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"Among the Alps and Pyrenees, perhaps, there were no mixed characters. There, such as were not as spotless as an angel might have the dispositions of a fiend. But in England it was not so; among the English, she believed, in their hearts and habits, there was a general though unequal mixture of good and bad. Upon this conviction, she would not be surprised if even in Henry and Eleanor Tilney, some slight imperfection might hereafter appear; and upon this conviction she need not fear to acknowledge some actual specks in the character of their father, who, though cleared from the grossly injurious suspicions which she must ever blush to have entertained, she did believe, upon serious consideration, to be not perfectly amiable."

In some stories, the good guys are squeaky embodiments of shiny goodness and fight bearded stage magicians who cackle a lot. Then again, sometimes you have stories where your caped crusaders largely go up against the misguided and distraught. Other stories might have the pragmatic freedom fighters against a government who alternately sing orphans to sleep or murder their kittens. Still other stories have the world's mightiest, most murderous, most-pants-wettingest "heroes" you've ever seen against a guy who made entire worlds into slave-states for profit and kicks.

Then you have stories like this.

Rather than discrete groups or distinct moral systems, you have a sliding scale, and all groups and characters fall somewhere between "Hero" or "Good" at the furthest extreme and "Villain" or "Evil" at the other extreme. In most cases, the people closest toward the "Hero" end of the scale will be the main characters, but they're usually not perfect (and they can become even less perfect as time goes on). Their opponents fall further toward the "Villain" end of the scale, more often than not, with some that are so close to the Villain end that they don't really have any heroic qualities.

In short, none of the groups fit cleanly into the White-Gray-Black categorization, as all of them do things both good and evil with varying degrees of frequency. This generally makes for more dynamic stories, as you're never sure if the heroes will stay on the straight and narrow or villains will keep wreaking havoc.

Probably the closest to Real Life that any Morality Trope can be.

See also Shades of Conflict, Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes and Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains. When you've got a specific group to which this trope applies, you've got a Four Philosophy Ensemble. Compare The Good, the Bad, and The Evil along with White and Grey Morality. Contrast Black and Black Morality, where nothing is good or morally ambiguous about the characters. Also contrast White and White Morality where nobody is truly evil.

Examples of Morality Kitchen Sink include:

