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Win-Win Ending

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A happy ending for ALL.

In short, some stories end in victory for the heroes and villains alike. The Bad Guy Wins, but not in detriment of the hero, and certainly not as a Downer Ending.

How can the story achieve an end like this? Sometimes, hero and villain can work out a compromise to their mutual benefit. Sometimes, heroes and villains can find a way to bypass each other on the way to achieving their goals. Sometimes rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, and both manage to bring in a good harvest.

Perhaps the villain's goal was not bad in itself, so the hero prevented its disastrous side-consequences. Perhaps the President Evil realizes that he can still be a Manipulative Bastard getting wealth and power all without the interference of the Congress, the Supreme Court and the press by stepping down to just being a Corrupt Corporate Executive. Perhaps what the villain really wants is money, and he learned that he can get even more money legally. Perhaps he is in it for revenge, and drops everything when he realizes that his loved one was Not Quite Dead.

The trope is more likely to take place in productions for children or in humorous settings. It is easier to come to an agreement with a Harmless Villain or an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who doesn't know how to ask nicely for something reasonable than with an Eldritch Abomination who wants to destroy the universe For the Evulz. Also, see Morality Tropes for ways to throw audience expectations off regarding hero/villain divisions.

Compare Sweet and Sour Grapes, which may contribute to this ending for either or both sides of the Conflict. Sub-Trope to Happy Ending. In video games and other media with Multiple Endings, this may also overlap with the Golden Ending.

