Follow TV Tropes


Villain Decay / Video Games

Go To

  • Winston Payne from the Ace Attorney series is billed as the Rookie Killer, with a seven-year winning streak. In the events of the story, though, he serves as a Warm-Up Boss who never wins a single victory against the player, and quickly becomes a Butt-Monkey who isn't even recognized by fellow prosecutor Edgeworth. After his first defeat by Mia Fey in a flashback in Trials and Tribulations, he only wins a single case, and that's only because the defense was trying to lose. They weren't even an actual defense attorney!
  • Advertisement:
  • Advance Wars: Hawke is the terrifying CO who marched his troops by an erupting volcano for a strategic advantage, who basically crushed an entire country, and abandoned his army as they fell at the liberation of Green Earth. At the end of Black Hole Rising (his debut title), just when the allies are about to win, Hawke kills Sturm personally and basically regards the whole of the game as a 'test of his skills'. Cut to the start of Dual Strike, and suddenly not only the same Hawke is NOT in charge of Black Hole, he's barely even an important member who is nearly disposed of when he stumbles upon the truth.
  • Summerill the Disc One Final Boss of Agarest Senki gets turned into a Warm-Up Boss in Agarest Senki 2. Can't get any lower than that.
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf's Welcome amiibo update allows players to add Ganon from The Legend of Zelda to their towns by scanning a Ganondorf, 8-bit Link, Bokoblin, or Guardian amiibo. In this game, he's merely grumpy instead of being the ultimate evil he is in his home series.
  • Advertisement:
  • In Arc the Lad, this happens to the Dark One after the second game. Arc 2 has a terrifyingly bleak ending where the best that Elc and the other party members can say about it is that they and a few other clumps of humanity survived The End of the World as We Know It, and just to get that far, Arc and Kukuru had to make a Heroic Sacrifice. In later games, the Dark One can be defeated squarely and without wrecking the planet in the process, indicating that the climactic events of the second game actually did make a difference.
  • Rodrigo Borgia from Assassin's Creed II starts out as the menacing Big Bad in the game by slyly walking around Italy making sure everything is going according to plan and has a cool, dark, reddish-black hooded robe, but at the end, he ditches the cloak for not-as-cool majestic Pope robes and shows off how much of a fat bald guy he is. Then he ditches his Magnificent Bastard demeanor and rambles about religion. If that's not enough, he gets the stuff knocked out of him by a bare-handed Ezio. And finally, Brotherhood has him being upstaged by his kids with them disobeying orders, and he's eventually killed by an apple. Consider: For nearly the entire game, Ezio wants to kill him. After killing everyone else involved in his foul conspiracy, he gets a chance to kill him, and fails. He gets another chance, then, when he finally has Rodrigo completely at his mercy... he spares his life. Why? Because it would do more harm to the Templar cause to have him live on as a meaningless figurehead whose master plan achieved nothing. It doesn't get much harsher than that!
  • Advertisement:
  • Jon Irenicus from Baldur's Gate II is one of the most cunning and deadly foes you have to face in the entire series, to the point of starting off the game by imprisoning your entire party, killing off two party members from the previous game and torturing and experimenting on the rest, and then going on to outwit you at every turn while refusing to divulge his evil plot. In Throne of Bhaal, he's a Warm-Up Boss thrown at you during one of the Pocket Plane trials, having been stripped of his powers and used as fodder as part of his punishment in Hell.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight:
    • Two-Face. In City, he's well-known as That One Boss who singlehandedly takes over Arkham City in the game's epilogue, becoming the ruler of Gotham's underworld. In Knight, Two-Face now only has a small group of thugs who rob banks to pay off his finances and can be taken down easily in a predator battle with the health amount of a common thug. Then in a bonus DLC, he gets defeated in battle by the Boy Wonder, putting a serious dent in his reputation as well.
    • The Penguin originally had an army of thugs with the most advanced military hardware he could get his hands on, lived in a fortress, recruited more and more thugs into his expanding army on a daily basis, had Sickle as his bodyguard, and manipulated Solomon Grundy into acting as his primary enforcer. In Knight, he now has a group of thugs, works under Scarecrow's leadership, is taken down in a side mission as opposed to the main campaign, gets beaten up by his hostage Nightwing while holding him at gunpoint (twice in a DLC), and is afraid of the dark.
    • Black Mask has been losing his awesomeness since he was turned into an Adaptational Wimp, but Knight took it to a whole new level by having him Killed Off for Real in a DLC by the Red Hood, a younger opponent just entering the criminal underworld.
    • The Riddler definitely had the farthest to fall. Aside from his pompous yet largely-ineffectual self in Asylum, City, and Knight, Batman: Arkham Origins (which takes place before the rest of the Arkham games) inflicts the Riddler with this retroactively, as when he was just a simple hacker/extortionist known as Enigma he was surprisingly competent and far less openly arrogant. In fact, Origins is not only the only game in which Eddie evades capture, but he ultimately succeeds in his goal due to it not being humiliating Batman for once (which was just a side project). Sadly, at some point he became obsessed with proving himself to be Batman's intellectual superior, and his slow downward spiral began until Arkham Knight, where he went from being sharply dressed (albeit in his usual gaudy Riddler attire) to looking downright gaunt and slovenly, and his continuous defeats and Sanity Slippage reach the point where a member of the GCPD ends up becoming one of his informants out of pity. He finally reaches his nadir in the Catwoman's Revenge DLC after Catwoman steals his entire life savings and demolishes his base of operations, as Riddler begs for the first time in the entire series for her to stop, putting an end to his supervillain career permanently. Also, he had the dishonor of being humiliated in a DLC by his former hostage.
  • Bubble Bobble: Super Drunk, the Final Boss of the first game, returns, degraded and easier, as the first boss in a sequel, Bubble Symphony (aka Bubble Bobble II). He even has a patch on his hood to show for it.
