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Man Behind The Man / Video Games

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Secret bosses and higher-ups in video games.


  • Ace Combat
    • In the Japanese version of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, the war between Neucom, General Resource, and the UPEO, is revealed to have been instigated by a Brain Upload version of Abyssal Dision, in revenge for the death of his girlfriend, Yoko Martha Inoue.
      • The Omega Ending, reveals that the whole game was a simulation by Simon Orestes Cohen, who blamed Dision for Yoko’s death, and its implied that he will be the one who instigates the war instead.
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    • In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, it’s revealed that a group of Belkans called ‘The Grey Men’ are responsible for starting the war between Osea and Yuktobonia, for revenge after the fall of their country fifteen years ago.
    • In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, an Erusean General reveals that Princess Rosa Cossette D’Elise had been manipulated by a group of young Erusean Officers called the Radicals into declaring war on Osea. He also reveals that the drone army that they had been using was developed with technology that they had been given to them by the Belkans.
  • The Advance Wars series enjoys this one.
    • In the original Advance Wars, Man behind Olaf and Eagle were deceived by Sturm into attacking Orange Star via a clone of the Orange Star CO, Andy, whom Sturm used to frame the real Andy for numerous war crimes.
    • In Days Of Ruin, Caulder is the man behind just about everybody, using people like Admiral Greyfield and the Beast to test his weapons and conducts experiments. Though Caulder appears early on, his influence isn't revealed until later in the game.
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  • Age of Mythology has several levels of this. The initially presented villain is Kamos the pirate, who turns out to be working for the cyclops warlord Gargarensis. Gargarensis is getting divine backing from Poseidon, and they're both working to free their ultimate master the Titan Kronos, who if freed has promised to give Poseidon the power to defeat Zeus, and make Gargarensis immortal.
  • Chakravartin the Creator in Asura's Wrath, when it is revealed that he is the one behind everything in the entire game. This is after you kill a ton of Jerkass Gods, a giant army of Eldritch Abominations, with a bigger one behind that whose heart happens to be the planet's core. All to "choose his heir".
  • Baldur's Gate: So you came back Where It All Began and killed the leaders of the evil organisation that was pushing for the threat of war to gain money and power and was behind all the troubles in the Sword Coast? That might sound like it was the end, but in the game, you'll probably not think that. Sure enough, it turns out they were only pawns for Sarevok, their leader's adopted son, whose motives are more of the "seas of blood" and "A God Am I" sort. And so were you, if you actually did kill them; if not, he'll just frame you for it.
  • Baten Kaitos:
    • Origins does this twice. After setting up Baelheit as the Big Bad for 95% at the game, a late game Reveal/Ass Pull reveals that he was in fact being manipulated by your mentor, Verus, who had previously shown no hints of evilness. And after you crush him, it turns out that he was in fact being manipulated by Wiseman, the dictator you supposedly destroyed 1000 years in the past.
    • In the previous game (and chronological successor), Geldoblame is set up as the Big Bad initially, until Melodia reveals that she was just waiting for him to get all of the parts of Malpercio into one place.
  • In BioShock Infinite, the Unstuck in Time Lutece Twins are able to manipulate everything seemingly to atone for messing with Booker and Anna as well as enabling Comstock to gain all his power.
  • Call of Duty:
    • Halfway through Call of Duty 4, its revealed that the Al-Asad, the leader of the generic revolution in the nameless Middle Eastern country has actually been funded and supported by a mad Russian Ultranationalist named Imram Zakaev, who has visions of nuclear detonations dancing in his head. Zakaev also shows up in "The Coup", handing Al-Asad a Desert Eagle which he uses to kill the president. At that point the player has no idea who he is and appears just as a creepy old one armed man in a trenchcoat. Because his appearance is so minor, most people don't notice him at all until they play the campaign again.
    • In Modern Warfare 3, it's revealed Makarov was the one who detonated the nuke.
  • In Castlevania, there are a few small hints dropped that Death, who generally acts as Dracula's Dragon, may actually be this trope. There are also a few hints dropped that Death may obey a power beyond Dracula.
    • The Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow games reveal that Chaos, the Ultimate Evil behind Castlevania itself, is this trope. This is the power that Death truly serves, though he seems to prefer Dracula being its host, given his hostile reaction to would-be usurpers. In Aria of Sorrow Chaos tries to force Dracula's reincarnation Soma to accept its power and become Dracula 2.0.
  • The way to the best ending within Cave Story reveals that the Tragic Villain Balos was the one responsible for both the creation of the Demon Crown The Doctor and his predecessors sought after in order to rule the world and the curse of Misery and Balrog to serve whomever bears the Demon Crown.
  • Subverted in Chrono Trigger, early in the game, your party learns the Big Bad caused an apocalyptic destruction of the world. Eventually, they find someone casting a dark ritual which is summoning the Big Bad. So, your party fights and defeats the summoner Magus, believing him to be The Man Behind The Man and finds out he was trying to summon Lavos to destroy him until your party disrupted the ritual.
  • Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped reveals that Dr. Neo Cortex's plans from the last two games were under the instruction of Uka Uka, the Evil Twin of the witch doctor masks from the first two games.
  • The final boss (not counting the Bonus Dungeon) in Dark Cloud 2 is not Emperor Griffon, but the dark energy inside him made manifest: Dark Element.