This is an Ending Trope, so spoilers have been unmarked. Proceed at own risk.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • At the end of Macross 7, the Protodevlin discover that they can create Spiritua by singing, rather than needing to steal from humans.
  • In Naruto, the very long-running villain Pain realizes that his and Naruto's goals are the same but winds up preferring Naruto's approach over his own. He ultimately sides with Naruto and dies happy by sacrificing his own life to resurrect everyone he just killed.
  • Many villains in One Piece end up being even more well-off than before they took on (and got clobbered by) the heroic Straw Hat Pirates. The most prominent case is Wapol, who was previously an oppressive king in a failing kingdom and, indirectly due to the Straw Hats' meddling, became a CEO for a toy company and now makes weapons-grade metal for the World Government's military (that only he can make). Both positions make more money than he ever made as king.
    • Subverted somewhat, as he goes on to rebuild his own Drum Kingdom after the two-year Time Skip with a much more evil motif. Yeah, seems Wapol didn't learn diddly squat during his exile.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Episode 23 features the conflict between Earth and the Raalgon coming to its climax... and then Tylor, the leader of Earth's forces, refuses to fire on the enemy, instead opting to pass through their lines peacefully. His unnatural luck, paired with his counterpart Dom's sense of honor (both of them repeatedly countered orders to fire from subordinates, believing in the other), caused the great conflict's final battle to end without bloodshed - a sympathetic retired admiral on Earth sent a message to both commanders congratulating them for both achieving victory (by going for peace).
  • In Girls und Panzer, the final confrontation between Miho and her sister Maho's schools ends this way. Miho, in winning the tournament, saves her school from being shut down, enabling her to return for her third year with all her friends, and validates her own style of tankery. In doing so, she also makes this also a victory for Maho, whose greatest desire and reason for serving AS Nishizumi heir is for Miho to be able to live and do tankery her own way, and be happy doing so.
  • Shakugan no Shana ultimately ends this way. A god named Fu Xi was awakened by the prayers of his followers, the Crimson Denizens, and planned to create a new world for his subjects to live in, away from the conflict with the Flame Hazes. Under the impression that the amount of Power of Existence that this plan would require would damage the Earth, the Flame Hazes fought back, and, in the end, sealed the god away. Cut to the present, and Fu Xi is released once again by Bal Masque, the antagonists of this series. This time, however, Fu Xi enters a contract with Yuji, and is renamed as 'The Snake of the Festival'. A second great war breaks out between the Flame Hazes and the Crimson Denizens, but Yuji and the god succeed in creating Xanadu, and were even able to do so without disrupting the fabric of reality around Earth. The conflict between the the two warring factions was now over, as the Crimson denizens relocate to Xanadu (alongside Shana and Yuji, to boot).
  • Cardcaptor Sakura has this ending, as befitting a series with no real villains. The Clow Cards, antagonists of the first arc, end up with a new loving master who can sustain their power. Eriol, the antagonist of the second arc, only created conflict to help Sakura succeed, and took as much pleasure in her victories as she did. By the end of the series, with all the new relationships forged and old fences mended, everyone ends up better off than they did at the start.
  • Medaka Box ends with about 99% of the cast happy: the villains were redeemed through The Power of Friendship, and after a 10-year Time Skip we see that everyone seems to have settled into adulthood quite well — even the 5000-year-old Fallen Hero Final Boss Iihiko (or rather, an echo of his pre-fallen self) finds a place to belong. The two main exceptions are Kumagawa, who nobody's heard from in years, and Anshin'in-san, who was killed by Iihiko; however, their friends believe that Kumagawa isn't the type of guy to contact them unless he needs helpnote , and Anshin'in will more than likely be coming back to life in the near future. Also not counted is Professor Fukurou, who was also killed by Iihiko, and was such a twisted creep that redemption was probably impossible.
    • A smaller, more literal version happens at the very end where Zenkichi, meeting with Medaka for the first time in years, challenges her to a sparring match and says that if he wins, she has to marry him. Medaka grins and says that if she wins, he has to marry her.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica ends with Madoka becoming a god of hope and creating a new system that provides Kyubey with the energy needed to stave off heat death, without sacrificing innocent people. However in Rebellion, Kyubey decides they’re unsatisfied with this and goes back to their old ways, which results in them screwing things over, and ironically making it worse primarily for themselves (and for Homura to a lesser extent).
