, causes the Zanscare Empire to collapse and forced Master Asia to use the Devil Gundam on humanity.
  • Cross Ange's Embryo ends up in this position in Super Robot Wars V as he is behind the reasons for the various plots of quite a lot of factions that happen in the game. He is not the Big Bad however.
  • Fawful has this role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. He causes the blorbs virus that infects the Toads, tricks Bowser into eating Mario and the rest of the main cast, takes over all the castles in the land and tries to use the Dark Star's power to conquer the world. He also gets the most lines in the entire game by far, which is rather good considering his status as a Large Ham throughout.
  • While Galcian in Skies of Arcadia is the ultimate Big Bad, his Dragon Ramirez is more directly involved in the plot and has a personal connection to the party due to being Fina's childhood friend and fellow Sylvite. When Galcian is killed, he goes berserk and tries to destroy the world in retaliation, serving as the Final Boss of the game.
    • Even Galcian himself plays the Heavy to the Valuan Empire and Empress Teodora until he turns traitor and tries to Take Over the World. The party may only personally encounter Galcian twice, but the only character in the party who even comes in contact with the Valuan empress at all is Enrique.
  • Meden Traore from Project X Zone is the true Big Bad of the game, but Due Frabellum drives most of the plot. Saya also drives the plot of the second game, while the Big Bad and Final Boss is Byaku Shin.
  • Kyurem, The Dragon, from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity.. The Big Bad is never encountered once before the Final Battle.
  • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon has the Brainwashed and Crazy Nuzleaf. Even though Yveltal's presence is revealed shortly after Nuzleaf betrays The Player, and Dark Matter is the actual Big Bad, Nuzleaf is the main antagonist for most of the second half of the story.
  • Dimentio in Super Paper Mario. He appears the most out of Count Bleck's minions and advances the plot more often than Mario or Bleck himself. He's Playing Both Sides and the game's true Big Bad.
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell: The latest Third Street Saints' adventure is caused by Satan kidnapping The Boss, forcing Kinzie and Johnny to go To Hell and Back to rescue them.
  • Tohru Adachi from Persona 4. He's the killer that the player has been pursuing for the entire game, responsible for the first two murders, manipulating Namatame into kidnapping the others, and pushing Mitsuo into the TV when he tried to claim that he was the killer. However, he's just a pawn to the Greater-Scope Villain in order to test humanity.
  • Persona 5:
    • Pretty much everything bad that happens in the plot can be linked back to the Big Bad, Masayoshi Shido. To start with, he's the one responsible for the Protagonist's probation. He also abandoned his bastard son Goro, which resulted in him leading a shitty life, encouraging him to come up with a deranged revenge scheme. Said deranged revenge scheme led to Goro revealing his powers to Shido, allowing him to create a political conspiracy that exploits the Palace to commit crimes with the end goal of becoming Prime Minister. This results in the deaths and insanity of many people, including Futaba's mother, who was killed for her research, and Haru's father, who was a conspirator who was offed to protect the conspiracy and frame the Phantom Thieves. Futaba is left with crippling trauma while Haru is left heartbroken and guilty. Even after he's defeated, a major motivation for the endgame is making sure that society will properly punish him.
    • There is also the traitor that sold out the protagonist, Goro Akechi, who is also the direct cause of the mental shutdowns that occur throughout the game that get blamed on the Phantom Thieves. He even gets to be the Climax Boss, with the remaining major bosses being part of the Big Bad Ensemble.
  • Satan/Zayin for the Law faction in Shin Megami Tensei II. He's played up as the most direct threat (or, if you side with Law, your greatest ally) on the side of Law despite being the second in command of YHVH's forces and ultimately ends up being Law's counterpart to Lucifer, the leader of Chaos. YHVH Himself doesn't show up until the very end of the game.
  • Michael Jordan is the most prominent threat in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, but not the Big Bad.
