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There's probably something symbolic about the tendencies of a villain to turn into a snake. In the West there is a strong established symbolism for snakes from The Bible (most famously the serpent in the Garden of Eden, although some translators believe that the original text may have indicated that the creature was closer to a dragon than a snake), Norse Mythology, and there's Orochi in Japanese mythology. Adding onto this, there is the fact that when walking in the wild, it's generally not a good idea to stop and pet a snake.
Of course, the result of all that symbolism is that when a villain turns into a snake there can be no doubt about the evil nature of a foe, and it gives The Hero a comfortably scary and suddenly less human foe to kill.
Villains do love their symbolism and cliches, however, so despite how often this trope tends to end with the villain chopped up on the hero's sword, (usually rather easily too) villains everywhere still love the order Squamata because, of course, Reptiles Are Abhorrent. Think about it for a second: how often have you ever seen a villain turn into, say, a bear, a rhino, a lion, a koala, or something else that would actually be useful?
In short, a specific and much overused variant of One-Winged Angel.
Anime and Manga
- Orochimaru from Naruto probably takes inspiration from his namesake Orochi and does this in the series. He gets taken out by a certain Ineffectual Loner after said loner's Face Heel Turn. Lame-n noodles, especially since it means he can't perform any of the jutsu that were his goal in life to learn. Though his chances as a snake were probably better than a drugged-up old man who was near-dying, and he apparently didn't have a choice in the matter.
- Rather, Orochimaru takes his inspiration from the original Orochimaru, who likely gets it from his namesake Orochi.
- Later, he takes on a Hydra form to fight an attack called Susano, named for the god that killed the eight-headed serpent Orochi. It doesn't go well for him -- he was mythologically doomed to lose that fight.
- In contrast to the above, Kabuto/Kabuchimaru turning into a snake let him escape a trap and kidnap someone on his way out.
- A Monster of the Week from Inuyasha does this. Notable as he actually put up a pretty decent fight while in humanoid form, (thanks to a magic trident) but got carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey post transformation. Beyond lame.
- That's technically a reversal; said monster was a water snake spirit who stole the trident from the local river goddess, so he didn't change into a snake, he changed back from his assumed human form.
- In One Piece, Boa Marigold and Boa Sandersonia turn into half snakes. They do pretty well against Luffy until he stops holding back...
- In the first episode/chapter of Busou Renkin, one of Kazuki's teachers morphs into a cobra-like creature. He manages to swallow Kazuki's sister Mahiro whole, but gets thoroughly dismantled by Tokiko without even getting a chance to attack. Laaaaaame.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: During the climactic fight at the end of the first season, Beatrice summons meta-Kinzo, who immediately gives an Evil Laugh, turns into a dragon, and tries to eat meta-Battler's face, only to be stopped by a non-magical explanation and blasted to pieces by a multitude of flying spikes that accompany Battler's signature dramatic gesture.
- Inverted by G Gundam's Cobra Gundam, which starts off as a Naga and can separate into a humanoid Humongous Mecha and a mechanical snake, operated by the pilot's pet snake.
- In Berserk, the Apostle form of the Baron of Koka Castle is a disturbingly Freudian snake-monster who actually manages to land a few good hits on Guts (although, pretty much every Apostle lands many good hits on him). He still doesn't last very long though, due to Guts unloading his Arm Cannon right into the Baron's face and then hacking him in half in one blow with the Dragon Slayer.
- Claymore has Ophelia turn into an Awakened, resulting in her becoming a massive snake-like being with lots of blades. At first it helps against Clare, until she realises it herself by seeing her reflection, after which she has Clare to play a game of kill or get killed.
- Near the end of the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, Envy turns into a giant serpent in order to cross the Gate and kill his father, Hohenheim. He ends up getting stuck in Germany, where he's captured by the Thule Society and used as a giant Ouroboros to activate their transmutation circle and open a portal to Amestris. However, this process does accomplish the one thing he really wanted: killing Hohenheim.