Anime and Manga

  • Attack on Titan: becomes this as the story develops, contrasting strongly with Eren Yeager's original view of the world as Black and White. The story fully explores the themes of He Who Fights Monsters, with heroes ranging from the idealistic to the pragmatic and villains that are complex individuals driven by understandable motivations.
  • The manga version of Chrono Crusade. Azmaria, Mary Magdalene and most of the members of the Magdalene Order are clearly heroes. Rosette's very heroic, but has a number of vices and character flaws that get the best of her; Chrono is kind and gentle but has a dark past (including formerly being one of the villains); and Satella is mostly concerned with her own goals but still shows empathy towards others. The Sinners, although being the main villains, are mostly in the gray, from Joshua (who is devoted to Aion because the demon horns on his head are making him lose his mind, but who has understandable and occasionally noble motives) to Shader (who hates violence and expresses remorse for her actions but goes along with Aion because she believes in his ideals) to Aion himself, who is a Well-Intentioned Extremist. The closest to the actual "villain" scale are the other demons, who are either beasts who take pleasure in attacking humans or soldiers sent to kill the Sinners and whoever gets in their way--but some of these are somewhat sympathetic, since many of them are simply aliens stranded on a strange planet who are struggling to survive and believe in a lie perpetuated for generations. The morality structure is explained by the mangaka as being inspired by the idea that people aren't born evil, but become evil through their selfishness.
  • Code Geass. There is one genuinely, unquestionably good person, Euphemia, (Shirley is debatable, because while she is certainly kind-hearted and sweet, she is only concerned about her own feelings and school life while all hell is breaking loose outside, so she can come across as somewhat self-centred). There is one genuinely, unquestionably evil person, Luciano Bradley. Every other character's alignment can be debated. The main character himself can be convincingly argued to fall under any morality alignment.
  • Death Note has a pretty wide variety of character morality-wise, and who is truly good and truly evil is often discussed by the characters and a major plot point. Some of the characters do mostly good things for selfish motivations while others do terrible things with noble purposes in mind. Pretty much any character that declares themselves completely good is portrayed as misguided or near psychotic and good luck trying to establish with any certainty who are the anti-heroes and who the anti-villains, towards the end of the story the triumphant character even makes a reflection about the subjective nature of good and evil.
  • Dragon Ball where many of the protagonists are former villains who change sides after meeting Goku.
    • Dragon Ball Z takes this further. Many characters (such as Piccolo, Vegeta, and Android 18) start out as evil and never truly become good (at least compared to the villains that they and the other protagonists fight), but they are still accepted as allies of the characters who are actually good. Characters like Goku seem to have no problem associating with them, so long as their actions don't threaten anyone. And then of course there are the irredeemable villains like Frieza and Cell.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist - The Elric brothers and Winry are the most purely heroic characters; the heroes from the State Military are more gray, being former war criminals who want to atone for their sins; Greed and Scar are fairly sympathetic antagonists until they become Anti Heroes; there's Barry the Chopper who is the Token Evil Teammate for the State Military heroes- he's clearly Evil; finally, the other villain characters are definitely very far down toward the evil extreme of the scale. And even one of the worst villains is spared. Then of course we get Kimblee.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo. Naturally, as it's a series about the different kinds of good and evil.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth falls into this when you take a look at it. The first season and especially the second season are mainly filled with protagonists and antagonist who are trying to save and protect the one thing that they care about and simply come into conflict because the others goals stand in the way. They range from the 3 heroes fighting to save a dying world to a villain willing to let said world die because to save the world a woman he loves will have to die to 3 different nations going to war for their own worlds' sake.
  • One Piece is a huge example of this. The protagonists are morally ambiguous pirates that are motivated by self-interest and personal goals rather than any abstract moral considerations, but tend to do good anyway by defeating more evil pirates (or marines) that happened to do something to offend them. Other pirates can be anything from Chaotic Good adventurers to Selfish Evil jerkasses to Complete Monsters. Likewise Marines can be anything from legitimate heroes to guys who just want a check to well-meaning extremists to Knight Templars. One Piece characters have all kinds of varying motivations and alignments - it very much depends on the individual person rather than what group they belong to, which is quite realistic.
  • Pandora Hearts is all over the place. This trope becomes most distinct after it's revealed that Jack isn't the squeaky-clean hero everyone believed him to be but rather a Tragic Villain driven to insanity by his love for Lacie. Furthermore, Oswald/Glen isn't the Manipulative Bastard Big Bad he's been portrayed as but an endearingly socially awkward Well-Intentioned Extremist who hasn't handled being betrayed one too many times by those close to him so well. And that's only two of the characters.
  • Despite being the protagonists of the show (as well as priestesses), the Sybillae of Simoun have moralities that are all over the range. On one end, you have the innocent Rimone/Limone, Yun, and Morinas. Then there are the more ambiguous Paraietta, Mamiina, and Dominura. The nations of Argentum and Plumbum are a little harder to place, while the Defense Minister of Simulacrum is decidedly at the bottom of the proverbial drain.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V eventually divulges into this when the Myth Arc interdimensional war was revealed. Sort by factions and individual characters, we have: White (the You Show Duel School, Yuya, Yuzu and Gongenzaka) vs. Lighter Grey (Yuto plus Selena) vs. Darker Grey (the Big Good LDS, Kurosaki and Yuya's Berserker mode for kicking only assholes) vs. Black (the heartless Academia). Yugo and the Synchro Dimension didn't appear enough to sort into these shade of conflict while a few of the Asshole Victims are just Jerkasses. Sora seems to go from Dark Gray to Black with a few Pet the Dog moments, before beginning a Heel–Face Turn due to a Heel Realization. Unusual for a YGO franchise because it focuses on a lot more characters at the same time than its predecessors, allowing for more shades of conflict during one arc. More amazingly, the anime has a change in genre and in morality within only about30 episodes, impressive for a Shonen series.
    • There's also some work put into showing how characters who do evil things think and why they do what they do. Sora and Dennis both have a lot of humanizing traits. Serena shows the mentality that leads people to becoming Black, since she wanted to be a soldier until she stopped to consider that her victims might be innocent. Sora suffers from a bad case of Fantastic Racism, but is shown to have grown up with no friends, trained not to ask questions and obey orders unquestioningly, and starts thinking for himself and avoiding commands once he makes real friends for the first time in his life, and begins to have a Heel Realization. In fact, all the characters from Academia see themselves as Proud Warrior Race Guys with Undying Loyalty to their leader, even the nastier characters like Yuri. Kurosaki is a genocide survivor and a Shell-Shocked Veteran trying to rescue his friends and family, who has become paranoid and ruthless due to all he's lost. Reiji's invasion of privacy and ruthlessness has saved the lives of the three LID students and enabled him to ensure that his dimension isn't caught by surprise and destroyed the same way the Xyz dimension was. Duel Chaser 227 became a Corrupt Cop in order to avoid poverty. Most of the Tops actually believe the lie that they are equals and friends with the Commons, when they're actually the oppressive ruling class in a Crapsack World. the Commons are starving and manipulated by their oppressors Bread and Circuses, but while the crowd can be nasty every individual member that we meet is genuinely nice or has a Hidden Heart of Gold somewhere. Shinji truly believes the only way to change the system is through a violent revolution and his rebellion gets swallowed by Black and White Insanity, but ultimately pull a mass Heel Face Turn.  Jean-Michel Roget is just a greedy bastard, although he tries to justify his actions to himself by claiming Might Makes Right.