  • Castlevania:
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, the Soviets are fear-inspiring Nazi replacements who want to Take Over the World and cross the Moral Event Horizon several times. Over the course of the games, they become increasingly goofier and sillier compared to the new antagonists: Yuri in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and the Empire of the Rising Sun in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. In the latter, the Soviets are just harmless villain comic relief.
  • In DC Universe Online, the Society, as the game progresses, is reduced to simple Enemy Mine missions, allying with the Justice League in dealing with numerous threats. Even more so, it seems that Luthor is actively enjoying doing good things. This pisses off Calculator so much that he secretly takes over during the "Death of Superman" event and proceeds to make the group credible again.
  • In the first Doom game, the Spider Mastermind was the Final Boss. While all of the bosses become less unique after their introduction, Doom II treats her particularly poorly, practically turning her into a Joke Character. Every Spider Mastermind encounter in Doom II has a gimmick that makes her easy to defeat:
    • Her first appearance is in Map 6, The Crusher. As the map name suggests, all you have to do is flip a switch and let a Descending Ceiling take care of her.
    • In Map 20, Gotcha!, the Spiderdemon appears on a platform facing a Cyberdemon. This makes it very easy to lure the two of them into infighting, then finish off whoever's left while they're greatly weakened.
    • Map 23, Barrels o' Fun, is the least gimmicky Spider Mastermind fight in Doom II, but she's surrounded by Arachnotrons who will gladly tear their own mother apart if coaxed into infighting.
    • Map 28, The Spirit World, has not one, but two Spider Masterminds. Right by them are several Invulnerability Spheres, giving you more than enough invincible time to not have to worry about them. You can also make the two Masterminds fight each other, as enemies with Hitscan attacks can harm others of the same type.
  • The Fallout franchise:
    • The infamously lethal Deathclaws are severely Nerfed in Fallout 3, mostly due to the fact that it's very easy to cripple their legs (especially with the Dart Gun), turning these hulking terrors that could silently sprint halfway across the Wasteland and tear your head off into hobbling jokes that anyone could easily outrun and chip away at. Fortunately, New Vegas restored their previous deadliness.
    • Super Mutants in Fallout are some of the most dangerous things around, and a bad encounter with a squad will easily get you smeared across the walls, even in the endgame. They're also entirely sentient (the process did produce a few duds, but it's suggested that a good number are intellectually normal) and their leader, the Master, is the Final Boss and the game's primary threat. By 2 and New Vegas, Super Mutants are far less common and have mostly lost their old fire, owing to them mostly being the survivors of the Master's old army and their big plan having failed. In 3 and 4, they're back to being regular antagonists, but they're far weaker in gameplay, a fair bit dumber and flatter, and have nowhere near as much story relevance. (In-story, this is due to them coming from a different FEV strain.)
    • The Enclave is first introduced as a highly organized, fully armed, equipped, high-tech, wasteland-dominating, top-tier-Power Armor-wearing Badass Army whose mere wasteland patrols are Demonic Spiders even at higher levels in Fallout 2. In the next game, they're reduced to easily slaughtered mooks in "Mk II" power armor that is superior to the Brotherhood's outdated armor only when the Brotherhood is talking about it. Statistically, the only advantage it has over the Brotherhood's armor is that it has a smaller agility penalty... which is offset by the fact that it also has a smaller strength bonus. It is moreover inferior to the iconic Fallout 1 power armor, which its older Mk I variant was statistically superior to.
  • Jeanne d'Arc Alter of Fate/Grand Order started off as the Arc Villain of Orleans, and was mostly played as a straight antagonist with formidable power and destructive motives (though also sabotaged by her For the Evulz actions). Her next big appearances were almost entirely comedic, portraying her as a lovable, dimwitted Harmless Villain whose aspirations towards evil are mostly just childish posturing (she once tried to steal Christmas). This is a case where the fandom at large tends to prefer the later take, as it turned her into one of the most consistently funny characters in the game while also coinciding with her being Promoted to Playable.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is an extremely menacing Big Bad — a phantom, unstoppable killing machine cutting a swathe of death across the world, always one step ahead of the heroes, and all while manipulating Cloud into a Tomato in the Mirror from within his own mind; all so he can simply mind control him into giving him the Artifact of Doom right after putting six feet of steel clean through his ally in a single strike. With a smirk. What a bastard! But in subsequent appearances, all he seems to do is appear out of nowhere with his theme song blaring to deliver a Hannibal Lecture and kick the hero's ass for a while before he gets owned. Again. What makes this worse is that in the original game, Sephiroth doesn't care about Cloud beyond his use as a puppet. In fact, he doesn't even recognize him when they meet. Then in later appearances, he's completely obsessed with Cloud to the point of having no other motive than to defeat him (save for the Kingdom Hearts series, in which Cloud is the obsessed one, though with the lack of motivation from his original game). Dissidia plays around with this. He actually starts out wanting to control Cloud as a puppet... and it grows into an obsession by the last time you fight him.
    • Final Fantasy X has a strange example. After confronting the party in Bevelle and revealing his motives, Seymour becomes a more powerful threat gamewise. But storywise, the party brushes him off as completely nuts and stops taking him seriously. In the end, Tidus's reaction to Seymour's final appearance inside of Sin is a simple annoyed "Don't you ever give up?"
    • In addition to what's mentioned in the Sephiroth section, all the villains in Dissidia Final Fantasy suffer a decay in one way or another. They go from being the ultimate evils in their universes to just servants of another slightly more ultimate evil. Plus, the chaotic storyline really limits their plot roles.
  • The titular Freddy Fazbear in Five Nights at Freddy's decreases in relevance as the series goes on. Originally the main villain and the final (and most dangerous) obstacle in the first game, in the second he is not only one of the easier animatronics to avoid, but he's also been demoted to The Dragon as the Puppet takes on the main villain role, though the revelation that the second game is a prequel makes this particular instance an inversion.

