The first video game was created in 1947; it was a very simple missile simulator inspired by WWII radars. Since then we have come a very long way in the entertainment business. Back when video games were a new concept, it didn’t take much to create a success. However, as time went on and game popularity continued to rise, so did our expectations. Now-a-days a successful game not only requires fun gameplay, but also an enticing musical score, a well-developed plot, characters with depth, and much more. However, the games that made the most lasting impressions tended to be the ones with very well fleshed out villains. The villains on this list are some of the best in video game history. Now, in an attempt to be fair, I’m setting down the rule of ONE CHARACTER PER GAME FRANCHISE. There are multiple villains from the same game or series that could outrank some of the characters on this list, but in order to be respectful I’m limiting it one character. With that being said, let us begin.
10. Master Xehanort (Kingdom Hearts)
Master Xehanort, in his various forms is the main antagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series and through every incarnation has spread darkness and destruction throughout the universe.
The original incarnation of Master Xehanort began with the goal of spreading darkness throughout the universe in order to balance out the overly prevalent light. After the events of the prequel “Birth by Sleep” he lost his memory and took on a new form. He was then apprenticed by Ansem the Wise and began research that would lead to the creation of the Heartless and Nobodies. After exiling Ansem the Wise, he takes on his identity and becomes a Heartless himself, dubbing himself Ansem: the seeker of Darkness. As a Heartless, he seeks to unlock the power of Kingdom Hearts: The heart of all worlds, which he believes to be the ultimate source of darkness. Through the process of unleashing his army of Heartless across the various worlds in the universe, he sought to use the hearts of those people and worlds that fell to the Heartless to unlock Kingdom Hearts. He was defeated by the game’s main protagonist: Sora, and returned as a Nobody in Kingdom Hearts 2, seeking to undo the repairs to the universe made in the first game and unlocking Kingdom Hearts again in the quest to become whole. He is again defeated by Sora.
The reason he is on this list is because of all the damage he caused in his various incarnations. He caused the temporary death of millions of people and worlds, and created the plague of heartless and nobodies. Although, his original version was made more interesting in the prequel, he is a character without much depth and widely regarded as “boring”, however he’s done enough evil deeds to merit a spot on the list.
9. Bowser (Mario)
As much as I hate Bowser, he is one of the most iconic characters in gaming history, and I can’t exclude him from this list. As the Yin to Mario’s Yang, he is instantly recognizable to anyone even remotely familiar with video games. Although he is an incredibly shallow and one-dimensional character, I have to give him points for trying. Throughout every game console Bowser has plagued Mario in dozens of different adventures. Although Nintendo has made a running gag out of his “inability to beat Mario” he is actually one of the most successful villains of all time if you look past the game. With the amount of times Mario dies in the games, his success rate is incomprehensibly small. Bowser has killed Mario in every way possible, and has gained notoriety among gamers of varying dedication, and will go down in history.
8. Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik (Sonic)
Dr. Eggman is a lot like Bowser, only done better. He is the Yang to Sonic’s Yin, and is again one of the most iconic characters in the industry. Although he is more entertaining than Bowser, he is still fairly underdeveloped, as his desires for world domination are fairly unjustified, being motivated only by greed and narcissism. However, his vast intellect and relentless determination make him a formidable (albeit silly) foe. He is always one step ahead of Sonic, but is never truly prepared, due to pride allowing him to overlook important flaws in his creations. However, he has been successful in the past, most notably in the creation of his pinochle, the ultimate weapon: Metal Sonic, who goes on to become one of Sonics most powerful, deadly, and dangerous foes. Although he is silly and doesn’t have much more depth than Bowser, he is still widely recognizable and pulls off the job of stereotype villain quite well, allowing him his time in the limelight and on the list.
7. Ganondorf (Legend of Zelda)
Ganondorf acts as the main antagonist in the Legend of Zelda series, and is portrayed as the incarnate of evil. His personality has ranged from Machiavellian tyrant to savage beast depending on the incarnation of him, but he is always shown to have an unquenchable thirst for power and intense powers of dark magic. He is essentially another Bowser, except treated far more seriously, and much better developed. He is very manipulative and often uses other antagonists to his advantage, allowing him to achieve his goals, and always manages to return from even the worst trials and defeats. He is what Bowser should be, and makes for a challenging villain for the main protagonist.
