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Too Powerful to Live

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A villain who is just too powerful to exist for more than an episode or two. If they aren't killed now, their presence will dominate the entire story forever.

If the writers try re-using them, the result is almost always Villain Decay.

One noted tendency of these characters is establishing their power by laying the smack down on the incumbent main villain, emphasizing just how dire a threat they are. Less commonly, rather than a new villain come to town it can be the main villain who gets a power boost, which if not explicitly temporary is then quickly destroyed or discarded before they can truly exploit it.

A villainous version of Deus Exit Machina. The heroic version of this trope is Too Cool to Live. See also How to Stop the Deus ex Machina. Compare Too Happy to Live and Too Cool to Live.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Shirogane was possibly the most powerful being on Earth, but before the first chapter ends has most of his power sealed away in a scroll, after which his goal is trying to retrieve it. He ends up doing so after his Heel–Face Turn, but quickly has it taken away permanently by Sosuke's Vampiric Draining. Before he can really take advantage of it, Matsuri exploits the weakness of Sosuke's absorption power to kill him.
  • Black Clover:
    • Zagred. Up to his introduction he's easily the most powerful being introduced thus far, with his Word Soul Magic able to do anything he says and summon monsters from the underworld. Had he succeeded in escaping to the living world, he would have spread rampant chaos. Thus, shortly after he appears he's killed thanks to the combined efforts of numerous characters.
    • Megicula, one of the supreme devils isn't even fully manifested when she emerges from Vanica. To do that, she needs to get three powerful mages of the same gender killed, having done with Acier and attempts to make Lolopechka and Vanica her second and third. Of course, Asta prevents her from actually going through the sacrifices, and she's killed within the next few chapters, but even then it still takes lot of effort and manpower. Had she managed to kill her sacrifices and fully manifest, she would had been caused catastrophic levels of destruction.
  • Naomi Misora from Death Note died quickly because the Oba realized had they lived, Light wouldn't have been such a threat; she would have discovered him too quickly. They'd made the character too smart and put them in too good a position to figure out Light's secret had they lived just a little longer.
  • Dragon Ball: All the main villains from Dragon Ball Z to Dragon Ball Super, except Vegeta, and Frieza during the end of Super, fall into this:
    • Frieza was so powerful that it took a legendary Super Saiyan to bring him down. Even scarier, he was that powerful naturally. When he finally buckled down and trained he got close to Beerus' level. Now revived, he plans to re-establish his Empire and buckle up and train for years before his final battle.
    • Cell was the Ultimate Life Form, capable of destroying a solar system, regenerating From a Single Cell and becoming stronger from it. Had Gohan not annihilated every one of his cells in their final Beam-O-War, Cell would have just revived too powerful to be killed off by anyone on Earth.
    • Broly. Despite his tendency to avoid death with little explanation, he is too powerful and insane to be allowed to live. His power rapidly rises and he is prone reckless rampages. The only way to put a stop to him is to put him down. And it takes the surface of the sun to kill him. His Canon Immigrant counterpart was also about to be killed off, as he was growing exponentially powerful every second of the battle, but fortunately he was a good guy and his friends timely saved him from being annihilated. Even Goku says he has the potential to be far more powerful than Beerus.
    • Majin Buu would have literally destroyed the universe if he wasn't killed. He also got more powerful by absorbing people and had regeneration powers that put Cell to shame. He was technically never completely killed either, with the Good Buu surviving on while Kid Buu was reincarnated into a good, human version of himself named Uub. Thus it is impossible for the pure evil Kid/Super Buu to ever exist again.
    • Zamasu of Dragon Ball Super. Even by Dragon Ball standards, where villains getting killed is the typical outcome, for Zamasu, even if it were possible, simply sending him to the afterlife would not have been enough. He had to be erased from existence entirely to ensure his threat was neutralized.
    • Vegito is a heroic example. If this guy had stayed around, the Buu Saga would have basically ended in five minutes. And you would've written off the main character and his main foil at the same time. The same principle applies in Super, where he basically had Fused Zamasu on the ropes and if he had lasted the hour, would have killed him, though the jury's out if he would have been able to handle the Eldritch Abomination Fused Zamasu's spirit turned into after his physical body was destroyed. Super reveals why: A Fusion Dance lasts 30 minutes unless the fused are knocked out or use too much power which drains their time. Potara lasts a full hour to non-Kais with the same restriction of power conservation; it is only permanent to the Supreme Kais.
    • Yamoshi, the ancient and original Super Saiyan hero from the legends. Vegeta speaks of the original Super Saiyan as having power so great that he destroyed himself, power so volatile he couldn't control it any more. As powerful as Goku or Vegeta become it never gets to the point they can't control it, meaning this is just part of the legend itself and not an actual fact.
  • EDENS ZERO, during the Aoi War Arc, Jaguar of the Oración Seis Interestelar interrupts a three-way battle with Poseidon Nero of the Oración Seis Galáctica and Demon King Ziggy. Ziggy looks down on Jaguar and ends up shocked when Jaguar effortlessly defeats three of Nero and Ziggy's top warriors, with Nero chiding Ziggy for his arrogance and telling him Jaguar used to be a Galáctica as well, meaning he's on their same playing field. Nero then takes advantage of Ziggy using his Gravity Master powers to hold Jaguar in place to blow a hole through his head and instantly kills him, making it clear he's playing for keeps in this fight. Unfortunately for Nero, he himself underestimates Ziggy at the worst possible moment and gets his Ether Gear stolen before being killed by Ziggy.
  • Mariko in Elfen Lied is by far the strongest character in the story when she's introduced; that's why she has bombs implanted everywhere in her body, that will detonate if a code is not transmitted every thirty minutes. And that's why she dies when facing Lucy after a Heel–Face Turn. She'd have simply won, and that would have ended the story.
    • Lucy herself in the manga's finale, when her vectors become large enough to cover entire continents. Naturally, using so much power essentially rots her body and kills her within a few minutes.
  • Max Kaien from The Five Star Stories, while not actually a villain, is definitely too overpowered to let him roam freely. So after being allowed a run as a Game-Breaker in his home world, he was rather quickly Put on a Bus and shipped into the Alternate Universe, where he came out as somewhat more balanced.