Animated Film

  • Amazingly, a few Disney movies have this morality scale:
    • Frozen served this as a Genre Deconstruction of the typical Disney fairytale. The only true heroic characters are Princess Anna of Arendelle (who, as a Deconstruction of the typical Disney heroine, suffered a few What an Idiot and Wrong Genre Savvy moments), Kristoff and OlafQueen Elsa, served as a Deconstruction for the Evil Queen archetype, is a Dark Magical Girl of Mass Destruction who can create sentient life and declares herself Above Good and Evil. But she soon suffered a severe case of Power Incontinence that plunges her country in an Endless Winter that she eventually learns how to lift and suffered one Trauma Conga Line after the next. Anna and Elsa's parents, served for the typical Missing Parent, are just regular people who are Unwitting Instigator of Doom by isolating Elsa (and Anna) from the rest of the world for so many years. The trolls, despite their best intention, is rather vague on their instruction and caused the above misunderstanding on the part of the Arendelle royal family. The Duke of Weselton is a Not-So-Harmless Villain who is very egocentric but he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to save Arendelle from the winter Elsa cast (if only for selfish reason). And then there's the Deconstruction of Prince Charming, Prince Hans who, according to Word of God, has a Freudian Excuse.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, despite (or perharps because of) its Disneyfication from the source material, which ran on Grey-and-Grey MoralityQuasimodo and the Archdeacon are the only truly good characters in the movie (and even the former has several Let's Get Dangerous moments). Esmeralda is a Knight in Sour Armor. Clopin and the gypsies in general are Unscrupulous Heroes. Phoebus is a Pragmatic Hero in sour armor who later has a Heel–Face Turn. Even Judge Frollo, for all his nastinesssociopathy and monstrosity, is given a very humane and relatable moment in his Villain Song "Hellfire."
    • Mulan. The heroine is nice, loves her family, and saves the country, but gets an Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving speech for it. Her closest companions are a selfish attention-seeker with a conscience (Mushu), two mundane jerks who get better (Ling and Yao), and a guy who is so unbelievably nice it's a wonder he ever made it to hero of war status (Chien-Po). Her authority figures include several mostly nice but not perfect people, several good-but-hard people, and two people who are just flat-out mean, one of whom—Chi-Fu—is bad enough that he operates as a civil antagonist. And her one enemy with real characterization is outright sadistic to the point he deliberately slaughters a village of civilians including children, and yet is the only character in the movie who never expresses surprise at a woman fighting him or brings up her gender as a negative.
    • Zootopia, as a film exploring prejudice, shows varying degrees of prejudice among characters: Judy tries to be anti-prejudice but has some implicit prejudices of her own she needs to overcome. Nick lives up to the "sly fox" stereotype and is cynical about animals' abilities to overcome them because he tried and failed to in his backstory, but eventually does, thanks to Judy. Bogo is unwilling to budge on his preconceived notions until he sees results, at which point he does so unapologetically. Clawhauser is not malicious in any way but still stereotypes Judy out of innocent ignorance and then immediately apologizes for it. Judy's parents are kind, well-meaning people, who are openly prejudiced against predators, especially foxes but get better thanks to Judy. Gideon Gray is shown as a kid attempting to reinforce predator superiority but has grown out of it as a young adult. Lionheart leads a type of affirmative action program to get animals into non-traditional jobs but treats his own small animal assistant mayor like dirt and was willing to kidnap several animals to protect himself from being a victim of prejudice. Bellwether is sweet and friendly, attempting to raise Judy up while trying behind the scenes to systematically tear all predators down, and willing to turn against Judy when she refuses to do the same. And Gazelle has reached a level of enlightenment few can.