  • In Dark Souls, Gwyndolin is the one secretly behind Gwynevere, with the Gwynevere you face actually being an illusion. Gwyndolin is using her to manipulate the Undead into linking the fire, so then he can ruling through her by proxy.
  • In Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon, there is a long, confusing, Gambit Roulette example. The Master. Crypto believes his ememy is Curt Calvin, supposedly another Furon DNA gatherer. Then, after meeting the Master, Crypto believes his enemy is really Saxon, who supposedly used Calvin to try and destroy Crypto. It then turns out that Saxon was under the employ of Francodyne CEO Henri Crousteau. It is then revealed that Saxon and Crousteau were both part of Emperor Meningitis's operation to manufacture Synthetic DNA. Then after killing Meningitis, the Master appears and reveals that he was the actual conspirator all along, using all of them, including Crypto, in order to usurp the Furon throne.
  • Both Deus Ex games make liberal use of this trope. In the first, the NSF is working for/with the protagonist's brother, Paul Denton, who is in turn working with Tracer Tong and the Illuminati under Morgan Everett. On the other side, UNATCO is under the thumb of Walton Simons and FEMA, who are puppets of Majestic-12, which is in turn led by Bob Page. Interestingly, the player knows who the Big Bad is because he's right there in the opening cinematic. The fun in the plotline is seeing how it eventually connects to him. The sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War cranks it up a notch: The Order church is secretly being run by The Illuminati, and their mortal enemies the WTO are also under the control of the Illuminati, who use the conflict between the two as a cover for controlling the world economy. There's a nifty bit of foreshadowing in the "Coffee Wars" subplot, where the rival coffeehouses Peequod's and QueeQuegs are both under the control of a single corporation- which is in turn controlled by the Illuminati. Meanwhile, the Tarsus project is under the control of ApostleCorp, which in a strange case of Hijacked by Ganon is run by JC Denton, the protagonist from the first game. Damn.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening reveals that the Architect, a sapient darkspawn trying to "free" his kind and give them free will, awakened Urthemiel, Big Bad of Origins, and caused the Fifth Blight. Unusually, this was accidental; the Architect is trying to stop the Blights, and inadvertently tainted Urthemiel while trying to "free" him. Nice job breaking it, antivillain.
    • This is a possible situation in Orlais at the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition. For it to happen, the Empress must die and her cousin the Duke becomes Emperor, and if the Empress's elven spymaster gains blackmail over the Duke and can get him to do what she wants. Whether this is a good thing overall is a matter of debate, but it definitely works out well for Orlesian elves. Two other outcomes in the game have you as this to Empress Celene. The first is if the Empress rules alone, without Gaspard or Briala. The epilogue at the end of the game makes it clear that the only reason Celene remains on the throne is because the Inquisition backs her up. The second outcome occurs if you have enough evidence to blackmail all three of them into collaborating - the results are the same, only the Inquisition also controls a capable military leader and a network of Elf spies.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dhoulmagus is built up to be the Big Bad throughout the first half of Dragon Quest VIII, but is killed off by the party in a climactic Boss Battle that also serves as the game's faux ending.
    • Similarly, Baramos of Dragon Quest III is played up as the villain of the game, and you spend about 80% of the game — or what would feel like a normal full RPG of the time — hunting him down, only to have Baramos's boss, Zoma, call you out out of the blue after starting the victory party.
  • One of the endings of Drakengard has this occur. Throughout the game, we've become accustomed to thinking the Big Bad was the crazy high priestess of the Cult of the Watchers. When she's finally killed in the path to the fourth ending, the "Watchers" themselves show up. While it is left ambiguous if these are the true villains of the game, the sequel removes all doubt.
  • In Dungeon Siege II, the Archmage turns out to not only be behind Valdis's actions, but also behind YOUR actions by disguising himself as Mr. Exposition.
  • In EarthBound, the protagonist's 12-year-old neighbor is controlling the "cosmic destroyer", in a case of Enfant Terrible. In the Japanese-only sequel, he is a Magnificent Bastard, as well.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Big Bad of Arena, Jagar Tharn, is revealed in later works to have been the pawn of Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction. Dagon himself serves as the Big Bad of the Battlespire Dungeon Crawl spin-off game and of Oblivion. As later revealed in an out-of-game developer-written "Obscure Text", Dagon is himself a pawn of the even Greater-Scope Villain, Alduin, the draconic Beast of the Apocalypse.
    • Skyrim:
      • The local crime boss Maven Black-Briar is effectively in charge of the city of Riften. She uses the Thieves' Guild for coercion, haa contacts within the Dark Brotherhood for assassination, is personal friends with the local Jarl/Governor (which appears to be an actual friendship; one Maven exploits without a second thought, but an actual friendship nonetheless), and runs a very profitable meadery (which, much like her friendship, seems to be quite legitimate). Maven has no problem burning down the competition (she'll make an offer before doing that and Black-Briar mead seems quite popular through Skyrim regardless). She so effectively controls the city that when she becomes Jarl (if you support the Empire in the Civil War questline) its treated like little more than a formal acknowledgement of her position.