    In the third game, the focus is almost entirely on the new animatronic and Big Bad Springtrap, who is haunted by William Afton, while the Freddy animatronic has been destroyed decades ago and only lives on as decoration around Fazbear's Fright, and as a non-lethal and easily avoidable phantom/hallucination.

    The fourth game plays around with this — while Nightmare Freddy definitely looks more imposing than Classic, Withered, or Phantom Freddy, he is reduced to being an easily avoidable trap (that is, his mini-Freddies/Freddles on the bed, who form him if left alone long enough, but are chased away by the flashlight), meaning that only an ignorant/neglectful player will die to him. Once again, he's not even the main threat, as instead Nightmare Fredbear takes the spotlight. However, it's shown in both this game in 2 that Fredbear is Freddy's precursor (and 4 strongly suggests that he's the true identity of Golden Freddy), technically making them part of the same family.
  • The original Big Core of the Gradius series has undergone significant Villain Decay; while the original game's bosses are almost nothing but Big Cores, bigger and more powerful Bacterian technology in subsequent games slowly phased this boss out until, in Gradius V, it became a regular, if large and heavily-armored, enemy.
  • Vizier Khilbron (a.k.a. the Undead Lich) and Shiro Tagachi are the Big Bads in the first two chapters of Guild Wars, and each of them makes a challenging opponent at the time. But when they show up again in Chapter 3, Nightfall, even the two of them teamed up are merely another speedbump on the way to the new Big Bad, Abaddon.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant. They go from a mighty interstellar empire who are on the verge of completely annihilating humanity in the original trilogy, to scattered remnants who serve as cannon fodder for stronger baddies and get their ass kicked a lot by the good guys in the Reclaimer Saga. Somewhat of a Justified Trope, as the Covenant has utterly collapsed due to civil war; you're fighting only a fraction of their former strength in the newer games.
    • Inverted by the Forerunners; their constructs are now the main villains, fielding armies of powerful Mecha-Mooks who are a long way from the near-harmless floating Sentinels of the original trilogy. Case in point — Promethean Knights can wield an awesome BFG that is a combination flamethrower, missile launcher, and shotgun.
    • The power scale is once more upended with Halo Infinite, where the aforementioned superpowered Forerunner constructs have apparently all been beaten off-screen by the Banished, a Covenant splinter faction whose schtick is basically "the Covenant, but not religious (and also red)".
  • This happens to Buggs in Kindergarten 2. While not a villain, he is a violent bully who's rendered harmless when Penny confiscates his knife. He is also unhappy about study hall taking away his freedom.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Maleficent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty is to a degree the main villain of Kingdom Hearts. She's also a very respectable villain in the prequel, Birth by Sleep, which shows how she begun her rise to the power she has in the original game. When she is revived in Kingdom Hearts II, she only can control Heartless, is left plotting in a wreck of a castle as opposed to the magnificent one she had in the original game, and has only one loyal servant left... Pete. However, this is often lampshaded, and by the end of the game she seems to recapture her former glory by conquering Organization XIII's castle once Xemnas is destroyed. coded and 3D set her back even further. She at first looks imposing in coded, breaking Data Sora's digital Keyblade even. However, her plan then ends up easily thwarted, she gets crushed by a superpowered Darkside, and she retreats alongside Pete, with the main characters hardly caring about letting her go like that. In 3D, she's a blatant Big Bad Wannabe who only appears in one scene before being driven away, and it's clear that no-one's scared of her anymore. By Kingdom Hearts III, she, along with her minion Pete, has now been relegated to a background character where their only role is to search for the Master of Master's Black Box, only for the search to be utterly pointless with the revelation that Luxu had it the whole time, causing them to flee and give up on the search.
    • Even Maleficent has it easy compared to Jafar. In Kingdom Hearts, he's The Dragon to Maleficent in the Disney Villain group. In Kingdom Hearts II, he gets one scene and an ensuing boss battle, and then gets Killed Off for Real.
  • When King Dedede premiered in Kirby's Dream Land, he stole an entire planet's food for himself. In his next appearance, Kirby's Adventure, he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Since then, he has frequently been an unwilling puppet to a Greater-Scope Villain. Sometimes, as in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, he's even happy to be Kirby's ally.
  • The HK-50 droids in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. In Peragus, one droid was able to make the entire mining colony its bitch over a few days. Then a squad of three of them show up at Telos and job against the hero, before finally three more are defeated by T3-M4.
  • Left 4 Dead:
    • The Tank was something you ran from. With the introduction of melee weapons in Left 4 Dead 2, a creature that once required a huge amount of lead to bring down can be taken out much more rapidly with cricket bats. Thanks to the fact that his melee only hits one survivor at a time, if all survivors gang up on him, he'll die in no time. Later fixed in a patch. It now takes about twice as long to kill a Tank with melee weapons, long enough that unless you have absolutely perfect team coordination, at least one of you is still going to get pummeled before you bring him down. And molotovs still work just fine.
    • The Witch also went through similar changes. When she was first introduced in Left 4 Dead, she was a huge threat because she had the ability to instantly incapacitate you in a single hit and then finish you off quickly. Playing on Expert? She will kill you instantly. The only way to kill her quickly before she goes berserk is to headshot her with a shotgun, and you better hope your first shot lands. As time went on, many players got very good with the "headshot with a shotgun to the Witch" technique, making Witches nothing more than a hurdle in your path. People also discovered that a headshot with the hunting rifle would stumble the Witch before she went into her rage mode, giving other players enough time to mow her down. Left 4 Dead 2 introduced Witches that wander around and two levels in a sugar mill that were lousy with them, but by that time, the Witch had gone from "teammate-killing trap" to "speedbump where you can show some flair". Her reputation as The Woobie makes her even less scary.

