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A comedic version of the Recurring Boss, the Goldfish Poop Gang are characters who keep popping up, requiring you to fight them multiple times through the game. They quickly devolve from being actual threats to pesky nuisances, something the party may comment on.
The party (and developers) may take a shine to them, and you won't actually be allowed to kill them off in the end.
The trope name comes from the Japanese idiomatic phrase kingyo no fun, which literally means "goldfish crap" but idiomatically means a sycophant or hanger-on. That's because goldfish poop has a tendency to stick to the goldfish. So it's vaguely loathsome stuff that follows the fish around, just like a Goldfish Poop Gang.
May overlap with recurring Quirky Miniboss Squads if they're not treated seriously. Frequently overlaps with being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain or Harmless Villain. May also fill the shoes of the Unknown Rival, explaining why they keep coming back to annoy the party. Occasionally made a threat with Team Rocket Wins. In Anime they're often a Terrible Trio.
- Team Rocket from Pokémon (Jessie, James and Meowth), who thrive on popularity despite no longer posing a threat to Ash and friends.
- When we say they thrive on popularity, we mean that literally. On one occasion they save Ash's life on the premise that if he dies, the show's over and they're out of a job.
- This even applies within the fourth wall. On several occasions they've helped Ash out or cheered him on in battle, because, as Meowth put it during Ash's battle with Takuto: "This is the guy who beats us all the time! So if he loses, think how bad it'll make US look!"
- Subverted in the Best Wishes! series as Team Rocket truly Took a Level In Badass.
- When we say they thrive on popularity, we mean that literally. On one occasion they save Ash's life on the premise that if he dies, the show's over and they're out of a job.
- Lina Inverse from The Slayers actually gave this nickname to Naga at one point, as she constantly insists on calling Lina her partner (or rival, depending on which season/movie you're watching).
- Depending on the story, Zenigata can be this in Lupin III. No matter what the plot/enemy is, he's pretty much guaranteed to be involved in some capacity, but that can vary from him being a serious threat to Lupin and his plans, a grudging ally, a useful patsy, or simply a minor annoyance who's only there because the fans would miss him if he didn't make an appearance.
- Rex Raptor, Weevil Underwood, Mako Tsunami, and (to a lesser extent) Mai Valentine from the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime are basically this for the main characters or the bad guys. Although presented as credible threats, they pretty much exist for two purposes: another duel(against a supposedly strong opponent) to be won by Yugi/Joey, or to showcase how skilled a duelist a new character(sometimes the Big Bad) via The Worf Effect.
- Less so in the manga, where Rex Raptor is never seen again after losing to Esper Roba, and Weevil is never seen again after losing to Joey. Mai also does pretty well for herself against Big Bad Yami Marik, even managing to acquire one of the God cards from him, only to find she couldn't use it. Marik really only won on a technicality--if Mai had been able to use the card, she would probably have won.
- Pilaf, Shu and Mai in Dragon Ball. However, they eventually disappeared as the series underwent Cerebus Syndrome. Their final appearance in the manga was shortly after Demon King Piccolo was released, while in the anime they had one more Filler appearance just before the start of Dragonball Z. They were eventually brought back in Dragon Ball GT to help kick off the plot by accidentally turning Goku into a child.
- Tom and Tab from Kimba the White Lion.
- The MK 5 from Beelzebub. It's even stated that losing in one page is their specialty.
- The Wrecking Crew from The Mighty Thor were once a gang of super strong villains that could even give The Avengers a run for their money but in the past decade or so, they've become more of a punchline when superheroes need someone to beat up over and over again.
- Sin City has Shlubb and Klump, two idiot do-anything-for-a-job criminals that often show up and get pummeled by Dwight McCarthy.
- Team Turmoil from Mark Waid's run on The Flash were this. Defeating was such a routine task that the Flash rarely bothered to interupt his conversations while doing so - except to make fun of them, of course.
- The skinheads in Formula 51.
- Korbal Broach and Bauchelain in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series are a rare literary example. They're actually brutal serial killers (Korbal is noteworthy for making golems out of the internal organs of orphans), which would lead one to think that the author might take them seriously. He doesn't.
- Played with in Harry Potter. In perspective, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle pose less of a threat to Harry as Voldemort rises in power. Though the goldfish poop gang join with Voldemort, they come to realize that its not as fun as it sounds. Ultimately subverted when the gang endangers the Power Trio's lives in the seventh book.
