Terrible Trio

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(Redirected from Team Rocket)

A Power Trio made up of a domineering character and two henchmen. The two henchmen usually look physically different (one short and fat, the other tall and skinny/buff) in addition to having different skills, often Brains and Brawn or an unreasonable facsimile; the position of boss may be gained simply by assertiveness. Their boss is usually convinced they're master criminals, even though the two subordinate characters usually fit the bill for Stupid Crooks. Terrible Trios are never real Big Bads, and the whole group tends to be played for comedy in the long run. They may have no dark motivations other than fortune or fame, and it's easy to sympathize with them through their repeated defeats. They usually have a certain degree of Karmic Protection.

Sometimes, there's a higher-up that the team's boss is accountable to. That higher-up is usually closer to True Evil, and considers the team, boss and all, to be ineffective at best. In a more serious story (or if Cerebus Syndrome is about to kick in,) expect the goldfish poop to get flushed in most occasions.

In many recent anime, the boss is usually more attractive and the opposite gender of the lackeys. The Terrible Trio are often gangsters, who are strangely less competent than the psycho villain.

See also Evil Duo, Quirky Miniboss Squad, Freudian Trio, Comic Trio, Goldfish Poop Gang, Those Two Bad Guys, Three Amigos, and, when two or more Big Bads work together, Big Bad Duumvirate.

Examples of Terrible Trio include:

