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Tragic Villain / Video Games

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Tragic Villains in video games.

  • The monsters in Among the Sleep turn out to be this. The female monster is actually how the toddler protagonist sees his mom when she's drinking; her alcoholism and the stress of going through a divorce causes her to lash out at her son, and she's clearly horrified by her own behavior. The trenchcoat monster, meanwhile, represents the protagonist's dad, who is trying to take his son away from his mom.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Mr. Freeze doesn't have it much better in the game than he does in the comics. His wife is still frozen, and he's blackmailed by the Joker for the TITAN cure, leading to him getting captured by Strange and thrown to the Penguin, who proceeded to torture him, giving him woobie status until the Batman came around. Eventually he did reunite with her, but only if you're willing to endure that side quest.
    • By Batman: Arkham Knight, Freeze took Batman's advice and quit villainy to work full-time in solving his wife's Huntington's Disease. Unfortunately, his new Wayne-Tech research team and laboratory don't get him any closer to a cure for a whole year, and everyone worries that what is left of Freeze's sanity will break... In the end, he and Nora are reunited, but his equipment is broken, so they'll both die soon.
      • The Arkham Knight himself is a broken man. Joker tortured him over the course of a year in Arkham Asylum, meaning that Batman overlooked every trace of the missing teenager while he was branded, humiliated, forced to watch pictures of his family adopting a replacement within three months, etc. His motives for hating Batman are petty, "Why didn't you save me, you deserve to die too", but his mind is too broken and his lieutenants are too awed by his skill to think about getting their boss a psychologist.
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  • Breath of Fire IV gives us Fou-lu, an incomplete dragon god who ruled a prosperous empire after being summoned to put an end to the wars on the world at that time. He leaves the empire in his retainer's care, wanting to sleep till his other half arrives in the world. By the time it does his retainers have become more corrupt through the years including developing weapons not far off from modern-day Weapons of Mass Destruction that use humans with their souls broken as fuel. Fou-lu finds the current armies of the empire after him, wanting to seal him away so he cannot reclaim his throne, forced to flee in confusion at what is going on. Despite the disgusting state of affairs he maintains his desire to correct things till his pursuers force him to stay in a village being cared for by a kindly mortal woman called Mami whom he starts to develop feelings for and even considers foregoing the empire to remain with her. However the empire soon catches up to them and he is forced to flee again with Mami being captured trying to hold them off. Mami is later used as a sacrifice in the giant hex cannon which they fire on Fou-lu to attempt to kill him, he survives and his view of humanity reaches rock bottom which how destructive they have become.....then bells from Mami's hair fall nearby, leading to Fou-lu snapping, laughing in madness beginning his new mission, destroy humanity. What makes this jarring is you play as Fou-lu throughout segments of the game and see his slow turn to villain, so you know for certain you cannot blame him.
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  • In survival horror Camp Sunshine, the mass murderer wearing the Sunshine Bear mascot costume is actually a gentle and well meaning person who has been possessed by evil spirits because of occult rituals which were performed on him since he was a boy. He is implicitly deeply bothered and ashamed of what he has done under their influence, and actively fought against them earlier in his life.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Yuriko Omega, born Yuriko Matsui, was kidnapped by Mad Scientist Shinji Shimada and transformed into a Tetsuo-like psionic monster with no feeling of empathy toward anyone else, particularly because she was bullied by her schoolmates due to her natural psionic ability that caused her tragic fate. She even went through hell to find and save her sister, who turned out to just want to be at the top of the world, just like other people, including the Allies. After doing what has to be done, Yuriko still remained a lonely, unloved girl, vilified continuously by the news media of the major global powers (all Allies, the Soviet Union, and Japan).
  • More than a few in Dark Souls, mostly qualifying more as Tragic Monsters, though the best example is Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, former Big Good of the Age of Flame and (possibly) the greatest impediment to mankind's Golden Age.
  • Whoever the traitor in Dawn of War II is. All have sympathetic motives.
    • Tarkus believes he is being Necessarily Evil, and can use the power of Chaos to save his brothers.
    • Thaddeus sold his soul in exchange for safe passage through the Warp for the Litany of Fury, so the Blood Ravens' recruiting worlds could be saved from the Tyranids.
    • Jonah has been possessed, and is desperately trying and failing to regain control of his own actions.
    • Cyrus has seen how utterly corrupt the upper echelons of the Blood Ravens have become, and how little the foot-sloggers mean to them, and has bartered for the power necessary to change leaders.
    • Avitus cracked when he found out that his justification for the destruction he caused was a lie, and that so much blood had been shed for no reason. In his mind, the best case scenario is Suicide by Cop, the worst case is that he'll continue doing what he apparently has done for years, but without the veneer of lies.
    • Martellus was just trying to survive.