  • Marvel is pretty much everywhere on the map. You have mutants vs. non-mutants but within the mutants you have extremists, pacifists and self interested groups, and the government and population at large tend to have their own factions. Within the non-mutant hero camp, you have heroes who want to fight crime the old school way independently versus heroes who want more government control vs heroes who work for hire. You have various cosmic beings and aliens with Blue-and-Orange Morality. You have Anti-Heroes like the Punisher and then the truly evil guys, both chaotic types like Carnage and pragmatic types like Red Skull.
    • Even Captain America who is true blue and always means to do the right thing sometimes gets impulsive and screws up as seen by the Marvel Civil War arc. Justified in that his past experiences have led him to be wary of blindly serving the government, which is itself another example of this trope.
    • Fantastic Four: Reed Richards sometimes has a tendency to act unilaterally because he feels he's the only one who can process all of the variables which has caused much tension within the team. Reed, Iron Man and Xavier above all tend to be this way which led to them forming the Illuminati.
    • Even within the X-Men, Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine and Cable all have different ideas about when its right to cross certain lines. To say nothing of when people like the White Queen or Magneto himself join the group. And then of course, there are the outright villains like Apocalypse.

Fan Fiction

  • Prison Island Break, a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic, takes place in a prison, and almost all the characters are morally dubious criminals, including those Sonic allies himself with. The most obvious exception is Big Bad Mephiles.