- A recurring antagonist in Shakugan no Shana lives to be recurring only because he shapeshifts into a small snakelike creature to escape a losing battle.
- Medusa the Serpent Witch from Soul Eater turns into a small snake to escape when her main body is cut in half. This is after her band succeeded in releasing the Sealed Evil in a Can; so definitely a win, while her opponent thinks he killed her so hard it destroyed her soul.
- An inversion in Yu-Gi-Oh! in the Waking the Dragons arc: the secret of the three dragons is that they were actually knights transformed by Dartz in an attempt to weaken them. Yami Yugi transforms them back into knights in order to defeat Dartz.
- There's a Magic: The Gathering card for everything: Form of the Dragon. The card has found a home in at least one successful combo deck (Enduring Ideal) as a powerful finisher.
- The Eventide set gave us Snakeform, which has the (temporary) obvious effect on the affected creature...which in the process loses all its special abilities for the duration and generally becomes much weaker as well. So you obviously shouldn't be using it on your creatures...
- The Marvel Comics character Moondragon, who despite her name was a human with psychic powers and Arrogant Kung Fu Guy, turned into a literal dragon to save the day, and was "killed" (the whole Energy Beings part) by Ultron, an evil robot that looks liked a Knight in Shining Armor.
- The Marvel Comics Fear Itself crossover ended with the Serpent, a humanoid Asgardian god whose name is more of a nickname/title due to his nature, abandoning his human form and all if its powers to turn into a giant snake that is easily sliced up by Thor for no apparent reason.
- The Incredibles comic arc, City of Incredibles has Shifty taking on the form of a dragon after having his shapeshifting powers enhanced by a superpower virus, only to be taken down by the family after they powered up on the same disease.
- In the video for the game Dragon Strike, as well as its tie-in Marvel comic, Teraptus turns into the giant dragon Darkfyre.
- In the Omega Men comic book, turning into a giant snake was Demonia's only real superpower. It did, however, make her quite tough in a fight.
- The Last Temptation graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper (yes, you read that right) has The Showman turn into a giant snake at the end, but he doesn't actually attack the hero. He just messes with his head a bit, and scares him away. If this story is meant to tie into Cooper's song "Welcome To My Nightmare", (which many of his fans believe it is) then it was an entirely successful head-mess, because by then, Stephen is a Serial Killer.
- Actual Pacifist Protagonist example: George in With Strings Attached discovers he can become a red dragon at a very opportune moment about two-thirds of the way through the book. Though it does make him think of his wife as... tasty.
Films -- Animated
- Used and averted in Disney's The Sword in the Stone. Merlin and Madam Mim have a wizard's duel. Madam Mim, who announces the rules at the start, breaks them in an attempt to beat Merlin, only to have Merlin go in exactly the opposite direction. He makes her sick, which pushes her to bed rest.
- In the original novel, she died of it on the spot.
- Also in the novel, Scaling Up is explicitly described as being the ordinary strategy of a wizards' duel:
- In the original novel, she died of it on the spot.
At the first gong Madam Mim immediately turned herself into a dragon. It was the accepted opening move...
- An unintentional example in the otherwise forgettable Bartok the Magnificent: the villainess is turned into a dragon after downing a potion.
- In The Return of Hanuman, Rahu and Ketu's henchmen turns into their true forms; which are dragon-like creatures, in order to snatch Rahu and Ketu's snake staff from Maruti. They failed because Maruti tricked them and eventually their necks gets twisted and tied up.
- Maleficent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
"Now shall you deal with ME, O Prince -- and all the powers of HELL!"
- In Disney's Aladdin, Jafar transforms into a humongous snake after gaining sorcerer powers from the Genie. He actually has Aladdin and company on the ropes for quite a while until Al tricks him into trying to gain even more power by using his last wish to become a Genie. In hindsight, Jafar should have stuck to the reptile form.
