Top 10 Video Game Villains
Villains in Video Games
Sometimes it pays to be evil. From tragic to nefarious, villains come in all shapes and sizes. Some we relate to as we learn their sympathetic origins; others we despise for their terrible schemes, making their fall at our hands all the sweeter.
But with thousands of video games introducing as many evildoers, which lowlifes reign supreme? These are the ten most iconic villains throughout video game history! Proceed with caution, spoilers ahead.
Featured in: The FEAR franchise
Alma Wade was born with incredible psychic powers. Unfortunately, this proved more a curse than a blessing as scientists soon began running a series of grueling experiments on the young girl. When Alma's powers began to grow even further, her captors started sedating her, hoping to contain her abilities. Of course, this led to a miserable life, and Alma eventually broke free of her restraints.
Alma antagonizes you as the classic creepy little gear in the original F.E.A.R., but in in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, an older Alma oddly assists protagonist Michael Becket throughout his journey, managing to creep us out just as much even when on our side. Then, Alma rapes Becket at the end of the game, revealing her intentions as wanting him as the father of the child she craves. Her fate in F.E.A.R. 3 depends on player choice, which I'll leave you to discover on your own, but Alma offers a lethal villain who was understandably driven to violence, and she succeeds in scaring many gamers—something few villains actually accomplish.
Featured in: Mega Man Battle Network
Although the titular Dr. Wily remains the chief antagonist, the Battle Network games introduced us to a darker and stronger version of classic rival Bass. Throughout Battle Network's six main entries littered across the Game Boy Advance, Bass occasionally appears as a scripted story encounter, but often looms behind the scenes as a brutally challenging endgame secret boss.
In this world, humans use their digital "NetNavi" partners to traverse the cyberworld, supporting them in battle with Battle Chips, similar to a Pokemon trainer directing their ally. Bass dominates just about every foe he faces—without an operator to help. He also bears a tragic backstory, having been abandoned by the humans who created him, and (unlike several villains), you never really change Bass's outlook. Even if you manage to beat his secret boss forms, Bass retains his distrust of humanity and brutal nature. Between his regenerating auras (which nullify everything except your strongest blows), hard-to-dodge and damaging attacks, and incredible HP reservoirs, Bass remains a threat many Mega Man fans never managed to conquer.
8. Liquid Ocelot
Featured in: Metal Gear Solid
The Metal Gear Solid franchise bears an awesome but convoluted tale. Long story short, by the events of MGS2, sort-of villain Revolver Ocelot ends up sort-of possessed by the spirit of definite-villain Liquid Snake, resulting in this bizarre mix-up of a character. Still, the fusion allows both Ocelot and Liquid to share the spotlight and helps both Big Boss's and Solid Snake's story come to a close.
Ocelot was always crafty and you never knew which side he was really playing for, but Liquid's possession makes him all the more deadly. Big Boss himself (formerly Naked Snake) once made for a nice antagonist, but as time passed, prequel games like MGS5 showcased more of his redeeming qualities, veering him more towards anti-hero than villain. Thankfully, Liquid Ocelot makes for a worthy challenge to Solid Snake and Otacon in their final adventure, and MGS4 remains one of the best games of all time, partially thanks to its complex villain.
Featured in: The Legend of Zelda
Or Ganon, as his more monstrous forms are called. Either way, this intimidating warrior was the only male Gerudo born in centuries, cementing his role in fate. Although most Zelda games feature a different incarnation of Link (as well as three timelines), who is continuously reincarnated, you're facing the same Ganondorf throughout the franchise, proving just how tenacious he is.
Bearing the Triforce of Power and seeking to unite the three pieces, Ganondorf often comes dangerously close to obtaining power not meant for mankind, and often he's only vulnerable to holy weapons like the Master Sword or Silver Arrows. More intimidating than fellow Nintendo villain Bowser (Mario's foil), Ganondorf remains a daunting force throughout the ages who we can only suppress, never truly conquer.
Featured in: Final Fantasy 6
Final Fantasy 6 was initially called FF3 in America (due to our missing the first few games), but the sixth entry in the franchise offers an iconic villain. Taking a break from the melodramatic armor-clad enemies of games past, Kefka Palazzo draws similarities to the Joker, from his amusing one-liners to his jester make-up to his surprising degree of success with crime.
Partway into the game, Kefka essentially wins, attaining the power of a god and plunging the world into chaos. He maintains his deity-like rule for an entire year before your party manages to reassemble and take him down. I'll always appreciate the tragic history and unrivaled swordsmanship of FF7's Sephiroth, but when it comes to unparalleled evil, Kefka's the top Final Fantasy villain, and he's still remembered for his trademark laugh, warped final form, and 17-minute-long theme music.
5. Origami Killer
Featured in: Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is theatrical game whose enjoyment comes from engrossing you within its bleak and realistic world while letting you make tough decisions that impact its story. In modern days, a child killer runs rampant and you play as four characters trying to catch the fiend responsible. Without spoiling anything, let's just say that the reveal is fantastically bleak, leading you to question everything you've seen up until that point.