Anime and Manga

  • Pokémon: The Team Rocket trio. Jessie is the leader type, while James and Meowth are the henchmen (though, unlike most of these groups, they introduce themselves as equals). Their boss is Giovanni, who started out giving them orders, then as they kept messing up he essentially gave up on them. He lets them follow Ash around to get them away from him. By now he doesn't even recognize them.
    • In the first few episodes, Meowth was the leader type while Jessie and James were the henchmen.
    • As of Best Wishes, the trio has gone into serious mode for an undercover mission. So far, they've stayed away from this trope.
  • In Naruto, only Tobi, Kisame and Zetsu are left after Pain is defeated and Konan defects from Akatsuki. Kisame and Zetsu, having known Tobi longer and better than any other Akatsuki member ever did, begin to work as henchmen directly under his command. After Kisame's death, Kabuto takes his place. He's not as obedient as Kisame was though and in all likelihood is more of a Dragon with an Agenda.
    • A better example of this trope in Naruto would be Jugo, Karin, and Suigetsu, with Sasuke Uchiha as their boss.
  • The Skull Trio from Time Bokan, along with their Expies in the other Time Bokan series, most notably Yatterman. Each Time Bokan show centered around mostly unrelated heroes who travel the world, and occasionally time and space. They are always antagonized by a trio of incompetent villains, who are technically different characters in each series, but look and act so similar that sometimes it's hard to tell the gangs from different series apart. Every anime example on this list, from the Team Rocket trio to the Grandis Gang, was inspired by them.
    • Sometimes they're also implied to be Animated Actors, that is, the same characters playig different parts. It helps that they were voiced by the same seiyuu for more than 20 years!
    • By far the most popular of these groups was the Doronojo Gang from Yatterman, who grace the page image. They're so well-loved in Japan that when the series was remade in 2008, advertising for the remake focused primarily on them, ignoring the show's actual protagonists.
    • Kiramekiman inverts this - while the trio is still comedic, as detectives they technically qualify as the good guys, while the heroes of the show are thieves (they have a good reason for their thefts, but they're still breaking the law).
  • In Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo the title character is often facing off against a terrible trio working for the current arc's Big Bad.
  • Usarapa (Ursula), Noratty (Zander), and Edo (Ed) in Dinosaur King. Even funnier in the dub, as Ursula is voiced by Rachel Lillis, the voice of Jessie of Pokémon's Team Rocket in the 4Kids dub.
  • Buaku and the Puma Sisters in Dominion Tank Police.
  • Emperor Pilaf, Shu and Mai in Dragon Ball.
  • Excel, Hyatt, and Elgala from Excel Saga. Excel is the leader because she is the most bossy, but is the least competent of the three. Their boss, Il Palazzo, is the man higher up.
  • Petra Fina, Dino, and Mite from Flint the Time Detective.
  • Though they are part of a larger group, Lust, Envy and Gluttony from Fullmetal Alchemist often function as a Terrible Trio group when it's just the three of them, especially in earlier episodes. The big difference is that they are actually effective in their work.
  • Miki Saotome, Ukon Tanaka and Sakon Suzuki from Kidou Shinsengumi Moeyo Ken.
  • Patrick Calasour of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 manages to be a one-man Team Rocket... well, the "incompetent" part of it anyway. He has acquired the Fan Nickname "Team Patrick".
  • The Collector Count (a.k.a. Prince Eccentro) and his two female minions (Batch and Gluko) in Mon Colle Knights.
  • The Grandis Gang in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water; subverted in that they undergo a Heel Face Turn relatively early in the series, and continue acting as a collective Sixth Ranger until the end. They also subvert the mold set by Doronjo and her cronies just a little - the tall, lanky guy is strong and the short, squat guy is smart.
  • The Jiggle Butt Gang (Exactly What It Says on the Tin, unfortunately) in Rave Master are just such a group of bumbling thieves.
    • In the American dub they're given the even funnier name the Big Butt Bandits.
  • Tsujido, Makabe and Niihari from Speed Grapher fit the personality and physical requirements for a Team Rocket. However, they're competent, and a genuine threat to Saiga and Kagura for most of the series.
