Some would have you believe that a video game is nothing without a fleshed out hero to root for; but, really, what would a good hero be without that antagonistic opposite to give them something to save the world from? In this installment, we celebrate video gamings greatest villains, the men, women, and monsters that stand in our way from accomplishing our many goals and missions. These aren’t just some lackey sent to do the bidding of another - these are the real deal - the big guns that wait at the end of every great adventure, waiting to destroy us once and for all.
The Umbrella Corporation
So, it’s not one individual, but The Umbrella Corporation is one of gamings greatest villains. Why? Thanks to Umbrella’s emphasis on biological weaponry, entire cities around the world have bore witness to devastation from inhuman monsters. Without the sinister events behind the Arklay Mountains and the destruction of Raccoon City, there would be no TRICELL, Inc, which continued viral production after Umbrella’s collapse; and nor would there be the mass of spin-off virus’ that plagued the world in the series’ continued timeline. The Umbrella Corporation may not have survived long after the events of Code Veronica, but its legacy is one that continues to live on in video game infamy.
Over the course of just about every Metal Gear title, Revolver Ocelet has played some sort of roll; and whether it was big or small, it was pivotal to the progression of the series. Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima worked wonders to hide the fact that Ocelot was the most important character in the entire series, alongside protagonist Solid Snake. Across Metal Gear Solid, its sequel, Sons of Liberty, and pre-sequel, Snake Eater, Ocelots true intentions were always hidden beneath some second agenda; and it wasn’t until the closing chapter, Guns of the Patriots, was it actually revealed. Calling Ocelot a villain may cause some to pause as its arguable he was the anti-hero of the series, but the many innocent deaths at his hands and the antagonistic relationship he built up with Solid Snake just to achieve his end-goal makes it hard to deny him as a villain.
The Lich King
Arthas Menthol wasn’t always a death-bringing knight of the undead Scourge - his beginning was a promising one as the Prince of Lordaeron and Knight of the Silver Hand. Under the eye of Uther the Lightbringer, Arthas was trained as a paladin; but all of the light in Azeroth couldn’t stop the young knight from succumbing to the corruption of Frostmourne. After his corruption, Arthas sides with the Lich King against the elven Illidan, eventually forming a bond with the undead king. Once in control of the Lich King, Arthas released a Scourge invasion upon Azeroth, one so large that the adversarial Horde and Alliance forces joined to launch a counter-offensive. To witness the once brave paladin lay waste to the land he once protected was devastating to followers of the series, especially since he provided no refuge for even those that were once closest to him. For World of Warcraft adventurers, defeating the Lich King was a major feat, especially after the long, arduous journey to reach him.
During the events of Portal, GLaDOS - short for, Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System - torments the player character, Chell, with ridicule as she works her way through a labyrinth of puzzles and environmental hazards. Though she’s a nuisance, GLaDOS simply comes across as an overbearing, verbally abusive mother that just wants to see her children succeed - but when the truth comes out that all test subjects are to be incinerated and Chell escapes, the artificial intelligence takes on a more sinister roll hellbent on destroying the escaped subject. After her destruction in Portal, GLaDOS is reactivated by Chell and her companion robot, Wheatley, and once again forces her subject to perform for her to crush her morale. Though GLaDOS winds up working with Chell to take down Wheatley after his own corruption, it’s hard to forget the many digs at and attempted murder of her innocent human guinea pig.
This undead fiend needs little introduction as he has been a notable villain in everything from feature films to gothic novels. Ignoring Konami’s Castlevania: Lord of Shadows from series continuity, the Prince of Darkness is the Castlevania series’ greatest antagonist. Every century, Dracula is resurrected and continues his quest to be evil, suck blood, and lay waste to humanity with an army of ghouls, goblins, werewolves, and other frightening monsters. Like Diablo and other villains in the early years of gaming, Dracula typically stayed hidden until the game’s final act, revealing himself for an epic boss battle that would test both the gamer’s skill and patience. For Lords of Shadows 2, Konami switched things up and allowed the chance to finally control Dracula himself, though the experience was generally panned as being lackluster.
The Lord of Terror has been a thorn in the side of the small village of Tristram since 1996, and his unrelenting natures has made him one of gaming’s greatest adversaries over three successful titles. Like many villains of the 1990’s, Diablo remains hidden for a good portion of his titular games, instead allowing his minions to do his gruesome bidding as he seeks to corrupt the mortal world. He is mentioned plenty through each game, but it isn’t until that final few moments where he does make his appearance. The growing tension that amounts throughout the game results in a fantastic final payoff that has been lost in more modern titles, which put the main villain in the spotlight throughout the bulk of the game.
The Mass Effect series is filled with adversaries and villains, but none comes across as more sinister and memorable as Saren Arteries, a turban Spectre that serves as Commander Shepard’s foe throughout the original Mass Effect. Though Saren had been sworn to protect the innocent colonies of the galaxy as a Spectre, he is seen slaughtering anybody that gets in his way, seemingly to help pave the way for Mass Effect’s truest threat, the Reapers. Initially, Saren sought to stop the Reaper invasion, allying with them to show organic life is worth keeping alive, but the use of subliminal messages used by the Reapers turned him into one of their most valuable agents. Even prior to the events of Mass Effect, Saren was known to utilize torture and kill anyone that got in the way of his mission. Ruthless and unrelenting, Saren proved to be a worthy foe for the newly assigned Spectre, Commander Shepard.
Bowser may not be some murderous fiend, but his track record for causing mischief and mayhem is about as long as they come. This overside turtle-dinosaur hybrid is a true thorn in Mario and Luigi’s side, constantly capturing their beloved princesses and laying a trail of his goons to get in the way. Bowser has been the catalyst for just about every Super Mario Bros. game, as well as many Mario spin-offs like Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, and Super Princess Peach. Bowser’s main goal is to merge the Mushroom Kingdom with his own, though his biggest infatuation does seem to be with the golden Princess Peach. Regardless of what Bowser truly wants, for 30 years he has terrorized Mario and company with no sign of relenting any time soon.
Throughout Dragon’s Dogma’s expansive narrative, there were many-a-bad-guy to have to hunt down and slay. From the three-headed hydra to towering ogres, the lands of Gransys play host to some splendidly devious creatures. None are as nefarious as Grigori, the dragon that is responsible for the events and the creation of the new Arisen at the top of the story. Grigori had terrorized Gransys once before, though his fabled defeat at the hands of Edmun Dragonsbane was a lie to cover-up that Edmun bargained with the beast, offering his beloved Lenore in exchange for a period of peace and power. This only proved a temporary pact as the great dragon returned to wreak havoc once again. With over 100,000 hit points and 20 different attacks, Grigori proves to be a worthy challenge even for the most seasoned of gamers.
Dr. Q. L. Killjoy
The Suffering may have slipped below plenty of radars, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have one of gaming’s most memorable villains. Dr. Killjoy was a psychiatrist on the ill-fated Carnate Island long before protagonist, Torque, arrived at Abbott State Penitentiary. The deranged doctor was known for his inhumane treatments that lead to the deaths of many of his patients. During The Suffering, Killjoy acts as a catalyst for much of what Torque winds up going through, all in search of a cure for the prisoner’s monstrous mental instability. Killjoy shows himself via creepy, old-timey projections indicative of the era he terrorized his patients in. The mad doctor may not have been the true evil of The Suffering, but he put Torque through a living hell - and sometimes he just seemed a little too happy about it.