  • The Chimera Ant King Meruem from Hunter × Hunter, along with his Royal Guard. They were easily the most powerful beings in the world, in the human-inhabited part anyway, and none of the human Hunters sent against them could beat them in a fair fight. So they don't fight fair. Gon kills Neferpitou with a Deus ex Machina Deadly Upgrade (and still loses an arm to her), and Netero kills the rest with a suicidal (and poisonous!) bomb. Had Meruem lived, he would've either dominated the world or (had the Heel–Face Turn he was teetering on the edge of happened) rendered all of the main characters redundant.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Kars, the Big Bad of Part 2, obtains Complete Immortality and Adaptive Ability combined with Voluntary Shapeshifting cranked Up to Eleven at the climax, thus achieving the status of Ultimate Lifeform. He also obtained the hero's power of The Ripple, only hundreds of times more powerful, making him both immune to it and capable of using it on a much greater scale. He's only defeated when Joseph uses the mother of all Indy Ploys to blast him into space shortly afterwards, as well as making it look like he planned the whole thing (He didn't but he would say anything to troll Kars.). Kars tries to return to earth using air jets, but this only makes the situation worse as his body freezes over. Unable to change his course, he now floats inert through the cosmos. Begging for death but unable to die, his higher brain functions shut down.
    • DIO once he drinks Joseph Joestar's blood. Already a near-immortal vampire, his ability to stop time, already a Story-Breaker Power itself, increases dramatically; previously it had taken him months to even move through time due to Jonathan's body fighting him, but once he drinks Joseph's blood and becomes better synched with his body, his time limit more than doubles in minutes and it's implied it would have continued to extend had Jotaro not been able to kill him.
    • Notorious B.I.G. An indestructible amorphous murder engine with infinite durability, range and speed? Yep, it quickly gets stuck in the ocean and forced to chase after the flowing water currents forever.
  • Nanami Yasuri from Katanagatari is literally this. She dies in episode 7 during her battle with Shichika when her frail body can no longer withstand her full power.
  • Reinforce/The Darkness of the Book of Darkness from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, an Eldritch Abomination Omnicidal Maniac capable of destroying worlds and in the form of Reinforce, easily the most powerful mage that ever appeared in the franchise. Naturally, once it appeared, it quickly became the only main villain in the series who is made Deader than Dead with no chance of survival, which sadly includes poor Reinforce, despite her Heel–Face Turn. In universe, this is because the Defense Program of the Book of Darkness couldn't be stopped permanently unless she died, but from a meta perspective it's because she had massive Story-Breaker Power and she would have curb stomped all the other villains, had she ever started being on the good side.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Invoked with Twice. As pointed out several times; because his Quirk can create infinite doubles of anyone or anything (including a High-End Nomu that took the combined efforts of Japan's top two heroes to defeat), the only thing keeping him from being an absolute Story-Breaker Power and overwhelming all of Japan with a limitless army, is his own trauma, caused by an Ambiguous Clone Ending, that leaves him afraid to use his Quirk to its fullest potential — a trauma he largely heals from during the Meta Liberation Army Arc. Hawks, the heroes' inside man in the League, recognized this and made a priority of taking him down first when the heroes attack the villains' base. However, when it becomes clear that Twice is too loyal be talked down, Hawks is left with little other choice than to kill him on the spot, before he can single-handedly turn the tide of the fighting. Unfortunately, his efforts end up being in vain as Dabi manages to get a sample of Twice's blood for Toga, whose Power Copying aspect of her Quirk means that the threat of Twice's Quirk lives on.
    • Again invoked with Star and Stripe, the World's Strongest Woman with a Reality Warper Quirk that the Big Bad outright admits would be the worst-case scenario if she successfully reaches the heroes in Japan to fight him. Accordingly, Star is killed and has her Quirk stolen before she can ever set foot in Japan, but as she dies, she manages to set All For One back significantly by imparting a rule on New Order that makes it destroy some of the other Quirks stored within AFO, technically inflicting the same fate on the villain powerful enough to actually kill her and weakening him for the future showdown with Japan's heroes.
  • There are characters in One Piece that fall into this trope very well.
    • Of course, Gold D. Roger the previous pirate king himself was so powerful, there were only a few people in the world that could challenge him. And seemingly none who could actually defeat him. Despite having no Devil Fruit powers whatsoever, this man conquered the Grand Line in record time but eventually allowed himself to be killed due to an illness that would eventually take his life anyway.
    • Edward Newgate aka Whitebeard himself is definitely this. This man was the owner of one of the most powerful Devil Fruits ever and is one of the few people to have challenge Gold Roger himself on equal terms. His Devil Fruit, again, so powerful that it has the ability to shake the entire world! Whitebeard definitely has earned the title World's Strongest Man despite being way past his glory days.
  • Any major villain from One-Punch Man is strong enough to pose a major threat to the world at large. While the Sea King certainly would have been defeated by one of the stronger S-rank heroes (as they've shown themselves capable of killing Demon-level threats like him daily), Boros is strong enough to destroy the entire planet (and by extension, almost every hero who isn't Zombieman), and Garou outright defeats almost every single hero and monster he goes up against. The only reason any of them are beaten is because they had the misfortune to go up against Saitama, who can take nearly anyone down with a single punch, and the latter two were able to force him to fight "semi-seriously", which is essentially the ultimate proof of how utterly powerful they are.
  • Sara from Samurai Champloo. She's easily the second strongest character in the series, giving both Mugen and Jin a run for their money. Letting Mugen kill her in their second fight was the first time he regretted killing someone.
  • Shakugan no Shana: Sabrac zigzags this trope. He shows up for a single epic battle in the second season before disappearing again. He has no interest in the final battle after accomplishing his task. In Season 3, he fully participates in the final war, but by that time almost everyone is aware of how exactly to defeat him, thanks to Yuji Sakai. Then he chooses a battleground that prevents the protagonists from using their previous method of defeating him. Additionally, Sabrac serves Yuji in Season 3, who had become a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Ultimately, Sabrac holds his own against three of the most skilled and powerful Flame Haze in the series, only being defeated due to a moment of distraction. Even then, he could have saved himself had he not chosen to die.