  • Pai, Kisshu and Taruto from Tokyo Mew Mew, in that order of position and with Deep Blue as higher-up. They are presented as a real threat, though, although Taruto loses this when he reluctantly falls for Bu-ling.
  • Gargantua's henchmen in Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito.
  • Dr Eggman and his two meek droids, Decoe and Bocoe from Sonic X, with "Messenger Robo" Bokkun occasionally getting in on the action.
  • Foxy the Silver Fox and his mates Porsche and Hamburg, from One Piece, especially in the anime.
  • Transformers Armada starts Megatron off with three henchmen: Loyal but dense Demolishor, the Ax Crazy Cyclonus, and angsty Starscream.
  • Zorori, Noishi and Ishishi from Kaiketsu Zorori. In this case, they're the main characters.
  • Shugo Chara has the Easter scientist trio.
  • The slime sisters from Mahou Sensei Negima, with Ameko as the polite one, Pudding as The Quiet One and Suramui as the rude and bossy one.
  • GEAR Fighter Dendoh has three Gulfer "chips" in human disguise that are always causing minor trouble. They usually get their robots destroyed embarrassingly quickly before Dendoh moves on to a bigger threat.
  • The most common villain in Overman King Gainer are the idiot trio of Kajenin, Enge, and Japoli. They are far more obsessed with promotions and salaries than actually stopping the Yapan Exodus, and are generally always yelling at each other.
  • Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth! and his sidekicks are stuck in this role for the first eight episodes of the Makai Senki Disgaea anime (because they appear much earlier than in the game).
  • Gecko Moria's underlings Dr. Hogback, Absalom, and Perona, although they call themselves The Mysterious Four, adding Gecko himself; The Kuja pirates (pirettes?) Hancock Boa and her sisters Sandersonia and Marigold, from One Piece
    • Subsequently Captain Foxy and his two main sidekicks Hamburger and Porche in the One Piece anime keep reappearing from time to time to stir up trouble and get rather easily beaten. And for Porche to chase after her "Choppy".
  • Although they aren't total losers and are the main villians of the Kokoyochu story arc, Mukuro, Chikusa and Ken from Katekyo Hitman Reborn definitely count.
  • Ranma ½
    • The three warriors of the Musk Dynasty, Herb, Lime and Mint. Herb is the leader and initially of the opposite sex of her cronies, though through no choice of his. Lime and Mint are the dim-witted minions, one big and strong, the other short and fast. For all their comedic moments, they are all extremely dangerous in a fight.
    • In the last story arc of the manga you also have Kiima, Koruma and Masara of the Phoenix People (with Prince Saffron as their higher-up). Kiima is the leader of the opposite sex, and a running gag is for her two minions to call her a "old" or "mature" woman, to which Kiima responds by bopping them. They are more competent than your average Terrible Trio though, and, like the Musk Warriors, very dangerous.
  • Zoids: Chaotic Century had Stinger and his two henchmen, recurring minor antagonists who try to make up for underwhelming Mecha skills with cunning and trickery. Their plans tend to fall through because the heroes are better at Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • In Aqua Knight, mad scientist Alcantara and his servants Zykey and Zycrow are introduced like this. However, it is later inverted when Alcantara turns to be actually a good guy, and his whole purpose all the time was to save Zykey who suffers from a disease that consumes her body gradually.
  • Ko Beast: V-darn, V-sion and Akumako.
  • Akumanto, Dokudandy and Gestra in Bomberman B Daman Bakugaiden V.
  • From Urusei Yatsura, the "Spice Girls"—three alien girls, Sugar, Ginger and Pepper—are an especially inept example. Sugar tends to be the leader, but they're all equally dumb. They considers Lum, Benten and Oyuki their rivals, but are ignored by them.
  • Eyeshield 21: Although not bad guys from the audience's perspective, most of Deimon High School see Hiruma, Musashi, and Kurita as a terrible trio (with Hiruma as the leader obviously).
  • Digimon Xros Wars in the second arc, Lilithmon, Blastmon, and the Vilemons were demoted to this, by the Death Generals.
  • The Westside Gang from the anime version of Little Lulu.
  • The Three Nobles of Yliaster in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Placido, Lucciano, and Jose, their names obviously a Shout Out to the Three Tenors.