6. Sigma (Megaman X)
The first creation of Doctor Cain, Sigma was originally considered to be the finest of Reploids (cyborgs) and the best of the Maverick Hunters; peace-keeping Reploids who defend humans against their renegade counterparts. As the most advanced Reploid of his time, Sigma was created with state-of-the-art technology which was theoretically supposed to prevent him from going Maverick. This changed when he and his squad encountered Zero: the last creation of Dr. Wily. Zero suffered from a terrible flaw in his programming, which made him completely uncontrollable; unleashing wanton destruction everywhere he went (not quite as delicious as it sounds).
Sigma was beaten badly by the maddened Zero, but managed to smash the energy crystal in Zero’s helmet. The fight, due to taking place in close proximity to Zero’s capsule, (which was leaking trace amounts of the Maverick Virus) and the damage they already sustained in the battle, transferred the Maverick Virus directly into Sigma and Zero, infecting them. Zero lost consciousness and Sigma limped away from the battle, ordering his men to take the body of Zero back for study. The virus had different effects on the two of them: Although the virus in Zero got rid of the flawed programming within him, the virus in Sigma began to mutate and adapt to Sigma’s own programming, eventually fusing entirely with his mind to form the Sigma Virus.
Sigma’s advanced circuitry seems to do its job, as he seemingly remains stable for months after the lab incident. He gradually succumbs to the virus inside of him and grows more volatile. Without warning, he leads a mass revolt among the Reploids, declaring total war on humanity. While many follow him out of loyalty, some (like the newly reformed Zero and the protagonist: X) remain on the side of the humans and fight against Sigma and his squad. Although he is defeated, the Sigma virus grew to be powerful enough to survive on its own for short periods of time (long enough for him to find a suitable host). He makes many appearances, acting as the main antagonist for nearly all the Megaman X games.
He makes the list due to the mass havoc he’s wrought across the multitude of Megaman X games, having depth as a villain beyond that of just the Bowser mindset of “I wanna kill you and capture the princess because I’m evil muahahah!” and is often a challenge for the player to defeat. His actions and development are more than enough to make him both memorable and lasting, and for that he makes the cut.
5. Albert Wesker (Resident Evil)
Power-hungry, knowledgeable and infinitely cunning, Albert Wesker was a man who sought power and domination over the entire human race, all for his own gain. To this end, he was affiliated with the Umbrella Corporation, as one of its most promising researchers. At the same time he participated in illicit activities by going undercover as an officer in the R.C.P.D. (Raccoon City Police Department) and the leader of S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) in Raccoon City. Through the course of much betrayal of his allies to further his own plans, Wesker faked his death and gained superhuman powers from a prototype zombie virus. His plan was to transform the entire human race into powerful superhuman mutants like himself and rule over them as a god of the new age. He continually appears throughout the game series, using his brilliant mind and incredible abilities to manipulate events for his own gain.
He has been well received by fans as an intriguing character and difficult opponent, manipulating most events of the game series, and taking every advantage he can from the outbreak. Truly the proverbial “man behind the curtain” of the Resident Evil series, he is considered to be one of the most memorable and diabolical of villains in the video game market. He helps define the stereotype of a well written video game villain, and is without a doubt one of the best.
4. The Joker (Arkham Asylum/City)
Fans everywhere agree that the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games were among the very best of Batman interpretations in history. Both have earned their title as “game of the year” for their fantastic playability, well written stories and fantastic portrayals of the iconic villains. Chief among these is the Joker. Mark Hamill’s classic depiction of the character was brought to incredible new heights with the dynamics of the series. His lighthearted tormenting relationship with the player and chemistry among other characters is classic to the beloved character and really makes him an enjoyable villain.
But here’s what really separates him from the rest. Not only is he an enjoyable villain that makes you almost want to root for him, but he’s one you don’t want to see go. As shown by the mass reaction to the ending of Arkham City SPOILER ALERT his death brought millions of fans to tears. In NO other game has there ever been such a strong reaction to the death of a villain. IT IS NOW SAFE TO PROCEED SPOILER FREE The sad, but beautiful ending of the game showcased exactly how popular the character is. That alone earns him a spot on the list, but even if you don’t take that into account, the man is a legendary character, and on top of that, he’s fun. He’s without a doubt among the best and is more than worthy of making the list.
3. The Black Marker (Dead Space/2)
Look, I know what you’re thinking “Why the hell is a giant space rock on this list, but not Sephiroth?” Well, let me explain. The Black Marker was found by Michael Altman and a team of researchers in the asteroid impact crater that was presumed to be from the one that annihilated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Altman’s discovery spawned a religion, known as Unitology, which grew faster than any other religion ever formed on Earth. According to official sources, Altman was mysteriously assassinated by the government to silence the truth, and thus he became a martyr figure to the religion’s believers. After being extensively studied, The Black Marker was reverse-engineered and a near perfect copy : “The Red Marker” was made. The studies of the Marker were what led to the Unitology experiments which created Necromorphs: powerful, zombie-like creatures that live for the sole purpose of spreading their virus and making more necromorphs.
