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In many genres, we expect the story to be told from a specific Point of View, with a certain character role that is expected to be The Protagonist. Some writers like to mix it up, though, and tell their story from a different and unexpected point of view, and show the events from somebody else's perspective, who does not have the central role in the story. That's the Supporting Protagonist: someone who would normally be a secondary character by conventions of the genre is actually the main character. This is often done to have another Point of View to a story, so we can see it from a perspective other than what's typical. When done wrong however, it could easily lead to the character becoming the Non-Action Guy.
In many cases, this means choosing someone other than The Hero to be the protagonist (in which case, The Hero may be a Supporting Leader). In some cases, the Supporting Protagonist is The Hero, but is not The Chosen One. In a mystery, it means choosing someone other than the detective. In a Romance Novel, it means choosing someone other than the damsel. In Historical Fiction, it means choosing someone other than the important historical figure.
Common in Japanese works with a supernatural touch (Light Novels, Fish Out of Water scenarios, etc.) in order to have somebody to spout exposition to. In Real Time Strategy games, this usually happens in conjunction with Non-Entity General.
Also common in works where the "real" star is female, because having the female also be the PoV character is unmarketable or something. A sister trope to A Day in the Limelight (just part of the story doesn't center around the expected protagonist) and The Ishmael (the character is not the protagonist at all, but is the narrator of the story and Audience Surrogate, justifying their perspective).
Anime & Manga
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam pulls a bit of zigzagging with this trope. While Tobia Arronax is the POV character, it is Kincaido Nau (alias Seabook Arno) who is the main pilot of the titular Humongous Mecha and is responsible for most of the victories of the Crossbone Vanguard. However, during the final parts of the story, Tobia comes into his own following a string of moments of badassery, finally gets his own Gundam, and winds up saving the world; while Kincaido is put into the role of the Supporting Leader. In the end, Kincaido retires, Passing the Torch to Tobia, who goes on to become a fully-fledged main character in all of the sequels.
- Athrun Zala fills this role in Gundam Seed Destiny, being The Mentor to Decoy Protagonist Shinn, and following the midseason perspective switch, The Lancer to Kira. The story's told from his point of view for most of the series--and even more so in the compilation movies--and its his interactions with the other two that define the show.
- Saji Crossroad, during the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, is either this or The Ishmael. The heroes are, of course, Celestial Being. Saji also pilots the support machine for the eponymous mobile suit which acts as the catalyst.
- Two well-known Tsundere heroines voiced by Rie Kugimiya, namely Shakugan no Shanas Shana and Zero no Tsukaimas Louise.
- Simon from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, at least for the first arc. Then Kamina dies.
- Eiji Shigure in Gravion. Though the story is mostly told through his viewpoint, he's only the leg of the eponymous Combining Mecha.
- A variation in Soul Eater. Despite being the eponymous character, Soul is actually The Lancer, and the story's protagonist role is taken up mostly by Maka, although Soul is still consistently in-focus.
- The Power Trio of Arika, Nina and Erstin aren't the real protagonists of the Mai-Otome manga - it's Mashiro's twin brother.
- In Rainbow, Mario is the main character despite Sakuragi being The Hero and Big Good. One could also say that Sakuragi is the main character at first until he dies, and the role then goes to Mario.
- In Ergo Proxy, Re-l Mayer is the protagonist for the first two episodes, after which the story will shift back and forth between her and Vincent Law, The Hero and eponymous character.
- Gen Urobuchi has outright stated that, while the series has her name in the title, Madoka is actually meant to be a supporting character, and the true protagonist is Sayaka. This is a lie. The true heroine is Homura.
- In Texhnolyze, while the story is focused on Ichise, Onishi and Shinji have greater impact on the story.
- Nanoha from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is one of these, when you think about it. All four of the seasons so far have been focused on the characters she's affecting herself - Fate in the first season, the Wolkenritter/Hayate in A's, the Forwards and Vivio in Striker S and Tohma and Lili in Force - leaving her development somewhat more subdued. And Vi Vid has her almost exclusively in the mentor role.
- Tsukune Aono from Rosario to Vampire is the viewpoint character and male lead, but as a Non-Action Guy early on he generally relied on his friends for protection, especially Inner Moka. Even after he Took a Level In Badass, he remained a Technical Pacifist, though he's become much more of a Hero Protagonist in recent chapters.