- The Trio from Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Subverted by Warren Mears, who goes from Goldfish to Piranha thanks to a wine bottle to the head & the luckiest gunshot in the world. Appropriately enough, he meet his supposed demise being flayed like a piece of salmon.
- Harmony. After being turned into a vampire, she proved the most welcome of thorns in Buffy's side in large part due to her uselessness in a fight, culminating in the most epic push-fight ever.
- Arnaud DeFöhn: to the world at large, a rather frightening terrorist-for-hire. To Darien Fawkes, a mincing little prick who'd be dead or in jail if not for his infuriating penchant for smug speeches and improbable escapes.
- The base rulebook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse contains an obscure quote, warning Game Masters not to fall into this trope:
Just remember this: Antagonists are probably the most common purveyors of conflict to appear in chronicles, and they can make or break a good plot. One common mistake is overusing antagonists or bringing them out from behind the curtain too soon in your chronicle. If, for example, you're going to have two or three major antagonists, don't let them tip their hands all at once. Keep some things secret. Likewise, don't make them too predictable. When you're describing the approaching Pentex First Team, the last thing you want is for the players to say, "Look, it's Delta Bob and his goon squad. Don't forget they're all carrying cans of pepper spray! Battery-powered fans at the ready, packmates!" You get the picture.
- Solt & Peppor in Chrono Cross are a combination of this and He Knows About Timed Hits.
- The last time you fight Solt & Peppor (which is optional), they actually do seem to get serious. Their Cross Slash attack can do enough damage to kill one of your party members, which you might not expect. They still aren't hard, but they're not a free win either.
- Even earlier in Chrono Trigger, Ozzie, Flea, and Slash. Made even more apparent in a late-game sidequest during which you fight them again. For crying out loud, Ozzie gets taken out by a freaking cat. If that doesn't scream "unbelievable incompetence", this Troper doesn't know what does.
- The Mario RPGs love these. It's seemingly mandatory for them to feature at least one in every game:
- Croco the mobster wannabe from Super Mario RPG;
- The four Koopas in Paper Mario;
- "Master" Jr. Troopa from Paper Mario;
- Popple the Shadow Thief from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga;
- Lord Crump from Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door. At first he appeared as The Dragon to Sir Grodus, but his continuous screw-ups cemented his position as the resident Goldfish Poop Gang.
- Bowser and Baby Bowser are demoted to this in Partners in Time, though they are only really fought once.
- O'Chunks, Count Bleck's no-brains-all-brawn henchthug from Super Paper Mario.
- Midbus of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
- Gilgamesh in Final Fantasy V is the first one in the series, and one of the most popular ones too. He is once again a Goldfish Poop Gang member in Final Fantasy IX, going most of the game as Alleyway Jack before revealing his true identity. He also reappears as a Bonus Boss in Final Fantasy XII, makes a cameo in Final Fantasy VIII if the player has acquired Odin (who is killed by Seifer and replaced by Gilgamesh), and was retroactively added to Final Fantasy VI in the Advance series as a hidden esper. He is a Bonus Boss again in Final Fantasy Advance: Dawn of Souls. He is the only character in the series that is implied to have been the same person from game to game, in effect becoming goldfish poop for the whole series.
- Ultros and Chupon in Final Fantasy VI.
- The Turks in Final Fantasy VII. (They were also Those Two Guys, even though the group technically had four members; Elena and Tseng didn't get nearly as much time in the limelight as Reno and Rude.)
- Biggs and Wedge in Final Fantasy VIII.
- The Leblanc Syndicate in Final Fantasy X 2, though they become allies later on.
- Final Fantasy XI has the Chebukki siblings, who have a tendency to brown nose whoever is currently antagonizing you in the Chains of Promathia storyline. Including an omnicidal deity.
- For Final Fantasy XII, It could be argued that Ba'Gamnan and his siblings fall under this trope, particularly later on in the narrative, but more or less it is averted almost all together. Likewise, much like other games set in Ivalice, the other villains never take up this role. Some have argued this is an intentional move by those who worked on that subfranchise to keep the tone serious. In Revenant Wings, however, Ba'Gamnan and his motley crew play this role perfectly. To the point that Ba'Gamnan's own siblings grow tired of his bumbling leadership and decided to ditch him, prompting the ruthless bangaa bounty hunter to beat some sense into them, literally, affer a kidnapping they staged went wrong.
