It’s a fundamental truth that everyone loves a good baddie. Without a really diabolical villain, you can’t have a real hero, can you? Whether that villain is a monster, a demon, a murderer, a psycho, a nine-headed dragon or a lethal pathogen that turns people into fungus-headed cannibals, you need a primary antagonist to make the hero’s or heroine’s journey worthwhile.
So this week, we’ve picked out our favourite ever evil sons of bitches from the world of video games. Have a read, and be thankful that this lot aren’t really real.
MIKE STUBBS, STAFF WRITER
Choosing the best villain was no easy task for me. I looked at my collection of games and realized the majority don’t have villains and I guessed I couldn’t get away with writing about Manchester City! However, after much thought about silly options, my eyes wandered to my copy of Borderlands 2. Bingo!
Handsome Jack is an amazing villain: you hate him, but can’t wait for the next time he pops up on screen – and to top it all off, he’s pretty funny. I played through with a couple of friends (we weren’t popular enough to find a fourth person) and while we made a lot of our own fun (such as the tale of Derek the Death Machine), the most memorable part was Handsome Jack. His iconic look, his incredible ability to shut up three teenagers every time he appeared on screen, and his hilarious comedy moments make him my most memorable villain ever.
ADAM COOK, EDITOR
Growing up, Final Fantasy VII was my favourite game of all time. Being past the age where those kind of lists truly define me, or matter, Sephiroth still remains up there as one of the worst, most contemptible pieces of shit I can recall in living memory. But that feels harsh. He was a bad guy, of course, nobody will argue that. But there’s a specific cut-scene in the game, where a certain someone kills a party member (so impactful was it, I won’t spoil it here, even so many years on) that I’ll never forget. Watch it back, and though the visuals truly look of their time, my god… When I finally got to fight the bastard, every blow felt like it was struck from my own massive sword, right in his face.
It seems daft to even consider it these days, but if Square-Enix were to reboot the series with just “Final Fantasy”, this would be the one I’d want them to do it with, just so I can kill Sephiroth all over again.
Prior to Far Cry 3, I, like many others, couldn’t care less about Ubisoft’s inherited franchise. However, when I rocked into Rook Island and the maniacal pirate was looking at me, dead square in the face, I was enthralled… and terrified.
Vaas Montenegro is easily one of the best video game villains of all-time, no question. The difficult thing to achieve when writing a baddie is to make them a perfect foil for the hero, whilst also making sure the passive participant doesn’t start garnering sympathy for them. The character of Vaas flirts with the idea of being a “cool heel”, but will always do something heinous to re-establish his position as a cold-hearted son of a bitch. In a single sentence, he’ll go from making a quiet, considered point, to screaming in your face about the definition of insanity. I can’t imagine anyone other than Michael Mando in the role – his performance is pitch perfect.
STEPHEN DUNNE, STAFF WRITER
When you ask yourself “what makes a good villain?”, it’s always down to personal preference. Some people prefer dark and twisted villains like The Joker, or maybe they prefer the Bowsers and Doctor Eggmans of the gaming universe. Personally, I want any antagonist to make me genuinely fear them, they need to make me wish to never cross someone like them in my lifetime.
Easily, my favourite video game villain is Far Cry 3’s Vass. You want someone who is bold and unpredictable, because not only does it keep the character fresh, it keeps the player on their toes and unaware of what might lay around the corner. Vaas, easily put, is crazy. His dialogue, provided by the incredible Michael Mando, is simply captivating – he may be a threat to the player but when he speaks, you can’t help but zone out of your surroundings and listen. He is the reason I, and many others, love Far Cry 3.
Although Vaas didn’t get enough screen time, the time I spent with that psychopath is certainly up there in my favourite gaming moments.
ROBIN PARKER, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Generally – as is often also true of film and television – villainous characters in video games are both more interesting and charismatic than the actual hero of the piece. As such, it is somewhat difficult to pick one video game villain who stands out above all others. Should I pick the distant and mysterious Lan Di from Shenmue, the Foxhound group from Metal Gear Solid – consisting of such great enemies as Vulcan Raven and Psycho Mantis, or maybe the more obscure choice of Jesse Bains – the drug lord from Police Quest: In Pursuit of The Death Angel?
In the end, it was an easy choice, and the best video game villain I have ever encountered is actually an ex-villain. He is the ghost pirate LeChuck from the Monkey Island series. Nothing can keep LeChuck down; not the death of his human form, the extermination of his ghostly form, or the Voodoo-assisted destruction of his zombified body – he just keeps plugging away. And was he ever really all that bad? He just wanted Governor Elaine Marley to join him as his undead bride – whether she liked it or not.
But what makes LeChuck most entertaining is that even when he is being horrible, he maintains a comedic edge and a certain likability. True he wants to kill the poor, naive Guybrush Threepwood for foiling his plans, but he has a certain bumbling bluster that you can’t help but find amusing. His plans are pre-destined to always go awry – and it is with a certain resigned disappointment that LeChuck accepts this fate. Like a classic Tom & Jerry cartoon, you even begin to feel a little sorry for his failed attempts, just like poor old Tom. But that doesn’t mean you won’t take some satisfaction from the next time you create a Voodoo doll to drag him back to Hell.
MIKHAIL MADNANI, CONTRIBUTOR
I beat Final Fantasy V after IV, and while the story in V was sub-par, there were a few things that made it a great game overall. One of them is Gilgamesh, one of my favourite characters in FF history. His dialogue is awesome, with lines like “Enough expository banter. It’s time we fight like men. And ladies. And ladies who dress like men. For Gilgamesh… it is morphing time!”