      • Molag Bal, Daedric Prince of Domination and Corruption and Monster Progenitor of vampires, serves as both this and a Greater-Scope Villain for the Dawnguard DLC. It was he who turned Lord Harkon into a pureblood vampire along with the rest of his family, thus giving rise to the Volkihar Clan in the first place. Being the progenitor of all vampires, it also makes him indirectly responsible for Arch-Curate Vyrthur's corruption, which results in him creating the Prophecy of the Tyranny of the Sun which sets the plot of Dawnguard into motion. Essentially, he is the Greater-Scope Villain behind the Man Behind The Man.
    • In Online, Molag Bal once again serves as this, this time to Mannimarco, though you're aware of it from the start.
  • In Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle , the Awesome Fellowship's Arch-Enemy Lord Vecnathrax is actually being manipulated by Loni, who is taking advantage of his senility to pit him against the Fellowship for the artistic value of the struggles.
  • In Epic Mickey, Oswald reveals that all of the Blotlings Mickey fought, including the Shadow Blot, were all drippings from the REAL Shadow Blot, who was imprisoned inside a bottle on the summit of Mickeyjunk Mountain.
  • Most of the Final Fantasy series follow the pattern of an initial antagonist (often a powerful and ambitious but relatively mundane Evil Empire or Corporation) which is rendered mostly irrelevant halfway through the game by the revelation of the main antagonist. Sometimes, as in the above two examples, the final battle reveals that this antagonist was also just a Dragon for the true Big Bad, usually a quasi-divine "source of all evil" in that world.
    • Final Fantasy II plays with this a little. When you defeat The Emperor, about 3/4 into the game, the game makes you think that Leon, who up until this point was serving the empire, is going to be your new Big Bad, but then we get a subversion when The Emperor comes back from hell to rule the world.
    • Final Fantasy III has the Cloud of Darkness, which is revealed to have been manipulating Xande. What pushes this into interesting territory is that the remake reveals this to be a subversion of sorts: Xande caused the flood of darkness on his own to regain his immortality only to accidentally summon the Cloud into existence and fall under its influence. It's only after it causes the earthquake that starts the game that it truly acts as a Man Behind The Man.
    • Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy 2 in the US) runs wild with this. The initial evil of King Baron turns out to have been facilitated by Golbez, who assumes the game's role of Big Bad. Then it turns out HE was acting at the behest of another Lunarian, Zemus, who is thus the man behind the man behind the man. There's yet ANOTHER layer to the Big Bad onion in the form of Zeromus, but as the incarnation of Zemus' hatred, it's not quite another man-behind-the-man layer. Several times, the main antagonist was set up as described above, or has even been on the losing end of a Man Behind the Man moment, only to take the reins from his supposed master.
    • Final Fantasy VI was a hallmark in the series because Kefka, the Big Bad, appeared very early on and made appearances through the game. While he was serving an Emperor during his initial appearance, a later plot twist had him kill said leader and become a god.
    • Cult Classic Final Fantasy VII perhaps subverts this formula most successfully. Yes, the Shinra Corporation quickly proves to be less fatal than Sephiroth. And yes, Sephiroth couldn't have gotten to be what he was without them, Hojo and Jenova. But Sephiroth doesn't bother with manipulating Shinra, nor is Shinra delusional enough to attempt the same, and Shinra manages to stay a serious threat to the heroes right up to the end while Hojo and Jenova usually keep to the sidelines.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, you spend a large portion of the game chasing Edea; tragic back stories and conflicting emotions all come in to play about defeating your old mother-figure. But once you beat her, it turns out that your real enemy is a sorceress from the future who was controlling Edea.
    • Final Fantasy IX starts with Queen Brahne trying to Take Over the World with weapons of magic destruction. Halfway through the game, her magic supplier, Kuja, kills her. Almost immediately it's revealed he's fighting against his former master, Garland, who is trying to kill everyone on Gaia and replace their souls with the souls of the people of Terra. Near the end of the game, Kuja kills Garland and tries to destroy all existence in a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum. The Final Boss is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death, but he doesn't count as this trope because he wasn't controlling or manipulating anyone, but just shows up due to the Rule of Symbolism.
    • Final Fantasy XIV shows that every major threat Eorzea faces has been orchestrated by the Ascians, immortal sorcerers who manipulate people from the shadows towards their ultimate goal of resurrecting their god Zodiark. It is only very recently that the Ascians have begun to step out of the shadows and take a direct hand in matters.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics uses this trope a lot, as a work of game designer Yasumi Matsuno. The War of the Lions is orchestrated by the Church to seize power over Ivalice; the Church is being manipulated from within from Folmarv; Folmarv, in turn, is being used as a host by the Lucavi. In addition, it's also inverted: Dycedarg, Duke Larg's attendant, is ultimately responsible for much of what the Northern Sky does. However, as a big theme of the game is corruption and greed in the aristocracy, it doesn't come off as ridiculous.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, the Barzini Don is fingered as the one keeping the nearly-ruined Tattaglias alive and responsible for Sonny's death. In-game, when you die after having taken over a business but not the racket in the back, you will find that the business still counts as under enemy control and is still defended by them. It's even literal, as most rackets are located in backrooms of the legitimate businesses.
    • Roth in the second game.
    • Michael can be seen as this, since while both Aldo and Dominic are the nominal Dons, they're taking their cues from him.
  • In the Sega Genesis version of Golden Axe, Death Adder is hyped up to be the Big Bad, until you defeat him and realize he's been taking orders, and that you have one more level to go through. The true last boss turned out to be a recolor named Death Bringer.