- Sakuragi from Slam Dunk. He is definitely the main character of the story, with his development becoming more and more important to the plot. However, Rukawa and Akagi fit the hero mold better, as the Team Ace and Captain respectively. They are often the ones who carry the team.
- While Keiichi is undeniably The Hero of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Rika is the person who experiences the Groundhog Day Loop, and the person trying to figure out why she is always killed in the end of every arc. Keiichi's just the one who is actively trying to do so, and is unaware of the actual protagonist's plight. Usually.
- Jun from Rozen Maiden is this to Shinku; he's the master of Shinku (though she treats him like a servant), Hinaichigo (indirectly) and Suiseiseki and in the manga, eventually Souseiseki as well, but he himself is a Non-Action Guy most of the time, though he can provide useful support from the sidelines. Justified, since he's a human child and an unathletic Hikikomori, and both the heroes and the antagonists are superpowered dolls.
- Spice and Wolf is a story about Holo as experienced by Lawrence. She provides the comedy and drama, and Lawrence provides the economics and hugs.
- Koyomi Araragi from Bakemonogatari is the main character and plays a key role in the arcs, but it's often the girls themselves who are the focus and have to solve the problems themselves in the end.
- Code Geass tends to follow this trope more often than not. Lelouch, who the show focuses on, is really more of a well-meaning Anti-Hero at his best and a Villain Protagonist at his absolute worst. However, the character you would have expected to be the "standard hero" was Suzaku, the Supporting Protagonist. However, this is played with thanks to the Grey and Gray Morality of the setting (Lelouch can appear either very heroic or outright villainous on occasion, while Suzaku supports the oppressive and outright villainous empire, and takes a running leap off the slippery slope more than once). In the Code Geass manga, Lelouch is still the protagonist, while Suzaku of the Counterattack features Suzaku in his turn as the main character. Nightmare of Nunnally, meanwhile, gives the mantle to Nunnally, while still spending a lot of time focusing on... Lelouch and Suzaku.
- More importantly, the story is narrated by C.C..
- Zenkichi from Medaka Box. He's the primary viewpoint character and male lead, but it's Medaka who acts as The Hero, and converts previous antagonists to allies. He becomes more and more important to the plot, and is also her Morality Chain.
- Lucy of Fairy Tail. Of the main cast members, Natsu is definitely The Hero: he's got the personality, is the most likely to take action, and is the one most likely to fight the main villain of the arc (the exception are either when another character has a closer association with the villain, or Natsu is so outclassed only the strongest members of his guild can take him). However, Lucy is the one that plot follows the most, meaning she is either the protagonist or at least co-protagonist.
- Lucy is a writer, and it's hinted a few times that the novel she's working on is about Fairy Tail. So it's likely that Fairy Tail is her story...about Natsu.
- Everybody in Sonic X Season 3, plays this towards Cosmo the Seedrian. As it turns out in the second-to last episode, she was destined to die from birth.
- In Digimon Adventure 02, Takeru has a far greater plot-significance than Daisuke, is far more interesting, more familiar, and is the narrator, yet the series keeps thrusting Daisuke at the viewer.
- Kagome of Inuyasha is actually the main character, and view point character, of the series. Despite that, the plot focuses more on Inuyasha.
- The Big Bad specifically notes early on, though, that it's Kagome, not Inuyasha, that he has reason to fear.
- Tag and Bink are Dead and Tag and Bink Live, short comics that follow the adventures of two bumbling rebels during the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. They also turn out to be Jedi Padawans during the events of the prequels.
- Jed from the Star Raiders graphic novel. He starts off as one of the three main characters, but halfway through the story he's sidelined into irrelevancy.
- Art Spiegelman (or at least his Author Avatar) in Maus as the story follows him and his attempt to record his father's experience throughout the Holocaust. However, the story is clearly about his father Vladek and his Holocaust experience.
- The Hidden Fortress focused on Those Two Guys.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
- Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China thinks he's the Action Hero, but he's really the Plucky Comic Relief while his companions do all the real work. Word of God says this is basically the point of the movie. (At the very end, he does finally help out and even kills the Big Bad.)
- Road to Perdition: Michael Jr.
- The Shawshank Redemption: Andy's story drives the action, but it's Red's evolution as a person that turns out to be the point of it all, making him the "main" character.
- Cars 2 has Lightning McQueen, protagonist of the first, falling into this as his buddy Mater becomes the center of a espionage plot and thus the focus of the movie.