  • 1632: The heroes range from almost pure heroism to rather questionable, the antagonists range from Complete Monster to people who could be heroic under slightly different circumstances and/or are just victims of Values Dissonance.
  • Artemis Fowl is pretty much this for the first few books then leaning towards Black-and-Gray Morality towards the End. The Kitchen Sinkers are mostly Artemis (even towards the end) and the Fairy Counsel. The villains are pretty much black morality after book one. That is if you don't count Artemis.
  • The Chathrand Voyages. There's so many plots and counter-plots going on that this is bound to happen. The three heroes need to constantly reassess who they can trust depending on which evil plot they're fighting at the moment.
  • In Chung Kuo, there are some very upstanding characters on both sides, who rub shoulders with pure villains.
  • Daniel Suarez' Daemon and its sequel FreedomTM. Apart from Roy Merritt, who earns immortalisation as a genuine embodiment of justice, the reader's perceptions of who the good guys and bad guys are is constantly changing.
  • One of the best examples of this trope is The Dresden Files. At the furthest extreme of the Hero end we have Michael Carpenter, the Fist of God, who only fights monsters, has a grand total of one recorded instance of swearing in the series proper, and is all around about as wholesome as a person can be. Slightly away from the good extreme would be the majority of the series other heroes e.g. Harry Dresden, he's a generally upstanding guy with a massive case of Chronic Hero Syndrome, but isn't above a bit of pragmatism if it's necessary. More towards the middle of the scale is The White Council which is made up of plenty of Knight Templar Jerkasses but has methods which are shown to oftentimes be necessary. The main representative of dark gray is John Marcone, who is a ruthless crime boss, but ends up joining forces with Dresden more often than opposing him and will not tolerate any violence against children. As for the Complete Monsters of the setting we have pretty much any one the supernatural villains, e.g. the Skinwalker whose true form's mere sight is enough to send harry into a Heroic BSOD. To Top it of we even have Blue-and-Orange Morality in the form of the fae.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Elantris. Furthest toward the Hero end, you have Sarene, who's upstanding but can be a little deceptive. A little further away from the Hero end, you've got Raoden, who resorts to some practical tactics. On a good deal toward the Villain side, you have Hrathen, but he shifts further toward Hero before the story is done with. All the way down at the Villain end, you have Dilaf.
  • Harry Potter is somewhere between this and Black-and-Gray Morality. The Death Eaters are pretty consistently on the black side, but the protagonists can vary from saints to assholes.
  • In David Weber and Linda Evans' Hell's Gate series both Sharonans and Aracans are a hodgepodge of good, bad and in between, although Arcana in general has many factions with different goals (some gravitating towards the morality scale extremes), while Sharona is more unified and thus more uniformly (a lighter shade of) grey.
  • Horus Heresy has their characters all over the map. On one side, there's Sanguinus, the Messianic Archetype of the piece, with Vulkan and Loken not too far behind, as both have blind spots in their consciences. Closer to gray, there's most of the "good"-aligned characters and some villains, like Noble Demon Magnus, who all have good intentions but a healthy dose of pragmatism. Some loyalists, such as shockingly brutal, but undyingly loyal Azaellon are in the deeper grays along with most of the traitors, including Horus himself, while series' resident Hate Sink Erebus occupies the deepest black. And then there's the Emperor, with whose morality your guess is as good as ours, and Chaos Gods, who run on Blue-and-Orange.
  • Present in Madeleine L'Engle's A House Like a Lotus, with the addition that even one person is never completely good or evil. It basically boils down to "people are complicated."
  • Les Misérables is also a book with Loads and Loads of Characters that are, morally, all over the map. The character who does believe in Black-and-White MoralityInspector Javert, is no worse than Lawful Neutral but believes with all his might that Law = Good and anyone who breaks the law is evil forever. In this light, he continually tries to arrest Jean Valjean, a petty crook who skipped parole but did a Heel–Face Turn and made good. When Valjean's selfless virtue finally proves Javert's mindset wrong, the resulting cognitive dissonance makes him throw himself off a bridge.
  • The Aesop of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.
  • Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt covers the entire scale of morality. White morality is represented by Beatrice (a good but still flawed Ditzy Genius) and Sofia and Johan (who are close to being flawless). Grey morality is represented by Seth (a Jerk with a Heart of Gold), Jacques (Seth's equally morally ambiguous friend) and Vivienne (a Good Bad Girl). Black morality is represented by the three (!) abusive misogynistic villains.
    • Betvingade has a similar set-up. White morality is represented by Illiana and a few minor characters. Grey morality is represented by Markus and his friend Stellan. Black morality is represented by most of Illiana's family members, and by Roland Birgersson (a sociopathic murderer).
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy: Morality ranges from Actual Pacifist Morgon though even he spends most of the second book hunting someone down with express intent to kill them, pragmatic but still very good-aligned Raederle, very grey Deth, whose actions verge on Necessarily Evil sometimes but whose intentions are good, pretty damn awful Ghistelwhchlohm, who is the type to Mind Rape someone for a year to get a piece of information, and the shape-changers, who verge on Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-Earth, especially in The Silmarillion. On the heroic side of things you have most of the more noble characters like Frodo, Eärendil and Beren (though, even they aren't immune from making mistakes and moral lapses) and most of the Valar who always mean well but often make misguided choices. All the free peoples vary greatly, with morally ambiguous characters like Thingol, Malgor, Túrin, Mîm, Fëanor, Gollum, and Thorin hovering in the middle and with Morgoth and his directly corrupted minons at the evil extreme. However, the moral compass of the series varies between each story, with The Lord of the Rings mostly (though not completely) revolving around Black-and-White Morality while Black-and-Grey dominates The Children of Húrin and The Hobbit (with shades of Grey-and-Grey Morality in both).
  • Given that A Song of Ice and Fire has Loads and Loads of Characters and no clear heroes or villains, it's no surprise that the morality spectrum comes in about a thousand shades of gray. You've got extremely honorable, well-meaning people like Ned Stark and Brienne of Tarth, Complete Monsters like Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton, and more Anti-Heroes and Anti-Villains than can be listed. Among the "anti-"s, fans can't even agree which ones of them are anti-heroes and which are anti-villains. It's largely a matter of perspective.
    • The eponymous kings of the War of Five Kings are emblematic of this: pure and noble Robb Stark; mostly good but slightly childish and petty Renly Baratheon; anti-heroic Lawful Neutral Stannis Baratheon; mostly villainous with some redeeming traits Balon Greyjoy; and full-on psychopathic Joffrey Baratheon.