    Comic Books 
  • The Authority encounters this type of villain fairly frequently. Their usual response is to kill said villain after a huge epic battle, since if they were allowed to live they'd endanger millions. As said villains never get around to killing any of the Authority, this has the side-effect of making the heroes look considerably more bloodthirsty than the villains.
  • This is why the Big Bads of most comic Crisis Crossovers die by the end of the story. If they do reappear as dead characters are wont to do in comics, they usually show up years later and rarely at that. The villains of DCU "Crisis" crossovers are especially notorious examples and suffer pretty spectacular deaths:
    • The Anti-Monitor, the Big Bad of Crisis on Infinite Earths. A cosmic superbeing who used his powers over antimatter to destroy the Multiverse. In the end he was blasted with positive matter, Darkseid's Omega Beams, and was punched into a sun by Superman. He didn't return until decades later in real time, when the Multiverse was reconstructed. And at the end of that crossover, an entire planet blew up in his face and he got punched by Superboy-Prime halfway across the galaxy.
    • Alexander Luthor Jr., the Big Bad of Infinite Crisis. He was essentially a superpowered. Lex Luthor Okay, he was technically the son of an alternate universe Lex Luthor. After a year of flawlessly manipulating the heroes and villains of the DCU, he nearly destroyed the current universe to create his own "perfect" Earth. In the end he was completely defeated and was brutally murdered in a filthy alley by The Joker.
    • Final Crisis: The Anti-Life Equation granted Darkseid absolute control over all, and his very existence destabilized the fabric of space/time; essentially dragging all reality with him to his inevitable death. In the end he got shot with a radion bullet (the Kryptonite to the New Gods) and by Batman no less, one of the staunchest defenders of the One Rule), had his soul taken away by the New Gods' psychopomp, the Black Racer, and had his consciousness shattered by Superman's singing. The other big villain of Final Crisis, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, didn't survive the end of the story either.
    • Yuga Khan, Darkseid's father, is even more evil and powerful than his son. He has tried to breach the secrets of the Source Wall, got merged with it, then managed to break free, returned to take his planet back — very easily... and right after, attempted to access the Source Wall again.
    • The Sun-Eater in Final Night. It's not a villain so much as a force of nature. Parallax sacrifices his life to absorb the Sun-Eater and reignite the Sun.
  • One-shot villains in Doctor Strange stories tend to be beings so absurdly powerful that Strange can't even fight them, let alone defeat them. The best he can do is bluff them into leaving this world alone, convince them Earth isn't worth the bother, strike some sort of bargain, or distract them somehow. Try not to think about how frighteningly impermanent that solution is, nor what would happen if two or three of them decided to try again... Not to mention the fact that these are villains so powerful that Doctor Strange is unable to put up even the slightest semblance of a fight against them.
  • Superman:
    • The Death of Superman: Doomsday's entire purpose was to kill Superman, so the writers could spend several plot arcs dealing with a world without Superman. Naturally Doomsday had to die in the process, or else the focus would've needed to be the rest of the heroes finding some way to stop him, instead of the intended story about how the world deals with the loss of its greatest hero. Of course, he managed to reappear a couple of times subsequently, going through of Villain Decay.
    • In Action Comics #287: Supergirl's Greatest Challenge, Supergirl faces Positive Man, a humanoid energy being/eldritch abomination. Positive Man crumbled planets to dust simply by passing through and could not be harmed by conventional means, so it never appeared again after Supergirl found a way to break his energy body down.
    • Composite Superman/Batman had the combined powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes, over 20 powers in addition to those similar to Superman, including invisibility, telepathy, matter transmutation, and others. If not for his powers losing their charge, he would be ruling the universe.
  • Kulan Gath is so dire, that he's an enemy of characters from more than one comic book company! A godlike sorcerer from the Hyborian Age, he's been a threat to Conan, Red Sonja, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers and the Savage Avengers. He's one of those Godzilla Threshold threats that require either a lot of luck and complacency on his part or else the heroes need to resort to big team-ups and the most extreme measures. And whenever he's killed, no one sheds a tear as he can quickly become a cosmic-level threat. And unlike many others in this list, he doesn't suffer Villain Decay.
  • Vulcan aka Gabriel Summers, the Big Bad of War of Kings and Deadly Genesis. He's an Omega-level energy manipulator, which basically means he's a Physical God — and that he'd be a borderline Reality Warper if he actually had two braincells to rub together.
  • X-Men:
    • Phoenix, especially once they decided it was not a separate entity from Jean Grey. This instance was essentially editorially-mandated, as the original plan in The Dark Phoenix Saga was to depower her. After she ate an inhabited planet, though, Jim Shooter essentially said that her being merely depowered and forgiven was not believable, so she should be imprisoned or something. Claremont and Byrne decided to kill her.
    • The Human Adaptoid was originally the Warden from Juggernaut but had augmented himself to have powers from 100 different superhumans, including the Absorbing Man and Deadpool. Human Adaptoid was able to induce the entirety of Krakoa and its inhabitants into sleep, continued taking powers from individuals he encountered and also murdered Mr. Sinister in his goal to kill everyone on the island. Juggernaut and Deadpool were only able to defeat him by overtaxing his regeneration, which allowed his cancer to spread over his body. When D-Cell mentioned she didn't want to be party to him dying so horribly, Deadpool obliged and hacked him up. There was no way, anyone would allow him to live.

    Films — Animated 
  • Jafar in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar as an evil genie, noting that Genie is second rate. After Genie explains that the only way to get rid of a genie for good is to destroy their lamp, Aladdin decides that they have to destroy Jafar once and for all. Jasmine even mentions beforehand that "He's so powerful!".
  • Kai in Kung Fu Panda 3, who becomes so absurdly powerful by the end of the movie that Po not only kills him, but renders him Deader than Dead to ensure that he's not coming back.
  • Lord Business and his real world counterpart, The Man Upstairs, in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is put to the side because he could potentially moderate or even end the conflict before it got out of hand. So he spends the movie golfing.