  • The Shaman King manga ends with Hao becoming the titular Shaman King, only for the heroes to convince him not to Kill All Humans, so both sides live happy. The 2001 anime instead goes for a more traditional "hero defeats the villain" ending.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix at the Olympic Games, the Romans (who are only the Designated Villains in this story) train the legionnaire Gluteus Maximus to take part in the Olympic Games. When the Gauls find out about the Games, they send their own champion, Asterix. They discover too late that they are not allowed to use magic potions in the games, and Asterix can not beat well trained Romans. However, he plays a Batman Gambit on them, so they are all disqualified, and Asterix becomes the unopposed champion. But he did not take the Palm of Victory home: as he had no use for it, he gave it to Gluteus Maximus, who is promoted to Centurion, and Centurion Gaius Veriambitius is promoted to senator.
  • The Avengers: In The Avengers #75, Arkon comes to Earth from Another Dimension when the rings of his world (similar to our sun) begin to collapse and shut down. He discovered that the first atomic explosion could light the skies for a brief time, and a higher explosion at a certain place would light Polemachus forever. Of course, Earth would be destroyed, but who cares? The Avengers follow him to that dimension, and then again to our world... except for Iron Man and Thor, who stayed in Polemachus. In no time, Iron Man built a machine lighted by Thor's lighting, that solved the problem without destroying earth.
  • What If? Civil War (2006) has an alternative ending for the civil war. Both sides of the conflict save Goliath from the clone of Thor, and then Captain America and Iron Man met in an office, discussed the problem as adult people, and find a way to prevent superheroes doing disasters as in Stamford and, at the same time, keep their secret identities safe.
  • ElfQuest: In the Elf Quest Holiday Special]] episode there's a major grudge fight between Cutter and Rayek where they almost end up killing each other. The win-win part is that it lets Cutter burn out his (admittedly justified) aggression toward Rayek, allowing them to become allies, if not actual friends just yet.
  • Invincible: The Viltrumite War story arc ends with Thragg, Nolan, and Mark compromising over the fate of their now homeless race. After fleeing the Coalition of Planets, the Viltrumites have already infiltrated the Earth, are now blending into human society and...that's it. While it's officially a stalemate, the situation speaks for itself: The fighting is over and Earth will be spared from becoming a battlefield for a pointless conflict, there'll be no great reckoning for at least a few thousand years, Mark and Nolan make it home safe and sound, and the former is allowed to visit his family at least temporarily after repenting his atrocious actions early on in the comic. Best of all, the former imperialists are under orders not to cause any trouble and are going to start familes of their own, which will eventually lead them to bond with mankind. The situation is so good that Cecil actually decommisions his ever expanding arsenal of Anti-Invinicible weapons and Reanimen because there's just no point anymore.
  • JLA/Avengers: The heroes get a great victory, the Grandmaster win a game... and Krona, as a cosmic egg, would experience first-hand the birth of the universe, the knowledge he was seeking all along.
  • Young Avengers: In the first story arc, Hulking discovers that he is a Kree-Skrull mongrel, son of Princess Anelle and Captain Marvell. The Super-Skrull want to take him to the Skrull homeworld, the Kree want to take him to the Kree homeworld, and he just wants to stay in Earth. How do we deal with this? He proposed to stay a year in each world, to know each one, and then decide. Kree and Skrull are satisfied. And when they leave... the real Hulking shows up, he's not going anywhere: the Kree left with the Super-Skrull posing as Hulking, and in a great position to spy on them.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dilbert, the much-despised Pointy-Haired Boss often comes into conflict with his workers over their efforts to do as little work as possible and still get paid — but not always.
  • Bloom County demonstrates an upside to Book Burning: as long as the burners are buying their kindling, the customers are satisfied, the stores that sold them their materials get paid, and the offending creator of the works destroyed gets another big fat royalty check.