- While Holly Golightly is definitely the main character of Breakfast at Tiffany's, her love interest Paul Varjak is the protagonist.
- The eponymous 13th Warrior.
- Sherlock Holmes's: Watson may be the most famous case of this in history.
- Although it's averted in a few stories where Holmes himself narrates when Watson is unavailable.
- Parker in Solar Pons. Being a pastiche of Watson, this is all too natural.
- Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- By the end of the Midnighters trilogy, the protagonist role has shifted largely to Dess, the Five-Man Band's resident Smart Guy. Since the one with The Hero power is Jessica, Dess could also be The Ishmael.
- The Trail of Cthulhu is a novel that is made up of 5 interlocking stories. Each story has its own protagonist, but Professor Shrewsbury is the hero of the main narrative.
- Nick Carraway may be the narrator, but The Great Gatsby is really all about Jay Gatsby.
- Beth from the children's book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and its sequels
- Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Most people agree that the true hero of the story is her father, Atticus.
- Bryan starts out as one of these in the teen series DRAMA!, but by the third book he's become the focus of the story. This is lampshaded repeatedly.
- The protagonist of Aimee by Mary Beth Miller is not the eponymous Aimee, in fact the protagonist is not given a name until the last few pages It's Zoe. She is the girl who was accused of killing Aimee (when in fact Aimee killed herself). The book is all about the protagonist trying to detach herself from the shadow of Aimee's death.
- Vin from Mistborn- she's the main POV character, but the story itself centers more on her mentor Kelsier. Subverted when Kelsier is killed near the end of the first book, after which Vin shoulders the role of both protagonist and heroine for the remainder of the trilogy.
- At the end of Monstrous Regiment, Polly realises that Joan-of-Arc-equivalent Wazzer is the one everyone will really remember.
- The Dickens novel Our Mutual Friend is presented partly through the viewpoint of Mortimer Lightwood. As the family's lawyer Lightwood has a linking position between the hero and heroine, and is also connected to Eugene Wrayburn, but he has little direct impact on the action until fairly late in the story. In the 1990s BBC adaptation, he also functioned as the narrator.
- In SkyClan's Destiny, one of the novels in Warrior Cats, Leafstar is the perspective character, however Stick is the main character and the story centers around his struggles with the evil Dodge.
- While The Tigers Wife is framed as a story about a doctor delivering medicine to an orphanage at the same time as she's trying to find out some facts about her grandfather's death, the grandfather is really the central figure of the novel.
- In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Charles Wallace goes Within various people from the past, so he essentially witnesses their stories, and only is it explicit that he's even influencing their action. We assume he is, because that's the point of the story, but his action is reduced. Then, when Charles finally reaches 1863, he is Within Matthew, a paralyzed young man in New England... who is having a vision of where the real action is taking place: Vespugia, South America! There is the big fight that the entire book has actually been building up to.
- Wilfred in Ivanhoe. The true protagonist of the book is Rebecca.
- Mark Hollander, in Ace Lightning.
- Sherlock is told from the point of view of John Watson, at least in the beginning.
- Merlin plays with this trope, as it is Merlin's story, and he really does seem to be the Chosen One, but once you step back and look at what he's been chosen for... His entire purpose in life, his reason for existing at all in the threads of Destiny is to protect Arthur. Arthur's destiny is to be the greatest king Albion has ever known. Who's the Chosen One now?
- The finale of Ashes to Ashes reveals that both Sam Tyler and Alex Drake are supporting protagonists for Gene Hunt.
- While Power Rangers always has the Red Ranger be The Hero, sometimes they're not the one with the biggest connection to the overall plot:
- In Power Rangers SPD, Jack is the Red Ranger, but the story is more about the blue ranger, Sky, dealing with his issues and evolving into a worthy team leader.
- Dillon is one of the main focuses of Power Rangers RPM, even though he's the Black Ranger, as he's an amnesiac searching for his identity and his missing sister (now The Dragon). A case can also be made that Mission Control Dr. K is the actual main character, as she created the Big Bad and gets the most Character Development throughout the season.
- Despite being the title character of Castle, Richard Castle is the Supporting Protagonist to Kate Beckett. There's even the Sherlock Holmes comparison: she's a brilliant detective while he follows her about and writes stories about their adventures. Their relationship is central to the show, Castle helps mellows out the emotionally-distant Beckett, and there's oodles of Unresolved Sexual Tension. While the show may take his perspective on events and provides a lot of focus on his family life, the main overarching arc of the series surrounds Beckett's mother's murder, and he's clearly the Plucky Comic Relief Love Interest to her Broken Bird Hardboiled Detective.