  • Guardian's Crusade has multiple fakeouts that all hit at once, such as who the prophesied Hero (you're just babysitting), what Baby is as well as who the real villain is. But don't mistake the fake villain for a silly plot twist: before the reveals the Disc-One Final Boss had set up cults in every city of the world, which are now launching an all-out assault and doing more side-quest related damage than the demon frolicking in the middle of the ocean is even bothering to do.
  • Guild Wars Nightfall reveals that the banished god Abaddon was behind most of the events of the Prophecies and Factions campaigns.
  • In Guild Wars 2's first season of Living World story several villains and factions appeared, most seemingly unrelated to one another. Midway through it was revealed that all of them were created and manipulated by Scarlet Briar.
  • The final cutscene in Haegemonia: Legions of Iron reveals that the Darzok are the puppets of the Abusive Precursors who are responsible for the extinction of the Solon. But this Sequel Hook did not result in a second game.
  • In Holy Umbrella, after defeating the Emperor Dondera, you are then confronted by the true Emperor, a monstrous figure who was in Demonic Possession of him the whole time.
  • Jade Empire has two, with Death's Hand first appearing to be a bad guy acting on his own, and then revealing he has been acting on the Emperor's orders all along and the Emperor was the one who set up the death of the Water Dragon and the upsetting of the balance in the first place, and then once you defeat him your kindly old Master Li wanders in, reveals that this was all part of his Evil Plan to get vengeance on his brother, and kills you, and it turns out that he is the final boss after all that.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising sets you up to fight Medusa, the Big Bad of the previous NES game. It turns out Medusa's resurrection was just a distraction courtesy of the true villain, Hades.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Several things have proven to be consistent over the entire franchise, but the one that bears mention here is that no matter which game you're playing, a later game (or the epilogue) will reveal that the entire plot of it was just a part of someone else's bigger master plan.
    • With a small handful of exceptions, all villains lead back to Xehanort. In Birth By Sleep we find out Master Xehanort is the past incarnation of Xehanort before he took over Terra's body, so ultimately every single thing wrong in the Kingdom Hearts universe is a direct or indirect result of Xehanort's actions. The only villain who doesn't seem to be under his control is Maleficent and her various allies, but she only began her attempted conquest after he told her some secret lore. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance reveals Xehanort to be the man behind himself. It's as Mind Screwy as you'd expect.
    • And then Kingdom Hearts III tops this all off. Right as Xehanort is finally Killed Off for Real and all of his machinations brought to an end, his Dragon Xigbar, the only one who had known Master Xehanort's plot from the beginning, claims his now vacant No Name Keyblade and is revealed to be none other than its original wielder, Luxu. You know, the sixth apprentice to the mysterious Master of Masters from Kingdom Hearts X, which is set before the Keyblade War? Let that sink in: the entire franchise so far, Xehanort, the man behind everything, was just a pawn in someone else's plan.
  • Kirby:
  • Legacy of Kain has The Men Behind The Men—the main antagonist for most of the series of Moebius, who is the controlling force behind the Sarafan and other vampire hunters, and is also a controlling force in the Circle of Nine. However, he's The Dragon to the Elder God, who is also the force that motivated the Ancients to war with the Hylden. Moebius' accomplice is Mortanius, the Big Bad of the first game until we find out he was acting under the possession of the Hylden Lord, who returns as the Big Bad of Blood Omen II where he leads the second incarnation of the Sarafan.
  • The Legend of Dragoon first starts off with Dart's girlfriend being captured and imprisoned. When he arrives at her place of capture he is quickly introduced to a man named Frugel, who is the cruel warden of Helena prison. After defeating him Dart learns that he in fact takes orders from Emperor Doel, who lives in the Black Castle of Kazas. Doel also is taking orders from a man named Lloyd, who is acting as The Dragon for Emperor Diaz. Emperor Diaz is revealed to actually be Dart's father, Zieg Feld, who plays the part of the main antagonist for the rest of the game up until the final boss, Melbu Frahma, who was posessing Zieg the entire time.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, Trinrova are this for Onox and Veran if both games are linked.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, The Imprisoned/Demise is this for Lord Ghirahim. Not that Ghirahim keeps it a secret that he's not the one in charge. Demise is this for Ganon as well by way of the latter being an incarnation of the former's hatred.
  • In Luminous Arc 2, at first Master Mattias was build up to be a villain along with Fatima. However, later in the game, Bharva was revealed to be The Man Behind The Man and was responsible for the fire that killed Rina and Steiner's parents and give suggestions to started the Runic Engine research in order to kill all humans. Behind him is Mage Queen Elicia from 4000 years ago, whose research in life gives her immortality and created the Beast Fiends.
  • Zigzagged by Mage Gauntlet. Hidden notes in several levels suggest the existence of a much more powerful demon than Hurgoth: Uamuleth, the deity of the Ashen Cult. He's the boss of the Cult's levels, and he's insulted by the notion that Hurgoth sent him to wreak havoc. When defeated, however, he drops the same crystal tether as the other Dark Realm bosses, indicating that Hurgoth really did send him. Ultimately averted: Uamuleth has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, Hurgoth is just an unintimidating gatekeeper, and the real Big Bad, Whitebeard, has no affiliation with either. It's never revealed whether or not Uamuleth is Hurgoth's boss, however.