- Averted in The Return of Jafar, the Kingdom Hearts games, and in some of the storybooks however, where he is instead either fought as a human, or immediately soes straight to becoming a genie.
Films -- Live-Action
- Enchanted: Narissa pulls a Maleficent-crossed-with-King Kong when she turns into a dragon, kidnaps Robert, and climbs a skyscraper during a thunderstorm. Bad idea. The result is impressive, though.
- Beetlejuice. The teeth.
- The villainess in Lair of the White Worm turns into a snake shortly before the good guys kill her.
- In Dreamscape, villain Tommy gets the bright idea of turning into a snake-like monster, quickly resulting in his decapitation. By the President of the United States, no less. And not a President Action, either, but an old, overweight, out-of-shape President Target who hits him from behind with a shovel.
- At first, Thulsa Doom of the Conan the Barbarian movie seems to be doing this for no reason at all, but then subverts the expectations of the audience by fleeing through a hole in the wall made for a snake and getting to safety. (It's also in keeping with his character so far as he seems to have a thing for snakes: his religion worships them, he has a pet snake that Conan kills, he has snake arrows... no, really.) Thus, not lame.
- In The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the Emperor turns into a three-headed dragon, kidnapping Lin and managing to evade the heroes. He doesn't return to that shape, though. Later on, he shifts into another giant animal, and was similarly unbeatable. In fact, it's safe to say that had he not been goaded into a fair fight, he'd have succeeded.
- Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors turned into a serpentine creature to swallow a dreaming teen whole. He managed to gulp down her legs when Nancy appeared to haul her back out of his mouth. This scene could be considered foreshadowing, as we later learn that he absorbs/eats the souls of his victims to grow stronger.
- In The Silmarillion, Sauron at one point becomes a snake in an effort to defeat Huan, the Hound of Valinor. And no, it wasn't any more successful than any of the other forms he tried.
- The Lady of the Green Kirtle does this in The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair. Lewis was definitely being symbolic in this case, but it's still a dumb move, especially when confronted by a Stupid Good hero who Wouldn't Hit a Girl but has no problem cutting a giant serpent in half. Lame.
- Although the same villainess apparently used her serpent form to assassinate the queen of Narnia, some years previously, and had pulled it off without a hitch.
- The fact that the villainess killed the queen in that very form made it even easier for the hero to kill her back.
- In another incident in the same series, a protagonist is turned into a dragon for being greedy (again, symbolic). For some reason, a teenage boy treats this like it's a bad thing.
- To be fair, he was apparently an old-style gangly ugly dragon. And he had a metal ring digging painfully into his arm the entire time due to his increase in size.
- The various practical problems of dragonhood are thoroughly expounded on in his situation, and anyway, it had already been established that Eustace wasn't into that scene, "having read none of the right books."
- And yet he manages to make himself useful by fetching a tree big enough to replace the Dawn Treader's mast...
- Although the same villainess apparently used her serpent form to assassinate the queen of Narnia, some years previously, and had pulled it off without a hitch.
- In The Prydain Chronicles, when Evil Overlord Arawn, (based on the Celtic God of the Dead, who shares the name), master of terrible armies and incomprehensible Black Magic is finally confronted face to face, he promptly turns into a serpent and dies within a paragraph or two, managing only to kill the slightly less evil queen before falling to everyone's favorite assistant pig keeper. Lame.
- Justified as he was trying to get the hell out of his invaded castle.
- In The Death Gate Cycle, the ultimate evil beings are shape shifters that like to take the form of giant dragon-snakes, probably meant to resemble wingless Chinese dragons with a more snakelike head. In a final confrontation with the heroes one of them reverts into this shape, growing too large, and his head hits the roof of the room they're in, which is inscribed with death runes, thus killing him. Uber Lame.
- Somewhat justified by Fridge Logic, as the chamber the Final Battle took place in was filled with magical energy that was anathema to the serpent- he was likely dying by inches from the moment he entered it (which he only did out of desperation).