- Ultraman Nexus focuses on the life of Komon Kazuki, a member of the Night Raider team. However, he does not transform into the eponymous hero, making him this trope. But he does become Ultraman in the series' finale and thus, ditches this role.
- Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.
- In Dragon Quest V, unlike in IV and VI, the protagonist cannot equip the Zenithian Equipment; it's actually his son.
- Monkey in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The narrative actually revolves around Trip as Monkey supports Trip on her journey home and her quest for revenge of the one responsible for the annihilation of her village. It's Trip that kills the main antagonist, Pyramid.
- Enslaved is loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West, in which this still holds true; ostensibly, it's about a priest named Tripitaka who is transporting religious writings westward. In practice, it's about Sun Wukong the Monkey King and all the awesome shit he does while he's forced to help Tripitaka on his journey.
- Locke for most of the World of Balance in Final Fantasy VI, while the story revolves around Terra, Locke is in the hero role. This changes when Celes becomes the acting protagonist in the World of Ruin. She is less of a Supporting Protagonist however until the ending.
- Allegretto of Eternal Sonata, in the same vein as Vaan of Final Fantasy XII, is most definitely this to not one, but two possible protagonists - Polka, a girl from a remote village who is actually the Messianic Archetype catalyst for the Groundhog Day Loop that the world is trapped in, and Chopin, who claims that everything and everyone around him is merely one of his dreams. The latter's appearance in their world is actually destined to end the loop of Polka repeatedly dying/reliving the same seven years over and over. Other than being the player avatar (and even then, that role is switched between him, Polka, and Beat) and acting as Polka's love interest, Allegretto doesn't even do much in the main story itself.
- Tidus in Final Fantasy X is an interesting case. The whole point of the game, initially, is that the characters are playing supporting roles in Yuna's quest. They, including Tidus, are merely her guardians to protect her, while she is destined to actually defeat the Big Bad. However, Tidus is the game's narrator, and often points out how, "This is my story." Indeed, the very first line of the game is, "Listen to my story." We eventually learn that Yuna defeating the Big Bad would get her killed while it would just come back later, and it's Tidus's destiny to truly kill the thing. Thus, Tidus and Yuna swap being The Hero and Supporting Protagonist multiple times throughout the game: starting with Tidus as the hero, then switching to Yuna, then back to Tidus, and finally ending with Yuna.
- Final Fantasy XI has the player character often playing second fiddle to a (usually female) hero NPC in most of its storylines, doing the heavy lifting while the heroines magically appear wherever you go and have most of the interactions with other characters that the player character would have in most single player games.
- Vaan of Final Fantasy XII is just The Ishmael, it's Ashe that the story centers around. This is due to the Creative Differences of the game that lead to it being stuck in Development Hell--Ashe's bodyguard Basch was intended to be The Hero, but Vagrant Story, which starred a similarly older and burly hero, didn't sell well. So the game was retooled with Ashe as the story's focus and Vaan was moved to the spotlight because it was decided a more typical Bishonen hero would go over better.
- Vaan did get promoted to clear protagonist in the sequel, Revenant Wings.
- Starcraft is basically about Arcturus Mengsk, Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, Tassadar, and Zeratul, whereas the PC is just some generic, nameless "magistrate", "cerebrate", or Protoss "executor". Word of God has retconned that the Executor of Episode III was Artanis, and presumably the Executor of Ep IV was him or his student Selendis (who is Executor in Starcraft II). The other player characters get fleeting references in the expanded universe to confirm that in the current canon they still exist, but their roles are downplayed because, well, they were always little more than viewpoints for the player to see the characters.
- World in Conflict has a named PC, Lt. Parker, but the real protagonist of the 2/3 of the game is Capt. Bannon (who receives ALL of the Character Development in the game), while the remaining one third focuses on Webb and Col. Sawyer. Same goes for Lt. Romanov from the Expansion Pack, who plays a secondary role to Capt. Malashenko and their common superiors.
- Subverted and played straight in Brutal Legend. Eddie acts like he's one of these and purposely avoids the spotlight, but everyone else knows he's responsible for their success and thank him appropriately.