- The Elements from Xenogears. Of the four of them, their leader Dominia is the only credible threat posed to the party. Seraphita is so dumb she sometimes forgets she's a bad guy, Tolone spends much of her time reminding Seraphita she's a bad guy, and Kelvena just doesn't really seem to care all that much.
- Benny & Clyde in River City Ransom.
- Dotty and Petty in Monster Rancher Evo most definitely fit this definition. You battle their weak monsters every so often, and they play this trope as straight as possible, often citing "Evil Villain Rules" that they live by.
- Your rival in any of the Pokémon games, although in the original games he ends up becoming a credible threat again as the Final Boss. In the third, fourth, and fifth generations you have two rivals, the one that's the opposite gender of the player character and another one. The gendered rival in the third-generation games doesn't even fully evolve his/her starter and you never battle them again after about two-thirds of the way through the game.
- The quite appropriately nicknamed Mid-Boss in Disgaea Hour of Darkness, as well as Axel/Akutare in the sequel (you fight each one at least four times during the course of their respective games).
- Interestingly enough Mid-Boss and Axel are both voiced by Grant George in the english versions (but sound nothing alike)
- In Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice, the Vato brothers fit this trope to a tee, as well as being about as strong as the trope implies.
- The same Axel plays the same role in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, taken to an absurd degree in Chapter 6.
- The Hell Hounds in the first Galaxy Angel game, until...
- In somewhat of an example for Guitar Hero II (Xbox 360 version), Heart Shaped Box is significantly more difficult than the songs around it on Easy mode. It gets ridiculously easier on Medium and Hard, and stays mostly the same on Expert.
- Liz and Ard from Wild Arms 2, and the members of Cocytus, though to a lesser extent since they're all quite powerful and competent, not to mention that you fight none of them more than twice (Liz and Ard, however, are fought 3 times, almost always follow up a fight with them by throwing one of their robot bosses at you, and also accidentally set a VERY powerful optional boss on you late in the game).
- Not to mention Zed in the original Wild Arms 1. The rest of the demons basically follow the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, but Zed just shows up to cause havoc independently.
- And let's not forget the Schrodinger family (Maya in particular) in Wild Arms 3. They pose a moderate threat (though nothing TOO bad), but they're still gimmicky comic relief and they reappear enough times to be annoying.
- Subverted in Romancing SaGa; The Minions of the Big Bad are actually highly competent, and are the ones that are actually causing the Havoc in the world rather than the Big Bad since he is also the Sealed Evil in a Can.
- In Banjo-Tooie, Klungo gets three Boss Battles with our heroes. The first time, he's the Warmup Boss, and he doesn't get much more challenging after that, despite (randomly) switching strategies.
Banjo: Don't you ever learn?
- The Dark Wings from Tales of the Abyss are a fairly unique example. Unlike most examples, you don't actually fight them, and they're actually fairly competent. Not to mention that you're technically on their side once Asch hires them. That doesn't stop them from being comic relief that fill the storyline role to a tee, though.
- Capulet Counterpart Sheena from Tales of Symphonia is treated like this, until the inevitable Heel Face Turn. Showing her playing hide-and-seek with kids and helping sick people certainly did nothing for her villain cred.
- Dio? and his lackeys in Soul Nomad and The World Eaters.
- Balrog in Cave Story. Contrast with Misery, who shows up just as often but makes a much more credible threat given that you don't get to fight her until the very end of the game.
- Shogo: Mobile Armor Division features Samantha Sternberg, a hot-headed female who constantly appears out of nowhere, screaming that she'll kick the player's ass, only to be quickly dealt with with no trouble at all, yet somehow manages to survive every encounter. Near the end of the game, however, you have to face her on foot while she's in a Humongous Mecha.
- The Specter in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.
- Street Urchin Sabu in Bangai-O. His profile in the instruction manual even states that he's addicted to the "Goldfish Game" salesman's waffles. Yeah.
- Camp Gay Bandiger in Thousand Arms.
- Ace Combat 04's Yellow Squadron devolves into this in the final mission, since it had already been starting to take in rookies (with veteran members being transferred to augment other groups) even before the player shot down both Yellow Four and then their leader Yellow Thirteen; even though they're flying the same planes, for this mission instead of 150 points per Yellow shot down, you only get 90 points each.