Recurring bosses aren’t anything new in gaming, but when I played FFV, each appearance he made was memorable. This boss had a sense of humour, and you even fought him on the big bridge, where one of the most famous songs in gaming history played. His character development in the few interactions you have is really great. One of the saddest moments in the game is when Gilgamesh appears and sacrifices himself to finally defeat Necrophobe in the interdimensional rift. I’m more sad about this sacrifice than the other big one that happens earlier in the game.
LEE GARBUTT, ASSISTANT VIDEO PRODUCER
I mentioned in a recent Spanish Telegram that the SA-X in Metroid Fusion was an effective villain, and I would say it’s certainly one of the more memorable villains I’ve ever faced. This is a creature that says not a word of dialogue, nor does it need to. It’s Samus Aran’s own Power Armor, infected by a parasite, creating a sentient foe that is driven by its own basic instincts to infect a host, kill it and move onto the next one.
It’s another parallel to Ridley Scott’s Alien, one of many contained within the Metroid series. Here, we have a singular deadly creature that can appear at any moment, and is considerably more powerful than the protagonist – at least initially. It’s an enemy whose first appearance involves blasting clean through a wall as if it was nothing, and with each further appearance, your first instinct is to run like hell. This is a being that represents Samus at her most powerful, while the protagonist herself begins the game at her weakest. With an AI constantly reminding you of your statistical chances of defeating the SA-X, it’s only by tooling yourself up with various upgrades that you to amend those chances in your favour.
It says a lot that a Nintendo-developed title on the Game Boy Advance is able to convey a feeling of fear upon the player, and that’s why SA-X is so memorable.
MICK FRASER, DEPUTY EDITOR
Being a fan of bombast in general, be it pulpy fantasy literature or gung-ho action blockbusters, I tend to like my villains to be black-hearted, despicable evil-doers, real nasty bastards that deserve to meet their end on the tip of a sword (or meat grinder, jet engine, whatever). But surprisingly, my favourite video game villain of all time is one who I genuinely didn’t see coming.
The defining moment – that moment I realised who the real dastardly shit was at the heart of all my troubles – was when it was suddenly made clear that this evil genius hadn’t only been controlling the actions of my in-game character – he had been controlling my actions as well. He’d made me his ultimate pawn, reaching across worlds to have me enact his depraved plan and leave a trail of bodies in my wake – culminating in the brutal, bloody murder of a man he had made me hate. And he did it all with three simple words:
WOULD YOU KINDLY.
Step up, Bioshock’s Atlas. You’re my favourite video game villain, you callous piece of shit, you.
JAMES BOWDEN, STAFF WRITER
Puppet masters are the worst. The whole”villain behind the villain” shtick can be a hideous bait and switch when conducted rashly, but in the 3DS title Kid Icarus Uprising this often irritating style of big bad is handled perfectly.
Not least because Nintendo’s take on the Greek god of the underworld is a brilliantly camp fusion of Rocky Horror era Tim Curry and Rik Mayall, but also because his motives and role remain true to his string-tweaking style far beyond his introduction. He’s a great villain because he’s always there, constantly and sarcastically undermining everything you’re up to.
But it’s the way Hades continues to manipulate the bickering celestial forces, and by effect you, for his personal gain throughout every level that makes him a credible antagonist, while also providing Pit with a much more constant, clever, and therefore despicable nemesis than any of Nintendo’s other premier mascots, all without resorting to kidnapping. Bowser, Ganon, take notes!
SEAN SMITH, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
The Final Fantasy series has had some brilliant baddies over the years, right? Sephiroth is one of Square’s finest evil-doers. Seymour Guado was a right bastard, too. But in the pantheon of FF antagonists, there is one name that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Kefka Palazzo is the crazed, nihilistic force of evil at the centre of Final Fantasy VI, a cruel, hate-fuelled harlequin who serves as a kind of proto-Heath Ledger Joker, and a villain whose laugh will be instantly recognisable to anyone who crossed his path on the SNES. Where most bad guys you come across have some kind of redeeming quality, even if that comes in the form of some darkly comic flourishes, Kefka is cut from different cloth. He readily admits that he desires complete destruction and chaos, simply because he enjoys revelling in the death of others. As the game goes on, he steadily descends further and further into psychopathy, his sick giggle and ominous mantra of “Hate, hate HATE HATE HATE!” expressing his rage at the world around him.
It is hard to remember such a genuinely evil, nasty foe in any other role player, which is why when you do finally take down Palazzo in his Lucifer-inspired final form, the sense of accomplishment, and – dare I say it – relief that he is gone, is quite something. Also, clowns are scary.
DAN NAYLOR, STAFF WRITER
I had to think long and hard about this one. Every game has a villain, and over time the medium has produced some amazing nasties: the clinically insane Vaas Montenegro, the classic that is Dr. Neo Cortex, or your rival from the Pokémon games – or the entire game-world when it comes to the Souls franchise.
But one villain struck me more deeply than the rest. It’s a villain who embodies the entire game despite only being part of it for a few moments, a villain who strikes fear into the hearts of all who face them, whose name tells you everything you need to know about them in four simple words: Nazi Zombie Princess Kenny.
Well played, South Park. Well played.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Who’s your favourite villain? Maybe you’ve a soft spot for Wolfenstein’s General Deathshead, or room in your heart for Dr. Robotnik? Maybe you’re hung up on Arkham’s Joker, or legendary vampire overlord Kain… Either way, let us know in the comments below and get in on the discussion.