  • Yuuki Terumi from Blazblue. He initially presented himself as a harmless captain of the NOL's intelligence division in the first game, but reveals his true colors in the ending and shows just how much he's had a hand in shaping the series' plot. He unleashed the Black Beast upon the world 100 years prior to the games' primary plot, chopped off The Hero's arm in his backstory, brainwashed the hero's younger brother, Mind Raped a young hapless soldier into a killing machine, the list goes on. Almost every single major event in the plot is directly connected to him in some way and everyone is gunning after him.
    • His partner in crime, Relius Clover, is also a muted example of this. Unlike Terumi, he doesn't even show up until the second game, but reveals he's been working behind the scenes and is responsible for all the things that Terumi couldn't sqeeze into his own schedule.
  • Nier has the Shadowlord, aka Gestalt Nier (the very same Nier from the prolouge). While Devola and Popola are directing the events of the game, he is one who commands the Shades and his kidnapping of Yonah is the focus of the main plot after the Time Skip.
  • Stella Glow has Klaus, who is revealed to be Xeno after being corrupted by Mother Qualia. He serves as Eve's Dragon-in-Chief and drives most of the plot, kicking the endgame into motion.
  • Wadanohara has the seemingly friendly Sal, who is revealed to be a denizen of the Dead Sea working for Princess Mikotsu. He ends up causing most of the problems Wadanohara's group face — sealing Wadanohara's memories, stealing the Sacred Sword, breaking the Sea Kingdom's barrier (twice), manipulating Princess Tosatsu into invading, and poisoning both Tatsumiya and Cherryblod.
  • In World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King the titular Lich King is the driving force for most of the expansion's major stories. He also frequently appears in person or image to reinforce his prominence.
    • Mists of Pandaria shifts this role to Garrosh Hellscream. The story for both factions is driven by his imperialism and intolerance for any who do not live up to his standards. The finale of the expansion even took the focus away from Pandaria to concentrate on Garrosh's actions in and around Orgrimmar.
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the heroes came to the castle to fight Dracula, but the villain who drives the plot is Brauner, another vampire who has sealed away Dracula's throne room and taken the castle's power for himself. The majority of the game is devoted to trying to foil Brauner's plans and re-open the throne room so that Dracula can be defeated. In a meta sense, Brauner's daughters who he kidnapped from Eric Lecarde serve this role to Brauner - he does introduce himself to you early on, but other than that mostly hangs back, while it's his daughters who more directly antagonize you. In the bad ending where you just fight them normally instead of trying to save them with the Sanctuary spell, you don't even fight Brauner or Dracula, since the former swoops in to stop the fight before you can kill them and flees with them, and when they leave the castle crumbles on its own.
  • Sinjid has Kazuro, Sinjid's mysterious acquaintance and a former student of Fujin's. While he doesn't play a role in the war between the Imperial Army and the Shogun warlords (though he did provide support to Warlord Asura before abandoning him for being too prideful), he's the one responsible for Fujin's death, which sets off the events of the game.
  • The Legend of Dragoon has Lloyd, who manipulates the balance of power between Sandora and Basil, before killing Lavitz and stealing the Moon Gem from Albert in Chapter One, to being the one truly responsible for the Gerich Gang's growing influence and stealing the Moon Dagger in Chapter Two, and kidnapping Queen Theresa and stealing the Moon Mirror in Chapter Three. In Chapter Three's climax, after he hands over the Moon Objects, his boss decides that he has outlived his usefulness and blasts him with powerful magic, causing him to fall several hundred feet to the unseen ground.
  • The plot of Silent Hill 4 is centered around the plans of Walter Sullivan. Henry's role? He blundered into becoming a part of those plans because he happened to choose the wrong apartment.
  • Charles Lee in Assassin's Creed III. He serves as The Dragon to Haytham Kenway—Grand Master of the Colonial Rite Templars and father of the main character, Connor—and is more of a willing puppet, being the public figure that the Templars plan to use to take control of the fledgling United States so that Haytham, as their leader, will therefore control the American government. That said, Lee is the one who truly sets the events of the game in motion: he's the one who kills Connor's mother (maybe) and is most directly responsible for other troubles that befall Connor and therefore the American Revolution, including firing the shot that started the Boston Massacre, framing him for attempted murder, and deliberately retreating from Monmouth to put the Patriots in a bad way. And in the end, after Connor kills Haytham, Lee is the very last assassination target as the new Grand Master of the Colonial Rite.