Comic Books

  • Marvel has the Spider-Man/Daredevil villains The Enforcers— Montana, Ox, and Fancy Dan. Later joined by Hammer Harrison and Snake Marston.
  • Marvel also gave us the merc group B.A.D. Girls Inc. Three female villains - Asp, Anaconda, and Diamondback - that used to part of the Serpent Society.
  • A recent backup on the Incredible Hulk book gave us Gamma Corps Black. A team made of 3 Distaff Counterparts, of Hulk villains Abomination, Zzazz and Glob. Aberration, Axon and Morras respectively.
  • There's a group of fairly obscure Batman villains called the Terrible Trio (who, as far as can be told, weren't in mind when naming this trope). The Shark, the Fox, and the Vulture are of extremely variable threat; they don't show up very often because they're pretty mundane as Batman rogues go.
  • The Beezer used to have a set of crooks called The Bad Lads, Boss (short, bossy), Knuck (big, dozy) and Fingers (tall, gangly).

Films -- Animation

  • Hades and his minions Pain and Panic from Disney's Hercules.
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, we have Lock, Shock and Barrel, the three Enfante Terrible Evil Minions to the Big Bad, Oogie Boogie.
  • In The Lion King, we have Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, minions to Scar. Shenzi, the female, is the leader and the smart one (although that's not saying much), Banzai appears to think entirely with his muscles, and Ed is either insane, retarded or faking it.
  • The dog-henchmen in Pixar's Up, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, are a Terrible Trio that hunts the main party for Big Bad Charles Muntz. The group is often played for comedic effect.
  • Cruella De Vil and her henchman Jasper and Horace in the movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians are textbook cases.
  • The Gonkish Sykes, Ernie and Bernie from Shark Tale.
  • King Malbert and his royal guards from Igor.

Films -- Live-Action


  • Street Magic, the second in the Circle Opens quartet by Tamora Pierce:Lady Zenadia the sponsor of the gang, is always accompanied by an obese eunuch and whip-thin swordsman.
  • Draco Malfoy and his henchthugs Crabbe and Goyle in the Harry Potter series. Their higher-up is Draco's father, Lucius Malfoy, and later, Voldemort himself, although he gives Draco an important mission to make his parents squirm as much as anything else. Lucius is a legitimately nasty piece of work, giving Ginny the diary that caused the events of the second book, but prefers a life of luxury with the occasional Muggle-hunting-party to being a full-time villain.
  • Film/literary example: Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride (with Prince Humperdinck as higher-up). Inigo and Fezzik both join the Man in Black soon after fighting him, but Vizzini stays a bad guy to the end. Vizzini doesn't exactly have the opportunity to do a Heel Face Turn, since he's dead after the Man in Black "fights" him.
  • The Vendilion Clique faeries in the Magic: The Gathering novels for the Lorwyn/Morningtide megablock. Iliona is the leader, while Veesa and Endry are the henchmen, though Endry becomes more and more independent beginning in Morningtide. The faerie queen Oona is their boss.
  • Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Wilmer Cook from The Maltese Falcon seem to be a more-competent-than-usual version of this team.
  • Måns, Bill and Bull from the Swedish Pelle Svanslös children's/satirical novels by Gösta Knutsson. They're cats, as are most of the characters. Måns is the leader, who dedicates his energy to trying to bully and humiliate his one-sided arch-rival Pelle (the protagonist), whom he hates for being different from other cats -- "svanslös" means "tailless". Bill and Bull are his humorously dim-witted, identical henchmen. They don't have a higher-up, as Måns is sometimes the Big Bad himself.
  • The Big Coffin Hunters, (Eldred Jonas, Roy Depape, and Clay Reynolds), from The Dark Tower series.
  • Patrick, Eddie, and Brent from A Nightmare on Elm Street: Protege.
  • Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (One fat, one short, one lean!) from Fantastic Mr. Fox are a trio of repulsive farmers with bizarre eating habits who spend the entirety of the book and its film adaptation trying to kill Mr. Fox through increasingly drastic and over-the-top ways.