Live Action TV

  • Deadwood uses this to some extent; much of the early part of Season one casts the character of Al Swearengen as the most morally corrupt character in town. That is, of course, until Cy Toliver shows up, who quickly quickly steals the spotlight as villain most evil. Al is made to look almost a hero as the result. This is possibly subverted however, as the show in general uses the morality kitchen sink, and both Cy and Al do indulge in purely "good" acts on occasion.

Tabletop Games

  • While all Table Top Role Playing Games allow you to make a character who is anywhere on the map, different games have within their "default" tone different views. Please consider a game's "normal" tone and not what players might decide to do. For example, you could play a completely virtuous character in Shadowrun, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a dark and grimy cyberpunk world where amoral mercenaries work for backstabbing corporations and inhuman spirits.
  • While most of the Old World of Darkness has Black and Gray Morality, Changeling: The Dreaming and Mage: The Ascension follow this trope.
    • Most Changelings are Seelie dominant and generally good, but not necessarily supremely virtuous. Most Unseelie fae are still decent folks. Some Seelie and a few Unseelie are so old-school knightly they might as well be D&D paladins. Seelie and Unseelie villains alike range from operatic Harmless Villain to ruthless Pragmatic Villainy to cannibalistic Blood Knights to Eldritch Abomination-worshiping Complete Monsters.
    • Mages as individuals are usually trying to achieve good ends. The main conflict is Romanticism Versus Enlightenment, with the Romantic Traditions embracing old school mysticism and trying to awaken humanity and the Enlightened Technocratic Union trying to empower humanity For Science!. Then there are the Eldritch Abomination-serving Nephandi and the insane-as-all-Hell Reality Warper Marauders. The conflict started with the Traditions clearly being morally superior to the Technocrats, but the Technocracy got a little Character Development later on and it became very hard to say either side was right.
  • Dungeons and Dragons and spin-off Pathfinder in most of its settings has this. There may be a necromancer who is repeating Mengele's work on his victims, a paladin who spends all his days feeding the poor and treating the sick when not rushing off to battle nasties like the necromancer, amoral thieves who just look to make a quick coin clipping purses in the market, well-meaning but ruthless knights who seek to put down the aforementioned thieves without realizing their oppressive lords have beggared the people, and a cult to a god of chaos and magic whose followers Blue-and-Orange Morality pushes them to do things no one understands. Really, the limitation is the player's and GM's imagination and their willingness (or not) to have certain things in their game. They may even be in the same Adventure Town. Newer, more "mature" games often aim at the more limiting Gray and Gray or Gray and Black morality.
    • Planescape may most exemplify this. You could literally be a divine servant from a fantasy version of Dante's Purgatorio, a Snark Knight anti-hero out of fantasy Charles Dickens, or a Complete Monster from a Milton-like hell. The various groups in the game are all over the map on their ethical stance.