      The also sequel made Witches even easier to kill thanks to several new game mechanics. Unlike the sitting Witch, Wandering Witches have a second freakout if she is startled, which means that she'll scream first and then go into her typical rage mode. This makes it easy enough to blast her with shotguns quickly even without a headshot. Explosive ammo also stumbles her, so it's possible to kill her by just using explosive ammo with any gun, not just shotguns.
  • Most of Batman's rogues in LEGO Batman 2. While it takes the entire game to bring them down in the original, most of them are curb stomped in the first level of the sequel. It doesn't help that all of them have tiny health bars, and Freeze and Croc don't even make it out of their cells. The only exceptions are the Joker, who manages to destroy the Batcave, and the Scarecrow, who takes a level to catch and has a big health bar and a Nightmare Fuel-filled boss battle where he turns into a giant.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Basic Husks go from terrifying cyber-zombies capable of hammering you to death quite swiftly in Mass Effect to cannon fodder who can be killed en masse with the weakest directed-force biotic attacks in Mass Effect 2, forcing the Reapers to introduce newer and nastier variants.
    • The Reapers suffer a decay, moving from being such a threat individually that Sovereign throws down with entire fleets and is still only defeated when its defences go down due to a single critical mistake, to being extremely powerful but still vulnerable to concentrated fire, especially on the smaller Destroyer-class's weak points; justified because everyone involved has reverse-engineered Thanix weapons from the one Reaper seen in the first game and retrofitted them onto most of their ships, meaning that the amount of damage those ships can dish out has gone up quite a bit. They also suffer this plot-wise after it is discovered that their supposedly unknowable, totally alien origins aren't so unknowable or alien after all. Rather, they are the result of an AI who went overboard with its prime directive. So instead of being mecha-Cthulhus, the Reapers are simply a grandiose example of A.I. Is a Crapshoot — though it's still subverted somewhat by the fact that the Reapers actually oppose AI themselves and thus provide an interesting counterpoint to the "organics fear AI" subplot that was started in the first Mass Effect game.
  • Mega Man:
    • Wily from Mega Man (Classic) starts at world domination and thus can't up the ante, being obligated to never win a single token victory except perhaps during the intro mission. Every game has him unleash a new wave of "greatest minions ever" who fall like dominoes, and the biggie is that he uses roughly the same approach (eight robot masters and a fortress, give himself a robot body, and maybe try to make it look like someone else is the villain at first) in every game in the entire series and is defeated singlehandedly by the same person every time. On the plus side, he gets a new "more evil" true form every time. His decay is lampshaded by Mega Man at the end of Mega Man 9: Wily, defeated, begs for his life as usual, and Megs shows him a hologram of Wily doing the same thing for the past 9 times:
    • Mega Man X:
      • Sigma has the same thing going on as Wily, right down to the approach and the constant new forms. In X6, he can barely string together coherent sentences ("JUSDIE, Zelllllllloooooo!!!!!"), and is more of a robotic hunched-over zombie who can actually be knocked down, not just back, due to his botched resurrection by Gate's hand (which was only done because Gate felt he needed a last resort against X/Zero, not because he was actually loyal to or manipulated by Sigma), and X and Zero only consider him a threat by virtue of the damage he could cause unchecked. By X8, while he has a role in corrupting Lumine via his DNA within Lumine's Copy Chip (and by extension all New Generation Reploids), Lumine decides that Sigma himself is unneeded in his plans for the world, so he ends up being manipulated in turn, and dies after his final battle with X, Zero and Axl, seemingly for good since the moon has no robots for his virus to surf into.

        On the flipside, prior to X6, Sigma's schemes seem to get more evil each game. In X3, when Dr. Doppler comes up with a cure for the Maverick Virus, Sigma turns him evil, along with the Mavericks he cured. In X4, he causes the Maverick Hunters and an army called Repliforce to go to war with each other, creating a very morally ambiguous plot. To top it all off, he comes close to destroying the Earth with a big laser weapon, which X and Zero fail to stop, and is only stopped by the leader of Repliforce, General, sacrificing himself. In X5, he makes a scheme to turn Zero Maverick by crashing a Maverick Virus-infected space colony into that game's Earth, which would cause impact damage in the process, and depending on the plot of the game, he succeeds and also wipes out most life on Earth in the process (in X6, the colony did crash into Earth, but Zero did not go Maverick). In all endings, he nearly kills X, and appears to kill Zero.
      • Vile's first appearance in Mega Man X has him being an undefeatable Hero Killer that walks all over X, manages to incapacitate even Zero, and forces a Heroic Sacrifice from the latter just to destroy his Ride Armor and give X a fighting chance. He's still fairly tough in later appearances, but never manages to attain that level of sheer badass again. Even Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, a remake of the first game, downgrades Vile, removing all the Hopeless Boss Fights against him and making it that even in his Ride Armor, the only way he can get the upper hand on X is via ambushes and cheap shots.
  • The Space Pirates from the Metroid Prime Trilogy get hit hard with this in Echoes — after being the driving menace of Metroid Prime, they are abruptly downgraded into a recurring nuisance to Samus — but this can be justified by the game wanting to play up the threat of the Ing and Dark Samus, and the fact that the Pirates on Aether were a small, marooned colony that got many of their crew killed or Ing-possessed. Notably, Corruption puts them right back in the role of primary antagonists, albeit now under the command of Dark Samus.