  • In Magi-Nation, Korg and Zet appear to have something to do with the Shadow Geyzers, but in fact it is revealed that someone named Morag is their master. But in fact, Agram is actually the teacher of Morag.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The first game's main villain, Saren Arterius, is actually mind-controlled by his ship, Sovereign, which itself is a Reaper intent on using him to wipe out all advanced organic life in the galaxy.
    • In the second game, the Collectors are being controlled by Harbinger, another Reaper. Of course this time round Shepard and The Illusive Man both correctly guess that the Reapers are behind everything again right off the bat.
    • The finale of the trilogy reveals the Reapers are just carrying out the mission given to them by the Catalyst. And the Catalyst was originally the pawn of the Leviathan, until it betrayed them during a Zeroth Law Rebellion.
  • Due in part to the complementary Gambit Pile Up trope and post-game reveals, the Metal Gear mythology is composed of factions manipulating over factions. Game by game:
    • Metal Gear: Outer Heaven was masterminded by your supposed mentor Big Boss.
    • Metal Gear Solid: The President, through Ocelot, manipulated Liquid Snake to his benefit.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: The Patriot AIs manipulated everybody, including aforementioned president, aka Solidus Snake, as an experiment to prove themselves capable of manipulating the world.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: The American branch of the defunct Philosophers succeed in pitting Naked Snake against his mentor and mother figure The Boss to obtain A MacGuffin Full of Money, which is used to create the Patriots in the future.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Due to everything above, the entire franchise's plot turns out to be a giant war proxy war between Naked Snake, aka Big Boss, against the Patriots, with Snake and Ocelot in this game being one giant smokescreen to distract the AIs from Big Boss' final move.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Paz turns out to be behind the entire plot, as an agent of Cipher/The Patriots in an early attempt to trick Big Boss into developing a Metal Gear before discrediting his public image and thus force him to work for the Patriots.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: Skull Face is responsible for corrupting The Patriots and the Patriot AIs by developing the prototypes of the nanomachines (the parasites), and nearly assassinating Zero, thus putting him in a vegetative state, which mutates The AIs' objective to regulate and control the world into a psychotic obsession with brainwashing humanity to fight a Forever War.
  • The Metal Slug games have the Mars People to the Rebel Army in Metal Slug 2 and 3, with their influence only revealed in the final level of both games. In 2, they ally with the Rebel Army and provide them with their technology, only to betray them in the end. In 3, they abduct the leader of the Rebel Army, Donald Morden, and replace him with a Martian disguised as him.
  • Mortal Kombat does this, more specifically in Mortal Kombat II. In the first game, Shang Tsung is hyped as the big bad, a deadly, powerful, long haired, evil sorcerer who has taken control of the shaolin tournament through unethical means, and corrupted it into chaos, ensuring that with 10 consecutive victories, he can take over Earthrealm. It's later revealed he's doing this for his boss, the emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, who the good guys eventually met when they're forced to continue a new tournament in Outworld itself.
    • It goes even behind that. In Mortal Kombat: Deception, although foreshadowing had hinted at it in earlier games, we are faced with the resurrection and revival of Onaga, the Dragon King, former ruler of Outworld. The one Shao Kahn was formally an advisor to, and who he killed so he could take his throne.
      • Doesn't stop there. Shinnok, Shao Kahn, and Onaga are all said to be manipulated by the One Being. The immortal omnipotent being that existed before the realms were created, that battled the Elder Gods before time. As he couldn't be defeated, the Elder Gods shattered his existence using a powerful weapon, and used it to create the realms before he could reform. The One Being is now essentially all reality, and his conscious exists within everyone. The only way for him to return is to merge the realms together by subconsciously manipulating powerful beings such as Shinnok, Shao Kahn, and Onaga in their conquests.
      • In Mortal Kombat X, Shinnok's arcade ending reveals that the fallen Elder God was being manipulated by the One Being into merging the realms from behind the scenes, just as it did with Onaga and Shao Kahn.
  • In the original NeoQuest: on easy, the game ends after you defeat the Big Bad. On medium, you have to defeat the man behind the man after that. On hard you have to defeat not only the first two, but the man behind the man behind the man as well.
  • Ending Q of Night Striker reveals that the terrorist adjutant is the true mastermind behind the organization, having manipulated the mentally unstable terrorist leader.
  • Ninja Gaiden:
    • In the Xbox remake, Ryu goes after Doku, who stole the Dark Dragon Blade, only to find the sword in the hands of Doku's master, the Vigoorian Emperor. And after getting the sword back, the Dark Disciple (Murai) reveals that he instigated the theft in the first place. Admittedly, the Vigoorian Emperor doesn't actually report to the Dark Disciple, but it still counts somewhat.
    • Ninja Gaiden III on the NES does this too: Ryu finds out that Foster, the CIA agent from the first game, is creating super beings known as BIO-NOIDS and wants to kill him. Clancy, who was seemingly helping Ryu out, was actually using him to do his dirty work, and thus becomes the true enemy in the game, especially when Foster is killed for trying to chase Clancy into subspace.
    • The original NES Ninja Gaiden II has Ashtar, the supposed Big Bad. Once Ryu kills Ashtar and fights his way through more ninjas and demons, the true Big Bad is revealed: Jaquio, the Big Bad from the previous game. Who then dies and does a One-Winged Angel into a demon, a Final Boss who takes on two major forms before being killed for good.
