Humans love to hate things; the internet has proven that time and time again. Whether it be a political candidate, a corporate entity, or a YouTube Rewind, we have a plethora of villains stored up in our psyche, real or perceived. But sometimes, particularly in fiction, a villain can be a balancing factor; a hurdle for the hero to overcome and demonstrate their courage. What is Red Riding Hood without her wolf; Superman without his Lex Luthor; Jerry without his Tom? It is through the contrast of a villain that we can see a hero’s strongest traits, like salt bringing out the flavor in chocolate.
As an interactive medium, video games put the burden of justice on the player. You are the one punishing the antagonist for his crimes. You are the one questioning the morality of the foe. It’s a unique position: one that only video games can provide.
And, boy, have they ever provided! For the past 40 years, some of media’s best villains and antagonists have risen from some of our favorite video games. Us writing folks here at Culture of Gaming wanted to express our appreciation of these baddies, so we compiled a list of 49 of our favorite video game villains of all time! You might be asking: “Why 49?” And to that we can only say: “Why not?” A few notes, first:
- This list is based primarily off two factors: development as a character, and iconicity. The more an antagonist has in either of these aspects, the higher up they should be on our list. Now, this doesn’t mean that they have to have both; Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, as an example, is not even the most-recognized Final Fantasy character, but his terrifying, monstrous, well-developed villainy placed him very high on our list (spoilers!). Meanwhile, Bowser isn’t exactly the deepest, most hurt, most emotional bad guy out there, but his influence in popular culture is incredibly high, so he ranks accordingly on the list.
- You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but this list is an opinion. Well, a group of opinions, from a bunch of different writers. But by no means do we claim that this list is a definitive end-all-be-all. The authors are flawed human beings, sometimes just as flawed as the villains they pick. We’re bound to have personal biases and nostalgia for antagonists that otherwise no one cares for.
- Above all, this is for fun! No one can really definitively claim which villain is the “greatest of all time”. It’s just an opinion, so take everything we say with a grain of salt.
With all that said, this is Culture of Gaming’s favorite 49 video game antagonists of all time!
49. Gruntilda (Banjo-Kazooie)
Anthony Dennis: Gruntilda is one of those villains you just can’t take too seriously. From her overly witchy face to her iconic laugh that you still hear today. Gruntilda is the arch nemesis of Banjo & Kazooie in the Banjo Kazooie games. From stealing Banjo’s sister, to attempting to unleash chaos throughout the land. During your encounters with Gruntilda in the first game, she often speaks in riddles and attempts to confuse the player as to where you need to go or what actions need to be taken to progress. Quite often, her words are often clues to the bigger mystery at hand. The player (Banjo & Kazooie) often come across Gruntilda’s discarded minions and take pity on the poor creatures she has enslaved to do her will. Overall, Gruntilda is a villain who will be remembered and is still one of the most Iconic characters from the N64 period. It’s a shame we can’t see more Banjo Kazooie from Rare.
48. Master Hand (Super Smash Bros series)
Ethan Braun: For as long as the Super Smash Bros series has been around, this maniacal hand has been right there to guide it. And really, why wouldn’t he be? He’s a menacing final boss, floating in the space above Final Destination. Where most boss fights use swords or guns, Master Hand just uses his enormous mass to outwit you. He points finger guns, slams a fist, launches a finger rocket, or just squeezes you until you break. Master Hand has became a staple of the Smash Bros franchise by now, and wouldn’t want him replaced by anything else (lookin’ at you, Crazy Hand).
47. Mike Tyson (Punch Out!!)
JT Scout: Mike Tyson by himself is pretty scary, from what he did in the ring to video games. Having to defeat multiple opponents one after the other? If you thought that was difficult in itself, just think about Mike Tyson. This guy really made a lot of people, including myself, rage quit a lot. He was fast and nearly threw out one-hit KOs all the time! Later on secrets were revealed as to how to defeat him easier, but it doesn’t take away from his toughness factor. He is a beast in the ring, and I was only ever able to beat him twice. I still remember those fights and how it was frustrating to get so many of those “game over” screens. After a certain amount of continues, you had to test your luck again! Further rage-quitting ensued.