Some fans even feel bad for the child murderer. I'm not saying a tough past justifies horrible acts, but when you see why the killer does what they do and what set them on their path, you can almost feel a twinge of sympathy for their depressing life. The Origami Killer's complex backstory, memorable unmasking, and reflection of reality (people like them actually exist in our real-life world) renders them one of gaming's best antagonists.
Featured in: Earthbound
The most mysterious of today's tyrants, Giygas is an alien invader in the Earthbound franchise, which fans of Super Smash Brothers will know through Ness and Lucas. Giygas is scary. When he attacks, your party can't even understand what they're facing, leading to the infamous "you cannot grasp the true form of Giygas's attack!" Just look at that battle sprite, which, when paused at the right time, highly resembles a human fetus (see the above thumbnail). Throw in some ominous battle tunes, and you've got some potent nightmare fuel.
Coupled with the facts that the Japanese name for this series is Mother, and that you're essentially defeating Giygas by traveling back in time and killing him while he's a weak infant (a metaphor for abortion), there's some dark stuff here perfect for fan theories. He's not present throughout the entire game, but Giygas is the driving force behind the world's distorted events, and in the two games he appears in, your party can't overcome Giygas's power. You only beat him by weakening his resolve after guilt-tripping him over his adoptive mother Maria. Who's the real villain here?
3. Pagan Min
Featured in: Far Cry 4
The dictator over the Asian region of Kyrat matches his violent outbursts with an undeniable charm. Pagan Min offers both a culturally diverse and darn interesting antagonist. Although you (as Ajay Ghale) end up working for the Golden Path resistance aiming to overthrow Min's dictatorship, he maintains a surprisingly warm attitude towards you throughout your adventure.
While Min is undeniably selfish, cruel, and power-hungry, he's also surprisingly devoted to Ajay's family, genuinely caring for Ajay simply due to Min's affection for Ajay's mother. Not only that, if you actually listen to Min at the very start of the game and obey his directions to sit tight (after hearing a tortured man's screams), you can skip the entire game, cutting immediately to Min's final conversation with Ajay. Min's a terrible leader, but he genuinely wanted to converse with you, and he occasionally shows hints of remorse for his deeds. Min offers the brutal leader you look forward to taking down while also providing the sympathetic hints that tug at your heart, offering a multi-layered and memorable character. Plus, no matter which of the Golden Path's leaders you choose to support, you soon learn that power corrupts, and all your work overthrowing Min may have just swapped him with someone equally as bad.
2. Handsome Jack
Featured in: Borderlands
Although Handsome Jack doesn't appear until Borderlands 2, he steals the show in both it and the later (earlier chronologically) game Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. In the former, we witness a brutal tyrant hellbent on ruling with an iron fist. However, Jack offers some of the best dialogue in the series, making you laugh even as you're combating his forces. Through radio contact, he remains a constant threat (and source of amusement) through your adventures,
Then, in the prequel title, Jack's origins are fleshed out, and our Vault Hunter heroes actually work alongside him. Jack's quest gradually takes a dark path and he make increasingly difficult choices, like deeming to execute a group of scientists because he suspects one is a traitor. Whether his brutal actions were right or wrong, it's hard not to sympathize with Jack's initial good intentions, especially when his allies ultimately betray him, scared of him obtaining too much power. Like most of us, Jack began with both darkness and light inside, but after his comrades abandoned him, his morality plunges, sculpting him into a cruel but sympathetic and entertaining leader.
Featured in: Portal
Who'd have thought a quirky little puzzle game like Portal would introduce such an intriguing villain? As your silent character Chell gradually escapes through the labyrinth-like laboratory building you're stuck in, GLaDOS is the only entity you encounter throughout the entire experience. Although she initially seems supportive, you soon learn GLaDOS is trying to kill you with the facility's several traps.
Like Pagan Min and Handsome Jack, GLaDOS remains a constant source of amusement throughout the game, but her humor is more sinister and dry, managing to entertain while still reminding you she's very much out to shed your blood. And since she's the only companion you have,, you form an odd sort of connection with GLaDOS despite her malicious intent. In Portal 2, GLaDOS is further developed through conversations that reveal her former mistreatment by scientists, explaining her bloodthirsty nature, and you eventually cooperate alongside your old enemy to tackle the new baddie in town. With her awesome design, fittingly cold humor, and intriguing origins, GLaDOS remains the best villain in all of gaming.
Which villain do you prefer?
Future of Villains in Gaming
Whether we enjoy a villain for their witty one-liners or their unrelenting selfishness, these baddies offer the best antagonists in gaming. Often, the most memorable villains offer engaging glimpses into their life before their fall, making their change of heart all the more tragic.
Narrowing this list to just ten wasn't easy, and I've already got plenty of ideas for more awesome villains to explore. But for now, as we eagerly await future heroic foils to test our skills all over again, vote for your favorite character and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Jeremy Gill