  • Dead Rising has Cliff Hudson, a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Vietnam War who was a good loving family man until the outbreak and watching his granddaughter be killed by zombies made him snap and believe he was back in the war and that the zombies and survivors were the Vietcong. Notably he's the only psychopath in the game to get any sympathy from Frank, as he snaps back to normal as he lays dying.
  • Dead Rising: Off The Record, a non-canon What If? scenario where Frank is the protagonist of the Fortune City outbreak, has the canon protagonist of Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene, appear as a psychopath. Just knowing how genuinely good and heroic he is in the canon game and seeing what he's been reduced to after seeing his daughter die is quite the Tear Jerker, especially since even his psychotic self doesn't turn aggressive toward you until he thinks you've threatened his daughter. Even the developers felt so bad for him they refused to let him die: he escapes instead.
  • The creation of Sepulchure, an impossibly strong emperor of his own undead army, is one of the most heartbreaking stories in DragonFable and AdventureQuest Worlds, more so in the latter for being more fleshed out. Originally a heroic knight who had never known defeat, Valen grew jealous of his friend King Alteon for his position and marrying the woman Valen loved, Lynaria. When Lynaria was kidnapped by the Champion of Darkness, Dethrix, Valen jumped at the chance to save her, only to die horribly before reaching her. At death's door, he was offered as much dark power as he wanted to save her, if only he'd give up his humanity. Valen accepted without hesitation, donning the cursed armor and weapon of Doom Knights. With his new unholy strength, Valen killed Dethrix and rescued Lynaria, but he was no longer himself. Lynaria attempted to save him before he could completely succumb to the darkness, but Valen's armor killed her before she could. In his rage, Valen, now calling himself Sepulchure, vowed to use his dark power to bring her back to life, even if it ended up destroying the world.
  • Giegue in EarthBound Beginnings. He was raised by George and Maria, but then George began to study Giegue's PSI abilities, and left them. Giegue's people didn't like this, for fear it could be used against them, so they sent Giegue, who had some very conflicting loyalties, to deal with Earth. When Ninten and his friends confront him at the summit of Mount Itoi, they don't defeat him with PSI or physical force, but rather by singing the Eight Melodies, a song Maria used to sing to him. After that, he leaves. Made worse by the fact that he returns in the second game, so powerful he needs a machine to keep his powers and sanity in check. When Ness and company defeat him, it's a mercy kill more than anything else.
    • His love for George and Maria is apparently still there, as he is willing to spare Ninten and bring him with him. Ninten is all that he really knows to be left of the ones who raised him.
  • The Broken Lords of Endless Legend, once a society of honorable knights, nobles, and town builders, were forced to bind their souls to suits of Animated Armor to survive Auriga's collapsing climate as the winters grow longer and more brutal. Sustained by Dust, a rare material, they were a Dying Race until they discovered they could drain Dust from living creatures in a fatal process. Now widely considered soulless monsters, they must betray their vows and ideals in order to survive by consuming the weak while they try to cure their affliction.
  • Vaas Montenegro from Far Cry 3. The real reason why he is a homicidal maniac is because Hoyt manipulated him with drugs, turning him Brainwashed and Crazy. He was once a sane man, though.
  • All of the main antagonists in the Fatal Frame series were nice people when they were alive; it's only when they died and were corrupted by their respective Hell Gate that they started killing everyone.
  • Final Fantasy IV has Golbez, really Theodore Harvey, Cecil's brother, who may cross the Moral Event Horizon several times in the game, except that he was under the control of Zemus and takes full responsibility for his actions once freed from Zemus's control.
    • In the DS remake, it's much worse. The implication is that Golbez wasn't brainwashed, and that it was the darkness in his own heart that led to him being controlled. The remake makes a much bigger deal out of his Reformed, but Rejected status after the spell is broken.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 has Caius Ballad who wishes to destroy reality/time as he sees this as the only way to free his surrogate daughter from a cruel cycle of death and rebirth. To do this he would commit genocide on the civilization of Cocoon, which will unleash the chaos from Valhalla, the world between life and death. In the end Caius sacrifices his life and lets the hero Noel kill him which releases the chaos.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Blazing Blade, if you manage to do three sidequests on Hector's route, you learn that Nergal's desire to open the Dragon's Gate was originally because he wanted his children, Ninian and Nils, back. However, the dark magic he practiced corrupted him, to the point that he no longer even remembers his children or why he wanted to open the Gate in the first place.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones gives us Lyon. It all started with a premonition of a devastating earthquake, leading him to experiment with Grado's Sacred Stone. Then his father dies, and Lyon's attempts at necromancy leads to the demon king Fomortiis possessing him and wreaking havoc on the world. However, it should be noted that in Ephraim's route, Lyon is a bit more in control compared to Eirika's route, meaning some of the atrocities he committed were done on his own volition, even if Fomortiis gave him a little nudge.