- Strigon Team in Ace Combat 6 go from being elusive, deadly opponents in the first mission to being completely wiped out multiple times over in later missions.
- In Super Robot Wars D you had to fight five generals throughout the game and all five of their mechs in the final battle.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, Pete fills this role perfectly.
- Though if you battle him in the Paradox Cups, he actually becomes a threat thanks to the restrictions set upon you, and that his stats get boosted to extremes.
- Korg and Zet show up several times in Magi Nation for the Gameboy. They tend to run around trying to ambush Tony, then fail miserably due to Korg being only slightly more intelligent than a box of rocks, and the otherwise-intelligent Zet being very meek and letting Korg call the shots. Slightly subverted-when Korg gets out of the way and lets Zet have his own boss fight, it turns out that Zet is one of the deadliest bosses in the game up to that point who will hand an unprepared player his ass on a silver platter.
- The Scorpion Army from Secret of Mana.
- Adecor and Boccos AKA Tweedle-A and Tweedle-B, fulfil this role in Tales of Vesperia with their persistent bumbling attempts at arresting the protagonist. Though they are mostly dealt with in cutscenes, player involvement is only required when the game needs a punching bag for a Forced Tutorial.
- Wheeler from Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia. While most of the members of Team Dim Sun, even the lower-level Mooks, like to throw down with relatively powerful (stolen and Brainwashed) Pokemon like Rampardos and Magmortar, Wheeler is the sycophantic second-in-command to the Big Bad, and his Pokemon of choice is...Bidoof. And that's the only one he uses. Ever.
- Tony and Renee, A.K.A. the "Mook Squad" from Mana Khemia Alchemists of Al Revis. Even Tony's (self-proclaimed) Arch Enemy, Flay, doesn't take them seriously after a while. When they make a Big Damn Heroes moment to pull off an Enemy Mine (if they're actually considered real enemies), the party's reactions to their arrival are, hilariously:
- And in the sequel, Mana Khemia 2 Fall of Alchemy, a set of different colored Punis that come after the party during Puniyo's character quests. They very quickly become annoying, because they have to be dealt with at least once per quest.
- Subverted with the three Garlyle Forces female sergeants Nana, Saki and Mio in Grandia. You encounter and fight them repeatedly, but if anything they get more dangerous as the encounters go on, using a lot of new moves and fighting more as a team. They must have been leveling up and getting new kit just as busily as your party.
- Then again, they attack you with paper fans, yo-yos, and balloons, so they're probably meant to be comic relief, even if the fight with all three of them together is That One Boss.
- Phantasy Star Universe has the Vol Brothers, one of the most grievously irritating examples of this trope. See this review for a more detailed rundown of their effects on some players.
- Big John from Viewtiful Joe 2. He constantly stalks the Joe and Sylvia across several movies with a different disguise each time.
- Dr. Eggman from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, despite being the primary Big Bad, qualifies for this. Seriously, almost every Act/stage boss is a different version of his flying...egg machine. Not to mention that if he hires The Dragon, Chaos, Metal Sonic, ect... It's a Hypercompetent Sidekick and a Dragon with an Agenda and even The Very Definitely Final Dungeon Boss.
- The Babylon Rogues from the Riders games play this fairly straight, though.
- The BB Bandits in Fossil Fighters--or at the very least, the main Terrible Trio, consisting of leader Vivian, obnoxious lackey Snivels, and Team Pet Rex. When they first appear, they might seem tough, but quickly prove to be little more than a recurring nuisance. Even when you invade their base! However, after you beat the game and after their Heel Face Turn, they're upgraded to Bonus Boss status--and a hard Bonus Boss they are, too.
- The Tour Official, Sally Dobbs, in Backyard Skateboarding.
- Sly in Mystic Ark. He's actually something of a threat when you first meet him in the second world, but then after beating the Beetle King, the guy starts to get a little strange. Then he just doesn't show up until the final world of the game where he expects you to give a flying hoot when he shouts "My plan is too brilliant for a dumbass like y-o-u to understand!" though he's surprising pathetic for a boss that late into the game, but then again, the game decides to subject you to two more moderately hard boss fights after him. He also never really did explain what that brilliant plan was...perhaps he's supposed to be Darkness' right-hand man?