Live-Action TV

  • Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan were amusing, ineffectual, wannabe-bad-guys from Buffy the Vampire Slayer... for a time. Andrew and Jonathan were in it more out of a craving for acceptance and the desire to fulfill their comic-book fantasies, and each of them eventually did a Heel Face Turn (Andrew under duress, Jonathan of his own accord). Warren, however, was genuinely evil and had the makings of a real supervillain... but his budding career was cut short when Willow flayed him alive for killing Tara.
    • "Lessons", the premier of Season Seven, had a trio of malevolent ghosts (simply credited as Dead Girl, Dead Nerd, and Dead Janitor) haunting the rebuilt Sunndale High.
  • iCarly: In some of their more Jerkass moments Carly, Freddie and Sam apply to this.
  • The Stillman Sisters from the Charmed episode "The Power of Three Blondes"; they also qualify as a collective Evil Counterpart to the Power Trio of protagonists. All three of them are trying to steal the Halliwell sisters' powers and prove that they're more than just a trio of blonde bimbos, and they come oh-so-close to succeeding at both. Mabel, the oldest sister, is clearly the leader and the most serious about the whole thing.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. Did you expect to see The Spanish Inquisition here? Well, you shouldn't have. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Bulk and Skull from the Power Rangers Verse are Team Rocket minus one—they're a pair of comically stupid henchmen (one big and fat, one little and weasely) with no brainy leader. They later had a Heel Face Turn. They acquired a leader later in the series, when they became cops, Lieutenant Stone. And later again, Professor Phenomenus.
  • The three Trolls Burly, Blabberwort, and Bluebell from The Tenth Kingdom.
  • Pearl, Brain Guy, and Bobo from the later Mystery Science Theater 3000 seasons.
  • Morgana, Helios and Agravaine from Merlin.


Tabletop Games

  • The Harpie Lady Sisters in Yu-Gi-Oh! appear as a single monster, with the card image usually being a "group shot" of three individual monsters who each have their own card and names; Mai even calls them "the Trio of Terror" in the anime and at least one video game.