46. The Devil (Cuphead)
Ethan Braun: Cuphead is a surprisingly dark game. I mean, a line like “The Devil will take their heads” doesn’t exactly make you think of sunshine and rainbows. Yet, in the first moments of Cuphead, you realize that the statement is the story’s driving force. The Devil will take their heads if Cuphead and Mugman screw up; so don’t let that happen. The Devil is an ominous figure, yet somehow, he’s still likable because of his constant 1930s cartoon-style grin. And when the final boss fight against Satan himself finally rolls around, hoo boy, you’re going to have a bad time.
45. Bendy (Bendy and The Ink Machine)
Joel Yap: As a 2D ink-styled drawing of a character goes, Bendy has to be the most terrifying. She has this grin that turns into this almost fake smile. Throughout the game, you will sense and even see some shadows, some of them having Bendy’s figure within them. Bendy is like this attached poltergeist, following you everywhere. The most frightening thing is the fact you can’t really defeat her, you can only escape. Escape from Bendy, however, is proven very nightmarish. She will chase you and pop in out of nowhere. Possibly my favorite animated character to date. She was built for horror, and it shows!
44. Wario (Super Mario series)
Ethan Braun: Wario isn’t exactly the most villainous guy out there. He’s gone golfing, karting, fighting, and competed in tennis with Mario and friends. He even has his own series made after his namesake. But despite his suspicious chumminess in recent years, we all know that Wario is still the rotten, greed-filled garlic-eating snob he was back in Super Mario Land 2. I mean, anyone who forges a business from plucking someone’s nose hairs has to be evil, right? Perhaps Wario is more disgusting than he is villainous anymore, but that still has to count for something.
43. Nefarious (Ratchet & Clank)
Mike Sol: There may be a lot of funny villains that you might see on this list, but Dr. Nefarious is one of those characters who can be as hilarious as he can be dangerous. Starting off as an organic life form, he was transformed into a robot after Captain Quark gave him a wedgie and threw him into his machinery. Upon emerging and transformed, Dr. Nefarious would have a new goal in life in turning the entire galaxy into machines like him. He can be so much fun to listen to his monologues, and when he gets too angry, he can short circuit and his head will play the Soap Opera of Lance and Janice until someone clocks him over the head. His character was so memorable that when they rebooted Ratchet and Clank, they worked his humanoid counterpart into the story. One of the most fun and charismatic villains you will know.
42. Albert Wesker (Resident Evil series)
David White: From the first time gamers met Albert Wesker, in 1996’s Resident Evil, the cool headed, dark and mysterious leader of the RCPD’s elite S.T.A.R.S unit exuded menace. Although he was one of the good guys, gamers surely detected a hint of malevolence simmering behind those dark glasses. Rather predictably, Wesker was revealed to be an agent of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, the folks behind the whole Raccoon City incident and its origin in the nearby Arklay Mountains. Since then, Wesker has become one of video games most notorious and violent villains. He’s super strong, super fast, super smart, hell, even pretty damn stylish and overall kind of a douche. And even though he once tried to beat up a relatively powerless Claire Redfield, is a thorn in the side of our Resident Evil heroes’ anti-Umbrella agenda, and is responsible for so much pain and suffering, he’s just so damn cool.
41. Lich King (World of Warcraft)
Taylor Evans: “My son, the day you were born, the very forests of Lordaeron whispered the name: …Arthas.” These words, used in an opening cinematic for World of Warcraft still give me chills to this day. Arthas is an incredibly deep villain. Once a man sworn to the Light but overcome by darkness, all because he tried to do what he thought was right. Arthas is a villain full of regrets, but unable to let go of the darkness granting him so much power, because he believes his plan will actually save the world.
Not only does Arthas possess incredible written depth, but he’s also one of the most climactic boss fights in World of Warcraft, making him #42 on our list.
40. Zeus (God of War)
Mike Sol: The King of Olympus as God of the Sky, Thunder, Lightning and the Heavens. Zeus is the father of series protagonist, Kratos and goes to any length to ensure balance in the world. The only problem is that after Kratos opened Pandora’s Box, Zeus found himself consumed by fear and believed that Kratos would one day betray him as he did when he defeated his father, Cronos. From God of War 2 and onwards, you see the lengths Zeus will go to in order to stop Kratos and it would led to the end of the world. It isn’t to say Zeus doesn’t know how to fight as he can definitely be a huge threat against Kratos in more ways than one. To fight against Zeus is to fight against Olympus itself, and it is a fight you can’t win.