    • Fire Emblem Fates gives us the Greater-Scope Villain Anankos. The world hasn't been kind to him, due to his dragon nature. This becomes more apparent once the player discovers his soul/original self, who's a genuinely good person, as well as his backstory. Knowing full well he was going insane slowly, Anankos did all that he could to prevent it, but did eventually end up going mad. Despite going crazy, his soul still managed to escape and gather warriors capable of killing dragons; but even this failed and had to change his plans. Anankos' soul was eventually killed and returned to the feral mad original body, but before he was fully lost he begged for the warriors and the Avatar to end him. Azura even thinks that the song Lost in Thoughts All Alone is actually Anankos' cry for help to end his suffering. Word of God says it actually is. Sadly enough the Heirs of Fate version of Anankos was desperately looking for a world where he hadn't gone insane and screwed things up for everyone. All Anankos ever wanted was to go back to how things were before he went insane; but in 22 worlds so far he failed to find any world where he didn't go crazy. The reason being that his insanity is a condition of being a dragon which means it's impossible to find a world where he isn't insane. Just to add the tragedy: Anankos, or at least his humanoid soul, is the Avatar's father, and in the Hidden Truths DLC its revealed that Anankos' soul wants nothing more than the Avatar to know of their father, and desperately wants to have a normal life with them and Mikoto.
      • The same game has the Big Bad of Birthright, King Garon. He was originally a good king and a loving father, but he had a problem with his womanizing and an inability to abandon someone he had a relationship with, turning Nohr into a Deadly Decadent Court. His concubines and their children slaughtered each other until only Xander, Camilla, Leo, and Elise were left, turning him into the bitter and hateful megalomaniac we know today. Anankos possessing him and turning him into a slime monster didn't help. In addition, Conquest gives us the Final Boss Takumi. Anankos takes advantage of his lingering self-esteem issues and resentment of the Avatar for their betrayal and corrupts him the same way he did Garon, eventually turning him into an insane monster only capable of ranting and screaming about how much he hates the Avatar and Nohr. The Avatar is forced to put him down like a rabid dog.
    • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia gives us the newly-introduced recurring antagonist Berkut. Berkut is the nephew of Emperor Rudolf and the crown prince of Rigel, who was raised by his parents and uncle to believe only the strong are worth anything. Throughout the game, Berkut seeks to prove his worth as heir to the throne. As he continuously fails to defeat Alm, he begins resorting to desperate measures such as invoking the Mad God Duma's power to kill him. When even this fails, his insecurity and desperation to prove himself come to the forefront and only his beloved fiance Rinea sees his hidden vulnerabilities. Everything comes to a head when Rudolf is killed in battle by Alm, and it comes to light that Alm is Rudolf's son and the true heir to Rigel, meaning everything Berkut ever fought for and believed in was a lie. The utterly broken Berkut proceeds to make a Deal with the Devil and ends up dragging Rinea down with him, selling her soul and turning her into a Witch. In the end, despite his genuine desire to get to know his cousin as a person, Alm is forced to cut him down, and the only consolation prize Berkut receives is that Rinea doesn't hold anything against him.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's 3, the animatronics are confirmed to have been haunted by the ghosts of the children murdered in the pizzeria.
  • InFive Nights at Freddy'sSister Location,William Afton loses his daughther to Circus Baby,in FNAF VR,Curse of Dreadbear implied that William Afton trying to fix his son's brain in the Dreadbear minigame and lost his son to Fredbear.
  • Both of the villains in the first two Gabriel Knight games.
    • Malia Gedde was the great-great-etc. granddaughter of Tetelo, a voodoo priestess whose tribe's traditions included such things as cabrit sans cor. Malia herself had no ill will toward Gabriel and even seemed to be in love with him, but Tetelo's influence forced her to attack him and abduct his friend.
    • Friedrich von Glower was the son of a baron who raped a young Gypsy girl and became cursed to lycanthropy as a result, and the curse was passed down to Friedrich himself as well, transforming him into "The Black Wolf." Despite living for centuries as a werewolf and committing countless slaughters, von Glower seemed to believe that the werewolf curse could be controlled, and he seriously wanted to control it.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Niko Bellic from Grand Theft Auto IV. Despite his flaws, Niko is the most tragic GTA protagonist. He is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who is involved with a life of crime because it's all he feels he's good at. He comes to Liberty City looking for a better life and to escape his past, which includes being chased by a Russian mobster who believes Niko owes him money. He's also looking for a man who got twelve of his childhood friends killed, hoping for revenge. Whether he remains this way depends on several situations in the game that force the player to choose between Niko's personal beliefs or money. Years later, several Easter Eggs in GTA V seem to suggest that he has grown tired of having this lifestyle and abandoned it.