- Skies of Arcadia's Baltor the Black Bearded is an example of this. He is the first ship battle you have to fight against, and is relatively challenging when you come across him. However, the second time you fight him much later in the game, you have the most powerful airship built to date that has a cannon that you literally use to kill ancient gods of destruction. Too bad Baltor can't let go of things...
- Super Robot Taisen OG2 has The Inspectors. They start off as a threat, sure, but by the end of the game, they've cemented their position here. Well, except for their TRUE leader...
- The Dread Lord of Contagion from Lusternia. Don't let the name fool you, he's about as dread as a paper bag. Persistent little bugger, though.
- In Breath of Fire III Ziggy is just a jerk you have to help a guy beat up to eventually gain access to a ship. But in the fourth game a similar Ziggy shows up who constantly challenges the party to fight him, and is not all that much of a threat what with low HP and, at his worst, can poison a member of your party.
- The Bandit Trio from Half Minute Hero.
- Giacomo in Baten Kaitos Origins; he's arrogant, headstrong, and gets his ass kicked by Sagi and co. every time they meet. In fact, the last time they fight, Giacomo has just been told off by his boss for being one of these. By the time of Baten Kaitos, well...
- In Jays Journey, Thinbeard and his dragon companion Azareth are constantly referred to as "Annoying recurring wannabe RPG villains".
- Kid Radd features two examples: Gnarl, Radd's "Evil Twin", and Kobayashi, a Ninja. Both subvert the trope by executing dime-perfect Heel Face Turns, and Kobayashi learns how to fight effectively.
- Plus they gain the ability to fuse instantaneously into one being for more powerful attacks. And then they can unfuse to avoid attacks.
- The Linear Guild in Order of the Stick, who are well aware of their status.
- Though it turns out that they're really the unwitting (apart from Sabine) agents of the Three Fiends, recently introduced but highly competent major villains. The Guild can actually be pretty dangerous on their own, too- it's just that their victories never last long, due to their leader Nale's attempts at being Troperiffic always giving him a giant Villain Ball.
- Of course, Adventurers! made fun of this too.
- The gnomish monks of WTF Comics start out as a bit of a threat and get less effective every time they are encountered.
- For a while in Sluggy Freelance, after Torg escaped from the Dimension of Pain demons, one of them would show up every Halloween to try and kill him and take his soul back to their dimension for eternal torment. The Main Characters never took these attempts seriously; they actually started charging people admission each Halloween to watch the demon try and kill Torg. However, during the "That Which Redeems" Story Arc, the demons get a major dose of Not So Harmlessness.
- In Captain SNES, it's implied that the Daltonian Hyper-Oceanic Piratical Extortion Squad will become this, and given that its members include Ultros, Chopon, Gilgamesh, Berty, Bart, the Scorpion Army, and, of course, Dalton himself, it's quite appropriate.
- In Xiaolin Showdown, Jack Spicer starts out as an actual threat, but quickly undergoes Villain Decay that turns him into a one-man Goldfish Poop Gang, to the point where the Xiaolin Warriors start beating him up for sport and he's left with only a single Shen Gong Wu by the end of the series.
- However, in the Grand Finale, we are introduced to an alternate Bad Future where Omi was not present, and Jack has took the mother of all levels in Badass and has successfully taken over the world, and has Wuya, Chase Young and Hannibal Roy Bean as his prisoners, subverting this trope straight to hell. Also at the beginning of that same season, his good side had been split from him and he was proving himself to be quite formidabble.
- The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Scratch and Grounder, the Sonic Super Special Search and Smash Squad. They don't even have half a brain between them. More like a quarter.
- Scratch and Grounder themselves have Goldfish Poop in the form of Coconuts. They're all technically on the same side but rarely work together to capture Sonic, the former two being goal-oriented and the latter much more egotistic. Despite actually having half a brain over Scratch and Grounder, Coconuts is usually tasked with degrading housework (although he does tend to fail his solo capture attempts).
- The Mutant leaders on Thundercats deteriorated into this over the course of the series, near the end unable to muster even a tiny iota of competence. This is in stark contrast to Big Bad Mumm-Ra, who remained a major threat.
- The Trix become this in the third season of Winx Club. While they were formidable foes in the first two seasons, they are horribly outclassed by the fairies' new Enchantix forms, to the point where any one of the fairies is often enough to take down all three witches.
- Hack and Slash from Re Boot, who consistently fail to execute Megabyte's plans.
- The Box Ghost of Danny Phantom. But with a name like that, would you really expect otherwise?