39. King K. Rool (Donkey Kong Country series)
Ethan Braun: In the nearly 20 years since Rare left Nintendo, their former characters haven’t gotten the legacies they deserve. But the one exception to this rather unfortunate rule is the primary antagonist of the Donkey Kong Country franchise, King K. Rool. This big ol’ alligator monarch fits in the Donkey Kong Country universe so well; it’s hard not to giggle just looking at him. The big, uneven eyes, the cartoonishly tall crown, the overblown, metal-plated gut. No wonder he got so many votes in Super Smash Bros 4’s ballot. Eventually, Donkey Kong’s mortal enemy was added to the Smash Bros fray, and he looks more gorgeous and ridiculous than ever.
38. King Dedede (Kirby series)
Ethan Braun: Not all villains have to be menacing; sometimes, it’s even better if they’re comically adorable. King Dedede is one of those kinds of villains; after all, he’s just a big blubbering penguin! He throws his weight around like a massive, beak-faced bowl of Jell-O, tossing big-eyed spike balls and sucking up fruit into his tummy. And then there’s his hammer, which is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. It’s so big, you know that there’s no feasible reason for him to use it, but who cares?! King Dedede is adorable.
37. Mother Brain (Metroid series)
Ethan Braun: Super Metroid’s final section, Tourian, is a strangely anticlimactic area. After wandering through the lava-chambers, haunted ship, and underwater depths of Planet Zebes, the oddly quiet metallic halls of Tourian come as a surprise. But then, Samus gets to the end of the hall, and meets Mother Brain, a massive cerebrum-shaped creature with a single eye. After the glass cage is blown to bits, Mother Brain quickly evolves into a terrifying dinosaur-like creature, beaming lasers until Samus is nearly dead. Suddenly, Samus’s faithful Baby Metroid swoops in and saves her. And in that moment when everything is saved, you, as the player, have the privilege of beating the ever-loving crap out of Mother Brain with a few shots of a hyper beam. It’s a glorious finale, all made possible by a hideous villain.
36. Father Comstock (Bioshock Infinite)
Taylor Evans: Bioshock Infinite is an absolute journey of a game, with a conflict primarily driven by Father Comstock. In his devout religious vision, he pioneered and crafted a city in the clouds, driven by the idea of puritanism and American excellence. Comstock created a place that him and so many other of his followers thought of as utopia, until you the player disrupt his plans by rescuing his lamb.
Comstock is such a well-defined and driven villain, that from the player’s perspective is hostile, but to an onlooker, maybe not so much. Father Comstock earns a spot at #37.
35. Gwyn (Dark Souls)
Joel Yap: Gwyn, the Lord of Cinders, was a warrior and a God in the world of Dark Souls. Once known as the Lord of Sunlight, he fought a war against dragons, winning and ending the Age of Ancients. He is so powerful that when he gave parts of his soul to the Four Kings and Seath the Scaleless, he was still one of the most powerful beings in the world. In a game full of many hard bosses, Gwyn stands at the end as the final challenge. He was the first Lord of Cinder to successfully sacrifice himself to extend the First Flame, thus creating a link and beginning the Age of Fire, leaving behind a legacy and his essence, to which the player must defeat to either succeed him by sacrificing their soul to the First Flame, or to usher in the Age of Darkness.
34. Handsome Jack (Borderlands)
Mike Sol: If we had to describe Handsome Jack in one phrase, it would be that he is literally “the Perfect Asshole” that has ever existed in the history of Video Games. In a world that is filled to the brim in chaos, Handsome Jack was able to out crazy the crazies and took over Pandora through Hyperion. He is also a master manipulator as for a good chunk of Borderlands 2, he can pull a fast one on you and the other vault hunters and kills off a few major characters, including blowing up a bird’s head off its shoulders. Best of all, by the time you take him out, you realize that when he proclaims himself as “the Hero,” he isn’t lying. He is a character you love to hate and always enjoy seeing come in just to discover how else he can call you an idiot.
33. Scissorman (Clock Tower)
David White: Imagine an old mansion, deep in the mountains. Now imagine you’re an orphan, you visit this gigantic house in the hopes that the head of the household will become a kind of father figure for you and your group of orphan friends and help you become a respectable, successful member of society. Then you and your friends get separated, each turn up dead, killed by a huge weapon. You confirm that the portrayer of these slayings is still roaming the house which you cannot escape. He’s gleefully looking for you, searching every room and jumping from dark shadows and doorways, getting more joy out of your terror and screams than the thought of killing you. This murderer is wielding a giant pair of scissors, the sharp clashing of every snip of the blades followed by a giggle of murderous excitement making you run faster and faster every time metal meets metal… You pretty much would get the harrowing adventures of poor orphan Jennifer Simpson in tense survival horror Clock Tower and her first encounter with maniacal murderer, early survival horror villain, and legendary slasher antagonist: Scissorman.