- The plot of the Myst series revolves around Atrus and his family - you, being a Featureless Protagonist, are pretty much only there to help Atrus get around by solving all the puzzles.
- The main character in the Neverwinter Nights plague campaign is Aribeth, the player is just the lackey that got sent to do stuff for the political powers he sided with.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is not about Soap or Jackson, but much rather Cpt. Price, Gaz, Sgt. Griggs, and strangely enough, Zakhaev.
- It happens a lot when the player is a Heroic Mime with a strong supporting cast, no matter the genre.
- For the same reason, GLaDOS is the star of Portal, though Chell is the protagonist. You could go the whole game - perhaps even both games - without ever learning her name, or any other reliable fact about her.
- Mega Man X himself. Zero's the one with the most drawn-out, and important, storylines in the series, which is what Keiji Inafune, his creator, originally intended the series to be.
- Laura's scenario in Unlimited Saga is told through the eyes of Henri, a displaced Prince who meets her while running from assassins.
- Subverted with Lloyd in Tales of Symphonia. Similar to Final Fantasy X, it seems the story is more focused on the young girl on a pilgrimage and whom Lloyd is just friends with. Then comes the Tower of Salvation.
- Tales of Legendia has character quest chapters, which switch focuses on every characters in the party. Long story short, Senel is demoted to this between the main quest and the very late portion of the game.
- Subverted in Shadow Hearts: From The New World. Shania appears to be the more important character, with Johnny Garland just tagging along... then it becomes clear who, exactly, Lady is, and It's Personal.
- The protagonists in the Ar tonelico series are generally secondary to the Reyvateils, especially Croix in Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. So much so that he didn't even appear in the Japanese cover art for 2!
- Nintendo-owned developer Intelligent Systems did this in some of the few games they made with western players in mind.
- In the original Battle Clash, the player controls the gunner of a giant robot known as a "Standing Tank". The actual protagonist is the robot's pilot, who talks to the player directly before each battle. In the sequel, Metal Combat, there's a cheat code that allows the player to have the pilot address them by name.
- In the original Advance Wars, the player takes control of an unseen military strategist who is assisted by a Commanding Officer (C.O.) in each battle. This was dropped in the sequels.
- In Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (a.k.a. the first game in the series to get an overseas release), the player takes control of a faceless tactician who assist the real protagonists, giving the protagonists an excuse to address the player in second-person. This is the only Fire Emblem game that does this.
- Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2 is still considered the main protagonist, even though the player controls Raiden for the majority of the game.
- Interestingly, the character you make in White Knight Chronicles is almost a non-entity: although you can use any weapon, armor and magic, unlike any other character in the game, your character is entirely incidental to the plot and can, in fact, be left out entirely. The real hero of the story is Leonard.
- While the plot of Super Paper Mario certainly incorporates Mario, Peach, Bowser, and Luigi, the main story focuses on the romance of Blumiere and Timpani and in the end they're the ones who save the Multiverse.
- In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the game is really about Bowser forced to become a hero and saving the Mushroom Kingdom while Mario and Luigi secretly help him on the (in)side and saving him due to Bowser being both The Chew Toy and Too Dumb to Live.
- A non-RPG Mario example would be in Super Mario Galaxy, where Mario is just there to fly through space as an attempt to save Peach again from Bowser, who wants to take over the galaxy, but this is actually just a subplot. The game is really about a young woman's Tear Jerker tale of her constant wandering through the cosmos with several little star-people as her only friends while lamenting about the loss of her family since her departure.
- The Lord of the Rings Online has its central epic quest line, in which you follow along with the characters in the story and run errands for them. So far, every epic "Book" ends with your watching NPCs finish the fight.
- Done rather annoyingly in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Most of the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Expy chain in uldum involves the character grabbing hold of a major Idiot Ball, and getting saved by Harrison over and over again, while he does the impressive feats, you're either cowering in fear or doing his grunt work
- This is actually quite common in World of Warcraft. While the player character does his fair share of heroics, most of the major story arcs have another character with a more important role in the story (probably due to the issues having a faceless character who could be of any race from either faction as a major character would cause). For example, Tirion Fordring is the true protagonist of Wrath of the Lich King. The player character is his Lancer.
- In Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories, Adell is clearly the protagonist, but Rozalin is the one who gets all the character development and plot twists, and she is ultimately the one who vanquishes Zenon.