- At the climax of the first book in the series, the Evil Sorcerer antagonist pulls a more traditional version of this trope, turning himself into a giant snake, but he dies quickly because he'd already been fatally knifed in human form and the wound carried over.
- A protagonist turns into a dragon during The Siege in the sixth book. He kicks a lot of ass (mostly off-screen, but considering what he's facing it's still badass). It's only a partial success because he ends up missing in action. The seventh book reveal why: he was defeated and captured by a real dragon. And not the lame kind mentioned above, a "one person in the entire series has defeated one in battle" dragon.
- The universe of Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, best known from the Malazan Book of the Fallen books, features the Soletaken, who can change ("veer") from humanoid to beast form. Some Soletaken veer into draconean [sic] form, which is powerful, but somehow never seems to really work out in the story. Examples:
- Gardens of the Moon (book one): Silanah (a true dragon, not a shapeshifter) and four Tiste Andii Draconean Soletaken face off against Raest, the Jaghut Tyrant. He chases them off.
- Gardens of the Moon (book one): Anomander Rake veers into draconean form and flies over Darujhistan, but he doesn't accomplish anything, and sembles back to humanoid form to fight a Malazan demon.
- Memories of Ice (book three): Anomander Rake veers into draconean form to harry a horde of humans, which should be a trivial task. But one of them, Anaster, somehow poisons him, and Rake shies away. Then he takes humanoid form in order to kill some measly witches.
- Reaper's Gale (book seven): In the prologue, Scabandari Bloodeye, in draconean form, fights two Elder Gods and is killed.
- Reaper's Gale (book seven): Menandore, Sheltatha Lore and Sukul Ankhadu, in draconean form, face two measly humans (Quick Ben and Hedge). All three end up badly wounded and getting killed soon after.
- Reaper's Gale (book seven): In the ultimate anticlimax to this book, Silchas Ruin (Anomander Rake's brother) faces (again) a bunch of measly humans and gets his butt handed to him.
- Apparently the only time this ability was used successfully was in House of Chains when Osseric veered into a dragon to fly his son L'Oric out of the crumbling memory of Raraku.
- In the Dragon Knight series, James actively avoids turning into his dragon form during battle unless he needs to intimidate his enemies. While he is big and scary, he's also extremely vulnerable and unable to move as quickly or nimbly as a human foe.
- During a Shapeshifter Showdown in an early Discworld novel, at one point the wizard transforms into a snake. Granny Weatherwax transforms herself into a snake charmer's basket as a counter.
- In The Keys to The Kingdom, Mister Monday becomes a giant snake at one point.
- Doing this is the villain's primary goal in Magic Box, and a pretty well Justified Trope one too, given that dragons are extremely powerful in this book. It almost works, but a minor character with a gun realized that transformation needn't be a free action.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow book, City of Gold concludes with voodoo witch Madame Minuet fusing with her two new allies into a three-headed serpent to try and take down the young pirate.
- This plays into the final Animorphs book. Rachel has snuck aboard Tom's ship, hoping to defeat his rogue Yeerk army. She transforms into a Grizzly Bear and he sends his minions after her after they have each changed into equally fearsome and tough creatures. Rachel has just enough of an opportunity during the battle to check on Tom as he hangs back and transforms - into a very small but very poisonous snake. After Rachel has defeated each of the minions, she bites Tom in half. She demorphs, exhausted, and another minion, transformed into a polar bear, kills her with a single blow.
- Mister Monday transforms into a giant snake in the first book of the Keys to the Kingdom series, He ALMOST succeeds in killing Arthur, until Arthur gets Suzy to write on him with her fingers and a bottle of ink, causing him to be attacked by hundreds of text-destroying, acid-spitting Nithling-snakes.
- In The Dresden Files, Cassius's Denarian form is a snake-man. He manages to present a significant threat for a while, until two very angry Knights of the Cross and a wizard corner him and he gives up his coin to avoid being killed.
- ... upon which said wizard breaks Snakyboy's newly re-acquired kneecaps.