    Folk & Fairy Tales 
  • In Bearskin, a soldier successfully escapes the Deal with the Devil he made out of desperation with a tidy profit, and gets a loving wife too. As for the devil, he proudly announces at the end that although he lost the soldier's soul, he gained the souls of his two new sisters-in-law in exchange: they had committed suicide out of envy when they saw what they had rejected.
  • The tale of Peter Ox is an even better example: The Bad Guy Wins, but an odd brand of Hilarity Ensues and the farmer and his wife and their new step-son all end up living together Happily Ever After to the end of their days anyway. In this case, it's also win-win-win, as the titular Peter Ox is basically a bystander who just happens to reap great benefits when he gets caught up in the cover story the bad guy fed the farmer and his wife.

    Films — Animated 
  • The LEGO Movie ends with the villain being redeemed and the heroes fulfilling their goal. Even Emmett's romantic rival, Batman, agrees to let him have the girl.
  • The LEGO Batman Movie: Batman saves Gotham from destruction and gets a surrogate family out of the deal, while the Joker finally gets Batman to admit their relationship is actually meaningful and that he hates Joker.
  • Leo: Since the film has No Antagonist, all the characters get what they want by the end. All the students get past their personal vices with Leo's help, grow closer to one another, and graduate to middle school, while Leo gets a new lease on life, now that he knows he isn't about to die and likes helping people. Even the grouchy Ms. Malkin turns out to be not so bad and earns a permanent teaching position at the school.
  • Yellow Submarine concludes with the Blue Meanies doing a Heel–Face Turn and joining the Pepperland celebration.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Win Win only sort of has a Win Win Ending. Sure, Leo gets to stay in his own house, Kyle gets to stay in New Providence, and Cindy is out of the immediate picture — but she gets $1500 a month for nothing while Mike has to take a second job and Kyle may have blown his chance at a wrestling scholarship.
  • A version in Thor: The Dark World: Thor gets to do what he wants: travel the worlds, righting wrongs, fighting evil, and being with Jane Foster, without worrying about being king of Asgard, which he doesn't want to be anymore. Meanwhile, Loki gets what he wants: the throne of Asgard — which even Odin and Thor came to believe he was better suited temperamentally to occupy than Thor — no one's the wiser, his adopted mother's killer dead, and Thor out of the picture). Even better, everyone else thinks he died a hero's death.
  • Modesta: The women of the neighborhood read their list of demands to the men. After a discussion, they come up with a contract that is agreeable to everyone. The contract stipulates that the sticks of firewood (used as a symbol) will no longer go into play (i.e. husbands will not hit wives and vice versa). It also acknowledges women's demands for fair treatment (help with heavier household tasks and child rearing, etc.), while at the same time acknowledging how hard men work to provide- and that they will NOT wash diapers.
    We acknowledge the right of women to ask us to make them happy. But, since we also want to be happy, that's why we say, "More loving, less gossiping."Original quote in Spanish
  • Mousehunt: Sure, the house was destroyed, but thanks to an idea given to them by the mouse, the Smuntz brothers start a succesfull new business producing cheese string, which saves their factory from bankruptcy and allows the brothers to finally combine their passions of string and cooking respectively. The mouse meanwhile is given a job in the new factoy as cheese tester, providing him with both a new home and all the food he wants.
  • Problem Child 2 ends with things working out fine for everyone involved. Ben and Annie fall for each other, Junior and Trixie become good friends (and maybe even step-siblings, eventually), LaWanda Dumore finds a more suitable and loyal new husband in "Big" Ben, while his marrying her gives him a sugar mama to punch his meal ticket.

