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Heroes win. It's a general rule of fiction. Sometimes, though, you want the hero to lose a few battles. As a result, you have an occasional instance of The Bad Guy Wins. This also shows another generally good consequence: the importance of the struggle, the need to make an effort, and the necessity of Character Development. Often, the challenge is tied to a singular villain (generally a Big Bad) to build up a reasonable threat. This is usually good, as it simplifies the cast, has a standard deuteragonist, etc.

However, just because a hero can't win all the time, that doesn't mean they can't win ever. And just because villains can win, that doesn't mean a villain can win all the time. Both of these are problems. And they share an extreme. This is the Invincible Villain. This character is basically a walking personification of Victory Is Boring, for the audience.

Any "losses" that occur either help the villain more than outright victory are ambigious if he lost or won, or The Cavalry showing the hero can't win on their own. Plus, it's expected in the short term; You Can't Thwart Stage One! Doesn't matter how hard The Determinator trains, the villain is always two steps ahead. That head start, of course, is a given when Villains Act, Heroes React. Even if there is a complete defeat, they'll still be subject to Joker Immunity or Cardboard Prison. This of course tends to rob a given episode or movie franchise of dramatic punch when the viewer's reaction to a hero's actual win is "Like You Would Really Do It!"

The Boring Invincible Villain is the guy who makes the audience react in one of two ways.

  • "Oh my GOD, would somebody beat this guy already?"
    • They want to see the villain get beaten, but not for a "good" reason. Ideally, what a writer wants is for his villain to be a threat and make the audience wonder and anticipate how he's going to be beaten. In this case, the audience are simply bored to see the villains winning without effort.
  • "Only the Author Can Save Them Now"
    • This is a problem for all of the reason it says on that trope page. You've made your villain such a credible threat that now, there doesn't seem to be any plausible way to beat him. Anything that wins against him now will be accused of being all part of the plan, or people will question why did THIS attack work when all the other ones didn't? All of his limits and weaknesses have been so thoroughly discredited that the only discernible reason why he'd lose is because the author wants him to right now.

If taken to extremes, when a villain can't do anything other than win by some contrived reason, this trope turns into Villain Sue. The Villain Protagonist is especially at risk to this. See also Invincible Hero, their Good Counterpart, and Failure Hero, another possible result of this trope. Compare Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, the generally interesting, vincible villain. A poorly executed Outside Context Villain can become this, but after a while, the hero may get used to the villain, and without the element of surprise, may be overcome.

Compare to Generic Doomsday Villain, which is treated more like an obstacle for the hero to overcome rather than a true character.

Examples of Invincible Villain include:


Anime and Manga

  • Emperor Gene in Zoids Genesis is clearly trying to be a Magnificent Bastard. However, his constant A God Am I speeches while his BioTyranno effortlessly no-sells everything that comes their way get really old really fast, causing him to fall to this trope instead. Excaberating the problem is the way that the heroes fight like idiots whenever he's around, attacking him one at a time and leaving themselves wide open in the process.
    • Super Robot Wars K drives the point home by having a scene (Probably the longest in the game) where just about every playable character in Genesis tries to defeat Emperor Gene and gets crushed by their efforts, until Ruuji finally does the trick in his second try. Note the scene plays after you just kicked Gene's ass.
  • Naraku from Inuyasha until the last battle. The Big Bad for a manga series spawning 558 chapters, the handful of other villains that appeared were almost universally working for or with him. The very few times he was defeated or killed was part of his plans and he eventually came back, and despite the heroes repeatedly finding new powers and new weapons, every time they fought Naraku he escaped and lived to fight another day. In the end, he did win, in that he got all the jewel shards and formed the completed Shikon Jewel, and if not for Inuyasha's Big Damn Heroes moment with Kagome, he would have yet again successfully executed a plan that hinged on him dying or feigning death.
  • Sosuke Aizen of Bleach. While he was initially intended to be and appeared as a Magnificent Bastard, subsequent appearances played up his power, smugness, Gambit Roulette planning skills, Crazy Preparedness, and NUKE the dog tendencies to such laughable levels that he completely shatters the Willing Suspension of Disbelief, destroying any dramatic tension. He declares the entirety of the army he assembled to beat the good guys to be below his power,and beats almost all of the remaining good guys alone. Unfortunately, he never gets to fight any of the characters capable of killing him (via Instant Kill abilities) until he has already gone through several Shonen Upgrade via an equally mysterious MacGuffin that made him effectively immune to those skills. It had to take a serious out of nowhere Eleventh-Hour Superpower in order to even weaken him enough to seal him.
  • One of the main complaints about Digimon Frontier (season 4) was the Royal Knights, a Quirky Miniboss Squad who show up and do nothing but beat the tar out of the heroes for nine straight episodes because... something had to eat up the time before the Big Bad got out of his can, right?
  • Hao from Shaman King is literally totally unbeatable (but not invincible). He's had quite a head start, and by the time the story ends, is stronger than the next six characters combined, including the one who trained her entire life to beat him, but only reached half his strength. Even without fighting, he has a strange ability to gather totally unrelated people to his side to help him destroy humanity. He is a human but is treated as more of a force of nature in the series. He even wins in the final battle of the series, and shows everyone else that all of their efforts were meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
  • Yujiro Hanma from Baki the Grappler. In the one anime fight where someone even lands a worthwhile attack (Doppo counters with several chest crushing punches), Yujiro simply stands up smiling as if he had an itch. To date, nothing has even given him cause to pause. Though several characters have evolved based on his almost unachievable status.
  • This trope is one of several reasons why the Huckebein of Nanoha Force are so hated.
  • Broly from the 8th Dragonball Z movie doesn't have much going for him as a villain, with little in the way of characterization and a flimsy motivation. He's basically a musclebound brute who fights, screams and no-sells. Among the DBZ fanbase he's inexplicably popular.
    • Look at the description. The only difference between him and the heroes is that the heroes can talk coherently. And the motivation is hilarious.
      • He is popular mainly because, once he's free to do as he pleases, there's nothing but action. On the "lulz" side of For the Evulz. He's not even a Blood Knight because he thinks crushing the helpless is just as fun as crushing the strong. Also, he ascends to Super Saiyan to a little tune called "10's", by PANTERA. He runs mainly on awesome and angry. And DBZ is not known for being particularly thought-provoking.
  • In Berserk Post-Eclipse Griffith is a Physical God in a mostly Low Fantasy setting (and most of the non-Low Fantasy elements are his direct minions). He can No Sell cannonballs, magic lightning and even a Reality Warper sword forged over hundreds of years specifically to kill him. Did we mention he's a Villain with Good Publicity to the point where most of the world believes he's the second coming of Crystal Dragon Jesus?
  • The Admirals in One Piece border on this, though they're more antagonists than villains. Luffy, his crew, and pretty much everyone that has ever tried to fight an Admiral other than Whitebeard has gotten curbstomped. During the War Arc, one Admiral manages to kill/KO/badly injure Ace, Luffy, Whitebeard, Jinbei, and Ivankov (in a row!!), and then completely ignore attacks from Marco and Vista. Keep in mind that these are some of the strongest pirates in the world. Even when two Admirals fought each other off-panel (over the Time Skip), it apparently took 10 days for someone to win.


Films -- Live-Action

  • John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars has this problem. The titular ghosts are just that - intangible ghosts, who possess humans to interact with them. The spirits can't be killed by any known means (they even tried a nuclear detonation, which did nothing), which means that if their host is destroyed they'll just move on to the next body. The movie dances around this issue by setting up the all-out battle to occur after the story's events, but it's impossible to maintain any hope for the surviving characters because victory is ultimately impossible.[1]
  • The Final Destination movies teeter back and forth as to whether the heroes can actually win, but this theme consistently shows up in every entry. They're explicitly fighting Death, a presumably eternal force of nature. The fourth movie even indicates that Death gave them the visions in the first place, which means that every death happened according to his design, including the fates of the survivors - it just wasn't their time yet.
  • Boris from Goldeneye thinks he is one. He's not.


Live-Action TV

  • Blakes Seven: Servalan almost always ran circles around Blake and his Rebels. Most of the time, she left them holding the bag after playing them too. She also survives the series finale. The alleged heroes don't.
  • Leverage: Sterling. Never. Loses. The best the con artist team can manage is misdirection.
    • That said, even in the first episode, the heroes managed to win as well. And, their master plan in another episode hinged on him winning... And his episodes are fun. Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • The Cigarette Smoking Man on X Files survived things no human being ought to have survived, and again, came out on top with Mulder and Scully once again discredited and humiliated.
    • Even though he ultimately dies definitively in an airstrike, he still has the last laugh when he gets to tell Mulder and Scully that the alien invasion is scheduled for 2012.
  • Sylar from Heroes. He kills numerous people, usually minor characters, over multiple seasons; and despite being mortally stabbed (twice), getting completely incinerated, having his entire brain overwritten, etc. he still keeps coming back, usually with even more powers, to terrorize the rest of the cast.
  • Anna on V-2009. This is even lampshaded by Erica. No matter what the Fifth Column does, Anna always comes out on top. Either through Diabolus Ex Machina or just good PR, every supposed win they've had is thrown right back in their faces. Manages to go Up to Eleven in the season 2 finale. The Fifth Column decides to take out Anna. Result? Anna uses Bliss on pretty much all of humanity; the Fifth Column is basically defeated; Diana, Tyler, and Ryan are dead; and the queen egg hatches to replace Lisa. Coming back from that should be impressive.