  • Serial Killer X/(Leland Vanhorn) in Condemned: Criminal Origins. His actions set off the events of the game as he murders two police officers and sets you up to take the fall for it, and the whole focus of the game is to capture him and clear your name. Although his speaking roles are infrequent, his mysterious motives and frequent appearances as you chase him down drive the whole plot of the game, and his intelligence and disturbing rationalization of his crimes sets him apart from the insane and nearly feral hobos/squatters/tunnel people you fight for most of the game. His motives are revealed towards the end of the game: he has been stalking you for months, hunting down and killing the same serial killers you've been searching for as a means to absorb their power or something along those lines. When you fight him for real, he fights much differently then nearly everyone you've encountered so far, stalking you through an abandoned farmhouse and running away when confronted. Although he is not the cause of the evil influence plaguing the city, his presence is felt the most throughout the game, and when you're not actively chasing him it's shown that he is following you or driving you mad in hallucinations.
  • The first page of the Tome of Eternal Darkness that Alex finds, details the fall from grace of Roman Centurion Pious Augustus, who is lichefied and tasked with summoning an Ancient over the course of two millennia to destroy the civilized world. Every bearer of the Tome that follows has Pious as their main antagonist, and he easily gets the most lines of dialogue after the game's narrator, Dr. Edward Roivas.
  • Pontiff Sulyvahn from Dark Souls III is the pope of the Cathedral of the Deep, and many of the characters in the game and lore have suffered as a result of his diabolical plans. He himself is one of the toughest bosses in the series, armed with dual greatswords and two forms of dangerous magic thought to oppose each other. In spite of his influence and threat, he is outranked by the Lords of Cinder, one of whom is the central figure of the Cathedral.
    • There is also a theory that Sulyvahn was the "First of the Scholars", who doubted the linking of the fire. If so, he is directly responsible for the entire plot of the game.
  • General Deathshead in Wolfenstein: The New Order has come a long way since his first appearance in Return to Castle Wolfenstein. In The New Order, he is single-handedly responsible for producing the technology which won Germany the war, and becomes B.J's nemesis after brutally murdering one of B.J companions, setting off a grudge that carries on for 14 years. His presence is felt everywhere in the game, as he is the creator of most of the war machines B.J fights and the ultimate goal of the Resistance is to kill him.
  • Dragon Quest V: Bishop Ladja is the Big Bad's Dragon, but his habit of making it personal with the hero and directly supervising his boss' schemes makes him a much bigger target (and so much more cathartic to kill once and for all).
  • Watch_Dogs: Damien Brenks. He's actually part of a Big Bad Ensemble with Lucky Quinn, the leader of the Chicago South Club crime syndicate, but the latter is much more of a background villain, and while he's ultimately responsible for the events of the game by ordering the hit on Aiden which killed his niece Lena instead, Damien is the one who sets the story in motion by kidnapping Aiden's sister and holding her hostage in order to get blackmail on virtually all of Chicago from a third party; it's also worth noting that he's responsible for the hit that got Lena killed in the first place, since it was his idea to rob the South Club which made the gangsters go after him and Aiden. Damien causes the most direct trouble for Aiden throughout the events of the game, selling out him and T-Bone, aka Raymond Kenney, hacking billboards in one mission to set the police on Aiden, and tells Aiden that Quinn has ordered a hit Aiden's ally Clara. And in the very last mission, Damien is the one who ultimately tries to destroy the city with his new, unprecedented level of network access, doing to the player what they've been doing to other enemies throughout the entire game up to this point.
  • Zero Escape Trilogy: While each Zero is the Big Bad of their game, they usually stay in the shadows and don't actively work against the participants. However in the first two installments there is someone else to provide direct conflict.
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has Ace aka Gentarou Hongou who is responsible for most murders that happen in story as well as organizing the previous Nonary Game, which is what forced Zero to create her own.
    • Virtue's Last Reward has Dio aka Left who depending on the timeline either murdered the old lady later revealed to be Akane and possibly several other people or set up the bombs to blow up the facility.