    • Johnny Klebitz from Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, was a man who met his big brother's friend, the horrible Billy Grey at a young age, who turned out to be a bad role model for Johnny. Billy got him into crime, and later introduced him to other Lost MC Members. Johnny became apart of The Lost MC, and though he actually wanted out after the years, he stayed because of his loyalty to his "brothers". Literally everything he does in the game is out of loyalty to the people he cares about. What makes is worse was, that the people he cared about turned out to be evil, selfish traitors, with only a few friends who stood by him at the end.
    • Chan Jiao Ming and Zhou Ming, Those Two Co-Dragons from The Triads and the Tongs in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. To start, Huang Lee's former friends had some severe issues, with Chan being a hedonistic son of Hsin, the triad boss. In an unusual variant, both Chan and Zhou were Jerkasses to begin with, but they were suspected in FIB's fIles for something they didn't do, leading to them being killed by Huang, which was under Kenny's commands. Due to this, Huang exacted his revenge on his uncle, for these among all reasons.
      • Huang Lee might also count, although he's more of Tragic Hero variety. To begin with, he is among The Triads and the Tongs who wanted to avenge his father for reasons, but encountering some troubled friends and associates dying during his adventure made him found out his Evil Uncle, Kenny, is the true mastermind behind the events. After he exacted revenge on his uncle with FIB interrogation, and became the leader of Liberty City Triads, Huang is still not happy with his lifestyles.
    • Trevor Phillips from Grand Theft Auto V is an Ax-Crazy meth-head with a Dark and Troubled Past. Besides, he suffered numerous social problems and grew up with an emotionally abusive mother. His relationship with Patricia clearly demonstrates that he still has sanity and humanity. Despite this, he knows that he can't fit into society.
  • Shiro Tagachi from Guild Wars would fall under this catagory, but only after you learn his complete backstory. He was a skilled soldier who defended a local village from bandits and robbers. He was well liked and was quite the hometown hero, until the Emperor took notice and hired him as a royal bodyguard. The dark god Abbadon took advantage of this and began planting the seeds of doubt and paranoia into Shiro through the use of demonic agents disguised as fortune tellers and members of the royal court. It got Shiro so flustered that he decided the only way he could safeguard his own life was to kill the emperor and acquire ultimate power so that nobody could ever betray him. What he didn't realize was that by now, the general public viewed him as a monster. By the time you meet him in Factions, he's so far gone and filled with Abbadon's corruption that he seems incapable of listening to reason.
  • In Iji, the final boss of the game, General Tor, is the leader of the fleet invading earth to eradicate the last of the Tasen. However, he only does this because he's a Slave to PR. There were many generals including Tor himself that wanted to end the war without committing genocide, but the rest of the Komato insisted on doing so because they hated the Tasen and wanted them dead. He gives in to finally attacking the remaining Tasen, and is about to completely destroy the Earth to make sure no Tasen are left alive, at least until the protagonist arrives to prevent Tor from doing so. Once he's defeated, he sees the error of his ways, calls off the attack, and saves whatever life is left on Earth in the process. Unfortunately, the guilt of killing so many people in the past weighs heavily on him, and he kills himself so he doesn't have to live with it anymore.
  • In inFAMOUS, Kessler, reveals to be Cole from the future who has turned Empire City into Hell just so that he could turn his past self into the savior of the world from The Beast.
  • Regime Superman from Injustice: Gods Among Us is definitely this. Originally just as benevolent as main Superman, he was going to become a father. However, Joker tricks him into killing his wife and unborn son, which triggers Metropolis nuclear destruction. In rage, Superman killed the Joker, and decided to stop all wars to make sure the world never suffer such tragedy again, becoming a world ruler. But he had to use more and more lethal force, which brought him in confrontation with Batman. With his broken mental state, the escalation of conflict and opposition of his best friend, he became a hate-filled tyrant, obsessed with destroying anyone, including innocent people and former friends, just because they stand against him and his Regime.
  • Most of the members of Organization XIII, from Kingdom Hearts save Xemnas and Xigbar. After losing their hearts to the Heartless and waking up as Nobodies, they were found by Xemnas, who manipulated them into working for him under very false pretenses. What were these false pretenses? That being a Nobody left them empty, made them literally nothing. In reality? Anything can have a heart if it has friends, even Nobodies, the heart will naturally grow back, in time. Xemnas's lies were crafted to suppress their hearts from growing back, so he could use the power of Kingdom Hearts to fill them with copies of Xehanort's heart. Sora is horrified to learn the extent of Xemnas's lies.
  • The Kirby series has quite a few of these:
    • Magolor was heavily implied to be brainwashed by the Master Crown and he even builds a theme part for Kirby to apologize for betraying him.
    • Queen Sectonia used to be a kind ruler to the people of the sky, only to end up being corrupted by Dark Meta Knight and the Amazing Mirror and in the Japanese version, begs Kirby to kill her as she can't recognize herself anymore.