Video Games

  • Blaz Blue Continuum Shift has changed the tone of the Blaz Blue series so now it's shaping up to be this rather than Black and Gray Morality.
    • On top of the chain you have the utterly innocent Noel Vermillion that just tried so hard to be 'good'. but just came off as some Wide-Eyed Idealist. Following that there's both Jubei and Rachel Alucard, the closest we can get for Big Good, but tempered with how 'not-to-the-point' they are. Below them are Bang Shishigami and Taokaka, despite their apparent idiocy, they always fight for the good cause. The same to Platinum the Trinity (except replace idiocy with Split Personality problem)
    • Below that rank are some more sympathetic Anti-Villain and some lightly tempered heroes. Makoto Nanaya came closest to the top chain, but was highly tempered with her overprotectiveness to both her friends that anyone looking at them funny, she'd kill them flat. Then there's Hakumen, who works for his own code of justice, but goes extremely Knight Templar and believes this world is rotten and the only way to save it is to cleanse everything and restart it anew. Carl Clover used to be lower than this, killing things for his own gain while tampered with that he's opposing the one on the bottom of the chain, but due to Character Development, he moved up here. Iron Tager is a pretty decent guy, tampered with the fact that he's programmed to be loyal to Kokonoe at all cost. Even some of the Anti-Villain come off like this: Litchi Faye-Ling is a blatantly Type IV AntiVillain, a kind hearted woman who's in NOL because she's Forced Into Evil unless she wants to rot. Tsubaki Yayoi was Brainwashed and Crazy, but outing that, she always is a purdy girl who always wanted the best for everyone and came off really conflicted with her battle with her own demons.
    • And below that are the middle point... where some of the heroes reside. Ragna the Bloodedge, our hero, is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at best, but his one-man crusade against NOL wasn't for altruistic means and only because someone pissed him off big time. Jin Kisaragi used to be lower than this, but after Character Development, he's stuck here rather than higher since he still is an utter Jerkass to many, and like Ragna, fights for himself. Also here is Nu-13, who is unconcerned with anything else except Ragna... and would kill anyone who gets in her way between her and Ragna. Arakune could fall either here or below as he's acting like a mindless beast that can only think of how to eat, and his human self Lotte Carmine is just a self-serving glory hound who only thinks of himself.
    • And below them are the head honchos of both factions: Kokonoe of Sector Seven and Imperator of NOL. Kokonoe is fighting against Terumi, but her methods were extremely brutal and she doesn't take someone else killing Terumi well, she had to be the one to frag him, even if it involves nuclear catasthrope, making her look even worse than some villains despite being on the side of Good. The Imperator of NOL implemented a tyrannical world-class order, only to prevent the world from decaying into utter anarchy, but might've gone a little bit too far and not realize that the organization is being manipulated by the worst of the worst below...
    • The bottom of the barrel, the blackest of black morality can get is inhabited by both Terumi Yuuki and Relius Clover. Relius is a Mad Scientist with Lack of Empathy that does every mad experiments gleefully For Science!, while Terumi is does everything bad in this world for his own amusement, and is utterly gleeful in taunting on his victims' misery just because. Some scenes in EXTEND made Relius in a grayer shade than Terumi that he might have some pragmatism in his brutality, rather than Terumi who does things For the Evulz and himself, but not enough to make him escape the term Complete Monster.
  • Dragon Age Origins has shades of this. The only wholly villainous faction are the Darkspawn and even they become more sympathetic in Awakening. Dragon Age II takes it even further to the point that there is no Big Bad responsible for everything going wrong. Every major faction in the game is sympathetic to some degree and all of them are partially responsible for the Downer Ending. The games do have a few truly heroic and truly monstrous people, but they have surprisingly little impact on the setting as a whole
  • The Elder Scrolls - There are no morality bars. In Oblivion there was a fame-infamy bar, but the two don't always sync up. Therefore, the choices of the player determine where on the scale the protagonist falls, and it could be absolutely anywhere, embodiment of Incorruptible Pure Pureness Knight in Shining Armor to Complete Monster and anything in between. The NPCs, being pre-written, are also suitably vague and varied.
  • A common part of Fire Emblem.
  • Jooubachi no Oubou is a dark world where bad things happen, happen frequently, are often caused by the main cast you're supposed to hook up with and aren't always followed up on. Menou however is a beacon of Incorruptible Pure Pureness unless she's had her mind swapped out with someone else or has crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
  • The Geneforge series. There are anywhere from two to five factions the player can join in each game. With the possible exception of 2's Barzites and 5's Taygen, they pretty much all have arguments in their favor. While the world itself is more about Gray and Grey Morality, the individual sides play out this trope. The Well-Intentioned Extremist tends to be the most common type in each, but they all have their share of saints and monsters, and everything in between.
  • Kingdom Hearts, particularly in its later instalments, is surprisingly dependent on this trope for a Disney property. Sora's pretty close to the hero extreme (though he's more personally-motivated than he seems), while the Disney villains actually come from 'verses with Black and White Morality. The grey areas range from Roxas (whose lack of memories sometimes leads to a sense of Ambiguous Innocence) and Riku and Axel (who are so devoted to their friends that they'll shoot whatever dogs are necessary to save them) to DiZ (who works for the same end as the good guys out of a need for revenge) and Organization XIII (which, in itself, has everything from the apathetic Demyx to the Evil Overlord Xemnas).
  • Because it's a game by Obsidian (formerly Black Isle), it should come as no surprise that Knights of the Old Republic 2 features this trope pretty significantly. If the player should choose to be Light Side, then s/he and his/her group are fairly close to the Hero extreme. A little further away from the good end, but hard to say by how much, would be the Jedi Council, who are shown to have good intentions but be seriously flawed in their execution of them. Further toward the Villain side, you would have Darth Traya. Then, practically sitting on the Villain extreme, you have Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus, with the second one the most non-Heroic, most Villainous person in the game.
  • While the first Mass Effect had this to an extent, the second game features it a lot.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic is shaping up to be an example of this. From what we know so far, it's just as possible to play a Light sided Sith as it is to play a dark sided Jedi, and a number of characters on both sides are morally grey.
    • However, let it be known that "Light Side" and "Dark Side" are very different concepts for Imperial characters and Republic characters. At worst, a dark sided Republic character will be a Token Evil Teammate, generally they'll be AntiHeroes. On the other side, Light sided Imperials are generally AntiVillains of various degrees, with the best being Type IVs, devoid of villainous actions, but still on the "bad side."