  • The Storm King in My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), who enslaves Canterlot, steals the magic of all four princesses, and would have taken over the rest of the show if he wasn't killed.
  • Unicron from Transformers: The Movie. He appears without any explanation, shakes up the status quo with a great deal of damage and destruction, and is finally polite enough to go boom at the end of the movie. One of the film's highlights comes when he asserts his authority over an already-dying Megatron:
    Megatron: Nobody summons Megatron...
    Unicron: Then it pleases me to be the first.
However, his floating head was apparently still alive as a new moon for Cybertron, and it tried to get Starscream's ghost to resurrect its body.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Possibly the reason why most of the villains of the 1989-1997 Batman film franchise like the Joker and Penguin were killed off; having them live might have undermined Batman's effectiveness in defeating them.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Gandalf invokes this when asked to explain his support of the dwarven expedition. While Smaug is content to sleep on a mountain of gold, Gandalf is worried that Sauron may be returning, and an alliance between the two is too big a threat for him to ignore.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand disintegrates an entire army before Wolverine kills her.
    • The Future Sentinels from X-Men: Days of Future Past also qualify. They've already killed most of the X-Men when the story starts, and changing the past to prevent their creation was the only way to get rid of them.
  • This happens sometimes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • The Suicide Squad climaxed with the titular squad's battle against Starro, a Kaijuesque gigantic star-like monster that escaped from Jotunheim. As Starro managed to enslave the citizens of Corto Maltese and came within seconds of managing to Take Over the World while being able to No-Sell nearly everything the Squad threw at him (except Polka-Dot Man, who was killed for the same reason), he had to go.

  • In Jonathan L. Howard's Carter & Lovecraft, ex-detective and now private investigator Daniel Carter learns that rogue mathematics scholar and sorcerer Billy Colt, isn't just able to manipulate probability. The guy can use sorcery as a Reality Warper and he's growing into an increasingly psychopathic Serial Killer. So Carter decides that normal authorities can't deal with him and it's best to gun down Colt.
  • An in-universe example of this is why the Jaghut race is almost entirely extinct in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Every one of them was an obscenely powerful ice mage, and while most were peaceful, laid-back hermits, there was very rarely one who wasn't. The 'Jaghut Tyrants', as they were called, would cause untold death and misery, reshape the geography of entire continents, and often require literal divine intervention to bring them down, and so eventually, a civilisation of superhumans (well, super-Neanderthals) called the Tlan Imass decided to turn themselves into The Undead so they could take as many millennia as they needed to wipe the Jaghut from the face of the planet, to remove the slightest possibility that any one of them could become or sire another Tyrant. The morality of this is heavily debated in-universe, but the rare few who've seen Jaghut ice magic in person tend to be of the opinion that the T'Lan Imass (as they're now called) had a point.
  • Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is a good example of this. It's implied that Holmes has been fighting him for years, but he and Holmes kill each other at the end of the story that introduces him. Were it not for the fan outcry that would have been the last Sherlock Holmes story. Moriarty is only referred to in two later stories.
  • Sourcery: Coin the sourcerer goes through a Heel–Face Turn, and realizes he is literally too powerful to exist in the universe without breaking it. So he makes his own, and goes to live there. It's implied that this is the eventual fate of every sourcerer.
  • In an unusual heroic example, Lash following her Heel–Face Turn in White Night. She had millennia of knowledge, immense magical power, a Photographic Memory, and can communicate with Harry at the speed of thought. Had she not committed a Heroic Sacrifice, she could have been a total game breaker for the good guys.
    • A straight villainous example appears in the Peace Talks/Battle Ground two-parter. Ethniu, the Last Titan, is not only so overwhelmingly powerful she can swat aside Queen Mab (winter personified, a living force of nature with global reach) without effort, and not only does she wield the Eye of Balor, a magical Wave-Motion Gun, she’s armored in Titanic Bronze, a metal that makes her Nigh-Invulnerable to all but pure Heavenly or Hellish power. Also, she’s bent on tearing down the Masquerade. Given that she could destroy the series in about a week, she ends Battle Grounds as a Sealed Evil in a Can minus the Eye of Balor, after being worn down by all the Scratch Damage she took while demolishing the alliance of supernatural heavyweights (including figures like Mab) assembled to stop her. Notably, she isn’t the only character with that kind of power, but all the rest are metaphysically restricted on how they can use it and so can’t upset the setting like she can.
  • Invoked in Worm. Capes with high-rated powers are given harsher sentences for crimes, and treated with deadlier force in the field. Meaning, if you're unlucky enough you can find yourself in the Birdcage for your first offense, while other villains are kept in Cardboard Prisons, and get two more strikes before they're "out."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel has one of these incidences late in the series in the form of Illyria, an Old One inhabiting a human body (that is, Fred's). The problem with that arrangement is that a human body can't possibly contain the might of an Old One, so Illyria gradually becomes more and more unstable, having manic episodes, warping herself through time involuntarily, and possibly exploding in a mystical energy that would wipe out at least Southern California. While the gang settles on venting off the excess energy to a point where Illyria could still survive, the option of killing her was on the table (especially since she wasn't really on their side at that point).
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the one-off Made-for-TV Movie Thirdspace, the Thirdspace Aliens. Much of their shtick involved influencing the minds of anyone who spent too much time near their Artifact of Doom. Destroying it reversed the effects.
    • And invoked in-universe by Sheridan during the season itself, concerning the war with the Shadows and the Vorlons; he knew even if they won (by picking a side, which is what both elder races wanted), it'd start up all over again a thousand years later unless they found a way to get rid of both Precursors permanently this time around.
  • The Judge in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An unkillable demon who could fry alive anyone with a trace of humanity in them? Yep, by the end of the episode he's been dismembered by rocket launcher.
  • Plenty of examples appear over the course of Doctor Who's extremely long run; the list of virtually unstoppable Physical Gods the Doctor has defeated and then never mentioned again including Sutekh, Fenric and The Beast.