    • Haltmann lost his daughter to an accident that killed her (really trapped her in another dimension) and was driven mad by his grief and repeatedly wishing on Star Dream, to the point that when said daughter did come back, he doesn't remember her and ultimately ends up being taken over by Star Dream and then destroyed with it.
      • Said daughter Susie counts as well. While not to the extreme as her father, Star Dream also screwed her over. Beyond trapping her in another dimension, Star Dream also removed her father's memories of her, meaning that her quest to get home was All for Nothing. After one too many defeats from Kirby, she decides to try stealing Star Dream, only for it to blast her, take over her father, and try to destroy all organic life in the universe. In the end, she leaves Popstar with nothing.
    • The Three Mage-Sisters, Francisca, Flamberge and Zan Partizanne are completely loyal to their boss, Hyness. However, Hyness only sees them as tools and weapons, which is best shown when he kicks a badly beaten Zan out of his way, right before his own fight. Later during his fight, he sucks the life out of the mages, uses them as a club and a shield and sacrifices them to release Void Termina. Granted they are shown getting freed, but you never see them again, so that actually makes things worse. Heroes in Another Dimension reveals they survived and went looking for Hyness who fell into Another Dimension. Their bios in The Ultimate Choice Soul Melter EX reveals why they are loyal to Hyness despite his mistreatment of them. All three of them were at death's door before Hyness found and rescued them, implying that he used to be a kind person before going insane.
  • Legacy of Kain
    • Nupraptor was driven mad by the death of his beloved Ariel and his madness spread to the other guardians. Ariel's spirit sends Kain to Mercy Kill him.
    • Malek's soul was bound to his armor as punishment for failing to protect the previous guardians. Turns out the massacre was orchestrated by Mobius, one of Malek's charges and the one who cursed him.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds features Hilda. Her plan to have Yuga steal Hyrule's Triforce stems from her desire to replace Lorule's Triforce after it was destroyed to keep anyone from using it, only to cause Lorule to rapidly fall apart. It's not until Ravio convinces her that doing this would simply leave Hyrule to the same fate as Lorule that Hilda realizes the folly of her scheme.
    • Ganondorf has a whole lot of fun as a Card-Carrying Villain, and you get a sense he doesn't spend much time thinking about the motives for his actions; but in The Wind Waker, his conscience is bothering him (presumably seeing Hyrule drowned beneath an ocean was a little much, even by his standards), and he's wondering about what makes him tick...
      "My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing... Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I coveted that wind, I suppose."
  • Mass Effect has most of the decoy Big Bad throughout both games, via varying forms of Mind Control and Mind Rape. Matriarch Benezia, the Collector General (the whole Collector race), Shiala, even Saren gets a few sympathetic moments, despite being established as a Knight Templar long before Sovereign got his tentacles into him. The Collector General especially gets quite a few fan-tears shed over its death.
    • David Archer from the Overlord package.
      • In some ways, Gavin Archer from the same DLC. He did such terrible things to his own autistic brother, but by the end even he's got a taste of how horrible his experiments were. He then pleads for the chance to take care of his brother, claiming that what he did to David was unethical — but if he dies, it's unforgivable.
    • The Batarians from Arrival. They have a long history of hating humans, slavery and terrorism, but Arrival ends with a planet full of Batarian civilians, who are at the mercy of an oppressive and paranoid government straight out of an Orwellian novel, getting destroyed because there's no way to get an early warning through to them about the destruction of a Mass Relay. Then in Mass Effect 3, they've suffered the worst of the initial blows from the Reaper invasion and have suffered a species-wide Break the Haughty.
    • The Illusive Man. Despite mostly coming across as a cold Magnificent Bastard who leads an entire organisation of Absolute Xenophobes and authorises some questionable scientific experiments in the name of advancing humanity, he was once an ordinary man with a family who lost everything; in 2 he actually does some good for the galaxy by bringing Shepard Back from the Dead and giving them a new, improved Normandy to fight the Reapors with; in 3, he's back on the far side, but he and Shepard clearly respect each other greatly. Finally, during the Grand Finale Paragon Shepard can convince him he's indoctrinated and he should break free of their control by killing himself. If they do, his last words are a mournful "I tried, Shepard..."
    • Harbinger of all people is one; the Extended Cut reveals that the Catalyst destroyed its creators and used their genetic material to create him...meaning he's the last of that first race, and is stuck serving the guy who destroyed them forever.
    • The Catalyst itself, after the Leviathan DLC and Extended Cut; the Reapers' overmind is little more than a broken tool, unable to fix itself or even realise that it's broken, built by ancient aliens with a massive god complex to ensure their organic slaves weren't killed off by synthetics they built, but whose arrogance prevented them from realising that it could view them as part of the problem and turn on them. It can't fix itself; that's what the Crucible is for, but since that Crucible also offers the possibility of destroying it and bringing an end to its great work, it also strives to eradicate the Crucible designs whenever possible.
