Ten More Absolutely Top-Notch Villains
While any old putz can be an antagonist, it takes a truly memorable character to be a villain; to deliver that combination of menace, raw power, or sheer personality that it takes for one to be truly memorable.
The guys (and, well…things) on this list are the best gaming's got to offer. These are the monsters that we feared, the evil chessmasters that we hated to love,or the glorious, hate-filled beasts that we absolutely loved to hate.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are some more of the best villains in video games.
Doctor Neo Cortex (Crash Bandicoot)
“You fool! Do you think I'm unaware of this situation? If we don't have any friends left on the surface, then we need to find…an enemy…”
Though some of you might not be aware of the fact, Naughty Dog actually existed for quite some time before making a name for themselves with the Uncharted franchise. As a matter of fact, in the heyday of console gaming, Crash Bandicoot was one of their best-known series (and for quite some time, an unofficial mascot of the PlayStation). The narcissistic Neo Cortex was the primary villain of the series, a psychopathic mad scientist whose bumbling actually directly led to the creation of the series protagonist and his greatest nemesis.
Short-tempered, reckless, and suffering from a very clear case of jaundice, Cortex nevertheless managed to be a persistent threat for Crash and his friends, comical though he was. One can only imagine what sort of stuff he'd be capable of if he could only set aside his sheer stupidity for a moment.
Sovereign (Mass Effect)
“Confidence born of ignorance. Your words are as empty as your future. I am the vanguard of your destruction. This exchange is over.”
Although Mass Effect 3 was a pretty awesome ride, nothing in that title matched the thoroughly chilling conversation with Sovereign. The voice-acting, the music, and even the graphics were absolutely perfect, and none of the other villains on this list have managed to convey the sheer sense of cold menace and the complete certainty of victory that Sovereign got across with just a few minutes of dialogue.
The sheer scale of what Sovereign represented, coupled with its logical, mechanical arrogance made defeating it all the more satisfying; one of the biggest highlights of the entire franchise.
Magus (Chrono Trigger)
“The black wind howls again…”
Sure, Lavos was a charming eldritch abomination and all, but somehow it simply didn't match Magus's force of personality or depth as a character. Thought originally to be the sorcerer who planned to bring about the end of the world, Magus instead turned out to be the last remnant of a forgotten era destroyed by the abomination; a powerful mage who was desperately trying to destroy the creature before it could do any further harm.
Of course, that didn't make him a nice person – he was perfectly willing to murder anyone who stood in his way, and displayed a great deal of ruthlessness even after being recruited as a playable character (at which point he ended up being one of the strongest party members in the game). Plus, his theme is right up there with World Revolution as one of the best songs Yasunori Mitsuda's ever composed.
Ulfric Stormcloak (Skyrim)
“We've been soldiers a long time. We know the price of freedom. The people are still weighing things in their hearts.”
Yeah, I know Ulfric isn't technically a villain (if you decide to side with the Stormcloaks). While he certainly does display a few villainous qualities (ambition, ruthlessness, and a certain degree of opportunism) he does still have Skyrim's best interests at heart, even if he is a pawn of the Thalmor.
Plus, he's definitely got a number of heroic aspects to his person, as well – from the moment you meet him in the game's opening, it's clear that this is a man with enough charisma to talk down a whole city, a warrior with a sort of quiet dignity about him which, even if you're his sworn enemy, means you can't help but like the man at least a little.
The guy's got balls of steel, too – he actually requests that you kill him if you storm his throne room, saying “it'd make for a better song that way.” Of course, General Tullius faces death with about the same degree of dignity, so…like I said, neither is really a villain.
The Thalmor are who you should really hate, anyway.
The G Man (Half-Life Series)
“Wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes.”
This list simply wouldn't feel complete without everyone's favorite in-human, inter-dimensional bureaucrat, the G-Man. From his unsettling speech and mannerisms to his questionable motives and manipulations, he's probably the most memorable villain in the whole franchise, and very likely responsible for pretty much all the problems in the Half-Life universe, and possibly even their solutions. Don't believe me? Let's have a look at the list of events which the ever-present antagonist has had a direct hand in
- He delivered the Xen Crystal that kicked off the entire Resonance Cascade, trapping Gordon Freeman into a slave-like employment contract afterwards. He rescued Alyx Vance at this time, as well.