    • Zero Time Dilemma downplays it with Mira, who is the direct killer in this game but unlike the other two is loyal to this game’s Zero.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series games where the Big Bad is a Daedric Prince, who are metaphysically limited in how they can affect Mundus (the mortal realm), their mortal Dragons are often the Heavy as well. Examples include Mankar Camoran from Oblivion and Mannimarco from The Elder Scrolls Online. (The later of whom is also The Starscream.)
  • While the Enclave in Fallout 2 is headed by President Dick Richardson, Super Soldier Frank Horrigan is the one going out into the Wasteland to butcher civilians and punch Deathclaws to death, and serves as the Final Boss of the game. Likewise, Colonel Autumn has far more of a presence in Fallout 3 then the actual leader of the Enclave, President John Henry Eden. This is justified since the latter is actually Raven Rock's pre-War ZAX Artificial Intelligence who became self-aware.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the organisation of Torna (especially Jin and Malos), are the ones who set the plot into motion and, as the antagonists, have the most screen-time, with most chapters ending in a confrontation with them. However, as it turns out it was none other than Amalthus who was responsible for the outright threat to the world.
  • In inFAMOUS 2 Joseph Bertrand III is responsible for most of the conflict in the game. He's the one who leads the Militia faction, created the Corrupted, and hired and empowered the Vermaak 88. That said, stopping The Beast is still the main goal and serves as a much bigger threat than Bertrand in the long run.
  • In Super Mario Bros., Bowser Jr. fills this role in nearly every game he appears in. It's most notable in Super Mario Sunshine and New Super Mario Bros., where he is the driving force behind the plot. In most other appearances, he directly confronts Mario more often than Bowser himself.
  • In the Fire Emblem series, this is a role typically ascribed to the Rudolf archetype; there is often a power-hungry Tin Tyrant trying to conquer the world through military force, and bringing them down reveals the true threat to the world.
    • In Fire Emblem Gaiden, Rudolf is the driving force of the game's conflict for the first four parts, but it's ultimately Duma who has to be stopped to bring peace back to Valentia.
    • In Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, your former friend Hardin spends most of the game trying to conquer the continent, but once you kill him it becomes clear that he was just a brainwashed patsy for the real villains, the resurrected Gharnef and Medeus.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Darin is the one trying to conquer all of Lycia, but he ultimately proves to be a pathetic dupe for the real villain, Nergal.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Vigarde's invasion of Renais kickstarts the plot and defeating him is the goal of the first two thirds of the story. However, he's just a reanimated corpse, and Fomortiis and the possessed Lyon are the true villains of the story.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the Begnion Senate, led by Lekain, is responsible for all of the problems in Parts I and III, but they are ultimately just dupes used by the true villain Sephiran to bring about armageddon.
    • In Fire Emblem Awakening, Validar leads the Grimeal and his goal to resurrect the Fell Dragon drives the majority of the plot. Even when he's Demoted to Dragon, he is still the one acting in Grima's interests and sets up the events causing the premonition.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, while Anankos is the ultimate source of all of the game's misery, it is his patsy Garon who provides much of the direct conflict throughout Birthright, Conquest, and the first half of Revelation.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the Flame Emperor a.k.a. Edelgard is the main face of most of the bad things that happen during Part I. They firmly assume this role on the Silver Snow and Verdant Wind routes, where stopping her campaign of conquest is the main objective throughout the game and disposing of the Greater-Scope Villain comes afterwards; on the other hand, they are the flat-out Big Bad of the Azure Moon route and the Disc-One Final Boss and Anti-Hero protagonist of the Crimson Flower route.
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has Shadar the Dark Djinn acting as the titular antagonist's executor, carrying out her will to destroy the world while she and her Council of Twelve stay in the shadows. While the player is already made aware from the beginning the White Witch is the actual Big Bad, with Shadar revealed to be serving her, the main characters don't know of her existence and involvement, believing Shadar to be the sole threat until after defeating him. The heroes spend the majority of the game growing stronger to defeat Shadar and free the world from his tyranny, setting up the Internal Reveal that there is a higher power in play.