    • Clone Shepard - brought into being solely as a reserve set of internal organs, awakened by a particularly vicious racist even by Cerberus standards to serve as a figurehead and a tool to replace the real Shepard, and then confronted with an endless chain of reminders that they just weren't up to the level of the original Shepard and never would be. Finally, the one person the clone actually seems to care for abandons them in a scene heavily inspired by The Mummy Returns, leaving them with nothing. Even if you try to save them, the clone will simply let go of the Normandy's ramp, hundreds of feet above the Citadel streets.
  • Many of the bosses of Metal Gear are tragic in some form or fashion.
    • Sniper Wolf from the first Metal Gear Solid is defined by her tragedy—she's a Kurd whose childhood consisted of being a fugitive and refugee who lost her friends and family to an Iraqi gas attack, who was taken under the wing of Big Boss, who truly regrets her part in the Shadow Moses incident in her last moments. However, even Psycho Mantis and Liquid Snake are tragic in their own ways, the former fueled by a childhood of his father's hatred and neglect, where the latter is driven by a massive inferiority complex for which he blames his (blameless) father.
    • Fortune of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was an ordinary woman until a conspiracy to steal Metal Gear RAY took place. She lost her father during the Tanker Incident, her mother to suicide following the event, her husband to death in jail due to a federal fraud case, and her unborn child to miscarriage due to the stress. It's no surprise that a woman who lost everything would want revenge, and at the same become a Death Seeker as well.
    • The End of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a grandfatherly figure who spends most of his time barely conscious, only really 'coming to life' to snipe. He bears no ill will whatsoever towards Naked Snake, and challenges him solely to find a Worthy Opponent before he dies. He won't even kill Naked Snake, as he only ever shoots tranquilizer rounds. The most tragic figure in the game, however, is The Boss herself. She was a true patriot, and willingly took on the role of villain to prevent World War III from breaking out, after the real Big Bad went off script and nuked a Soviet research facility to frame the U.S.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • Scorpion is so blinded by revenge against the Lin Kuei for killing his clan that he ends up becoming an Unwitting Pawn to just about everyone, including Quan Chi, the bastard who was actually responsible for his family's murder.
    • Reptile just wants to save his people from extinction so he latches on to the most powerful bad guy who only sees him as a tool. Reptile never survives in every game except in Mortal Kombat X where his new superior, Kotal Kahn, was actually a Noble Demon that gave him full respect.
    • Smoke is a fundamentally good person who can't avoid his inevitable fate. In MK9, he doesn't become a cyborg but he is killed and resurrected as a demon.
    • Mileena is this in both timelines:
      • In the original timeline, most characters think she's a crazed, insane and twisted freak of nature, so she's a little sensitive about her looks. She has a case of this towards Kitana, at the very least desiring her beauty and at most, wanting her entire life. Nearly all of Mileena's arcade endings before the reboot have her assuming Kitana's identity and seizing Edenia for herself.
      • In the new timeline, though she became Outworld's Kahnum after Shao Kahn's death, she proves to be an even worse ruler than him, going as far as being dubbed "The Mad Empress" by the Outworld inhabitants (partly because she was designed to be an Ax-Crazy clone of Kitana). Kotal Kahn takes advantage of the situation, deposing her and becoming Outworld's new ruler, but she then instigates a rebellion, slowly tearing Outworld apart. But despite being a Psychopathic Woman Child, there's something sadly pathetic about the fact that she has no genuine supporters in her faction during the civil war in MKX. Of those that did support her, Baraka is dead, Rain was purposely driving her to destroy herself with Shinnok's amulet, and Tanya only supported her for Edenia's sake. As it turns out, due to her relative naïveté and weak claim to the throne, nearly every single person under her (barring Baraka) past and present are this to her, with all of them wanting to use her instead to further their own ambitions. And even the ones supposedly aiding her rebellion are plotting to off her right afterwards, and she's the only one unable to see it. Despite her instabilities, she still seems devoted to serving out her 'father's' will, and it seems at times she only wants to rule because she was explicitly created as Shao Kahn's heir. The fact she's so completely obsessed with pursuing a hopeless cause, with no support, for the approval of a dead man, who likely saw her as nothing more than a tool, seems rather pitiable. Then she gets her head devoured by insects.
  • Khaos, the Big Bad of Nocturne: Rebirth, is a vampire who tried to befriend humans by helping a rebel faction overthrow their tyrannical government. Unfortunately, they end up discovering his vampirism and attempt to kill him for it, only for his closest friend (and implied lover) to sacrifice herself for him. He tries to revive her by using her corpse as a basis for a familiar, only to create Shylphiel, a completely different person. By the start of the game, Khaos enacts a plan to deconstruct the world to its base elements, reverse time to before his friend died, and reconstruct the world. He would have succeeded too if it weren't for his sense of guilt over potentially screwing up the process and erasing his familiar from existence, causing him to deliberately provoke the party into stopping him.