Professional Wrestling

  • The Undertaker is currently riding a 20-0 streak at Wrestlemania that's been hyped up for about the last 6 years, despite no one really believing he'll lose. Memes have been made about him being beaten by the least likely person. Of course, the "villain" part only applies due to his angle and whenever he's a Heel.
  • For a couple years after being recognized both in-story and out as Vince McMahon's son-in-law, HHH could never lose a major match. Thanks to being part of Vince's family, "Trips" is pretty squarely heel, though occasionally a lesser of two evils.
  • The New World Order faction in WCW was a notable example of an entire group of invincible villains. This was especially evident in the group's early days, where the nWo would frequently run roughshod over their WCW foes and episodes of WCW Nitro would end with the nWo triumphant more often than not.


Toys

  • Bionicle's very own Big Bad, Makuta Teridax was this. Even after his body got destroyed, he still kept coming back as the Man Behind the Man for years. It took LEGO to pull the plug on the toyline to get him finally offed.


Videogames

  • Caius Ballad from Final Fantasy XIII-2 possesses the Heart of Chaos, which makes him immortal and also connects him to the goddess Etro. If he dies, so does she. This actually happens at the end of the game. But, of course, Caius is revived. Due to him being the overseer of the world's timeline, he has gained vast knowledge of every possible scenario and uses it to his advantage.
  • Hazama/Terumi Yuuki from Blaz Blue is nothing short of invincible thus far. This is the man who's got backup plans over plans and is incredibly powerful that he's one of the top tier of the cast in terms of power, all playing his power, manipulation and smugness with no actual weakness. When he's beaten by Ragna in True End? That's part of the plan so he can eliminate Takamagahara. Aside of his Trolling tendencies, none has come up with a plan effective enough to eliminate him (Kokonoe's nukes doesn't count because she didn't take account that Hazama can TELEPORT).
    • To make it even worse, in the Arcade version of Extend, when fellow Big Bad Relius Clover beat him, Hazama looked all happy and embraced death with laugh, as if he predicted that and was very sure of eventual return.
    • Because losing to Relius was the entire point. Terumi needed to die in order to eliminate Takamagahara as a spirit.
      • That said, he has faced a blemish on his gambit record as of Extend. However well his plans may have been going in Wheel of Fortune, everything turned right and proper fucked when Continuum Shift Makoto jumped on the board, no matter what he may have tried to salvage it. Given his immediate assassination attempt on her in Jin's story, he didn't take it well.

 Makoto: What are you going on about? I want an explanation, Captain!

Hazama: Might as well ask for a pony, too, so long as you're wishing for unlikely things. Thanks to your flitting about doing what you please, my plans have gone fair-to-middling FUBAR!

Makoto: Wha-?!

Hazama: You're really starting to grate upon my nerves... sorry, but it's true. Relius was going to take care of you, but shit... I just don't think I can WAIT that long...

  • Currently, Kai Leng from the Mass Effect series looks to be this. Not only does he survive several situations that would have normally killed any other person, like facing several Turian Guards with just a melee weapon, but none of the others are able to come up with an effective strategy against him.
    • However, faced against Commander Shepard and crews... well let's say Kai Leng loses invincibility so fast.
      • Except that was after two encounters. For the first two, nothing Shepard or his/her squad did was able to take him down.
      • Which results in a funny kind of Gameplay and Story Segregation when doing the amount of damage required by the game for the boss fight happens in a couple sniper rifle shots. Shepard even accuses Kai Leng of running away all the time.


Web Originals

  • The Slender Man is an interesting case.
    • A: He's a particularly successful meme rather than a character from a single story. Showing any one spin-off character 'defeat' him could be considered unfair, and wouldn't have much weight anyway as it wouldn't impact the dozens of other stories.
    • B: He's generally a mental threat rather than a physical one, and either teleports away or goes to full-on Mind Rape if approached. There's still no consensus on what he actually does to his victims once he gets his hands on them (which just makes it creepier).
    • C: Most of his victims aren't the kind of people who would even consider attacking a Humanoid Abomination, but a few have tried - and failed. As Steph told the HYBRID boys, "I don't think he has a weakness."


Western Animation

  • David Xanatos of Gargoyles lets you know it's all in The Plan - his plan.
    • ... for about the first season and a half, anyway. Xanatos's growing Pet the Dog tendencies and habit of teaming up with the heroes took their toll, until by the later episodes, Xanatos showing up in a plot usually meant some other villain outmaneuvering him, and he needed help. The real bearer of this trope is his creation Thailog - it generally takes into the second episode with him to realize that the drow-looking palette swap of Goliath with all the original's strength and skill, plus all of Xanatos's intelligence, who always effortlessly manipulates everyone is not a bad fan fic, but a Canon Villain Sue.

Notes

  1. If the ghosts are also capable of independent interplanetary travel then not just the Mars colony, but all of humanity is completely screwed.
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