- In Curse of the Wolfgirl the Big Bad's dragon really can turn into a dragon and manages to put up a good fight and has Malveria's army on the ropes. Of course there remains the issue that the reason there are no true dragons left is because Malveria killed them all years ago, and turned them into dragon-scale outfits. It ends about as well as can be expected when Malveria turns up to take charge personally.
- Averted, as well as inverted, in the Harry Potter series. In a world where wizards can, with hard work, learn to transform into an animal that (arguably) fits their personality, Voldemort is: the last descendant of a man known for talking to snakes, an inheritor of this ability, member of a House whose symbol is a snake, commander of a giant serpent, owner of the pet snake Nagini, and wearer of a face repeatedly described as "snakelike". At no point does he turn into a snake. (Although events in Order of the Phoenix may confuse one into thinking so.) However, in Deathly Hallows, Nagini is at one point disguised as a human.
- The novel Brothers in Arms inverts this trope: the Dark Action Girl Kitiara is trying to kill a dragon and her only chance to do so is when he is in his vulnerable human form, rather than in his nigh-invincible natural shape.
- In the fourth Fablehaven book, Gavin, Kendra's "boyfriend," turns into the demonic dragon Navarog. He could have easily killed all the heroes then, but he decides to revert to his human form and capture Kendra, allowing the
gayfairylike dragon Raxtus to bite him in two.
- This was actually the end goal of the Mayor from Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which he'd spent a century working towards and built all sort of elaborate machinations around. He promptly gets taken out, of all things, by Buffy exploiting his love for his pseudo-adopted daughter. Oh, and a stockpile of well placed explosive, while a bunch of high schoolers mostly armed with crossbows and such fight off his minions.
- The Master briefly turns into a sort of gelatinous cobra thing in the Doctor Who Made for TV Movie, and proceeded to slither down a man's throat to possess him. Based on the Slash Fic that has resulted, it seems some people saw it as Fetish Fuel.
- On that note, in the "Kinda" serial of the 5th Doctor's reign, "The Mara" reveals its long-awaited true form to be a giant, laughable blow-up snake, which flails about for a few minutes before being defeated.
- Inverted in Stargate SG-1: The Goa'uld are actually snakes that turn into humanoids (sort of).
- More like Double Subverted or just Played With. Physically, Goa'uld are foot-long, water-dwelling worms with big fangs on a round mouth and a fin or frill below their heads - basically, snakes with Spikes of Villainy. However, they are also Puppeteer Parasites who take over the bodies of humans and other species. However, some Goa'uld ruled over humans as GodEmperors, most of whom used some kind of totem animal as an icon, and the Big Bad for the first several seasons happened to use a snake as his icon. So there's a snake inside a human, whose Mooks are ordered to dress up as snakes...
- In the final battle of the Ryuki arc of Kamen Rider Decade, Decade uses the Final Form Ride to force Ryuki into changing into a leaner version of his own contract monster, Dragredder. Ryuki as Dragredder tears the enemy's shark contract monster to pieces before they use Ryuki's finisher, with Decade taking Ryuki's part and Ryuki-as-Dragredder taking Dragredder's part, to temporarily blow up the enemy himself. Naturally what makes it work in this instance is that the good guys did it.
- Kamen Rider Kiva had his own heroic example one year earlier - Emperor Form: Flight Style turns him into a winged dragon with an impressive Breath Weapon. There are two accounts of how he got it - in the Non-Serial Movie, it's forced on him by the villain, and he's unable to control it until he gets a cooldown-hug from Otoya. He reverts to normal until the villain uses his own One-Winged Angel form. In the actual series, it's just an extension of Emperor Form that he unlocks late in the series and has no problem controlling.
- In Chinese Paladin 3, one of the heroines turns into a snake to get an extra edge in combat.