32. Flowey (Undertale)
Joel Yap: Flowey is the cruel and malicious flower from the world of Undertale. Despite Flowey’s initial friendly appearance, he is anything but. He originally appears friendly to the player, but is in reality malevolent and cruel with a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality. He is one of the few characters that can break the fourth wall, often talking about previous SAVED games as a power that he once held, making him even more unnerving and creepy for whoever is playing the game. What makes Flowey so great as a villain is how he links to the actual backstory of the world, how he is the depiction and essence of Asriel, the adoptive brother of the previous human who fell into the world of monsters.
31. Andrew Ryan (Bioshock)
Taylor Evans: “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?” This defining quote is what drove Andrew Ryan to shed his roots of growing up in the Soviet Bloc. In the end, he chose Rapture, an underwater utopian city embodying Ayn Rand’s objectivism ideals. Andrew Ryan got to build and experience his utopian dream for a time, until social unrest ended up destroying the city.
Almost unable to end it himself, Ryan eventually asks the player to end it all for him, and he’s someone you can’t help but feel bad for, making him #31 on our list.
30. Red (Pokemon series)
JT Scout: Some may consider him a protagonist, as he is who you play as for the original Red/Blue/Green/Yellow games, but in later games becomes the final trainer to fight. This will also be the ultimate test to see if you’re at least able to stand a chance against others head-to-head. In the Gold/Silver/Crystal versions, Red has Pokemon averaging levels in their 70s. This by itself can be tough, especially for speedrunning. However, in later SoulSilver and HeartGold versions, it’s upped to an average level in the 80s. This has made it a bit more difficult, but the games themselves had become less grindy throughout. Still waiting on the day all his Pokemon are level 100 for everyone to battle! Red also makes appearances in the Super Smash Bros series.
29. Majora (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)
Joel Yap: Majora is arguably the scariest villain in all of The Legend of Zelda. A long time ago the mask was used in Hexing rituals, but the ancient ones feared it’s power, and sealed it away never to be used again, not knowing how truly evil it really was. The mask is bizarre and depraved. It seeks to control whoever wears it, often referring to its host as a puppet. Aside from being pure evil, what makes Majora’s even more terrifying is that there is no motive behind it’s actions. It’s often depicted that the mask simply destroys with no will or reason. It is insane, disturbed, and childish at times, and likes to cause havoc to everyone it can get its hands on.
28. Captain LeChuck (The Secret of Monkey Island)
Ethan Braun: There are very few comedy games out there. Earthbound, Portal 2, and Day of The Tentacle come to mind, but before any of those, there was The Secret of Monkey Island. Monkey Island is a game filled with all sorts of dry humor and irrelevant character moments, from insult sword-fighting to acrobatic cannon launches to fourth-wall-breaking game-over screens. But the scene that just might take the cake is when the protagonist, Guybrush Threepwood, finds the Ghost Pirate LeChuck trying to marry the love of Guybrush’s life.
He quickly stops the wedding, and is greeted by a sidewinder in the face that sends him hurtling across Melee™ Island. How does GuyBrush defeat LeChuck? What else would he do, except spray LeChuck with a bottle of root beer? The kind of randomness in this final fight is exactly what we loved about older point-and-click adventures, and it’s a silly ending for an equally silly boss.
27. Dracula (Castlevania series)
Ethan Braun: Dracula was already a well-established villain, from the Bram Stoker novels to the cheesy monster movies of the 60’s. But who would have thought that he would gain a second following from a cult-classic video game series? In Castlevania, Dracula has made a number of appearances, usually as a final boss. Konami has taken a lot of creative liberties with the character, from giving him a second-phase demon form in the original game, to having a son as the protagonist in Symphony of the Night. But perhaps Castlevania’s version of Dracula is most famous for his own line in Symphony: “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!”
26. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong)
Ethan Braun: While he hasn’t really been an adversary as much in recent years, you can never deny Donkey Kong’s seedy origins. One day, Donkey Kong did the unthinkable; he took Mario’s dad’s girlfriend to the top of a construction site, taunting his captor and throwing barrels at the rescuer. As Jump Man, millions and millions of kids raced to the top of the construction zone, pumping quarters into the arcade cabinets that would take Nintendo from a small-time developer to a video game super-giant. Without Donkey Kong, it’s hard to know where Mario would be today, let alone Nintendo, and the entire video game industry. For that much, he deserves a spot on our villains list.
25. Shang Tsung (Mortal Kombat series)
JT Scout: The keeper of many souls, Shang Tsung can change into any character he defeats, as he steals their souls. This guy may be a weak villain in strength, but he makes up for it by being a particularly memorable character. He shapeshifts, can use those same characters’ powers, and isn’t a terrible choice to fight as if you’re comfortable with it and learn his moves. He is easy to pick up, but a difficult character to get into and master. With how much it varies from my own gameplay style, Shang Tsung is certainly not a playable character I enjoy picking. Although, it needs to be said that he is possibly my favorite character to defeat. Winning arcade mode in the original Mortal Kombat just made you feel like you could do it again on a harder difficulty. Even though I don’t personally play him, he is a character I can stick up for and enjoy the fact he exists.
24. Akuma (Street Fighter series)
Mike Sol: While we usually see a certain dictator as the true antagonist, there is one man who can be seen as the strongest and scariest of them all. It also helps that your first appearance is you flying in and murdering the final boss outright and then serve as the hidden boss.
Akuma can be seen as the embodiment of Ansatsuken, or the “Assassin‘s Fist.” He treats every fight as a fight to the death and has access to several moves that would make him very difficult to defeat. From doing mid-air fireballs and teleports to a supermove that is so violent, the screen goes blank and you only see the flashes of the attack, Akuma is an absolute demon. There‘s a reason why you see him cross over into so many other games and someone you might not want to challenge if you value your life.
23. Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat series)
Mike Sol: While Shang Tsung was the first final boss of the Mortal Kombat series, he didn’t have the presence that made him feel like a true threat. So imagine when you are about to play Mortal Kombat 2 and find out he was a mere pawn to an Emperor who wears a skull mask and carry a giant war hammer. He has already conquered one realm and wants to add Earthrealm to his collection and will stop at nothing and break any rule to reign over all. When he isn’t playing the announcer, Shao Kahn’s moveset can have him shoulder tackling, throwing energy spears or smashing your character’s skull in with his hammer. He was one of the pinnacle “cheap bosses” at the arcades, but at least you could get in a cheap shot when he is pointing at you and proclaiming, “You suck.”
22. Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
Taylor Evans: No other villain on this list is capable of providing the unique and direct psychological horror that Psycho Mantis is able to. Psycho Mantis is the primary antagonist of Metal Gear Solid, but plays a role in Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid 5. Psycho Mantis was imprisoned due to his abnormal powers at a young age, eventually escaping imprisonment and finding power off those who hate.
The most memorable thing about Psycho Mantis is the final boss fight with him at the end of MGS1, where he breaks “the fourth wall” by almost directly conversing with the player, and aspects of the fight requiring the player to physically do things in the real world like switch controller ports in order to eventually beat him. Psycho Mantis earns the 22nd spot on our list.
21. Giygas (Earthbound)
Ethan Braun: Earthbound is a downright comedy. There are moments of delightfully dry and random humor strewn throughout the adventure. Instead of dragons and specters, you fight “New-age retro hippies” and “Unassuming local guys”. Yet at the same time, Earthbound is a heartfelt game, with important messages to tell about parenthood, divorce, and friendship. And nothing is as powerful as the ending boss, Giygas, a nondescript entity that embodies the purest form of evil. To defeat Giygas, one of your party members must pray for help, alerting all the major characters you ran into over your adventure as they join in the prayer, too. Little by little, their energy chips his health away, until finally you – you as the player – pray and deal the final blow. It’s by far Earthbound’s best moment, and it’s presented through a terrifying, omnipresent villain.
20. Dutch Van Der Linde (Red Dead Redemption series)
JT Scout: Throughout Red Dead Redemption, Van Der Linde is one villain that has to be taken down. However, throughout the second game you actually see the slow momentum as to what lead him to split from your gang. He is ruthless in the first, but is at least somewhat compassionate in the second. Going through everything in that game with him almost had made me forget him being a villain in the first game. You just go on a journey with him and really get to know him, then he stabs you in the back. This guy may not have been an extremely difficult villain, but he was a memorable one to say the least.
19. Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2)
Mike Sol: Insanity can take many forms in the world of Silent Hill. While you can pick your favorite, none have stood out as much as Pyramid head. Introduced in Silent Hill 2, it represented Jame Sunderland‘s wish to be punished for his wife’s death. With a giant triangular helmet concealing its head and carrying a giant sword, Pyramid head and be near unstoppable as you attempt to flee from it. Not to mention it can be unsettling to watch Pyramid Head casually rape two other monsters when it isn‘t trying to kill you. While the final battle against it might have been underwhelming, there’s no denying the impact Pyramid Head made in not just Silent Hill, but in the horror genre altogether.
18. Andross (Star Fox series)
JT Scout: I was introduced to the main antagonist of the series, Andross, in Star Fox 64. As a villain, he was not particularly tough, at least for this cloned android version. When I first fought his actual form, all I can say was that his brain is pretty tough. Once you had the pattern though, it wasn’t that difficult. He was one of my favorite villains to defeat on the console, and a majority of the N64’s lifespan had me hooked on that game. Later appearances had him in other forms, but nothing beats that N64 version! He is such a fascinating boss, and I look forward to playing any Star Fox game again sometime soon!
17. Kerrigan (Starcraft)
Joel Yap: Kerrigan was once the second in command of the Sons of Korhal, but her career didn’t last long as she was betrayed and infested by the Zerg Swarm, becoming the leader of the Swarm itself and taking on the moniker of The Queen of Blades. She is one of the most heart-breaking villains, as she had an intimate relationship with Raynor, the main protagonist for the Terrans. She has extremely potent psychic abilities, accidentally frying her mother’s brain at a young age, and literally readjusting the psionic measurement scales. To this day she is the most powerful Ghost on record, covet operatives known for their assassination skills and psionic abilities. When she became infested with the swarm her psionic abilities were unrivalled in the whole universe.
16. Big Boss (Metal Gear Solid)
Taylor Evans: Big Boss is considered to be the overarching antagonist of the Metal Gear Solid series, but in reality it’s not actually as cut and dry as that. Some could make the argument that he’s actually the protagonist, but I digress. Big Boss has an unrivaled military mind, as well as the necessary skill in combat to back that up. He literally helped to create a new form of martial arts to better combat his opponents in close quarters. Big Boss always seems to have a larger plan in motion, being not two but often times three steps ahead of his opponents.
Big Boss’ sheer tactical prowess and overarching presence lands him the 16th spot on our list.
15. Ridley (Metroid series)
Ethan Braun: Samus and Ridley: The bounty hunter and the pirate. No pair epitomizes the arch-nemesis relationship quite as well as these two do, dueling back and forth across an entire franchise of games. Ever since he killed Samus’s parents as a child, Ridley has shown his ugly, reptilian face time and time again. From Planet Zebes to Talon IV to SR388, Ridley is always right in Samus’s way, ready to kill or be killed. And even when it seems like he’s had enough, he comes back as Meta-Ridley, a partially metal recreation of the beast. He’s menacing, visually interesting, and makes for a tough boss fight. Just don’t call him a dragon – he probably wouldn’t appreciate it.
14. Ansem (Kingdom Hearts series)
JT Scout: The main antagonist to the original Kingdom Hearts, and every fight with him was extremely difficult. If any main villain had layers to them, it was Ansem. He takes control of the childhood friend of Sora, Riku, and proceeds to steal his heart. Throughout the original game, it had you question whether or not Riku was really himself, or if Ansem was the one controlling him. Even the fights seemed overwhelmingly in his favor, being such a tough boss to defeat. Hacking away at him always appeared to do nothing, so that’s what you felt going up against him. It nearly felt as if you had done little to no damage. You needed more than experience, you needed skill!
13. Lavos (Chrono Trigger)
JT Scout: The world is ending, but how? Oh man, the number of hoops you have to jump through just to help you defeat Lavos. Gaining levels, gathering a party, and going through literal time and space just to make things happen. There were also special weapons and equipment that felt pretty necessary to find in order to even have a chance. He produced his own spawn, which were difficult to kill off as well. If you were defeated by this monster in battle, you would witness the destruction of the world. At any time during your progression through the game, you could challenge this monster to try to defeat him. He sure you are a high enough level with the right equipment, or it will all end very abruptly.