- Also, in Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice, Almaz may play this role for the actual protagonist, Mao. Although, unlike Disgaea 2, where it's obvious, Almaz and Mao's roles may largely depend on interpretation.
- The Rookie in Halo 3: ODST only begins to affect the story in the last two levels: the rest of the game is spent reliving the experiences of the rest of the squad in the six hours the Rookie was unconscious.
- Lars in Tekken 6. He may command an entire army, fight waves of soldiers bare-handed and deflect missiles with his wrists, but the Mishima family are the ones doing all the important stuff while Lars runs around punching folks.
- The Faceless Protagonist of The PK Girl is a Supporting Protagonist to Laurie in the main plot. Laurie is the focal character, as the Living MacGuffin and the target of the antagonist, and her attempts to get free of ROSA's clutches drive the plot; the PC's just the guy who does the fighting, heavy lifting and rescue work, and otherwise he's along for the ride. If he's chasing any girl besides Laurie (who is romanced through the main plot), he becomes the protagonist of his own Romance Sidequest, but only one Romance Sidequest ties back into the main story in any way after it starts off (Katryn's).
- Ryu of the Street Fighter series. While he is the main character, aside from the original and the Street Fighter Alpha series, his role to the story tends to be minimal as he is often a Living MacGuffin at most. Guile was the focus of Street Fighter II due to his motives against Bison, while Abel's mysterious origins serve to be the focal point of Street Fighter IV. Street Fighter III even takes Ryu out of the protagonist role entirely replacing him with Alex. Even within the series as a whole, most of the heroics come from Chun-Li while Ryu is focused on finding strong opponents.
- Tact Mayers of Galaxy Angel. Although he's the captain of the Elsior which is a capital ship all the work is done by the angels.
- Leo from Zone of the Enders has a personal journey, but the focus moves more towards the larger conflict and he's ultimately an insect to the villain. He gets the focus on his journey but the true hero is already dead at game start and his journey is just a small part of the much larger story he was sucked into.
- One can get this impression from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. While other titles in the series focus on Link-- who, of course, plays the hero-- Spirit Tracks seems to focus more on the character development of Princess Zelda. Appropriate since, barring that that one time, this is the first time that she's playable..
- The various Featureless Protagonist player characters of Ace Combat have been this ever since the series steered away from Excuse Plots (around the time of Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere). Nowhere is this more obvious than in Ace Combat Zero, where the entire game is told from the perspective of the enemy aces you shot down and your ex-Wing Man whom you also shoot down. The Narrator even admits in the end that despite telling the whole story, he still has no idea just what kind of person the Demon Lord of the Round Table was.
- Most romantic visual novels are more about the romanceable characters (and one 'true path' character in particular) than they are about the player character. In the Bishoujo setup, the male lead is often either a nonentity, a loser, or a jerk, and one of the female leads is the real hero. This tends to carry over into their anime adaptations. Fate/stay night is both a literal and figurative example: in the Fate route, Shirou is no match for Saber in combat, and instead supports her with projection and, later, mana. Emotionally, it's his job to break through her stoic exterior and make her happy. Either way, Saber ends up the primary focus, and the driving force of that route.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The point of view that the player takes is actually June/Akane of 9 years ago, seeing things through Junpei's eyes. This is a very important plot device and technically makes her the protagonist. Junpei still fills the conventional role of the hero though and once their connection is split at the very end, the perspective of the remaining story alternates between the both of them.
- In Loren the Amazon Princess, Soren or Eleanor (whichever character you pick) fills this role. The titular Princess is The Chosen One and the game is about her quest, while The Hero is along as Loren's personal slave and sidekick.
- The webcomic Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is ostensibly about the unnamed zombie narrator, but the real hero figure is Hanna.
- The Exiles of Homestuck have this going for them in their Five-Man Band. WV, the first Exile seen, is the protagonist of the Exiles and gets the most screentime, but in terms of role in the story, he is surpassed by PM, the one who did more things that were directly relevant to the story.
- Jackknife from Superjail definitely qualifies-he's one of 4 inmates that are seen from one episode to the next. (the other 2 being the gay couple and Gary and Bird).
- The original premise for Avatar: The Last Airbender had Sokka playing this role towards Aang. This did not make the final cut though.
- Carmen Sandiego from Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? may be the Villain Protagonist, but we see the series through Ivy and her brother.
- Kai from Ninjago is the main character yet he is not The Hero nor is he The Green Ninja.