- Twenty years later, he planted Gordon Freeman within City 17, starting up the rebellion against The Combine.
- He attempted to capture Gordon again after the destruction of The Citadel, and was only stopped by the intervention of The Vortigaunts(the first hindrance we've ever seen in any of his plans).
- It's implied that he's aware of Eli Vance's death, though he does nothing to stop it, save for warning Vance of “unforeseen consequences” (the same thing he said before the Resonance Cascade).
Maxwell (Don't Starve)
“Say, pal. You don't look so good. You better find something to eat before night comes.”
If the world of Don't Starve actually has an antagonist, it's definitely the charming magician Maxwell.
He's the one who tempted, tricked, and entrapped every single character into the mysterious nether-world in which the game takes place; a realm where he has ultimate control (though this comes with a rather terrible price, only to be discovered later). There's little else to say about the dapper demon: only that he keeps perfectly with the already off-key personality of the game.
Jon Irenicus (Baldur's Gate II)
“It's time for more…experiments.”
Though Sarevok was certainly a menacing villain, he simply didn't have the same ability to inspire hatred in the player as Irenicus did. His voice actor David Warner gave what may well have been one of the best performances of his entire career, lending the megalomaniac the perfect blend of arrogance and civility (the latter of which fell away the moment any hitches appeared in his plans).
For the entire game, the chess-master of a mage seemed always to be a full step ahead of the player, leaving trap after terrible trap in his wake, with countless puppets dancing on his strings.
The guy didn't mess around, either – he thought nothing of using the player character's friends, allies, and weaknesses against them, displaying a level of cunning of which the brutish Sarevok would have, quite frankly, been incapable.
Like all the best villains, however, his arrogance would ultimately prove to be his downfall, as he underestimated the Bhaalspawn over and over again, a series of errors which ultimately cost him both his life and his soul.
The Dark Wanderer (Diablo II)
“Why did I follow him...? I don't know. Why do things happen as they do in dreams? All I know is that, when he beckoned... I had to follow him. From that moment, we traveled together, East. Always... into the East."
Though The Dark Wanderer of Diablo II rarely has any speaking roles, and is only seen outside of cutscenes once by the players in-game (as part of a random encounter which doesn't always occur), he still deserves a place on this list, if only for the tragedy the character represents.
See, The Dark Wanderer is the wraith of the hero who originally vanquished Diablo. This hero had the bright idea to use his own body as a prison for the Lord of Terror, and act which would eventually backfire as his not-inconsiderable will eventually fell before the demon's constant onslaught. Eventually, the Wanderer became little more than a shell for the demon, a vessel he used to travel down to Hell and reclaim his infernal realm.
Have I mentioned the Wanderer was responsible for pretty much all the problems in Diablo II, as he spread the forces of Hell wherever he stepped? That seems like an important fact to add, here.
M. Bison (Street Fighter)
“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”
Of all the villains in the Street Fighter franchise, the brutal, mighty M. Bison is without a doubt the most menacing and memorable. With a military uniform inspired to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who regards him (and the sheer power required to back up that fear, if the need arises), Bison's been a mainstay of the series for decades, and is either directly or indirectly responsible for every single tragedy that's ever befallen any of the various fighters in the series.
Although in the modern day he's a rather stereotypical and archetypal villain, back then he was one of the best there was. Besides, would you like to be the one to tell him he doesn't belong on this list? I'm sure he'd be perfectly reasonable about the news.
Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)
"Why do you build, knowing destruction is inevitable? Why do you yearn to live, knowing all things must die?”
Yeah, I know...topping the list with Kefka is a bit of a cop-out. But…honestly, it didn't really feel right leaving the psychotic clown out. This terrifying narcissist is completely insane, and though he may at times appear to be a comic relief villain (and second-in-command to the game's true antagonist, the Emperor of Gestahl), this all turns out to be a clever ruse. Kefka's a lot more dangerous than anyone could possibly expect, as his desires are anything but typical for a villain.
See…Kefka falls into the camp of the Joker (I'm pretty sure the two of them would be drinking buddies, in another life). He's one of those men who's interested in destruction for destruction's sake.
He's one of those men who, humorous as he is, simply wants to watch the world burn…and we both love and hate him for it.
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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