12. Illusive Man (Mass Effect series)
Taylor Evans: The Illusive Man got to watch humanity catapult itself centuries ahead in a matter of years. With this new-found power and place in the galaxy, who was going to now watch out for the humans in this infinite universe? The Illusive Man’s immense fortune is spent on one goal: the advancement of humanity over the other galactic races of Mass Effect. Oddly mysterious yet charming, the Illusive Man, unfortunately, suffers from what so many other villains eventually do: succumbing to the extremes of their beliefs.
11. M. Bison (Street Fighter series)
JT Scout: What does the “M” stand for in M. Bison? Master? Mister? Major? Well, Capcom has never really explained this, so I guess it will never be solved. He has been addressed as Master Bison, but is that what we should settle for? Myself and others have never really thought about it, although we generally call him Major Bison. Just looking at him, you know he is the villain. You just know! Being the first villain you fight in the franchise, he can actually be pretty tough. It’s like having a suped-up version of Drago from the Rocky films. When I first really looked at him, he looked bigger than most any character in the roster. As for when I even fought him, he had given me some good matches. Certainly one of the most memorable villains.
10. Wheatley (Portal 2)
Ethan Braun: After GLaDOS astounded us in the original Portal, we all figured that she would be the star of the second game, too; and she was! But what most of us didn’t see coming was a little blue, friendly, British orb named Wheatley. Wheatley starts the adventure just as you’d think a tiny, accented orb would: comic relief! He jokes around through the entire first half of the game, explaining how he was created to be dumb-witted, specifcally for the purpose of testing. He’s charming and unintentionally hilarious, as he mumbles about his shortcomings in the Aperture Labs.
But halfway through the story, Wheatley switches roles with GLaDOS – and goes off-the-walls insane. This character who was once your friend becomes a murderous, maniacal, clumsy psychopath. But when you finally catch back up to him, and inevitably defeat him, there’s still a singe of regret because of the friend he was at the beginning. Wheatley is remarkably scripted and acted, and his sudden villainy catches everyone off-guard. He’s one of our favorite surprise villains ever.
9. Robotnik (Sonic The Hedgehog series)
JT Scout: Also known as Dr. Eggman, Robotnik is certainly one of those colorful villains that doesn’t take his job seriously at all. Every fight with him, just like another scientist we know, ends up with Robotnik grabbing a giant vehicle of his own. His face is literally everywhere! At the end of every stage in the original games, down to some villains later on in the series. I still can’t get how easy he is to beat, and as a final villain to many stages, he shouldn’t be. I mean, who brings a wrecking ball to a fight against the fastest thing alive? Seriously! Well, I can’t say he isn’t doing his job, because in later series he shows up more and more to further keep up with narrative. He’s annoying, but at the same time the most fun you have in beating him.
8. Wolf O’Donnell (Star Fox series)
JT Scout: The way I was first introduced to Wolf O’Donnell was in Star Fox 64, where he immediately became my favorite villain. He may only get a few lines of dialogue, but it was more than enough. From little exchanges alone, it looked as if Star Fox knew him from a previous encounter. It’s possible that Wolf was just that well known. He looked just awesome, and of course had a team that didn’t look nearly as cool. Wolf was slightly smarter, faster, and just the better pilot compared to the rest of his team. “What the heck?!” is still a line I remember from my encounters. With Star Fox 64, you could encounter him at the end before the final fight, but he WAS the fight. Challenging, very memorable, and overall one of my favorite villains!
7. Dr. Wily (Mega Man series)
JT Scout: Dr. Wily is truly an evil genius, clearly taking the look from Albert Einstein. He created nearly every single robot seen fighting against you. Wily is just an evil madman with no real goal except to destroy Mega Man and possibly take over the world with his machines. Just like another certain mad scientist, Dr. Wily will more often than not fight in a machine of some sort. It’s such a shame that he winds up usually being far easier than his robot counterparts. Whenever I see him in a fight, he always has to bring something large that seems to work against him. What resonated with me was the personality placed in him, even if you’re only seeing him at the start or finish of the game. He has also been a fun villain to watch throughout the series.