  • The final boss of Overlord is The Man Behind The Man. If that doesn't sound interesting then keep in mind you're the man he was behind in the first place.
  • Grodus, the main bad guy in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, tries to rule the world by reviving the Shadow Queen, who is an evil spirit sealed away for 1000 years. When Grodus summons her, she turns on him and defeats him with one measly attack before turning her attention to Mario. It turns out that Goldfish Poop Gang were her lackeys and manipulating the events... or rather the gang's leader was, since of the other two one is a moron and the other pulls a Heel–Face Turn. You'd wonder why the latter never mentions this to her new friends, but then again it really didn't make much difference to the party who, exactly, was trying to rule the world.
  • Izanami of Persona 4 is revealed to be behind everything in the True Ending. But it turns out she was disguised as THE GAS STATION ATTENDANT FOR THE ENTIRE GAME, until you question the attendant and her identity is revealed.
    • Oh, that's just the end of it. You first find out that Nametame was the one kidnapping all the characters you've been trying to rescue, but then it turns out he was just being manipulated by Adachi, who was the one who committed the first two murders that started the game. But then after you beat him, he gets taken over by a giant disco eyeball named Ameno-sagiri who claims to have done all this to "grant mankind its true desires." But THEN it turns out Izanami was behind it all, creating the Midnight Channel, the Shadows, and Ameno-sagiri, and giving the protagonist, Nametame, and Adachi their powers as part of her grand social experiment.
    • Nyarlathotep is the main baddie behind everything in both the original Persona and Persona 2
    • Persona 4: Arena: Shadow Labrys may have caused the P1 Grand Prix, but Sho Minazuki, then referred to as Eerie Voice, was the one who stole her and threw her into the TV. In turn, Sho is being influenced by the similarly obfuscated Malevolent Entity, Hino-Kagutsuchi. Their goal was to prove that the bonds of the P4 and P3 casts were meaningless, and set up the fighting tournament to make them turn against each other.
  • Persona 5: While The Conspiracy has been causing various accidents and murders throughout the story, it eventually turns out that both the villains and the heroes were given access to the Mental World that serves as the driver of the plot and were further being manipulated by an Eldritch Abomination so it could remove any obstacles to it eating our reality and "saving" humanity from The Evils of Free Will.
  • Phantasy Star enjoyed this quite a bit. In Phantasy Star 1, Big Bad Lassic is in fact a puppet of the demonic Dark Force, from whom he received all his power. In Phantasy Star 2, Mother Brain, a malfunctioning supercomputer, seems to be the Big Bad, only to be revealed as corrupted by the Earthmen, who were in turn corrupted by, surprise surprise, Dark Force. Phantasy Star 3 featured King Rulakir was Dark Force's most recent host and that the demon had been instigating the generations long feud between the two principal families. Phantasy Star IV seemed to break this cycle, revealing Dark Force early on, only for the party to destroy it three separate times. However, Dark Force itself is revealed as merely the most powerful fragments of the Profound Darkness that it had managed to slip through its seal once every thousand years, tasked with destroying the planets of the Algol system which formed the seal that kept the dark goddess imprisoned.
  • In Pokémon Colosseum, Nascour is built up to be the main villain of the game, but the true Big Bad is really Mayor Es Cade, or Evice, as he calls himself during The Reveal. This actually has a very significant moment of Foreshadowing in the beginning: notice how Nascour casually walks out of Es Cade's house before you talk with him. And then the sequel reveals that Es Cade wasn't the true leader either.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, Dusknoir is actually working for Primal Dialga, who in turn is being manipulated by Darkrai.
  • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Team Skull's leader Guzma is being manipulated by Aether President Lusamine, who backs Team Skull in exchange for Guzma's loyalty. She herself has a man behind her, or rather, a mon: she's been infected with Nihilego's neurotoxins, causing her to go from a kind if somewhat self-centred person to a Nihilego-obsessed abusive monster who only cares about herself and Nihilego.
  • Predator: Concrete Jungle starts off with you hunting street gangs before a coherent Big Bad, Hunter Borgia, is set up. However, while hunting him, you eventually stumble on the real Big Bad, the computer that controls Neonopolis, MOTHER, who is not actually an AI but his dear old mumsy Isabella Borgia, who has been kept alive through a combination of technology and the blood you spilt on her and Hunter back in 1930. Then she releases a wave of xenomorphs on you.
  • Meden Traore is revealed to be the true leader of Oros Phlox in Project X Zone. Byaku Shin is also this to Saya and Sheath in the second game.
  • In The Reconstruction, Havan behind Skint. Subverted by the man in front of the man turning out to not have been a villain in the first place. The real Big Bad also has much shallower motives than the fake one, which may qualify as an additional subversion.
  • In Resident Evil, Albert Wesker is revealed to have been The Man Behind The Man to many of the events in Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil, Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Umbrella Chronicles also reveals, that Wesker's rival, Sergei Vladimir was The Man Behind The Man to much of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and the rest of Umbrella Chronicles. At the end of the day, most the series' plot up until then is the result of the war between these two men for control of Umbrella's remnants. As Wesker's creator, Sergei's employer, and Corrupt Corporate Executive to the entire corporation, Ozwell E. Spencer can be said to be The Man Behind The Man (and The Man Behind the Curtain) to the entire series (up until Wesker offs him in Resident Evil 5).