  • The ending of Eric has Rincewind & Eric happy because they've escaped Hell, the demons and damned souls happy because Hell is back to the way it was before Astfgl took over, and Astfgl is happy because he's got the boring but prestigious office job of his dreams.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ended with the Grinch being reintegrated into Whoville to everyone's benefit.
    • Both the animated and live action movie adaptations of this story heavily implied that his thieving in some ways opened the Whos' eyes to how overly materialistic they'd been about Christmas, such that the moral reformation was a two-way street.
  • The Sword of Truth series ends with Richard using the Boxes of Orden to create an Alternate Universe without magic for the Imperial Order and sending them all there.
  • In Treasure Island, the heroes did finally get their treasure. So did the villain Long John Silver, who escaped justice with several hundred pounds of it. In the words of protagonist Jim Hawkins, "I think we were all pleased to be so cheaply quit of him."
    • Disney's Treasure Planet, being a straight IN SPACE! adaption of Treasure Island, has the same 'everybody goes home happy' ending, including Silver escaping with a bit of treasure and his freedom.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In Graduados, everybody was happy in the end. The true loves were united, the villains were redeemed by The Power of Love, the bachelors became parents, the fat girl was accepted by everybody, the immature guy matured, the Happily Married parents of Andy stayed that way, and Vero stills provides Rock for everybody in her amateur radio. Long live Rock & Roll!
  • Los Exitosos Pells. The designated couple is together at last. The third one, the gay forced by his father to stay married with the woman, gets rid of him and leaves with his own love. Amanda, the evil assistant, got her own TV channel. And Franco Andrada, the big bad, is captured and sentenced to prison... but that's not the end! The narrative jumps 10 years, and the people that Franco met in the prison help him to begin a successful political career.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nog and sometimes Jake's recurring subplots about a Chain of Deals usually end this way, with everyone getting what they want or ending up better off than at the episode's start. Most apparent in the episode "In the Cards", which ends with a montage of everyone in a better mood while the Captain's Log voiceover remarks on the sense of renewed energy.
  • The Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor" ends with the humans and Zygons forming a perfect peace treaty, the Eleventh Doctor being told that Gallifrey falls no more, and even the War Doctor finding some hope to hold onto in his final moments.
  • Ugly Betty ends with Betty leaving MODE to start a new job at a magazine in London, Daniel following her because he's realized what she means to him and that he needs to get by on his own skills rather than nepotism, and consequently Wilhelmina is left in charge of MODE, her goal from the beginning. Unrelated happy endings for supporting characters include Justin finally coming out and getting a boyfriend, Marc getting promoted to editor and then creative director, and Amanda finding her true calling as a stylist.
  • The Good Place: Everyone wins. The Bad Place is turned into the "Getting Better Place," where humans have an infinite amount of time to make themselves better and earn their way into the Good Place. The Good Place is changed so that instead of a mindless grind of "fun" for all eternity, people are given all the time they want "no more and no less" before they are truly satisfied and choose oblivion. The humans win because absolutely everyone gets paradise eventually, the demons win because their tortures actually have a purpose now, and the angels win because now their charges are actually happy instead of blissed-out morons. Even the Satanic Archetype can't do much more than grumble for the sake of being contrary.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Ascension can end with one of these in the End Times book Ascension. It's a long uphill struggle, but so long as the players survive the disasters overtaking the world, succeed in uniting the Traditions and the Technocracy under a peaceful banner and stop the Grand Harvester of Souls, ultimately the forces of Paradox break down in the wake of the ongoing Avatar Storm; humanity transcends the bonds of physical reality, and everyone in the game is rewarded with a happy ending. The Mages all see their visions of magic realized as true in their own private worlds; the Technocracy gets the utopia it always wanted, with every possible vision of a perfect world coming true - from the NWO's vision of a perfectly ordered society, to Iteration X's dream of a technological Singularity; the Marauders all have their own private dreamworlds where they can play with reality without hurting anyone; even the Nephandi get a happy ending, willingly punishing themselves with the Hells they wanted to descend to.
  • Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000: Any battle against the Chaos gods unfortunately results in them winning, even if their mortal champions are killed: they're fueled by emotion, meaning just about the only way to truly win is to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy. Khorne famously doesn't care whether blood spilled in battle belongs to his warriors or their foes, while Tzeentch has so many contradictory plans that one failing just means another's been set in motion, Nurgle is strengthened by death and despair, while Slaanesh's followers enjoy defeat and humiliation as much as they do winning (it's the intensity of the emotion that drives them rather than the emotion being positive or negative).
    Tuska: Told ya I knew where da best fightin' was.