Video Games

  • Team "Meanies" in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team, formed by Gengar, Ekans and Medicham. And Team "Skull" formed by Skuntank, Zubat and Koffing in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness/Time.
  • The Pokémon Pinchers admins (Blue Eyes, Red Eyes and Purple Eyes)too. Although, it turns out Blue Eyes and Red Eyes are not so evil. Purple Eyes, on the other hand...
  • LeBlanc (the leader), Logos (the brains), and Ormi (the muscle) from Final Fantasy X-2.
  • The Scorpion Army from Secret of Mana.
  • The Wildcat Gang from Wonder Project J.
  • Kindle, Koal and Jugger, in Advance Wars: Dual Strike, with Von Bolt as the Big Bad.
  • Pink, Kain, and Kotaro in Gunstar Heroes and the remake/sequel Gunstar Super Heroes.
  • The Heavenly Kings of Orochi in the King of Fighters games. Consists of Chris, Yashiro, and Shermie, with their "boss" being Orochi himself (and to a lesser extent, Goenitz).
  • Lord Palethorn, Mander and Dogman in Medi Evil 2, although they are the main villains.
  • Seifer, Raijin, and Fuujin in Final Fantasy VIII.
  • Pink, Kain, and Kotaro in Gunstar Heroes and its Remakquel Gunstar Super Heroes.
  • Chrono Cross: Karsh, Zoah, and Marcy would be a more competent Terrible Trio, while Solt, Peppor, and Ketchop would be the bumbling trio. Granted, Ketchop is only seen if you recruit Pierre, but he's the closest thing they've got.
  • Ozzie, Slash and Flea in Chrono Trigger, with Magus as the boss.
  • Conchita, Felix, and Bruce from God Hand. Naturally, they're Expies of the Skull Trio. Eventually, they're taken out not by Gene, but by The Rival Azel.
  • The heroes of Sly Cooper are like this—Sly, Bentley and Murray.
  • The Striped Brigands in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their leader, Bal Dat, is pretty cruel to his counterparts Artemecion (a moogle) and Meh Gat (an old man who eventually dies), but they're completely harmless.
  • The Trump from Gunbird and the Queen Pirates from Gunbird 2. The latter are Skull Trio Expies.
  • Super Mario
  • Odie and his henchmen in Soul Nomad and The World Eaters borders this and the Goldfish Poop Gang. Storywise they are an incompetent gang of bandits (Odie the leader, with the farmer and the two beasts as the henchies), but they do show they're not so bad, Odie can join the party and show he's not such an incompetent magician after all...
  • Bordeoux, Negimaru and Grein from the .Hack//GU trilogy were a trio of fairly skilled and ruthless PKs under the command of Master Gabi, until Bordeoux's unhealthy obssession with Haseo caused the team to fall apart.
  • Tales (series)
  • The slightly obscure beat'em-up Monster Maulers by Konami has the "Happy Droppers", a trio of bad guys who summon various monsters all around the world. They are obvious Expies of the Skull Trio from Yatterman". Here they are.
  • The Bonne family from Mega Man Legends. They even got their own spinoff!
  • The Legendary Starfy's group of Ronk, Papes and Snips is called "The Terrible Trio". The characters are quite visibly done by an artist other than the series's main one, given how much their character designs clash with the other characters, most obviously Snips, the leader.
  • The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword has Groose, Cawlin, and Stritch antagonizing Link at the start of its boarding school setting.
  • Violen (short and fat), Agile (tall and skinny) and Serges (leader) from Mega Man X2
  • Marjoly, Gao, Crowdia and Myao from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure are a Team Rocket with four members.
  • From Shadow Hearts: Covenant we have Nicolas, Veronica and Lenny.
  • Konami's Mitsumete Knight has the Burston brothers. The youngest, Billy, is the domineering one of sorts due to being the most agressive of the three and the most antagonizing with the Asian (the player avatar) ; Sam is the brainy one and Jack the big brawly dumb one.
  • Marluxia, Larxene and Axel from Kingdom Hearts could count, although they are actually extremely competant and dangerous, and one of them isn't quite what he appears...
    • They are also directly rivaled by another such trio: Zexion, Lexaeus and Vexen.
  • The Terrible Trio of the Archadian Empire in Final Fantasy XII, although technically one of them isn't from the Empire.
  • Sonic Heroes has its entire gameplay point set in the Terrible Trio trope. But the best example is Team Chaotix, with the oversized and extremely loud leader Vector, the slim and calm Espio, and the hyperactive Charmy Bee.
    • Granted Team Chaotix are more self serving protagonists than villains.
      • Dr "Eggman" Robotnik and his two henchbots, Orbot and Cubot play this more straight in Sonic Colors (this setup is actually much akin to that used in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (see below) and Sonic X (see above)).
  • The Chebukki siblings in Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia. However, the sole female, Cherukiki, is notably not the leader. Rather, the elder brother, Makki-Chebukki, acts as one.
  • The BB (no, we don't know what it stands for either) Trio in Fossil Fighters. They're the Goldfish Poop Gang / a collective Dragon for the first half of the game. Then their boss betrays them, and they do a Heel Face Turn.
  • Kabal, Kobra and Kira in Mortal Kombat, well Mortal Kombat Deception (onwards) anyway. Kabal the leader of the newely reformed Black Dragon clan, Kobra and Kira as the two henchmen (one male and one female, to keep up with the opposite henchmen ideal), terrible in the sense that they're Chaotic Evil. Kabal himself is nowhere 'near' being the Big Bad. In fact, the entire goal of the clan he now commands is to rebel against the ideals that the current Big Bad has.
  • Princess Devilotte and her two servants, Dave and Xavier, from Capcom fighting game Cyberbots.
  • The Three Mischievous Fairies in Touhou, with Sunny Milk as the leader, Luna Child as the dutiful subordinate, and Star Sapphire as the only one intelligent enough to flee whenever they annoy one of the more powerful denizens of Gensoukyou (i.e. anyone).
  • Mr. Driller Has the Ankoku drillers, Keel as the leader, Eguri is the Stalker with a Crush and Kowards, which is a Bad guy with an F in Evil.
  • Super Magnetic Neo has the Pinki Gang, which comprises of Pinki (the female leader), Yasu (the nerdy, smart guy) and Gasu (the big, dumb brute). Although, in this case, the said female leader is a baby.
  • Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse had the Terrible Trio, which were the Stage 7 bosses (the first two you may or may not have fought yet). You had to fight Twin mummies, a Cyclops and the Leviathan all in one sitting. If you died, you'd have to start over from the first of the Terrible Trio.
  • Solatorobo seems to have one as an enemy team compete with a pushy female boss.
  • Dr Neo Cortex is occasionally placed with henchmen N Gin and Tiny in some Crash Bandicoot titles (particularly evident in Crash Nitro Kart's story). In later titles Nina sometimes takes Tiny's place.
  • The Soda Poppers from Sam and Max.
  • Since the campaign mode of Transformers: War for Cybertron features a team of three playable characters for each mission, the three available characters for each mission in the Decepticon campaign could qualify as this. In the first mission, you have Megatron (the leader), Barricade (the brains), and Brawl (the muscle). In the second mission, you have the three Seekers, Starscream (the leader), Thundercracker (the brains), and Skywarp (the muscle). For the remaining missions, you have Megatron (the leader), Soundwave (the brains), and Breakdown (the muscle).
  • Strega of Persona 3 are a trio of antagonistic Persona users who the team fights on occasion consisting of Takaya, Jin and Chidori. They're just an annoyance to the heroes in the grand scheme of things, (though Takaya is responsible for killing Shinjiro) nor do they usually put up a particularly impressive fight (though in your case you always outnumber them in a fight especially since they never fight you together). Later on however, Chidori performs a High Heel Face Turn for the sake of Junpei, though she's eventually killed by Takaya.
  • The F-Con trio of CorruptCorporateExecutives - Crown, Popoff, and Baza - in Tron 2.0 We don't see their boss, but Word of God says it's the crooked bastard from the first film, Dillinger Sr.