  • In the world of Overwatch, a recurring trend with its villains is that evil does not exist in a vacuum, and that many of them started as decent, if not outright heroic people before tragedy befell them and made them villains, though to what degree and how sympathetic they presently remain highly varies.
  • Persona 5 has the Traitor, Goro Akechi. He was the bastard son of politician Masayoshi Shido and an unnamed woman who committed suicide when he was a child. He spent the next several years in the foster care system suffering all of the stigma associated with bastard children in Japan before finally being granted the power of Persona by Yaldabaoth, the God of Control. With it, he became Shido's personal hitman at the tender young age of fifteen, hoping to rise through the ranks and get Shido elected as Prime Minister so he could rip the rug out from under him at the last minute. During the game, he befriends the Phantom Thieves, but ultimately turns against them in order to exact his revenge. He completely flips his shit when the realization hits that every atrocity he committed for his revenge was completely avoidable, and ultimately dies alone, with nobody aware of his fate other than the Phantom Thieves. Between his horrific childhood, his lack of emotional maturity to handle it, the two villains actively trying to corrupt him, and the lack of an alternative until it is far too late, he never had a chance.
  • The Transcendent One from Planescape: Torment. All he wants is to live and preferably to never again meet the Nameless One, whose very presence reminds him of the times when he was a part of tNO's soul rather than an individual sentient being, and he cannot stand it. Unfortunately, tNO's quest to regain his memory and mortality means that confrontation is imminent, and to prevent it tTO is prepared to murder everyone who could possibly direct tNO to him.
  • Vendra Prog is this from Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus because her parents sent her and her brother away from their home to escape Mr.Eye. They were found by galatic authorities and put into a bad orphanage where they were constantly picked on. Vendra discovered Mr. Eye and was tricked into thinking he was her friend so she wanted to go back home and harmed a lot of people to do so.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Gerald Robotnik. A champion of humanity and science, he inspired Dr. Eggman (his grandson Ivo Robotnik) into becoming a scientist while he devoted his research to cure his granddaughter Maria of her illness and caring for his creation, Shadow. However, after a massive miscommunication with GUN (and possibly involving Emerl from Sonic Battle), they stormed the ARK and the ambush led to Maria dying, taking the bullet for Shadow. With her death, Gerald became obsessed with revenge, and could not even stop himself from creating his plan to destroy Earth, even acknowledging his spiral into insanity.
    • His creation, Shadow The Hedgehog is also an iconic example. Maria was the only friend he ever had, and would basically do anything for her. Gerald knew this, and therefore he re-installed Shadow's mind to remember it as if she asked him for revenge. For that, he almost destroyed earth, until Amy convinced him that while humans can be selfish and cruel, they are trying their best to get a better world, and then he remembers what Maria truly asked him for: To help the humans of earth. That's where he does a Heel–Face Turn and sacrificed himself.
    • Chaos. He did everything out of protection for the Chao, and sought vengeance on all echidnas after their leader, Pachachamac, ordered them to kill Tikal, which truly hurt him.
  • The Suikoden series might be king of this trope. In literally every one of the primary five games, one or more of the primary antagonists are this.
    • Suikoden: Emperor Barbarossa's apparent lapse into psychotic madness is actually a desperate gambit on his part to redeem his new wife, the insane Windy, who reminds him of his first wife, who'd died tragically. He ultimately pisses away his legacy, his friends, his kingdom, and his life trying to help the woman he loved… who didn't want his help.
      • Most of Barbarossa's underlings count as this (with the notable exceptions of Yuber and Neclord). All his generals, including the protagonist's father, are fighting for Barbarossa out of loyalty and honor, not because they don't think he's crazy.
    • Suikoden II: All the major villains except Luca Blight and Yuber (again). Jowy, the main antagonist and the protagonist's lifelong friend, is trying to do the exact same thing the protagonist is doing (trying to stop the war and unify the land for the sake of everyone), but he's doing it from the opposite side. Leon Silverburg, his genius strategist, is trying to end things as quickly as possible for the same reason, but the protagonist's side's competence ends up dragging everything out.
      • All of the Blight family's underlings, like the generals of the previous game, serve the empire because they loved Luca's father, not because they don't think Luca is a total shit (and he is).
    • Suikoden III: The main villain is one of the heroes of the previous two games, trying to stave off universal entropy. His second in command loves him too much to understand the cost of what he's trying to do. Yuber is also there, and remains as non-tragically evil as ever.
    • Suikoden IV: The Man Behind the Man is arguably one of these, but the main general you spend most of the game building towards a confrontation with, Troy, just loves his country and wants to protect it.