- A variant occurs in the Red Dwarf episode "Polymorph" when a shapeshifting Emotion Eater turns into a snake. It works because it wasn't for combat reasons, but to freak Lister out (as he is scared of snakes). It helps make him even more scared, until the beast assumes its true form and drains him of his fear.
- In the Robbie Williams music video "Radio" - Robbie becomes something like this at the very end.
Mythology and Religion
- Greek mythology example: the river god Achelous turns into a serpent to fight Hercules for the hand of a princess called Deianeira. He loses, and in one version Hercules rips off one of his horns, which was used by the nymphs to make the Horn of Plenty.
- A bizarre example in many ways, the traditional Chinese fairy tale Legend of the White Snake has Madame White Snake forcibly morphed into her original form when she is captured by the monk Fa Hai.
- In the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons A druid can take the Paragon path of coiled serpent, where you have the ability to scale up. what you do with this ability and whether you die or not is at the player's (or more realistically, the DM's) discretion.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade the Followers of Set, one of the 13 main clans, has an entire set of powers related to becoming a snake, called Serpentis. The 1st power lets you immobilize someone with your gaze, the 2nd grows a razor sharp tongue to use as a weapon, the 3rd gives you armored scales, and the 4th turns you into a giant cobra.
- Happens twice in Der Ring Des Nibelungen, to the same Leitmotif. In Das Rheingold, when Alberich is demonstrating the shapeshifting powers of the Tarnhelm, he first transforms into a dragon, and Loge pretends to be frightened. (Wagner's actual word, Riesenwurm, literally means "giant worm.") In Siegfried, Fafner has already transformed himself from a giant into a dragon. Since he has the Artifact of Doom, his fate is sealed.
- In the Kingdom Hearts games Maleficent turns into a dragon at times of danger. She promptly gets smacked down by a preteen kid wielding a giant key. Lame to the power of lame.
- The Dragonlord in Dragon Quest does this in the North American release (Dragon Warrior). It only partially works for him because unless you've procured Loto's/Erdrick's Sword, You do a little fewer HP damage to him each turn, making the fight take a long time. It's still quite possible to defeat him with the Flame Sword, and possible in theory with the weaker buyable weapons.
- Same goes for the Lord of the Dragovians from Dragon Quest VIII.
- Eye of the Beholder 2 has a seemingly regular wizard turn out to be a Dragon. Of course, the dragon is still vulnerable to the attack+ side-step maneuver.
- The World Ends With You: The Final Boss first fights you as human. This is probably the hardest fight you're required to win in the game. Then the turns into a snake. This is very easy. Then he turns into dragon, which is at least something of a challenge.
- No pity for Luna? Especially after she's forced into this due to the FMian Ophiuchus hijacking her? Thankfully, Geo beats her back to normal and Gemini slaughters the smug snake, but still...
- On a side note, why wasn't Luna's hair as Queen Ophiuca/Ophiuchus Queen ued as a weapon? It was VISIBLY ROTATING!
- The MacGuffin in Tomb Raider 2 was a magical dagger that would turn those who stabbed themselves through the heart with it into a dragon. Having said dagger removed would kill them. In the intro, the ancient emperor who originally owned the dagger is killed when he gets too close to a wounded monk, while the Big Bad of the game is killed when Lara shoots him a bunch of times, then pulls out the dagger.
- King's Quest V. The showdown with Mordack involves him shapeshifting into various forms, which Graham must counter with some spells he learnt very conveniently about five minutes earlier. One of which is a dragon (defeated by turning into a rabbit, too nimble for the dragon to hit). Straight after, it's a snake (obviously countered by a mongoose).
- Simon the Sorcerer. At one point, you partake in a "wizard's duel" (read: magical rock-paper-scissors) with a witch. Upon winning three rounds, the witch transforms into a dragon (breaking the rule she set at the start). This is completely innefective, of course - you just transform into a mouse and escape through the small mousehole in the wall.
