Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: The best video game villains
GameCentral readers discuss their favourite video game bad guys, from the iconic Ganon and Pyramid Head to the Ghost Pirate LeChuck.
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Cranston, who asked what bad guy do you love to hate the most? It can be anyone from the main villain of the story to a cannon fodder grunt, but who makes the biggest impression through the storyline or the gameplay?
We had plenty of good suggestions, including classics like GLaDOS and Bowser, as well as at least two Far Cry bad guys and less obvious choices like Undertale’s Flowey.
Love to hate
It’s got to be GLaDOS, hasn’t it? It’s almost depressing how much better Portal 1 and 2 are written than almost any other game and GLaDOS is the absolute best of any of it. She is completely evil and while there’s an explanation of sorts for why, and she does a few things that aren’t entirely selfish, you can’t trust her one little bit.
But for someone (something?) that’s presumably responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children you can’t help but laugh at her razor sharp wit and amazing voice-acting. That’s the sign of a great villain to me, a literal ‘love to hate situation’ where you can’t stop yourself ‘liking’ the bad guy and hoping they stick around.
Why she’s only reduced to cameos now and they don’t make a third game I will never understand. I’d say Valve were weird but compared to everything that’s going on with Epic Games Store at the moment I’d say that PC gaming in general is weird. Which makes GLaDOS the perfect avatar for the whole thing.
I don’t know if he’s the best exactly but the first villain I remember actively enjoying for his contribution to the story, rather than just being a boss or something is Kane from Command & Conquer. He was ultra cheesy (apparently the actor was an acting coach?!) but this was back in the day when live action cut scenes were still new and he really did add a lot of personality to game that was about directing tiny little tanks around on-screen.
I’ve no idea what his bad guy goal was or why he was always so happy (I remember him as always laughing, for some reason) but I used to look forward to those cut scenes to see what nonsense he’d be up to next time. Back then a cut scene seemed like a reward for beating a level, whereas now they’ve been turned into a punishment that stops you playing the game.
Obviously live action is almost pointless nowadays, given how graphics have improved, but I imagine the actor is getting on a bit now anyway so I’d like to see him come back in virtual form if they ever do a new Command & Conquer. And I realise that’s a fairly big if.
Nintendo are always good at villains, probably because they usually bring them back for multiple games rather than trying to reinvent the wheel each time. That’s allowed most of the big ones like Bowser and Ganon to evolve in some surprising ways over the year. But my favourite is Ridley the… whatever he is. Giant space pterodactyl?
The fact that it’s never really explained what he is or even how intelligent he is makes him all the more interesting to me. The worst thing modern games and movies do is explain everything and I prefer things be left more to your imagination. I’ve seen some Japanese manga where he talks but that just adds nothing as far as I’m concerned.
All he needs is his theme tune and the fact that he’s a rock hard boss. When that music comes on and you realise a battle has started there’s real fear but also a sense of welcome familiarity. A return bout that’s worth waiting decades for (whether you like it or not). Can’t wait to see him in Metroid Prime 4.
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As far as I’m concerned there’s only one answer to this and it’s super obvious: Flowey from Undertale. Anyone that’s played the game will immediately know what I’m talking about, while those that haven’t will think he just looks like a stupid flower with rubbish graphics.
What he actually is though is one of the best villains in all fiction. An evil monster with enormous power whose abilities and goals you only gradually become aware of through the course of the game. The way he breaks the fourth wall and uses your own save information against you is amazing.
But the best bit is that it’s also possible to feel some sort of sympathy for him. There’s a reason the way he is and you can even try to redeem him if you want. Which to me is always the sign of a great villain.
I really liked the Illusive Man in Mass Effect as a villain. Greatly performed by Martin Sheen and always made me pay attention when he popped up in a cut scene smoking like a chimney, and the fact that he was just observing from afar for a lot of his time in the games made him even more compelling.
The real-life aspects of his beliefs and aims also worked to give him a greater impact as a bad guy, and make him seem more real. He also he has the classic element of he thinks what he’s doing is genuinely right. Not exactly an antagonist until Mass Effect 3 but even in Mass Effect 2, when he was technically ‘supporting’ you, you knew at some point you’d be squaring off in the future.
Lance Vance in GTA: Vice City gave me my first real ‘you son of a-‘ moment in video games, so I certainly enjoyed putting him down (and of course they followed that up with Big Smoke et al. in San Andreas). And I’d say an honourable mention should go to The Joker from the Batman: Arkham series who, while he isn’t an exclusively a video game-based villain, was one of the most enjoyable to play against, particularly when he was nought but a figment of your (character’s) mind in Arkham Knight.
My favourite villain is Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2. I think he is the most villainous villain who ever practiced villainy in any game I have ever played and I think he’s wonderful because he is so funny. Some of the things he says are so daft they’re hilarious.
I would love to give examples of his sheer sarcastic awfulness but I’m sorry I couldn’t do him justice. To fully appreciate it you ‘have to be there’ as the saying goes and that means playing the game, which I highly recommend.
Believe me Handsome Jack is so bad he’s good.
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I’m guessing that there’ll be an awful lot of well-deserved votes for Pyramid Head, GLaDOS, Handsome Jack and the classic boss battle with Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid in this weekend’s Hot Topic but for me the recent stand out has been Pagan Min from Far Cry 4.
Although he rules over the fictional nation the game takes place in via a ruthless dictatorship, he is not your player character’s enemy per se, what with you being the son of the woman he loved many years prior to the game’s events with whom he had a daughter – your half-sister that was murdered as an infant. So there is some small bit of justification for his cruelty and sadism towards his people and the rebel group opposing him.
There is no elaborate climatic boss battle with him and he only has sparse screen appearances that are complimented by you receiving a number of radio-transmitted monologues from him throughout the game. So why does Min get my vote? He’s just so wonderfully enigmatic. He’s played with a perfect blend of wit, callousness, and campiness in a career best performance by voiceover legend Troy Baker. In his presence you’d never know whether Min is your best friend or if he’s just toying with you like a cat and its prey.
For common or garden cannon fodder enemies you can’t beat the grunts from Halo. They provide some hilarious comedic moments amongst all the po-faced epic space drama. I never tired of hearing their cries, upon them realising Master Chief is steamrolling over their feeble opposition, of ‘We’re gonna diiiieeee!’ accompanied by animations of them running around flaying their little arms in the air in panic. Almost made me regret blasting the poor dears into oblivion!
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