    • Suikoden V: The first major villain, Queen Arshtat, is the hero's mother and is being driven insane by the rune she bears, which she only agreed to bear to protect her country. Her sister, Sialeeds, later performs an apparent Face–Heel Turn in order to go full Villainous Rescue from the inside, but it costs her big and turns her into one of these. The main villain, Gizel, is a racist jerk, but he's a racist jerk who legitimately thinks he's doing the right thing for Falena because he listens to his much jerkier father.
    • Gizel is given a much more tragic bent in the manga, where it's implied the true reason for his villainy is because the Succession Crisis of the royal family killed his mother and destroyed his Perfectly Arranged Marriage with the only person he ever loved.
  • Super Paper Mario: Count Bleck. His motives were entirely the result of grief over the supposed death of his girlfriend, Timpani.
  • R.O.B., a character that was previously nothing more than an NES peripheral, spends most of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's story mode as one of these. His homeland was invaded and turned into a bomb-making facility, and he was forced to deploy the bombs and pull the world into Subspace. He switches sides after one of his bosses forces all of his comrades to pull a mass Taking You with Me and detonate every bomb in the facility, but this sadly results in him becoming the Last of His Kind.
  • Kazuya Mishima from Tekken. Right now, he's basically the host of the Devil that shares all his evil ambitions for world domination and crushing the weak beneath his heel. However, he Used to Be a Sweet Kid and had a lot of loving embrace from his grandfather Jinpachi and his mother Kazumi, and he truly loves both of them. His father Heihachi, on the other hand, is a complete bastard and once he took over Kazuya's training, he became disgusted at Kazuya's softness from the previous training by Jinpachi and tossed him to a cliff for a test of strength. The only way for Kazuya to survive was to latch onto his hatred to his father and make a Deal with the Devil. And from that point on, he became Drunk with Power and becomes the unrepentant villain we know of, but his first descent to villainy was something that was really out of his control.
  • Tatsumaru from Tenchu was leader of the Azuma ninja until he was presumed dead in battle. Turned out he suffered amnesia and defected to the Burning Dawn and he helped massacre his own clan. He recovered his memory but it was too late so he killed himself (because Ayame couldn't) to atone.
  • Undertale:
    • Undertale has this in the form of Asgore Dreemurr. After the death of his son at the hands of humans, he becomes overcome with rage that declares that he will gather the seven human souls needed to break the barrier sealing the monsters away in the Underground and declare war on humanity. Said declaration made his wife leave him in disgust and exile herself to the Ruins, and it's clear that he regrets his decision now, but his declaration gave monsters hope of finally being able to see the surface, so now he has to go through with it, and he's absolutely tortured by it (especially since it's implied that the player character won't be the first human child who died because of his plans.)
    • His son, Asriel, is also one. He clung desperately to the memory of his Only Friend, the First Child. Even sadder, it's likely that they never loved him back at all and only used Asriel to initiate their plans. After their death, Asriel absorbed their soul out of grief and went through the barrier just to place them on a bed of flowers in their village. Thinking that Asriel killed the Child, the villagers attacked him until he was fatally wounded and died back home, only for his "dust" to spread all over a garden. Eventually, due to experiments with determination, he wakes up unable to feel not only his limbs, but any form of compassion whatsoever. Over time, due to boredom, he uses the power to SAVE to kill everyone over and over until the protagonist comes along. We know him now as Flowey.
  • World of Warcraft is full of villains with tragic back stories. One of the most infamous villains is Arthas, a paladin prince who was desperate enough to save his people against the undead scourge that he committed many terrible acts to stop the onslaught, up to taking the cursed blade Frostmorne and losing his soul.
    • Illidan wanted only for the woman he loved to return the affection and practice his beloved magic. Every action he took saw him rebuffed by those closest to him, but he still clung to the belief that he could do some good. After being exiled for using demonic magic to fight the Burning Legion, he tried and failed to destroy the Lich King. By the time of Burning Crusade, his constant failures and rejections had managed to drive him more than a little mad and instilled in him a desire to destroy the Burning Legion by any means necessary, becoming a tyrant that ultimately is put down through no small amount of manipulation by the Legion itself. Luckily for him, he gets a second chance of sorts by Legion where he's resurrected and ultimately manages to help stop the threat of the Burning Legion once and for all...though his methods still leave plenty sore and there are just as many that still see him as a villain as much as a hero, however tragic.
  • Goro Majima from the Yakuza series is eventually revealed to be this. After a lifetime of being jerked around, betrayed and manipulated by nearly everyone he knows, he decides to embrace his inner demons and become the Ax-Crazy and unpredictable Mad Dog of Shimano to regain some semblance of control over his life. Noticably, the more of his tragic backstory is revealed, the less of an outright villain he becomes, until he's merely a friendly rival to Kiryu.


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