- Draconis and Abazigal from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal revert to their true forms -- adult dragons -- upon being whacked sufficiently while in human form. While you still kill them, the 'partial success' part is because Draconis' dragon form is a challenge (or at least a bloody annoyance) and is widely considered to be an actually difficult boss. Abazigal, however... Isn't.
- After being thrashed sufficiently by Isaac's team in Golden Sun, antagonists Saturos and Menardi transform into a single two-headed dragon. While the Fusion Dragon is a more powerful boss than either opponent separately, team Isaac still wins. In the sequel, the final boss is actually another fused dragon comprised of three of the heroes' parents.
- The Flame Dragons in TLA were Baleful Polymorphed Agatio and Karst, as the Wise One wanted to keep them from being the ones to restore Alchemy. The Wise One was successful. Agatio and Karst were not.
- In all these cases, the dragon shape really is far more powerful (especially in the case of the Doom Dragon), but results in a nasty case of Antagonist RROD when it wears off. A line of Saturos's before his transformation suggests he knew about this which would explain why he and Menardi were Driven to Suicide after their defeat as the Fusion Dragon. In TLA, everyone who transformed was explicitly stated afterwards to be too weak to withstand Mars Lighthouse's environmental hazards which is how Agatio and Karst died. The heroes' parents were saved by Deus Ex Machina.
- Avaritia, the leader of the Black Knights in 11eyes, stays on the sidelines for most of the game. Come the final fight, he transforms into a gigantic black dragon. Kukuri and Shiori face him down, and, though it takes a hell of a lot of power from Shiori, they just barely end up victorious.
- In a heroic version, Aelia of Valkyrie Profile turns into a dragon briefly during her Finishing Move to fire a giant beam at enemies. It only partially works because it's a bit weaker than most anyone else's finishing move, and is even less useful when you consider the one hit does little to help the Combo Meter.
- In Breath of Fire 4, Fou-lu transforms in dragon twice: one extremely bulky and powerful and other latter slimmer but who could turn the whole party HP to one - and he would ALWAYS use on the FIRST turn. Made even harder because that was a Sequential Boss, since you spend most of your healing resources on the first dragon. That One Boss for many indeed.
- One of the minor villains in Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura is Kraka-Tur, a human who, tired of being bullied for his weakness, killed Arcanum's last dragon by feeding him poison and used his blood in a magic ritual which turned him into a dragon, a crime for which he was banished. While the transformation gives him impressive strength and fighting prowess, he still has the personality of a coward.
- The top-tier transmutation spell in Dungeon Crawl is Dragon Form which turns the player into a dragon. Whether or not it helps depends on the player's skill. On the one hand, the player is rendered vulnerable to cold and loses the benefits of any magical items other than rings. But the player is also a dragon, and, capable of breathing fire on enemies and, with sufficient skill in unarmed combat, tearing even other dragons to shreds in hand-to-claw combat.
- Jafar does this as the Final Boss of every Aladdin Licensed Game, including Aladdin Virgin Games (where the snake really is his final form) and Aladdin Capcom.
- This is the main character's signature ability in the Breath of Fire series. He usually starts out as a human from a Lost Tribe that once had the power, and he gains the ability to turn into different forms throughout each game.
- The Manaketes in Fire Emblem. They can pretty much take out anything in dragon form, even at level one.
- In later Dragon Quest games, the Be Dragon spell, or Puff as it is now known, appears a handful of times. It allows the user to transform into a fire-breathing dragon for a few turns. Very effective, especially in Dragon Quest III where it was introduced; in that game it's the only reliable way to kill multiple Liquid Metal Slimes in a single battle.
- In Earthbound, the dragonite item turns one character into a dragon and damages every enemy for a ton of damage.
- One of Liu Kang's finishers in the Mortal Kombat series is to turn into a dragon and bite the opponent in two.
- In Dragon Age, Flemeth turns into a dragon and is one of the hardest fights in the game.
- She does it again in Dragon Age II, although that time she helps the player.
- Mutare, the protagonist of the Heroes of Might and Magic III: Armageddon's Blade Dragon Blood campaign.