  • Heroes:
    • Arthur Petrelli. After gaining godlike powers, he's killed by Sylar, but not before convincing Nathan to go along with his plan
    • Surprisingly averted by Sylar himself, despite his status as the most powerful living superhuman, as the writers wisely avoided giving him any outright Game-Breaker powers like Matt's mind-control or Hiro's space-time manipulation. He mostly relies on telekinesis, regeneration, lightning blasts, and shapeshifting (with flight later thrown in) which makes him tough, but not quite a walking automatic I Win button. Indeed while he's proven to be a very skilled fighter many of his powers are geared more towards Superdickery rather than straight up combat, in keeping with his Wild Card status.
    • There was also a character in one episode who could produce black holes, and while he wasn't ridiculously overpowered, it's made clear that he could kill Sylar in an instant. Bennett tries to get him to do this, but he just sucks himself into a hole instead.
    • Averted with Peter Petrelli. By the third season, Peter (who could mimic and retain powers just by being near others) was the most powerful cast member, with a bunch of Game-Breaker powers even Sylar didn't have. Then Arthur Petrelli showed up and took all those powers away, leaving Peter depowered for the remainder of Volume 3 and most of Volume 4. At the end of Volume 4, he took some of the Super Serum, and gained a much weaker version of his old ability — he could copy any one power through contact, but only one at a time.
  • Kilgrave of Jessica Jones (2015). He starts out with a Story-Breaker Power, because even though he is only one man, an entire assembly of both Badass Normal and "Gifted" people have trouble stopping him and his Compelling Voice abilities. And this only gets worse by the end, where his powers are greatly upgraded and their range expanded. If Kilgrave had lived beyond the first season, even if he were Put on a Bus, it would cast a huge shadow of doubt across the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, as anyone could be a Kilgrave agent. While the greater franchise as a whole likely has characters immune or resistant to his powers (Thor and Hulk alone, for example, have immunity to viruses like the one that powers Kilgrave), there's still way too much room for doubt.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Double: Once she gains her full powers, no other character in the series can even touch Wakana Sonozaki in a fight, and she's both willing and able to carry out her father's master plan completely on her own. She spends the final few episodes unconscious due to a botched first attempt at the plan, after which her mother successfully convinces Wakana to give up on the plan and resurrect one of the title characters at the cost of her own life instead.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard: every time the villain Phoenix dies and comes back, he becomes noticeably stronger and revives faster than he did before. By the time of his final appearances, he revives within seconds of being slain. Shortly after he reaches this point, he's kicked into the Sun itself, where he'll never escape the gravity. Phoenix's boss Wiseman is one of the only characters with no reason to fear him, since one of his powers is to instantly take all of someone's magic away. This also works on the title character, making Wiseman unbeatable, but since he can't be killed off early due to being the main villain, he simply forgets about his powers when it's time to fight him.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: Roshuo is a wielder of the Golden Fruit, making him a Physical God who's prevented from solving problems only because his previous attempts at solving his world's problems have left him a depressed wreck of a man. Shortly after he starts to come to an understanding with the main characters, he's backstabbed by his traitorous lieutenant.
  • Gabriel Ashlocke from Mutant X. He is the first New Mutant, a total psychopath with numerous powers from multiple categories. He is introduced as the new Big Bad at the end of the first season... then the second season starts with him attempting to prevent his own Superpower Meltdown. Five episodes in, he fails.
  • Hades of Once Upon a Time is hands-down the series' most powerful villain, but didn't appear until Season 5's latter half. He soon forges a weapon known as the Olympian Crystal, likely the strongest weapon in the series, bar none, meaning he'd be able to kill literally anyone and banish their soul. If Zelena hadn't used it on him and sent his soul to an unknown fate, he would have soon taken over Storybrooke, and likely the whole planet afterwards.
  • Star Trek:
  • In the Season 6 finale of Supernatural, Castiel rose a few power levels too many by absorbing all the souls in Purgatory. He quickly declares himself a god in his supermode, and blows up an Archangel with a finger snap. He loses his powers barely an episode later to be replaced by another set of less powerful baddies, and the Winchesters actually have to involve the cosmic Grim Reaper to offer any meaningful opposition to the villain.
  • The Chairman from Walker, Texas Ranger. He is the head villain — played by Michael Ironside, no less — for a full four-episode Story Arc, puts Walker and his loved ones through the ordeal of their lives, then dies.

  • A less lethal example: in Association Football, and especially the World Cup, a common method of dealing with any player considered "the world's best" is to kick the crap out of them and hope something breaks. The most infamous example was the treatment of Pelé during the 1962 and 1966 World Cups. In '62 he was injured in the group stages, but Brazil went on to defend their title anyway; in '66 the same thing happened, but this time Brazil crashed out in the group stages and Pelé was so upset about being constantly roughed up that he refused to play in a World Cup ever again (he later reversed his decision and won a record third title with Brazil in 1970). In 2014, Neymar was considered The Ace of the host Brazilian team, and one of the world's best players. In the quarter-final against Colombia, he endured several tough tackles before finally succumbing to injury and having to be stretchered off. Not only that, captain and defensive leader Thiago Silva picked up a ban for the semi-final, leaving David Luiz to lead the defensive line. Luiz has been criticized for lacking discipline in the defense. In the semi-final, without their star player as well as their captain, Brazil promptly suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in World Cup history.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is the reason those Primarchs who survived the Horus Heresy are all gone missing. The universe isn't quite so crapsacky if there are several fifteen-feet-tall Nigh-Invulnerable gods of war running around destroying entire armies by themselves. Chaos has a similar issue: Of their surviving Primarchs, only one averts Orcus on His Throne, and he serves a god who rewards losing your own troops as much as killing the enemy's (and other Chaos troops are fair game), so Status Quo Is God remains firmly in place.
    • The God-Emperor of Mankind, as his name indicates, is the most powerful human psyker in humanity's existence. Even reduced to a corpse, his spirit continues to act as a psychic lighthouse that allows FTL travel, bind psykers so that their heads don't always explode when they use their powers, and generally keep the human race from completely falling apart. When he was alive and well, humanity was the dominating force in the galaxy.