Web Animation

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Buzz, Delete and The Hacker from the childrens show Cyberchase.
  • The Greaser Dogs from CatDog.
  • The overly amorous Kanker Sisters from Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy. And in the eyes of the cul-de-sac kids, the Eds are one of these too, up until The Movie.
  • The Gross Sisters from The Proud Family.
  • The (literal) Terrible Trio on Batman the Animated Series, The Batman, and Batman the Brave And The Bold would count.
  • The Hooded Claw and the Bully Brothers on The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
  • Texas Pete's gang in Super Ted is perhaps the ultimate example of physically contrasting henchman: Bulk is a big fat guy, and Skeleton is... well, have a guess.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady, with Krang as the higher-up.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle has Fearless Leader, Boris and Natasha (the higher-up was Mr. Big).
  • Captain N has King Hippo, the Eggplant Wizard and Mother Brain.
  • The Amoeba Boys from The Powerpuff Girls
    • Also the Ministry of Pain, consisting of Mastermind, Counterpart and Cohort.
  • On Jem, Eric Raymond was the higher-up to the Misfits and has various henchpeople as well.
  • Scratch and Grounder in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog with Robotnik as the higher up. Sometimes Robotnik himself joined them, and led from the front. Semi recurrer Coconuts also joined the team on occasion.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures has the Enforcers: Finn, Ratso and Chow.
  • Disney's DuckTales (1987) has the Beagle Boys, often as not with archnemesis Flintheart Glomgold as The Man Behind the Man. Sometimes their mother, Ma Beagle, tends to be in charge.
  • The Venture Brothers has several examples:
    • The Monarch, Henchman 21, and Henchman 24, all of whom are bumbling and ineffective. Higher Up is The Sovereign, also known as David Bowie. Except for more recently, when the Monarch is showing increasing levels of competence and 21 and 24 have some lucky moments. Well, in the last minutes of the season three finale, 24's luck ultimately runs out....
    • Doctor Girlfriend, with Tim-Tom and Kevin, the Murderous Moppets. She's coolly competent; the boys tend to get a little over the top and beyond mission scope... Higher Up is also The Sovereign.
    • The Order of the Triad, lead by Doctor Orpheum, with Jefferson Twilight and The Alchemist. Higher Up is The Master.
  • Futurama
    • Donbot and his two goons, Clamps and Joey Mousepad, are the entire Robot Mafia.
    • Mom's three sons, Walt, Larry and Igner, are another Terrible Trio. Though they're not completely incompetant, Mom treats them as if they are. Their original plan to get Fry's PIN number wouldn't have worked if Fry hadn't been... well, Fry.
  • The "Circus Freaks" in Ben 10.
  • Though not villains, Sissi, Hervé, and Nicolas from Code Lyoko qualify at their most antagonist (or when possessed by XANA). The rest of the time, they're either comic relief or unexpected sources of help.
  • Bowser, Mouser, Tryclyde, and an unnamed Koopa Troopa in The Super Mario Bros Super Show.
  • Edgar Allan Poe, Sappho and Basho in the Histeria! episode "The Legion of Super Writers".
  • Icy, Darcy and Stormy from Winx Club become this after Season One.
  • Megatron has Lugnut and Blitzwing for this in Transformers Animated until he picked up the Constructicons later down the line.
  • While hardly inneffectual until the main characters get the hang of them, Ozai's Angels (Azula, Mai and Ty-Lee), from Avatar: The Last Airbender count. Azula is almost the Big Bad herself, and then she's accompanied by a pair of Badass Normals. Really, only the main characters are capable of beating them by the Power of Plot. And unlike most Heel Face Turns, Mai and Ty-Lee do not lose their badassery. This is only shown for about 5 minutes in one episode, after which they're locked up. But it nicely leads to Azula's Villainous Breakdown.
  • Donkey Kong Country has Klump and Krusha, with King K. Rool as the higher-up. Also, Captain Skurvy, Kutlass and Green Kroc.
  • Stripperella. El Cheapo and his two hoods, who due to the stinginess of their boss have to share the same gun.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man
    • The Enforcerers: Fancy Dan, Montana and The Ox, with Tombstone as their superior. (They later get Powered Armor, becoming Richochet, Shocker and... Still Ox.)
  • The second season of Adventures in Care-a-Lot plays this up more by giving Grizzle two recurring hench-bots, UR-2 and Sargent Rocketbottom.
  • The Urpneys (namely Sgt Blob, Frizz and Nug) in The Dreamstone. Very Team Rocket-ish; being rather sympathetic, doomed to failure from the start, and tending to get an unnecessarily hard time from the good guys after they've been clearly beaten already (par a few occasions). In later episodes Urpgor sometimes joins them, albeit in an often rivalistic manner.
  • From Teen Titans, the HIVE kids. Jinx is the leader, with Gizmo and Mammoth working with her. They're pretty dangerous on their own if they put their minds too it, but generally need a higher-up to scare them into that level of competence -- Slade in their first appearance and Brother Blood later on. Ultimately they strike out on their own, but without a Man Behind the Man become joke villains. And then Jinx finally gets fed up with that and does a Heel Face Turn.
  • A classic example of this exists in Casper the Friendly Ghost with the Ghostly Trio, who consist of Stretch, the tall one and leader, Stinkie, the short one, and Fatso, the fat one.
  • Joey, Marky and Dee-Dee in Oggy and the Cockroaches.
  • The Meanos from Paw Paws.
  • The Diamond Dogs from the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "A Dog and Pony Show" are lead by such a trio. Word of God says their names are Fido (the hulking one), Rover (the tall, skinny one) and Spot (the short one).
  • Margret Rhino's group, the preitties from My Gym Partner's a Monkey.
  • Lucius, Samy and Molotov from Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • Potisha, Gwen and Marry Gibbons (or sometimes Penny) from The Mighty B!.
  • Joy Peter's 3 sons from Tom Goes to the Mayor.
  • Transformers has one with the initial three Decepticon Seekers, Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp.
  • The Toad and his henchrats Spike and Whitey from Flushed Away.