The Marker is actually revealed to be sentient and planned out the entirety of the events of Dead Space in order to give itself complete power over the universe with its undead army. Its manipulative properties and tempting knowledge have led many members the human race to fall right into its trap and completely under its influence. It placed the suggestion for the humans to study it. It was the one who provided the information ripe for the testing. It was the one who caused widespread destruction throughout earth and many other worlds. The Black Marker may be just a rock, but it’s a pretty damn impressive rock.
2. GLaDOS (Portal/2)
The all-powerful A.I. known as GLaDOS (short for Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System) has rapidly gained popularity and notoriety among anyone familiar with the company Valve. Her omniscient, god-like control of the Aperture Science facility gives her a dominating power over you, the player. She is a very manipulative character that defines the Portal games. She begins initially as a friendly, robotic voice of reason, guiding you through the tests and inspiring you to continue. As you progress she gets less and less trustworthy, before eventually attempting to kill you. She then becomes much more human and develops a cold, vengeful personality until her defeat at the end of the game.
In Portal 2, she returns with an incredibly human personality. She expresses a very cynical sense of humor, and delights in tormenting you throughout the game. Her condescending, and downright hilarious remarks solidifies her relationship with the characters, and develops a humorous chemistry between herself, you, and the lighthearted, comical core: Wheatley. She is an extremely popular character and has been widely received as “the best”, listed as #1 on IGN’s top 100 video game villains. She is definitely one of the most memorable villains in history, and has largely contributed to the success of the Portal games…and she knows a wicked good recipe for chocolate cake.
1. Kefka (Final Fantasy 6)
In the universe of final Fantasy 6, there are two dimensions: The human dimension, and the Esper dimension. Espers are magical creatures that once lived alongside humans, but decided to exile themselves for their own safety, after seeing the harmful and destructive nature of humans. Thousands of years later, the world of the Espers was rediscovered and invaded by Emperor Gestahl. After acquiring the Espers, experiments were performed on them, in order to find a way to harness their power and use it as a form of energy. In the process they tested the effects of transferring the Espers’ powers to humans. Their first test subject was Kefka Palazzo. The experiment went horribly wrong and (although it did grant him magical powers) completely shattered his mind and destroyed his sanity.
His mind was broken to the point where he could no longer comprehend happiness in the form of love or friendship. The only form of happiness he could understand was the sadistic pleasure of causing death, destruction, and suffering in others. In fact, one of the first things you see him do is considered one of his worst crimes. During the siege of Doma, in which the peace loving General Leo is summoned to meet Gestahl, he places Kefka temporarily in charge and specifically orders him to wait until his return so negotiations can be made. Kefka directly disobeys this order, and (at the expense of many of his own captured soldiers) orders his men to poison the water supply. This in turn kills nearly everyone in the castle.
Kefka makes several other appearances throughout the game acting as the secondary antagonist to Emperor Gestahl until the halfway point in which he usurps the power of mystical goddess statues and simultaneously kills Gestahl, destroys the world, and becomes a god. During his reign as a god, he entertains himself by destroying nearly all life, giving it just enough time to barely recover, and then destroying it again, in an endless cycle. By the time you confront him for the final battle, he reveals that he is growing bored of destroying the planet and decides to move on to the grander task of destroying the universe.
His antics make him a remarkably memorable character, and his psychotic persona can be considered either hysterically entertaining or completely rage inducing. Either way, he sticks with you. Despite his completely evil (and somewhat silly) personality, he is actually a very sad character. His mindless quest for destruction is the only thing he can do to make himself happy, as nothing else has any effect on him. He is extremely unpredictable and VERY dangerous, yet surprisingly cunning. His dynamic is unique among Final Fantasy villains. Whereas most FF villains are powerhouses throughout and require you to build your way up to them, Kefka starts off strong in comparison, but still relatively weak and he continues to grow more powerful as you do. He manipulates the background of all the events, slowly usurping the powers of the Espers before striking at the opportune moment. A fan favorite, rivaled in popularity only by Sephiroth, the antagonist of FF7, he has a very large fan base. In conclusion, the spot of #1 is reserved for “the villain that won”, one of the only villains to actually achieve his goals: Kefka Palazzo.
Article written by Daniel Jerz