    • In later editions, one of the Primarchs was actually brought back... and to compensate for the fact that he's horrified at the current state of the Imperium and taking steps to correct it, the galaxy is now in fact worse off: A series of colossal Warp storms has cut the galaxy in half, preventing a great deal of the Imperium from communicating with Terra.

    Video Games 
  • Elizabeth at the end of BioShock Infinite. She unlocks the ability to travel the multiverse, at any point, and any time possible, even perceiving time as it is. She is technically the most powerful being in the entire franchise, capable to undo any event possible. So, to counter this, every single Elizabeth 'drowns' Booker, erasing her memory eventually, then she is killed by Atlas just as her memory comes back to her.
  • Azrael (aka The Genocider, The Mad Dog, and The King of Atrocity) from Blaz Blue: Chronophantasma is easily one of the strongest members of the cast, if not the single strongest. By his own admission, he's barely using an eighth of his true power; even then, he easily either decimates strong characters like Valkenhayn or forces incredibly powerful characters like Hakumen to flee. Were it not for the fact he doesn't even care about the main villains, just wanting a good fight, and Kokonoe trapping him into the space between dimensions, there wouldn't be much of a plot to salvage after he's had his "fill". And it's revealed in BlazBlue: Central Fiction that he broke out of said prison with his bare hands, and the only thing keeping him from going on an utter rampage is the possibility that he might finally get someone decent to fight. This ends up played with in Story Mode where it's revealed that while Azrael is indeed that powerful, he doesn't know how to efficiently and effectively wield all of it, and just like anyone who wildly throws around their power he inevitably uses too much of it and is left completely exhausted, no longer able to counter Jin and Kagura as they proceed to put him out of commission for good this time.
  • The Statesman Task Force in City of Heroes is about his nemesis Lord Recluse doing this to himself. When you finally get to confront him, he uses a machine that taps into most of the superheroes in the world (except for your team, conveniently) and becomes way, way stronger than normal. The tricky part is surviving his assault while taking out the machines so he can be brought back down to normal and defeated.
  • Android 21 from Dragon Ball Fighterz. An android more powerful than Cell, with all of Majin Buu's abilities, and the ability to gain massive leaps in power just by eating someone? No wonder she dies in every arc.
  • Lancer in Fate/stay night. Gae Bolg gives him a low-cost, instant-kill, guaranteed-hit ultimate attack, and also inflicts wounds that don't heal as long as his lance still exists. He's also extremely fast, extremely skilled, and Irish. You don't mess with the Irish, especially when they're wearing blue spandex. After he shows up, he's immediately put on a bus for 90% of the first two routes, and then Heaven's Feel drops a bridge on him. The two times he did get to use the attack, his targets pulled out hax of their own to just narrowly avoid a fatality anyway. He was under explicit orders to not fight any battles to the death, and it's generally held that, if he had his original master, they would have easily won the war.
    • There are many examples in Fate, but rather the author prefers "Too Powerful To Ever Use Their Full Potential (Until It's Too Late)." Word of God states that Gilgamesh is easily the strongest Servant, but he never pulls out his full strength until it's too late. If he fought seriously from the start, even Lancer and Bazett would have been helpless before him.
    • In the spinoff Light Novel Fate/Apocrypha there's Saber of Black, Siegfried. He's got ridiculous defense with only one weak point, a leaf-shaped mark on his back. On top of that, he's got amazing strength, speed, swordsmanship, and a powerful Sword Beam. He willingly sacrifices himself not even a fourth of the way through the story, and if he hadn't he would have likely defeat all the other Servants not named Vlad III, Achilles, or Karna in a straight fight.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has Leonhardt "The Blade Lord", also known as Loewe to his close associates and his adopted younger brother Joshua. He is one of the most powerful members of the society of Ouroboros and one of their best swordsman thanks to his skill and his sword, Kernvitter. He then nearly has a Heel–Face Turn moment after Joshua finally answers his life questions all this time until he was caught off-guard by the Big Bad and heavily wounded. Then Loewe retaliates against Weissman and while he does break the barrier, Weissman swats him down like a fly and ends up mortally wounded. In his dying moments, he then asks Estelle to take care of his younger brother for him. Though this is subverted in the long run because the series keeps introducing similarly powerful characters as both allies and enemies. Though his death is still significant in that it forces Joshua to move on from the Hamel incident.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV has Giliath Osborne, who is known as the Evil Chancellor of the empire according to the nobles who kept on weakening their hold of the empire. He made Erebonia so big by annexing countries left and right with minimal bloodshed, nearly brought down the entire world to its knees thanks to his military technology advantage, is a Divine Knight Awakener, and is a One-Man Army on foot when he's finally fought in the series. Take note all of that and add the fact that he's been trying to lose on purpose to resolve Erebonia's biggest problem, which is the curse of Erebonia festering on the country for nearly a thousand years. He was so powerful, so intelligent, and so charismatic, that he was already overtaking the overall villains of the saga, Ouroboros, as one of the greatest villains of the series. Naturally, he had to go at the end of the Cold Steel saga and he still went out like one of the biggest badasses and one of the biggest winners of the series. Sure it cost him his life but the fact that he set out what he wanted to do and gained everything that he wanted makes him the biggest Trails Series villain winners. Imagine if he started actually exerting more effort than what he is doing.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3's The Boss was feared by the CIA for having overwhelming charisma and powerful connections across all superpowers to go with their unknown agenda, so they spent billions of dollars and concocted a scheme that killed thousands of America and Russia's elite just to assassinate The Boss and make it look like an international mess-up. The official story is that The Boss defected and had to be killed by the one person who could take The Boss down clean and efficiently: Snake. The real story is that she was supposed to recover Volgin's super-inheritance, a 100 billion dollar cache of untraceable, non-controllable funds that could easily resurrect the Philosophers from the grave, but Volgin went insane and nuked a science facility, which instantly pointed fingers at The Boss, who had just recently defected to Volgin, making her necessary to take out to clean the nuclear incident. The actual truth is that The Boss was planning on forcing the United States and Russia to form a permanent alliance and create one world order, and he CIA and KGB worked together to manipulate Volgin into nuking the facility, just to ensure The Boss was defamed and assassinated in the most degrading way they could imagine. Learning all of this is what caused Big Boss to snap.