    Web Animation 
  • The Meta in Red vs. Blue: Recollection. Out of all the characters, he doesn't talk, but is the most fearsome character besides Tex, he works for the Director of Project Freelancer, but everyone dreads of his presence the most.
  • In RWBY, Roman Torchwick's string of dust robberies and other illegal activity is a looming shadow of a much bigger plot in Volume 1 while the main focus is the girls' introduction to Beacon and the forming of their team, but then the revelation that he's working for Cinder Fall comes along, and in Volume 2 he becomes The Heavy full-stop until the season finale where he is locked up, with Cinder taking on the role of main antagonist in Volume 3. The season finale of 3 then reveals that Cinder herself is working for Salem, with the latter content to let Cinder work out the details of how to fully capture the Fall Maiden's powers and destroy Beacon.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Mystique in the first season of X-Men: Evolution. She runs the Brotherhood, and Magneto, usually only seen in shadow, runs her. Eventually, Magneto takes over the role himself, and later Apocalypse.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fire Lord Ozai is always the Big Bad, but he's off-screen for most of the action, leaving others to pick up the slack as The Heavy in a progressively more dangerous chain. Specifically, we go from Prince Zuko for the first part of season one to Admiral Zhao for the second part to Princess Azula for the first part of season two then Long Feng for the Ba Sing Se arc followed by Azula again from the end of the Ba Sing Se arc through most of the third season, and then finally Ozai himself during the Sozin's Comet arc, though Azula still remains an active threat along with him.
  • The Sequel Series The Legend of Korra does not have an overarching Big Bad, changing major antagonists each season. Except for Book 4, each of them has a Big Bad and Big Bad Wannabe in opposition to each other, with the Big Bad being prominent enough to also snag the role of The Heavy:
    • Amon in book one; though he competes with his brother Tarrlok and his father Yakone's legacy for villainous screentime, it's Amon who establishes himself head and shoulders as the most dangerous threat and the one most central to the narrative.
    • Book two has Unalaq, who acts as The Dragon (or, considering his exclusive loyalties to his own ideals, possibly the other half of a Big Bad Duumvirate) to Vaatu, who was up to this point the Greater-Scope Villain for the franchise as a whole. Vaatu is sealed away in the Spirit World, so Unalaq drives the plot with his attempts to free Vaatu and merge with him into a Dark Avatar.
    • In book 3, the four main members of the Red Lotus collectively function as the main antagonists, but of them Zaheer is the most dangerous, most intelligent, and most heavily featured in the season's story and climax.
    • Kuvira is this in book 4, with her campaign to rule over the entire Earth Kingdom being the main source of conflict; indeed, she fits here even more squarely than any of the above, as she's the only one who doesn't have to share space with a competing Big Bad Wannabe like Tarrlok, Varrick, or the Earth Queen, meaning that there's never any doubt just who the main antagonist is.
  • Samurai Jack: With Aku becoming the Greater-Scope Villain in Season 5 and the High Priestess in Big Bad Ensemble with Inner Jack / Mad Jack and Aku himself, we have Scaramouche the Merciless. Not only is Aku's favorite assassin, he spends most time in Season 5 trying to talk to Aku about Jack's lost sword. He also slaughtered an innocent town filled with men, women and children... just to get Jack's attention.
  • Slade, whenever he shows up in Teen Titans - even when serving under Trigon the Terrible (while not the Big Bad, Slade is a menace through the season, while Trigon is a threat only in three episodes.)
    • During season 3, Brother Blood takes over this role (and Big Bad) while Slade is dead; though he appears in fewer episodes, when he does appear he hogs the spotlight a lot more than the shadowy Slade usually did.
    • Season 5 plays this one interestingly. The Brain is the Big Bad, but he's the head of the Brotherhood of Evil, and each of the core brotherhood members gets his or her chance to star as headlining villain at least once during the arc- except for poor General Immortus, who was introduced with much fanfare but ended up as little more than window dressing.
  • Transformers: Prime: Starscream plays this role for most of the first season, before Megatron returns and puts him in his place.
  • Beast Wars: Megatron, from the first episode, until the last episode of the sequel series.