- In Mystaria: The Realms of Lore, one character, Ashe, can change into a dragon at will. While he doesn't have quite the variety of abilities as a dragon as he does while human, he's so ridiculously powerful as a dragon that there's almost literally no reason not to be a dragon at all times.
- In Elder Scrolls lore, the Ka Po'Tun, a race of humanoid tigers, ultimately desire to become dragons. Their emperor, Tosh Raka the tiger-dragon, is the first and only one to succeed.
- In Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, this is Casey Lynch's powered-up form.
- As the quote at the top of the page indicates, the Evil Overlord List advises against this.
- In an episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold, Morgan LaFey turns into a dragon with obvious results.
- Malchior in Teen Titans, though he didn't so much transform into a dragon as he was transformed back to his real form. It still doesn't help him much.
- Done again when Beast Boy gets an Evil Twin. It transforms into a cobra, just to show it's evil by using a form Beast Boy never would.
- The classic Betty Boop cartoon "Snow White" ends with the Evil Queen turning into a dragon after her magic mirror blows up, and promptly being taken down by Betty, Koko the Clown and Bimbo the Dog. Considering that the highlight of the cartoon involves Koko being turned into a ghost-like creature singing "St. James Infirmary Blues" with the voice of Cab Calloway, this can be seen as the least bizarre moment in this cartoon.
- The Evilutionary Biologist Grimsby Roylott turns himself into a giant snake-creature in order to slip into buildings through the air vents in the Sherlock Holmes in The Twenty Second Century episode "Scales of Justice" (Holmes aficionados will recognise this plot as being just barely Suggested By "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"). It also helps in his fight with Holmes, but not as much as he'd hoped.
- Danny Phantom: While the second episode that showed a dragon (transformable via a magic pendent) played this trope straight, the second, more evil one, was much, much harder for the hero to defeat. In fact, his abused little sister was the one who ended it, but not before he created some serious damage.
- The Batman Beyond episode "Splicers" has the villains mix animal DNA with their own. While the lead villain uses DNA from several different animals, he winds up as basically an eight-foot-tall snake (at least until Terry overloads him with injectors and he turns into a monster). He puts up a fairly decent fight against Batman (certainly better than he would have as a human), but still loses in the end.
- In WITCH, Cedric's snake-man form is initially very effective; however, as the heroines become increasingly proficient in using their powers (and in battle in general]] he's increasingly left in the dust.
- Chase Young from Xiaolin Showdown often turns into an anthromorphic lizard when the going gets tough.
- In the climax of TMNT: The Lost Episodes, the True Shredder demon transforms into a dragon to gain an advantage over the Turtles... At least, until the Turtles also transform into dragons.
- In Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, Jana and Jason combine their starfire crystals to turn into a two-headed dragon.
- Samurai Jack: In Scotsman Saves Jack, the burly Scotsman tries to help an amnesiac Jack by retrieving his lost memories from a trio of sirens who hypnotize unlucky travelers. In the final battle, they combine into a fiery, three headed snake like creature and almost defeat the Scotsman before Jack finally remembers who he is and beheads (threeheads) the creature.
- Dexter's Laboratory: One of the very few examples where it's a good character doing this. When DeDe was a baby she gave birth to an imaginary world called Koosland, with Peepers as her first creation, a cynical rabbit like creature who gave away so much happiness in the land that he left none for himself. One day, an evil animesque alien kidnapped him to use as an energy source. In the end foiled by the efforts of Dexter and DeDe's other imaginary friend, Koosy, the alien warlord meets his demise by being stomped by Peepers, who mutated himself in a flesh-colored, evil-looking dragon.
- Transmetal II Megatron. Considering all the bad guys who this doesn't work for, it seems ironic that he grows to hate his scaled up form despite it being responsible for his success.
- In the series finale of Codename: Kids Next Door, Father transforms into a giant, black dragon. Still gets knocked into a pit, but unlike most examples, doesn't die.