  • Metroid Dread: The final E.M.M.I.-07PB is relegated to a Cutscene Boss because it would be too powerful to fight in-game. As shown just prior to its attack, its ability to stunlock Samus from anywhere on the map the instant it detects her through its Power Bombs, as opposed to the E.M.M.I.-05IM and E.M.M.I.-06WB needing to get a direct line of sight on her through their blasts, mean it's impossible to run from it in gameplay unlike the other E.M.M.I. as it can simply attack Samus without having direct contact or even being close to her. Said detection abilities are enhanced to the point where not even the Phantom Cloak can hide her from it.
  • The villain of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon can mind control Pokémon, and bestow its unwilling minions with its own power to turn Pokémon into stone, making them enemies that none of the numerous Legendary Pokémon can stand up to, or even run away from. By the climax, Dark Matter gained enough power to turn everyone in the world sans the two protagonists into stone while at a hair's-length away from throwing the world into the sun only to be Killed Off for Real by the story's end, one of the few times this happens to the franchise's antagonists.
  • If you happen to be a Resident Evil villain and contract Lovecraftian Superpowers by whatever virus or parasite you injected into yourself, your chances of death are guaranteed to rise drastically. The sole exception was Albert Wesker, a generic Mole ascended into primary villain via staging his death, and survived multiple times throughout the franchise. The T-Virus he injected into himself acts as a Story-Breaker Power for him rather than infecting him. But eventually, his fame overshadowing everyone else, and his excessive use of the Uroboros virus, finally got him to be Killed Off for Real in Resident Evil 5. But it still doesn't stop Wesker and his offsprings from reappearing in Mercenaries mode throughout the franchise.
  • Tabuu from The Subspace Emissary. He wipes out the entire roster in one second before Sonic the Hedgehog destroys his wings to weaken him.
  • A heroic example occurs with Metroplex in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Being a robot that transforms into a city, it's natural that incredibly few things could ever hope to bring him down in a straight fight. However, his very presence strains both sides, as the Autobots are forced to use a lot of energon to keep him running. He eventually gives his own energy up to help fuel the Ark so that the Autobots could fly off-planet and hopefully lure Megatron with them to give Cybertron time to recover.
  • Wizard101: A heroic version happens at the end of Empyrea Part 1, when Father Bat reveals how much of a Well-Intentioned Extremist he is when he tries to (albeit regretfully) kill Mellori because he considers her power to be extremely dangerous, especially if the enemy manages to utilize said power for their own ends. Luckily, he fails.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Akhos' Blade Obrona is capable of tracking global Ether patterns from practically anywhere, meaning that she could track the movements of any Driver or Blade across Alrest. As well as this, she has the ability to selectively cut off the atmospheric flow of Ether in the vicinity, thus depriving opposing Blades of many of their abilities. For her to remain with the organisation of Torna would render it impossible for Rex and co. to go anywhere or do anything without getting harangued by them, and, as such, gets Killed Off for Real when Mythra emerges and destroys her Core Crystal.

    Web Original 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series of course parodied this trope in "The Abridged Movie":
    Seto Kaiba: These new cards I won from Pegasus are incredible. In fact, they're so incredible that I will never use them again!
  • In RWBY, Neo's Semblance evolves in Volume 9, allowing her to create virtually perfect copies of anyone and anything which she uses to great effect by creating copies of people who died to drive Ruby past the Despair Event Horizon. Thus, when the Big Bad of the Volume is taken care of, Neo, who comes to realize that Vengeance Feels Empty, decides to use the Ever After's Tree to find a new purpose, taking her out of the series.

    Western Animation 
  • Tigerhawk of Beast Wars. His first appearance had him destroy the Predacon base and blow away the Preds themselves effortlessly. The next episode he was killed taking on a powerful warship buying time for the Maximals. Interestingly Tigerhawk's Story-Breaker Power may have been given to him because he was going to be removed from the show so quickly due to Merchandise-Driven reasons (Hasbro couldn't decide if they were even going to sell his toy and almost didn't include him in the show at all).
  • Ben 10:
  • Murko fills this role on Birdman (1967), invoking The Worf Effect on Pentagon security, F.E.A.R., and finally Falcon Seven before facing Birdman in battle. Suffice to say, he lives up to the hype, coming as close as the series ever got to Nightmare Fuel.
  • The various The Virus plus Reality Warper combos from Codename: Kids Next Door, like Madam Margaret and Grandfather.
  • Pariah Dark does this in the first Danny Phantom movie, "Reign Storm," stomping Vlad Plasmius and darn near conquering Earth before he is put back in his box. The same applies to Evil Counterpart Dark Danny.
  • Very few Darkwing Duck villains were ever killed off during the run of the show, but after Major Synapse pumped himself so full of psychic energy that he became a being of pure thought, there was no way left to defeat him except to pump even more energy into him and trick him into thinking about inane questions, causing him to quite literally explode from the mental strain.
  • The Nameless One (no, not that one), Dungeons & Dragons (1983) — apparently The Man Behind the Man to Venger, but this does not stop him giving everyone's favorite one-horned force of evil a good working-over. Unusually, he does not die at the end after his episode of terror. Instead, he winds up leaving the characters (and the audience) in suspense over his probable return, and proceeds to never appear again.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) featured Snake Face among the Snake Men who served as the primary villains of the final season. Snake Face can turn people to stone by looking at them. The writers noted in the DVD commentary that there was no way to keep Snake Face without his threat overshadowing that of Big Bad King Hiss, so he was killed off in his second appearance.
  • Shendu and his siblings, the Demon Sorcerers, from Jackie Chan Adventures. They were several orders of magnitude more powerful than most villains Jackie and his family usually face, so whenever they escape imprisonment, it never lasts more than two episodes before Uncle seals them again.