  • The Rival Schools series revolves around a number of student attacks among the various high schools in the area. Our heroes defeat those students responsible, only to find that they have been brainwashed by the faculty of Justice High. Upon defeating them, they discover that the true mastermind is the school's principal, Raizo. After they defeat him, they discover that he has been brainwashed by his nephew (and student body president) Hyo. And after defeating him, it is revealed that Hyo has been brainwashed by his father. Who is dead. Curses.
  • Robopon:
    • Mob boss Knives is merely a figurehead of his syndicate, with his secretary Circe holding all the power.
    • Dr. Zero, Big Bad of the first game, is revealed in the second to be an Overlord Jr. raised in villainy by his Mad Scientist dad.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police
    • In Sam & Max Save The World, where the true villain is Hugh Bliss, who is actually a sentient colony of alien bacteria that feeds on happiness.
    • In Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space, the true villain appears to be The Devil, but he is actually a pawn in the hands of the Soda Poppers, a trio of growth-stunted former child actors.
    • In Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, it is revealed that the true mastermind of the events of the third season is not Skun-ka'pe, not Papierwaite, not Yog Soggoth, and not even Junior. It is Max's super-ego, the narrator of the game, who got tired waiting for Max to discover his cultured side (Max is all id). Additionally, the Devil returns for a cameo to try to explain that he has absolutely nothing to do with Junior's rampage (since Junior's "toys" are stated to come from "the Devil's Toybox"). The Devil is making a televised statement that the Toybox predates his existence and has been given a misleading name.
  • In the Sega Genesis game Shining Force almost every boss you fight, no matter how big of a bastard they were, turns out to have been innocent and only under the control of the real Big Bad, Darksol. It's really kind of irritating to have worked so hard to defeat someone only to have them go "What have I done? Forgive me, I was only under the control of Darksol, I'm actually good." before they die. Yeah, and we're supposed to forgive you after you killed more than half of the Shining Force?
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic Heroes, Metal Sonic is revealed to be the true villain, having imprisoned Eggman and impersonated him, pulling strings so that he could copy the data of all four teams, all as part of his scheme to get revenge on Sonic.
    • In Sonic Free Riders, Eggman is the main threat of the game as usual, but for the final race, Metal Sonic pulls this trope a second time by briefly taking the center stage, having gone behind Eggman's back by disguising himself as another robot so he could secretly study the other racers, and then challenge Sonic to a one-on-one race by using all the data he compiled to his advantage.
    • Subverted in Sonic Generations. You fight Dr. Eggman twice in the game, both times end up with him getting kidnapped by the Time Eater. Then, when you get to the final boss, you expect to fight the aforementioned abductor. However, it is actually revealed that Eggman was behind the Time Eater after all. You proceed to become Super Sonics and smash his latest creation.
  • In the Rhythm Game Space Channel 5, Ulala makes her way to the base of the Morolians, aliens who are using mind control rays to compel people to dance, only to discover that the Morolians themselves are being controlled by the real bad guy: Mr. Blank, the head of Space Channel 5, who orchestrated the whole invasion as a ratings stunt.
  • In Space Rangers, the Klissan invaders you spend most of the game fighting turn out to have been manipulated by the Space Pirate king Rachakhan in a Let's You and Him Fight scheme. The idea was to tie up the galactic military, leaving no one to protect the traders from Rachakhan's plundering. It's a pretty dumb evil scheme, when you think about it, since if it had succeeded the Klissan would overrun galactic civilization, leaving nothing for Rachakhan to plunder. Nice Job Killing Five Spacefaring Civilizations, Villain.
  • Tatanga, the main villain of Super Mario Land, is working for Wario in the game's sequel. Some fans believe the main reason why he kidnapped Princess Daisy in the first place was just done to distract Mario so Wario will succeed in his evil plans!
  • In Super Mario RPG, you're led to believe that the giant sword piercing Bowser's Castle is the Final Boss, Smithy. However, when you fight the sword, you learn that it is only Smithy's minion, Exor, and that inside him is a Villain World where the real Smithy lives. Despite the original disguise, Smithy is still a Sequential Boss.
  • Humongous Mecha Massive Multiplayer Crossover Super Robot Wars Alpha had as its Big Bad an Original Generation character named Euzeth Gozzo. At the end of Alpha, there's an extended sequence where Euzeth explains how was behind everything (and keep in mind that he's an Original Generation character in a Massive Multiplayer Crossover). A couple of times a character asks Euzeth if he was behind something that happened in their series, and he goes "That was me as well!"note  This phrase and the character himself quickly went memetic among the Japanese fanbase. Years later, the makers of Super Robot Wars created a series called Super Robot Wars Original Generation, starring all the Original Generation characters from other Super Robot Wars games. In 2nd Super Robot Wars Original Generations. Euzeth Gozzo appears again and at this point he's fully an Ascended Meme. He makes another long speech about how he was behind everything in the Original Generation setting and he says "It was me!" many times.