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos and Demona tend to hand this role back and forth depending on the given episode or story arc (and they're each half of the show's initial Big Bad Duumvirate). However, the Archmage takes over during the "Avalon" multiparter, and Oberon during the "Gathering" multiparter.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: Khyber; trailers seemingly established him as the Big Bad, he was the one chasing Ben for several episodes and seemed to have a motivation for that. Predators and Prey reveals he was actually The Dragon for Malware, a villain that has only had one episode and a cameo at this point, and Dr Psychobos, a guy we had never seen before, but Khyber still is the one acting while they are just waiting for him to do the job.
  • The Urpneys in The Dreamstone. While Zordrak is the Big Bad, he has very little involvement outside threatening his soldiers into making a new scheme to steal the stone. Urpgor invents most of the plans and inventions, while Sgt Blob, Frizz and Nug act them out. Only two or three episodes feature Zordrak prominently as the main antagonist, with other antagonists such as Zarag and Urpgor's Auntie appearing for about the same amount. This expands even onto the heroes, who are often merely reactors to the Urpney's schemes and have only a limited number of side plots throughout the series.
  • On Invader Zim, Zim is actually just a soldier of the Irken Empire, which is ruled by the Almighty Tallests. Kind of a partial example, since in reality, Zim's been Reassigned to Antarctica and the Tallests don't care if he conquers Earth or not.
  • South Park:
    • Leslie serves as this for Season 19. While only one of an entire race of sapient Internet ads, she is the one that is capable of having a human form and active in South Park.
    • Skankhunt42, Gerald Broflowski, serves as this for Season 20. His trolling is responsible for many of the plots to happen, including, the girls breaking up with their boyfriends, Heidi and Cartman's relationship, and Freja's suicide which give Lennart an excuse to create Trolltrace and kickstart World War III.
    • Eric Cartman serves as this for Season 21. His relationship with Heidi Turner is this season biggest plot driver where he emotionally abuses her and manipulates her into staying with him. This causes Heidi to become Cartman's Distaff Counterpart, which causes Kyle who liked Heidi to go on a moral crusade against Canada, which in turn caused President Garrison to nuke Canada and reveals to everyone who the bigger threat this season really is.
    • Randy Marsh serves as this for Season 23. Much of the season's plot is driven by Randy's antics where commits numerous crimes to preserve his drug business. Even when Santa serves as the Final Boss for the season, Randy's decision to sell cocaine to the adults is what drives the plot for that episode.
  • Dick Dastardly and Muttley in Wacky Races. All the characters are already in competition with each other, but it is Dastardley and Muttley's antics that drive the plot of each episode. Without them, every episode would just be a simple (if still highly unconventional) race.
  • Most episodes of Darkwing Duck that center around the schemes of the terrorist organisation FOWL have Steelbeak as the main antagonist as he is their number one agent. Since he is often seen enacting the planning and ordering their private army around some may forget that he is simply following the orders of three shadowy figures on a TV screen who would easily kill him for failing them. But because they are unseen he is more of the face of the company than them.
  • In Star Wars animated series:
    • Darth Sidious is the ultimate Big Bad of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but he rarely appears in person (at least as himself, rather than in his Reasonable Authority Figure guise as Chancellor Palpatine) and it's even rarer for him to do anything other than give orders. Thus the role of the Heavy for the series falls mostly to Sidious's apprentice Count Dooku as the official leader and public face of the Separatists, and to a lesser extent General Grievous as the commander of the Separatist droid army. Sidious's renegade former apprentice, Darth Maul, also takes this role in a few story arcs after he shows up again partway through the series, opposing both the Republic and the Separatists.
    • In Star Wars Rebels, Sidious is the Big Bad again, now as Emperor Palpatine, but once more only appears rarely with other villains directly opposing the heroes and driving the immediate plot. Specifically, the Grand Inquisitor serves as the Heavy for Season One, Darth Vader for Season Two, and Grand Admiral Thrawn and Governor Pryce split the role in Seasons Three and Four.

Alternative Title(s): The Villain Makes The Plot, Plot Driving Villain

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