6. G-Man (Half-Life series)
David White: Not much is really known about Half-Life’s enigmatic G-Man. But what is known, is that he seems to be fascinated by one of video games greatest protagonists, Gordon Freeman. While little is known about this suited simulacrum, there are some things we do know. He seems to have the ability to stop time, the ability to control and conjure alien creatures, he seems to know the future and that it has something to do with Gordon. He seems to have the ability to teleport at free will, he seems bullet-proof and he observes Gordon everywhere he goes. Is he even a bad guy? Does he have humanities best interests at heart, or his own? We don’t have the exact details of what, who or even why he is. One things for sure, for Gordon, this “antagonist” is and always will be around, and that itself is pretty terrifying.
5. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
JT Scout: Sephiroth is one of the Final Fantasy villains who had most resonated with people. Those who had played Final Fantasy VII were shocked as soon as they seen the slaughtering he had done himself. I know I was. Very early on, it’s made clear that he isn’t to be messed with, both in-game and within cutscenes. When I seen him stab Aeris, it’s something I’ve never seen before. A main character of the game being killed off fairly early on. It was terrible, but a nice twist nonetheless. It’s a very powerful and memorable scene, and it solidified Sephiroth as truly one of the greatest villains.
4. GLaDos (Portal series)
Joel Yap: GLaDos is the psychopathic central computer from the Portal games . She controls all the testing facilities of Aperture Science, able to reconfigure and structure the rooms, and forces the player to go through these series of tests. She’s mostly remembered for her sarcastic and emotionless remarks. Her AI voice alone is bone chilling at times, as you don’t know if she is legitimate in what she says, or just uncaring of her playthings thoughts. GLaDos is also extremely intelligent, as most AI tend to be, often predicting and playing around with the players thoughts. She is cruel, emotionless and downright unnerving, which makes it even scarier as she has shown signs of humanity.
3. Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)
Ethan Braun: Kefka wins. What more needs to be said? In Final Fantasy VI, the fate of the entire planet is hanging in the balance, and Kefka–the court jester, the cackling fool, the lab experiment accident–comes out on top. In the wake of his ascension as a demi-god, the world is left in total ruin, with few survivors to claim the remaining bits of ashen land. And even after that, Kefka isn’t satisfied! From atop his lofty tower, he sends meteor showers and massive blasts of light down on anyone who dares to oppose him. It isn’t until your party of 14 (or 13, depending) characters gathers their last threads of morale and faces the clown-faced psychopath that the resolution comes. But even then, the world is still in ruin. The fate of humanity is unstable, and it’s all thanks to Kefka’s ungodly desire for complete annihilation.
2. Bowser (Super Mario series)
Joel Yap: King Koopa is arguably the most iconic villain in all of gaming. He is the main antagonist of Mario and is forever the kidnapper for Princess Peach. Despite his many attempts being thwarted, he remains a powerful and tyrannical figure. Bowser has conquered the Mushroom Kingdom numerous times, he even ruled over the universe for some time. Despite being the central villain and archenemy to Mario, he does tend to play comic relief roles a lot in the franchise. It’s actually pretty heartwarming, and you have to feel sorry for the guy when you realize he is a single father of eight children. But in all seriousness, he is physically one of the most powerful fighters in the Mushroom kingdom, can breath fire, and wields dark magical powers. It’s a wonder how a simple plumber can always beat him senseless in every game.
1. Ganon (The Legend of Zelda series)
Joel Yap: Ganon or Ganondorf is the incarnation of The Demon King Demise, an enemy that even the Goddesses could not defeat. Often depicted as his alter ego Ganondorf, the King of the Gerudo, he is arguably the most powerful warrior and warlock in Hyrule, with few able to match his strength. In most depictions, he is also the wielder of the Triforce of Power, imbued with the power and essence of the Goddess Din, making him even more powerful and almost to the point of invincibility. As he is literally the source of darkness and evil in the land of Hyrule, his ambition knew no bounds, and he would conquer everything before him. Few can match the prestige, the fame, and the power of Ganon, one of them being the Chosen Hero of the Goddess and wielder of the Master Sword.
And that’s the list! Tell us, did we miss any important villains? Should we have Bowser higher Ganon? Sephiroth higher than Kefka? Wheatley higher than GLaDOS? Keep it civil, but please let us know your thoughts in comments. And for more lists, you can find our Top 25 FPS’s and Top 50 RPG’s.
For more on everything video-game-related, stay tuned to Culture of Gaming.
I’m that crying kid in the corner of gym class. Hi!
oh, I guess I also write about video games – mostly Nintendo.
You can check out my personal site at ethangbraun.com, and contact me at email@example.com