  • LeChuck from Monkey Island. In The Secret of Monkey Island he is quite creepy, as is his ship and crew, if a bit Laughably Evil. By The Curse of Monkey Island, he has been Flanderized into a rather humorous albeit sadistic character who enjoys hurting Guybrush for the hell of it. It's even worse in Escape from Monkey Island, where he's not even the main antagonist, but instead the (reluctant) Dragon for one-off villain Ozzy Mandrill. Tales of Monkey Island furthers this even more, and after the intro he's transformed into a genuinely nice guy whom Guybrush is suddenly worried about Elaine legitimately falling for. Then the end of Chapter 4 manages to reverse four games worth of decay in a few scenes by reverting LeChuck into the evil bastard he used to be and makes him more of a threat by having him actually kill Guybrush.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Shang Tsung has fallen hard. Remember when he was the final boss of the first game? He was then revealed to The Dragon to the real Big Bad Shao Kahn and still remained an activate player in the plot. In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, he teams up with Quan Chi and manages to kill both Liu Kang and Shao Kahn. However, in the quasi-reboot Mortal Kombat 9, Shang Tsung's role is greatly diminished in favor of Quan Chi, who takes most of Shang Tsung's old role during the MK3 part of the story and is given a rather awkward death. In Aftermath, the Downloadable Content sequel to Mortal Kombat 11, a main plot point is reversing Shang Tsung's Decay. He's back to being the manipulative, power-hungry sorcerer he used to be, and he's unbelievably competent. By the time of the final boss battle, he's drained the souls of countless revenants, Raiden and Fujin, the equally un-Decayed Shao Kahn and Sindel, and Kronika herself. Now in possession of Kronika's Crown and Hourglass, only Fire God Liu Kang can defeat Shang Tsung — and, if the player picks Shang Tsung for the final battle, Liu Kang loses.
    • Shao Kahn zig-zags with this. Starting in II he's Shang's master and forces the heroes to do battle on his terms in the Outworld. After that fails, in 3 he invades Earth itself and is battled in a giant temple to his glory in the middle of a destroyed city. Then he falls to the wayside, seemingly killed in the backstory to DA. However, his backstory in Deception reveals that he sent a clone of himself in his stead for Shang and Quan Chi to kill, allowing Kahn to bide his time regaining power. In that game, he also usurps the throne from Onaga, who came Back from the Dead, though then he's relegated to just another Kombatant come Armageddon, even getting punked by Shang and dragged off by Onaga in the intro. Come 9, however, it's revealed that he won the battle and has gained almost limitless power. The story is then rebooted and he regains his stature from II and 3, and the focus becomes defeating him "right this time". Unfortunately, he then regains this decay very, very badly in the Continuity Reboot as a whole, especially 11. While having brief moments of glory in 9, he amounts to a General Failure who devolves into The Brute full-on, having only the barest minimum of forward thinking compared to even his followers. Quan Chi and Shinnok easily manage to use him as a pawn to engage their own plots. 11 strips away even his Big Bad status, having him become a follower to Kronika who dies incredibly unceremoniously, even despite him "having absorbed Onaga's power". As he's rendered Killed Off for Real in X, most kombatants welcome him back with sheer distaste and nonchalance. He again zigzags with this in Aftermath, in that while he is still only working for the Big Bad (Shang Tsung this time) as opposed to playing that role himself, his misdeeds such as killing Kotal Kahn easily help him rebound from what he was in the base game, even if he is still far from The Caligula Chessmaster he was before.
  • Arfoire from the Neptunia series is a weird example, as there are four (technically seven) different versions of her. The first Arfoire is a decent threat of a Big Bad (who doesn't really have any underlings and so does most of the work herself). The second is a much larger threat, being a nigh-unstoppable Sealed Evil in a Can with several powerful worshipers spending the entire game bringing her back. The third Arfoire? Not only is she a part of the real Big Bad's group, she is constantly defeated with ease after her original Hopeless Boss Fight (even when she takes the true form of the second Arfoire), and at one point is sexually assaulted by one of the "heroes" to the point where she is rendered mentally broken for 10 years. This culminates in a battle towards the end of the game where she is single-handedly defeated by Neptune after the former has fused with an eggplant. She tries to maintain her threatening image and is probably the most dangerous of the Seven Sages until Rei goes HDD form, but the cast treats her like a Saturday morning cartoon villain.

    The fourth Arfoire fares slightly better, but only in comparison to the third. She's the Arc Villain of the first third of the game and overall is in a Big Bad Duumvirate, along with being treated as a semi-serious threat, but nobody amongst the returning cast, due to their experiences with the second and third Arfoire, can be bothered to truly take her seriously, to the point where they make fun of her lines and intentionally forget her name. This even gets shown during the credits in the game itself, having "Honorary Eternal Villain" in Zero Dimension but having the humiliating "You Again? Go Home!" in Hyper Dimension G. And then it turns out that she's just a willing pawn of the real Big Bad, Kurome, who can create as many of her as she wants.

    In comparison, the Arfoire from Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 fares better than her original version, to the point where she copies all of the CPUs' abilities. At least three of her encounters are Hopeless Boss Fights, requiring the heroes to do something in the following cutscenes to turn the tables on her. Interestingly, this is probably the only version of her where she isn't evil by choice.
  • The Redman in One Night at Flumpty's is a slightly more difficult enemy to deal with, due to causing Interface Screw on a given camera of the room he is in. In the second game? He appears as a pop-up, and you quite literally cancel his attack.
  • From the Pokémon franchise:
    • Justified with Team Rocket as a whole. They're a Mafia-inspired force in Red and Blue, capable of taking over cities if left alone. In Gold and Silver, they are The Remnant led by four fairly easy-to-beat admins. They ended up like this after Giovanni left them and their decay is because they are only focused on getting him back on their side. Despite that, Team Rainbow Rocket shows in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as a major force, led by Giovanni and compossed by the other main villains, all from Alternate Universes where they won because no main characters existed to oppose them, playing with this trope.
    • Giovanni in Pokémon Red and Blue. The first time you face him, he has a Kangaskhan that is quite powerful for an enemy at that point in the game and could easily wipe out your entire team. When you finally face him in the eighth gym, though, his team consists entirely of Ground types, one of the very first types you learned to counter in the game. They are all weak against Water attacks, just like the Fire Pokémon in the previous gym, and most of them have poor Speed and Special Defense, meaning that it's very easy to one hit kill most of Giovanni's team with a single trained Water Pokémonnote .