  • Super Robot Wars UX: Hazard from Tobikage is responsible for 90% of the trouble you have with humans in the game and then some. He manipulates the government and media, depicting your guys as terrorists, is arrested but breaks out of prison and somehow manages to become the supreme commander of the UN forces and nukes the Festum resulting in the events of the Fafner movies, when Sakomizu (Rean) attacks him, Mamoru (Fafner) protects the ship because it has nukes on it but then Hazard just shoots at both of them, hitting and killing just Mamoru. He gives Rouri (Rean) a nuke to drop on Tokyo, which in the end leads to Sakomizu's death. He fires off nukes again during the operation Azure II leading to Misao's (Fafner) death. He turns the Mazinkaiser SKL bad guys (humans) into unwilling suicide bombers and helps Mishima (Macross F) to brainwash the Vajra.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl takes this to ridiculous extents: Wario was being directed by Bowser and Ganondorf, who also manipulate the Ancient Minister (who also directs the R.O.B. Squad), the forefront of the Subspace Army, which is created by manipulating Mr. Game & Watch), but in turn are being given orders by Master Hand, who is being manipulated by some weird energy being that resembles "Tron" called Tabuu. Holy bejeezus.
  • In Tales of Destiny II/Eternia, it is believed that Balir is in fact trying to bring about the Grand Fall, but it is revealed that Balir is actually long dead, and that his wife Shizel is carrying on in his footsteps. It is then later revealed that she is under the control of Nereid.
  • Tales of Symphonia features two of these in the same scene. Upon arriving in the Tower Of Salvation for the first time, Remiel reveals his oh-so-obvious villainous nature to you and tries to pull a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness on you — and fails. Then Kratos suddenly appears and reveals that he's Remiel's superior and has been The Mole all along to keep an eye on you, leaving Remiel to bleed to death on the floor for his failure. Regardless of which way the ensuing battle goes, Kratos' own boss, Yggdrasill, reveals himself at the end of the battle because Kratos is holding back and plays merry hell with the party to finish the job.
  • Touhou likes to use this:
    • In Perfect Cherry Blossom, you have winter taking too long to go away, you soon discover it's not the Winter Youkai's fault, but the Ghost Princess, Yuyuko Saigyouji's doings. But, Yuyuko is being helped by Yukari, who allowed her to do her willings, and later enjoy a match with the main character.
    • In Imperishable Night, you freeze the night to find the one who stole the moon. You will encounter Eirin, thinking she's the culprit, but she's just helping her princess, Kaguya, who needs to escape from some noisy lunarians. Again, by the POV of Fujiwara no Mokou, she is attacked either by a team or another, but again, there's Kaguya behind it, convincing the team on a "trial of guts".
    • In Double Dealing Character, the final boss is Sukuna Shinmyoumaru, an Inchling who wields a mallet that can grant miracles. But she is just a puppet, and the amanojaku anarchist Seija Kijin is the one pulling the strings. In a subversion of Authority Equals Asskicking, Seija (stage 5 boss) is actually defeated before Sukuna (stage 6 boss).
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, the man behind the man isn't the Final Boss. Venom is laid out as the main villain but you play as him. The big bads seem to be Silver Sable and Nick Fury. They send multiple villains after you but they're just lackeys. The real mastermind is Trask and he made Venom do all those bad things. His only power is money and military control. Venom later holds a grudge and goes after him when he's able to control the suit. Spiderman later goes to save him and fights Venom as the final boss, as well as another. Venom eats him and he deserves it.
  • Warcraft:
    • During the events of the first game the Horde was led by Blackhand who was in fact a puppet for Gul'dan and his Shadow Council. The danger of this arrangement became apparent when Doomhammer killed Blackhand and broke Gul'dan's control over the Horde.
    • III is an odd example. The Lich King turns out to be the man behind the Dreadlord Mal'ganis, who is also part of The Burning Legion, which turns out to be the man behind the Lich King, who later betrays his masters after they take over the control of the undead. So we effectively the Lich King being the man behind one of his masters for a while.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, the campaign starts as an apparent defense against an Ork invasion. However, it is soon revealed that a Chaos force is having the Orks run interference. Then within the Chaos force, it becomes clear that Chaos Sorcerer Sindri Myr and not the "primary commander" Chaos Lord Bale is the one really pulling the strings, masterminding the operation to his own gain. Beyond that, in the final cutscene it's suggested that even Sindri was a pawn to the daemon locked in the Malectidum.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Wild ARMs 3. The first villain presented is Janus, who has the three prophets behind him. Then, you find the man behind them: the metal demon Siegfried from the original game. After he's defeated, yet another example pops up in the dream demon Beatrice, who has been behind the Order of the Ark of Destiny, Shane, and by extension the player all along!
  • World of Warcraft uses this throughout all its major lore, almost every villain in the game that isn't an Old God or Sargeras is being controlled by one of those two. Speculation about the madness of Sargeras could potentially reveal a connection between him and the Old Gods as well.
  • In Xenogears, Emperor Cain and Kahran Ramsus, among several other leaders of The Empire of Solaris, are introduced as being the main antagonists of the story. It turns out that Ramsus’ unassuming girlfriend Miang, and leader Krelian, are the real villains behind all of them. Not only that, but the former is essentially "god" in human form, and she has been manipulating world events for 10,000 years.
    • Its spiritual successor Xenosaga has a rare 'good guy' example. chaos was the man behind the man to none other than Jesus: he did the miracles, Jesus got the credit. It also has a straighter example in Wilhelm, who is behind all the other villains in the series, including Margulis and Albedo.
    • In Xenoblade Chronicles, Egil is this to Metal Face, although the real villain is Zanza, who Egil is fighting against.

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