    Video Games 
  • Aria's Story: The Good Ending has everyone happy. The false Aria gets to live a new life as Wendy, while her new friends get to continue living with her, and Clyde has managed to move on from Aria's death but can still keep Lewin and Dahlia close to him. Even the Rabbit and the other library denizens are happy since Wendy managed to save them from being erased by Clyde, meaning they can live happy lives.
  • Celeste: The primary conflict of the main game is between the heroine Madeline, who wants to climb the titular mountain to cast away her insecurities, and Badeline, the embodiment of those insecurities who wants to protect Madeline by stopping her from climbing the mountain by any means possible. Come the end of Chapter 6, and Madeline comes to accept Badeline as being a part of her who she needs not cast away, but to welcome and manage- in return, Badeline agrees to help Madeline reach the top of the mountain, and by the end, they've gone from enemies to allies, successfully scaling the mountain and able to return to the bottom, safe and sound.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • In the Firestorm expansion for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, both the GDI and Nod are better off at the term of their Enemy Mine situation.
    • The ending for Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight can count as this, as a result of another Enemy Mine situation between the GDI and Nod. Thanks to the Tiberium Control Network, Kane was finally able to fulfill his millennia-long goal of escaping Earth and takes his most loyal followers from the Brotherhood of Nod with him. As for the GDI, Kane's plans have also managed to remove every trace of Tiberium across the planet, ending the alien substance's scourge for good.
  • Final Fantasy XII ends this way. The heroes get their homeland's sovereignty back and the villains achieve their goal (which conquering the area was a necessary step in): overthrowing Ivalice's Jerkass Gods.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Endwalker expansions closes with the heroes saving the world and the rest of the universe from the Endsinger with Zenos' help at the last second. With all existential threats out of the way, Zenos finally gets his long-awaited rematch with the Warrior of Light. He dies content, having experienced the greatest thrill of his life.
  • King's Ascent: Of a sort. With the exception of the Tyrant, both sides get what they want- the king retires from his duties and can live a life without the pressures of ruling, while Alabaster and Dravious have technically gotten their revenge by removing the king from the throne and getting him to realize his folly.
  • Owlcat Games seems fond of this one. The secret endings to both of their Pathfinder games both involve the Big Bad getting everything she wants in a way that gives the protagonists everything they want, and completely hose other major antagonists.
    • Pathfinder: Kingmaker: The secret ending has Nyrissa becoming the player's queen, giving her the queendom she wanted from the very beginning, while killing the Lantern King by turned all the curses he's been throwing around back at him.
    • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous: The secret ending is literally just finishing Areelu Vorlesh's grand master plan with her. The thing is, her grand master plan is to resurrect her child through the player and ascend to divinity with them. Closing the Worldwound, the player's primary objective, is a necessary step for this. As part of the process, the Demon Lords Baphomet and Deskari wind up getting killed for spare parts.
  • The Zero Escape trilogy ends this way. The heroes in all three games manage to escape their imprisonment- but in doing so, the Zeroes achieved their goals. Akane and Future Sigma sucessfully managed to get the heroes to control their timeline-jumping powers and create a timeline in which the Radical-6 plague does not happen- because their enemy Delta achieved his goal of making the heroes strong enough to create a better future. The only ones who are not better off are the villains the Zeroes were fighting against-Cradle Pharmaceutical bosses, Dio, and the Religious Fanatic.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish ends with everyone in Acme Falls getting their wish. Except King Salazar and The Mime, of course.
  • Lampshaded in Asterix and Cleopatra, where Cleopatra orders an architect to build a huge monument in 3 months. If he does it, he will be covered with gold, if he does not, he will be hurled to the crocodiles. Of course, he finished the building in time. In the last scene, all the characters (Romans, Egyptians, Caesar, Cleopatra and the 3 Gauls) share a celebration. The narrator points that everybody is happy, everybody is eating, everybody is drinking, everybody is enjoying the happy ending... well, almost everybody. And then we saw the angry crocodiles with protest banners, because nobody was sentenced to be their food.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the two-part series opener, the heroines save Equestria from Nightmare Moon’s attempted eternal night. In the process, Nightmare Moon is reverted to her pre-villain identity as Princess Luna. After she asks forgiveness for her wrongdoing, the episode ends with a celebration in honor of Princess Luna’s return. (And the entire reason Luna had turned to villainy in the first place was because she thought the ponies didn’t love or respect her.)
  • Superfriends: This happened at the end of several of the first season (1973-74) episodes.
    • "Dr. Pelagian's War". The title ecoterrorist uses his control of the weather and the oceans to try to stop three business people from polluting. Although the Superfriends capture him, all three of the business people agree to stop their polluting so he effectively wins.
    • "Too Hot To Handle". The alien Solar Terrarians require a hot climate to be comfortable, but they've polluted their planet so much that its climate has grown too cold for them. They try to alter the Earth's climate to make it hot enough so they can live here (which would kill all humans on Earth), but the Superfriends foil their plan. The Super Friends go to the alien's home planet and clean up the pollution, allowing the aliens to continue to live there in comfort.
    • "The Weather Maker". The inhabitants of the frozen country of Glacia need warmth to survive, so they plot to alter the course of the Gulf Stream. Unfortunately this would cause massive weather disruption in the rest of the world, so the Super Friends stop them. They discover that the machine used to alter the Gulf Stream has tapped into an undersea source of geothermal energy which will warm up Glacia.
    • "The Watermen". An alien spaceship runs out of fuel and crashes on Earth. The aliens try to extract more fuel (silicon) from seawater, but this causes a red tide-like effect in the ocean. The Superfriends track down the aliens and stop their mining activities, but also provide them with enough silicon to return home.
  • The Legend of Korra features one of these at the finale of the fourth season. The Big Bad is defeated, but does not die, and gets to see her dream of the Earth Kingdom brought to peace come true, just not in the violent manner she tried for. Korra fully recovers her powers and has ushered the world into an unprecedented era of peace. She also opens a new spirit portal in Republic City, meaning humans and spirits can travel easily between both worlds.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: In "Hog Wild Hamton", Hamton's house gets destroyed by Egghead Jr. after being disrupted by the wild party Plucky throws while Hamton is away. Hamton wins a new house thanks to the sweepstakes he entered at the beginning of the episode, whereas neither Egghead Jr. nor Plucky get punished for their actions.

Alternative Title(s): Everybody Wins, Happy Ending For All