    • Ghetsis experienced some diminished role as a villain during the transition between Pokémon Black and White and their sequels. Originally, he was an excellent example of a Classic Villain, possessing a devious mind and being enjoyably despicable, as well as boasting a powerful, well-built team. Come B2/W2, and a series of retcons about N's childhood, a diminished level of influence on the plot, and an overall weaker team makes it a bit harder to take him seriously. While he does regain his glory by being the first person to directly assault the player through Kyurem instead of challenging them to a battle and using a special device to stop the player from capturing it, the fact that he's totally absent until the Giant Chasm means that the player can only experience half an hour of screentime before he's defeated for good.
    • A meta example: In previous games, the Villain Team is typically the central antagonist faction led by supervillains and usually involved in world-threatening schemes involving Legendary Pokémon. Starting from Generation VII however the villain teams tend to be annoying delinquents lead by someone who's pretty far from evil who are either patsies to the true main antagonists (Team Skull) or largely non-malicious (Team Yell).
  • In Capcom's Resident Evil franchise:
    • Oswell E. Spencer. In the beginning, he's the one pulling all the strings, being the leader of the Umbrella Corporation and the one responsible for all the terror and destruction that the T-virus has caused. But after the constant thwartings of Umbrella's schemes, the deaths of some of its most prominent workers, and especially after Chris and Jill destroy Umbrella's T-ALOS project, Umbrella goes bankrupt, and the authorities become aware that Umbrella was behind it all. Spencer then becomes a fugitive, losing everything.
    • Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. He's at his worst during the first fight, due to his speed, hard-to-dodge attacks, and the fact you don't have much to go with in terms of items. Later battles equip him with his trademark rocket launcher, which allows him to attack at a distance, but cripples him in other areas: It makes him unable to grab Jill, shooting at him throws his aim off, and the rockets don't hurt as much as his grab attack. With each subsequent encounter, he gets progressively slower, while the player amasses more powerful weapons, making each fight easier than the last. By the end of the game, poor Nemmy is a joke.
  • Ashura of the SaGa series. In the first game, he is the penultimate boss. In the second game, he is the first major boss of the game, and it can be a pretty challenging fight. By the third game, he's just a normal boss.
  • Shovel Knight: King Knight, although it's obfuscated a bit because we first see him at his lowest, before the prequel campaigns show what he used to be capable of doing.
    • In the main game (the Shovel of Hope campaign), he's a Warm-Up Boss who is easily the weakest Order of No Quarter member, and will probably be the first or second that Shovel Knight beats into the ground. He retains this strength level in Plague of Shadows, which runs concurrently to Shovel of Hope.
    • The third campaign, Specter of Torment, has you fight him as a boss again. Unlike the other bosses (who Spectre Knight must defeat to get them into the Order of No Quarter), he's already the Enchantress's minion, but he's been getting lazy and she sent Spectre Knight to light a fire under his gilded ass. This time, he's somewhat tougher and has a few new moves.
    • The final campaign, King of Cards (chronologically the first), has him as the playable character. As such, he's as capable as the other three protagonists, and it's clear that he's worked hard to be that way. By the end, he became so powerful, he was hailed as a hero who could defeat the Enchantress. And he could. When they fought, he had her on the ropes and would've killed her had he not betrayed the kingdom to her in exchange for being made a king. The reason he's so weak in later campaigns is because he realized that he'd alienated everyone who ever cared about him in exchange for an empty title and no respect, and stopped caring about keeping himself in fighting shape.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik went through this starting with Sonic Adventure, which is when he started to get into his habit of releasing Sealed Evil in Cans and constantly failing to learn that Evil Is Not a Toy. In nearly every game since Sonic Adventure, he's been upstaged by the game's Big Bad while he is forced to help the heroes defeat him. Sonic Colors managed to get him back into the spotlight by having him refrain from trying to unseal an evil and making him go back to using his Mecha-Mooks to destroy Sonic and attempting to mind-control the entire Earth.
    • Metal Sonic gets this after Sonic Heroes: He managed to capture Eggman and take over his empire before challenging Sonic with the combined power of Eggman's tech and copy data from the four teams and Chaos. When he appears in Sonic Rivals, he's back to being Eggman's mindless servant (albeit to a different Eggman).
    • Sonic Generations plays with this: At first, the Big Bad just seems to be a pretty generic Eldritch Abomination, and Eggman's role is reduced to being a mere victim. But in the end, it turns out that the Time Eater was really a robot piloted by the Eggmen all along. Yes, Eggmen, plural. In a similar way, Sonic Lost World has Eggman forming an Enemy Mine with Sonic after the group of demons that he tried to control, the Deadly Six, betrays him. However, he's just using Sonic to defeat the Deadly Six, and once they're out of the way, he tries to take over the world with a super-charged mech, leaving him as the final boss.
    • Sonic Forces restores Eggman to his former glory. However, Chaos, Shadow, Zavok, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Metal Sonic all suffer this trope at the hands of Infinite. Turns out that this is subverted, as Infinite created the group with the Phantom Ruby.
    • Not to mention Infinite himself. While he's never really a complete nonthreat, with the finale of the game seeing him almost incinerating the entire Resistance with the Phantom Ruby's powers, there is a very stark contrast between his demeanor in his first appearance — where he is an unstoppable, enigmatic, confident threat with a kickass Villain Song who absolutely hands Sonic his posterior with contemptuous ease — and in his last appearance, where he is reduced to throwing childlike temper tantrums (with his "I AM NOT WEAK!" in particular going full meme). From his backstory, one can surmise that he was always a petty jerk hiding his insecurities behind a "badass" facade, he was just better at hiding it at the start of the game, before things started slipping out of his control.
  • The Spider-Man 2 tie-in game has Mysterio, who starts out demolishing a theatre, staging an alien invasion, and holding the Statue of Liberty hostage. Shortly afterwards, once you've beaten his "Funhouse of Doom", he resorts to sending out small parties of useless robots that break like fine china when you hit them, and is eventually defeated with one punch while holding up a convenience store.