  • Justice League:
    • Amazo's initial motivation is killed when he acquires telepathy from Martian Manhunter and realizes he's being manipulated by Lex Luthor. He realizes all this is beneath him and goes out into the universe in search of meaning. He returns in the Unlimited series showing himself to be even more this trope, plowing through battalions of superheroes and the entire Green Lantern Corps, but leaves again searching for meaning. It turns out that there's only so much you can do with a character who's evolved to the point of omnipotence.
    • Less thought is Dr. Destiny. He attacks people in their dreams, during which they can't wake, and the nightmares he puts them through will cause their heart-rate to accelerate until it works too hard and gives out. He can do this from anywhere. So at the end of his first appearance, his fight with Batman leaves him catatonic, because if he was still around, he would do the same trick all over again from prison.
  • One episode of Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) has Vile and Spark Mandrill from Mega Man X join forces with Wily. Luckily X himself shows up to even the odds but they are still outnumbered. They and X himself are from the future and are immune to everything Mega Man can throw at them. Eventually X pushes Vile and Spark Mandrill back into the future, establishing status quo and hinting at a Mega Man X series in the works.
  • My Little Pony: The franchise's history of using extremely evil villains while focusing on otherwise light-hearted settings means that, by necessity, these villains can't stick around very long.
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends:
      • Tirek is an extremely powerful demon who can corrupted transform people into monstrous servants with the Rainbow of Darkness, and sought to plunge the world in The Night That Never Ends; Lavan transformed into a powerful crystal form that unbalanced Pony Land. They are the only two villains of G1 to die in the end of their episodes, making My Little Pony one of the few TV cartoons in the 1980s to kill characters off.
      • Grogar, a ram sorcerer who rules the dark city of Tambelon, sought to take over Pony Land after he returned from the Realm of Darkness where he and the city had been banished. He's extremely powerful, and managed to easily defeat and overwhelm the heroes who went against him, in addition to kidnapping the unicorns of Pony Land. At the end of his special, he's sealed back in the Realm of Darkness and banished from the world.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic usually has the main characters face a very powerful, very evil villain in the big climactic double episodes at the beginnings and endings of seasons. These are invariably defeated by weaponized friendship or love and eliminated at the end of the two-parter they appear in. If they come back, it tends to either be in a way that lowers or eliminates their threat, as brief flashbacks or cameos, or in roles that see them briefly return and be eliminated again by the end of the episode.
  • In Ōban Star-Racers, Canaletto saw one of the racers, Sul, too powerful and equal as him. Canaletto offers him to join his will, but Sul refuses. Instead of killing him, he sent Sul to an another world.
  • Gigabyte in ReBoot was only around for one episode. He was a fusion of Megabyte and Hexadecimal (or the original form if you count the Retcon). He had Megabyte's strength, would have had Hexadecimal's powers if she hadn't been drained of energy at the time of fusion, and could Absorb Energy, which gradually unlocked Hexadecimal's powers. The only way to stop him for good was to re-separate him back into Megabyte and Hexadecimal, which is why he never appeared again outside of flashbacks.
  • In the Fake Crossover between Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa, the Crystal Gems decide that UG is too dangerous to exist with his Reality Warping powers and outright try to kill him.
  • A non-villainous version is explored in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Legacy: Part 2." After Superman (who was being held in a red sun lamp lit prison cell) states that his attempted takeover of Earth was a result of being brainwashed by Darkseid, which gets dismissed as lies by Gen. Hardcastle, he tries rescuing a critically injured Supergirl and escape, but is quickly recaptured. Luthor and Hardcastle go into Superman's cell, telling him that it's been decided that since even keeping him locked up is too much of a safety risk for Earth, he'll be given a lethal injection, a syringe filled with liquid kryptonite. Once Superman and Supergirl have been executed, Luthor gloats that Lexcorp will make a fortune from bisecting their bodies. Luckily, Lois Lane sneaks into the base and helps Superman escape.
  • Trigon the Terrible on Teen Titans invades Earth and turns it into a literal hell before he's banished (and possibly killed) and his magic undone by his daughter, Raven. The series would have concluded with his defeat — but they got extended for another season.
  • Mumm-Ra in ThunderCats once discovered an Artifact of Doom that quadrupled his powers. He was laying the smackdown on the Thundercats with it, but when he needed to return to his pyramid to rest the Ancient Spirits of Evil denied him entrance. They were jealous and fearful that with the orb, Mumm-Ra would forsake them, so they forced him to ditch it. And they still complain that he loses to Lion-O.
  • Unicron's little brother, Tornedron in The Transformers cartoon is also a good example. He drains both Cybertron and the Earth of their energy, plows through a small army of powerful Decepticons and Autobots with little effort, and finally rebels against his creator before Grimlock randomly presses a button, ending the threat and the episode.
  • Makeshift from Transformers: Prime. His power to transform into any Cybertronian was deemed too powerful, so they got rid of him in his debut episode. The writers openly admitted that introducing someone with Makeshift's powers so early was a mistake, and he would have limited the variety of stories that could be told if he'd survived.
    • Much like his G1 counterpart, Unicron would have killed off the cast and ended the show by simply waking up if Optimus had not used the Matrix to kill/subdue him after just three episodes.
      • As it turns out, only his physical body was defeated. His dark essence remained and possessed Megatron's corpse for the series finale. He comes within inches of destroying Cybertron before being defeated once again.
    • Predaking completely thrashed the Autobots in his debut, despite only being a few weeks old at the time, and was only defeated upon getting frozen somewhere in the Arctic. Then subverted when he breaks free later on. Even Megatron decides that Predacons like him are too powerful and uncontrollable, and tricks the Autobots into destroying the Predacon cloning lab.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, the one time Wuya is at full power she takes over the world within minutes. Chase Young does resurrect her again later on, but intentionally limits her powers to mere Badass Normal levels just so she doesn't eclipse every other villain in the show.
  • Apocalypse in X-Men: The Animated Series. A fearsome adversary in the comics, he was even more formidable in this series. In one timeline, he killed the entire X-Men team in one shot — defeating him usually "just" meant foiling his plans and hoping he wasn't too pissed to repeat that incident. He appeared once per season, and at one point he got kicked off-planet swearing he'll return (he did), and even his body got destroyed, but his last appearance had him return just before the series was cancelled.