Web Comics

  • Comes with the the territory of being based on the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system in the Order of the Stick. You have good characters doing good things because it's the right thing to do, bad people doing bad things for a greater good, and bad people doing bad things for amusement.
  • Errant Story. Oh, my, yes, Errant Story.
  • Sinfest. Satan is definitely evil, if affably so. God isn't evil but definitely a jerk, his son however is definitely good, the Dragon neutral and Buddha somewhre technically neutral but nice. The mortals are all over the place.

Web Original

  • There Will Be Brawl uses this a lot. Farthest towards the "Hero" side would be Luigi and Red, who genuinely want the best for the Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants, and work to solve the mysteries in the show without resorting to more extreme methods like Mario or Link. Characters closer to the "Villain" side are people like Wario, who's only out for his own self-interests, then Zelda who forcibly attempts to usurp the Kingdom's power, and finally Kirby at the most extreme, who just likes killing people and sowing fear among the populace.
  • The Whateley Universe does this in spades. Start with the heroes of Team Kimba. They range from the 'I don't even want to hit people' attitude of Phase to the 'I had to slaughter a hundred bad guys to rescue people' switch of Tennyo to Bladedancer, who killed an ordinary family man in cold blood to prevent a possible Bad Future. The villains are all over the place too. Supervillain Dr. Diabolik is apparently a great father, and his children have said he only does the things he does to advance mankind.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender fits. Most of Team Aang is unequivocally good and the most powerful members of the Fire Nation are power-hungry sociopaths, but almost everyone else falls somewhere in between. Ba Sing Se turns out to be a Crap Saccharine World, and the Northern Water Tribe has some pretty sexist moments. The rank-and-file and civilians of the Fire Nation are more often misguided patriots than outright evil. You could make a decent argument that the whole series is a subversion of the Always Chaotic Evil trope.