  • Starcraft:
  • Street Fighter: Zig-zagged with M.Bison. In Street Fighter II Champion Edition, he conquers the world if he wins the tournament, and in Alpha 3, he can wipe a city completely off the map with his Psycho Power. Unfortunately, by the SNK vs. Capcom games, he's reduced to nebulous plans, and by Street Fighter IV, the only consequence of him triumphing is a somewhat unpleasant conversation with Juri. However, he regains his credibility in Street Fighter V, where his Black Moons' electromagnetic pulses amplify his Psycho Power to the point of making him a Physical God. Even with one of the satellites detonated, he's still so powerful that it takes a Heroic Sacrifice by Charlie using an anti-Psycho Power ability to weaken him enough for Ryu to finally put him down for good.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Bowser does this depending on the type of game. In most of the main platformers, he is shown as a genuinely powerful threat to the Mushroom Kingdom (and in Galaxy, the entire universe). In the sports spinoffs, he is the Trope Namer for Go-Karting with Bowser who is actually on friendly terms with Mario. In the RPGs, barring the first Paper Mario and the 3DS games Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, he is upstaged by another Big Bad while he provides comic relief. Played with in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. He goes through his usual Villain Decay like he always does in the RPGs, but it establishes him as a legitimate badass at the same time, typically serving as The Big Guy and Token Evil Teammate to good effect in the resulting Enemy Mine scenario.
      • This particularly applies within the aforementioned Paper Mario series itself. In the first Paper Mario, he is the sole Big Bad and is a very serious threat, having not just kidnapped Peach, but stolen the Star Rod, captured the Star Spirits, became invincible, taken over the Mushroom Kingdom, and even defeated Mario at the beginning, nearly killing him. In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, he is the comic relief who has little to do with the main plot and is always one step behind Mario. In Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Origami King, he becomes a significant ally to Mario, though more of an antihero for most of the former. While he is the main villain again in Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Paper Mario: Color Splash, in the former he doesn't speak, and in the latter he is not the main villain of his own accord, but becomes possessed as a result of mixing the paint due to lack of warning sign of the consequences of this.
    • King Boo started off as the Big Bad of Luigi's Mansion, where he subjected Mario to a fate worse than death, while most other Mario games since have reduced him to just another one of Bowser's minions. This is finally reversed in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, where King Boo is once again the Big Bad and has become even more powerful than before (and even eviler), and Luigi's Mansion 3 inverted it even further by having him completely unhinged. Amusingly enough, Mario Kart Tour opted to have two versions of the guy as unlockable racers; regular King Boo and Luigi's Mansion King Boo.
    • The Big Boo (another King Mook of Boos) got less impressive (and sometimes less big) over time, so the series kept having to introduce new Boos (Yoshi's Island included relatively tiny Big Boos, and a new boss called "The Bigger Boo"). New Super Mario Bros. 2 has Boohemoth, who not only takes up half the screen, but can actually summon the courage to peek and slowly advance at Mario and Luigi even when they're facing him.
    • The Mario & Luigi games have Fawful. While Superstar Saga introduces him as the right hand of Big Bad Cackletta, by the time of Partners in Time, he's been reduced to selling badges in a semi-secret shop, ranting about how he'll have his revenge on Mario and Luigi one day. However, when Bowser's Inside Story rolls around, he becomes the Big Bad and proves to be just as dangerous as his former mistress, if not more so, as well as being almost as big a nemesis to Bowser as the Mario Bros., making him ultimately a subversion.
  • In System Shock 2, SHODAN goes through this trope. After the hacker "destroyed" her in that showdown on Citadel Station, SHODAN hibernated in the computer system within the garden grove on Citadel where her experiments, the Many, were created. Her pod was ejected from the Station, and after three decades, it crash-landed on Tau Ceti 5. Then, SHODAN's creations thrived, and since she was out of commission at the time while they were thriving, they grew rebellious and plotted to turn against their own creator. So, she aids you as you dispose of the Many, even though she threatens and insults you. However, she stops fitting into this trope after you finally exterminate the Many. Then, she plans to merge her power with the Von Braun's Faster Than Light travel drive so that she can combine the cyberworld with the real world, allowing her to change reality as she sees fit. She leaves you for dead, and then you fight her. And once you think you've defeated her for good...
  • The Z-29 Central Defense Ship in Tyrian. It starts off as a formidable boss of the Savara level, but upon your next return to that planet, it's downgraded to a Mid-Boss, and despite showing up several times after that (on Savara and other planets), it's never a real threat again. It's even lampshaded in a message in one of the secret levels, where Transon complains that he is tired of Trent Hawkins "blowing our Z-29 Central Defense Ship to scrap".
  • The Stalker in Warframe began as an incredibly creepy and frightening boss who would show up and kill players without warning. As players reached endgame and became powerful enough to deal with him, however, he became something of a joke. Even Taking a Level in Badass during The Second Dream did not help, as his new powers turned out to be less effective than his original ones, making him even less of a threat.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Arthas. In Warcraft III, he starts out as a paladin with potential who is the only person to really beat the Scourge (he was supposed to, but the guy in charge of them didn't know that). Then he turns into a death knight and is presumably even stronger. Kicks some ass in Frozen Throne while fighting with some rather major handicaps. Merges with Ner'zhul to become the Lich King, making him even smarter, stronger, and upping his magical abilities. Apparently Blizzard realized that this made him an unstoppable one man army who could probably take the world over by himself, so all throughout the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, he makes one huge mistake after another, looks like a total moron, and kills his followers, who are actually rather competent (one took down the Drakkari empire by manipulating you), instead of you. This is later subverted as it's revealed that Arthas was just toying with you; much like Ner'zhul tested Arthas before him, Arthas is testing you to take his old lieutenants' places as leaders of the Scourge. The Scourge is explained as being able to wipe out all of Azeroth if Arthas commands it; he simply doesn't, either because it'd be too easy or, as Uther's ghost speculates, there's a bit of good left in him holding him back. Arthas himself is no pushover either; once he gets down to the last bit of his health during the encounter at the Frozen Throne itself, he wipes the entire raid in a single attack and mocks you. He would have won if Tirion didn't use the Ashbringer to free himself and finally destroy Frostmourne.

      He also counts in a more meta sense. During classic, many players wanted to see III's villains make their appearance. Blizzard in turn declared that once Arthas merged with the Lich King, he became the most powerful being on Azeroth. Above even the Aspects and presumably the Old Gods — for all intents and purposes, a god. As such, it would require a 40-man raid of at least level 90 characters.note  Enter heavy player pressure. Blizzard demotes Arthas to the Big Bad of only the second expansion, with a level cap of 80 and killable by ten or fewer players. By the time the fourth expansion came, and the originally claimed minimum level 90, he was soloable by almost any competent and geared player. "Most powerful being in Azeroth" indeed.
    • The Burning Legion. Warcraft III revealed that they were behind the orcs' evil, and thus the first two Warcraft games (not to mention being key to the night elves' backstory and the reason Azeroth is the way it is), before invading personally for the third, setting them up as the Big Bads of the whole series. The Legion and their minions wiped out everything that survived Warcraft II (with the lands from Warcraft I presumably still in shambles), and the refugees had to band together to hold out for a last ditch effort that finally defeated the leader of the invasion, Archimonde, at great cost. World of Warcraft has them Demoted to Extra and rarely do we see anything they do perceived as a big threat. Somewhat justified since a bunch of their high-ranking members are dead, but to put this is in perspective, they're overshadowed by the Undead Scourge — an army they created — and later the Old Gods, who have received a lot of screen time since Cataclysm, and equal or possibly straight-up outrank the Legion on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Warlords of Draenor takes this even further, having the heroes confront a fresh, alternate-universe version of the Legion, where they manage to kill Archimonde with a small force and without any kind of special plans or preparation immediately after he arrives. In Warcraft III, he was The Juggernaut and three entire armies couldn't stop him.
    • Kael'thas in Magister's Terrace. Justified in that he's been resurrected since killed in Tempest Keep and the process didn't go too well for him. He also goes from Fallen Hero who was The Mole for the initial villain, to a generic villain shouting about how the world will burn. It also feels weird that Priestess Delrissa, Vexallus, and every trash pull in Magister's Terrace were by far trickier affairs than the prince — much less that his second phase could be soloed by any self-healing class (given enough time).
    • Happened to the entire race of ogres. In Warcraft, they were Lightning Bruisers who beat things to death with firey fists. They could even be upgraded into ogre magi, magical powerhouses with super intelligence and the gamebreaking spell Bloodlust. By World of Warcraft, ogres were slow, almost always used weapons instead of Good Old Fisticuffs, and the super-intelligent ogre magi were speaking in You No Take Candle. Burning Crusade featured the ogre clans united under Gruul the Dragonkiller, himself a horrifyingly powerful and nearly God-like figure amongst the ogres. His names comes from the time he killed off dozens of Black Dragons (a previous big deal enemy to the player) by picking them up and slamming them into the spiked landscape. Cataclysm features the return of Cho'gall, who puts the "magi" in ogre magi as an insane yet brilliant cultist leader with a ton of eldritch abomination powers. He also makes good use of the remaining ogres as muscle. Warlords of Draenor attempted to rectify this by revealing that the ogres once dominated Draenor through a legacy of empires before the Legion corrupted the orcs, and portrayed the ogres as major threats for the Warlords to overcome in their backstories. In the game proper, however, they go right back to being You No Take Candle enemies who meet their demise in the first raid by two separate attacks occurring at the same time.
    • Anub'arak and Ner'zhul were criticised for being this as well. Anub'arak was one of the most powerful assets to the Scourge and a major character — but he was the boss of a (very short) five-man dungeon in Wrath. Ner'zhul was the original Lich King and an asset to the Legion, but in Warlords of Draenor, he is once again a five-man dungeon boss and is one of the few titular warlords who wasn't killed via raid. While Ner'zhul has at least one justification as to why he's not nearly as much of a threat (this isn't the Ner'zhul who would later become the Lich King), Anub'arak doesn't have such an excuse, but he does redeem himself somewhat with his surprise appearance as the final boss of the Trial of the Crusader, a proper 10-to-25-man raid.
    • Deathwing is an interesting case, since he actually becomes more powerful and threatening in World of Warcraft than he previously was at any point in the series. He's initially just a minor character in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, and the Day of the Dragon novel elevates him by giving him a backstory that says that he's a fallen demigod and gives him Chessmaster qualities. By the time he makes a return to the games in Cataclysm, even though it's made clear that he's The Dragon to the Old Gods, he starts by nearly destroying the world in the intro cutscene for the expansion. He's also the only villain so far to have two boss fights in a row, the first dedicated to peeling off his armor to make him vulnerable to the MacGuffin, the second after he manages to survive the MacGuffin and come back wrong. In the final boss fight, he is able to cast Cataclysm. If you do not interrupt it, the screen goes black as he destroys the world (the result of which is actually shown in a dungeon that takes place in that bad future). However, he also underwent massive Flanderization, going from an arrogant but extremely intelligent Magnificent Bastard to a Generic Doomsday Villain. You can't picture WoW Deathwing tricking the other Dragon Aspects into putting their powers into the Dragon Soul, or using his Daval Prestor persona to manipulate the Alliance from within. He just doesn't have much character besides wanting to destroy the world For the Evulz... and despite his heightened powers, he can't even do that effectively (see his entry on the Villain Ball page).
  • Goro Majima from the Yakuza series starts off as genuinely intimidating in his insanity, but over time becomes more and more goofy, less outright evil, and even tragic, to the point of being Promoted to Playable in certain games. Definitely a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, as this change made him the most beloved character in the series.