There's one thing that continually disappoints me in video games: writing.
I very rarely come across a narrative I consider well written, a section of dialogue I enjoy listening to, or a character worth paying attention to. Sounds harsh, but as an avid admirer of cinema and its greats, moving to video games is almost always disappointing when they attempt to replicate the silver screen's accomplishments. But there are exceptions.
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Gaming has handed us iconic villains such as Bowser, Donkey Kong and Zangief with ease, but I'm talking about different kinds of villains; those who came about thanks to a talented combination of writing and performance, the kind of which can stand tall next to cinema's greats. Would you like to meet them?
7 Of The Greatest Villains In Games
This list is in no way the definitive one on video game villainy. We welcome your take on my creation and hope that you'll write your own!
Skull Kid & The Moon - Majora's Mask
"Skull Kid & The Moon" may sound like the name of some terrible hipster band, but the combination of these two forces in my favorite Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, brought about one of my most beloved forms of antagonism in games.
Fresh off his defeat of Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, young Link finds himself wandering through a darkened forest upon the back of his beloved Epona. All of a sudden he's launched from his horse and robbed — within seconds Link is stripped of his Ocarina and Epona is taken, then, to add insult to injury, Kid turns Link into a Deku Scrub.
I loved how Skull Kid could almost instantly debase the savior of Hyrule while joyously mocking all of his accomplishments. This demented take on a new villain for Link, particularly after Ganondorf, was an exciting departure for me. But the fact that he was coupled with an enormous, destructive moon sent on bringing about a form of apocalypse made the sense of threat all the more potent in Majora's Mask. With time literally running out and the moon serving as a constant reminder of the impending doom, this Zelda title gave the world one of the best villainous duo. And man, do I love the design of that mask.
Psycho Mantis - Metal Gear Solid
There are almost too many great villains stretched throughout the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Can be hard to pick just one of them. But let me start with Psycho Mantis, the kind of enemy that can only exist in video games.
I think anyone who's played Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation sites the fight against Psycho Mantis as one of the defining moments in their gaming careers. Not only was he a floating dude in a gimp outfit, Mantis had the power to posses Snake's love interest and turn her against him. As you attempt to combat said villain, while ensuring you don't kill Meryl, you realise that all of your efforts are futile. The dude is actually reading your mind and anticipating every one of your moves while mocking your saved games you've got on your PlayStation. GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!
But once you realize that you need to actually move your controller to the second port on your actual console, you knew you were dealing with something entirely unique. Never before, or since was the breaking of the fourth wall so effectively executed in gaming.
Kerrigan - Starcraft II
While also present in the first Starcraft game, Kerrigan really comes into her own in Blizzard's remarkable sequel.
As both the protagonist's love interest and the harbinger of death and destruction in this quadrant of space, she's a powerful antagonist who boasts an awesome look and some superb voice acting. But her conflict of interest is what makes her such a compelling villain. In the expansion pack for the base game, Heart of the Storm, Kerrigan's character is expanded upon as you take control of both her and her army of Zerg. Once in control, you come to realize how painful her existence really is.
Clearly deeply in love with the protagonist, Kerrigan is a compelling and dominant force who asserts control over Jim Raynor both militarily and emotionally. She's a testament to Blizzard's writing abilities and her voice actor, Tricia Helfer is a marvel. All hail the Queen of Blades.
The Illusive Man - Mass Effect 2
Played by the wonderfully talented, Martin Sheen, The Illusive Man is a shining example of why BioWare are one of the most talented developers in the gaming world.
Brought to life but some exemplary writing and stellar acting, Mass Effect 2's (secret) antagonist is a force to be reckoned with. We first see him seated in a remarkably beautiful room as he gazes out over what appears to be a dying star. It's as corrupt and lethal as the man himself and the way in which his true intentions are slowly revealed is a compelling watch. But he's also the man who sets everything in motion. He, after all, is the one that chose to bring Commander Shepard back from the dead following the opening of ME2.
The way in which he grows over the course of the game and becomes even more of the villain we knew he was in Mass Effect 3 has guaranteed the Illusive Man a spot on my list.
Revolver Liquid Ocelot - Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots
The main antagonist of one of the most ridiculous games ever conceived, Ocelot was always an intriguing force in the Metal Gear games. But the way in which we find him fused together with Liquid Snake in Guns of the Patriots took things to a whole other, really strange new level.
He has so many great moments scattered throughout this game and the way in which Kojima and his team designed the villain is a testament to his (wavering) skills as a writer. But one of the main reasons why I've chosen Liquid Ocelot for this list is because of the game's final moments. If you don't want them spoiled for you, skip to the next villain. Cause this is incredible!
One of the greatest boss fights in history; one that celebrates everything Metal Gear and gives us one of gaming's finest moments. Seriously, as the theme music from each game started playing I almost welled up. Incredible.
Andrew Ryan - BioShock
Within the first ten minutes of Irrational Games' BioShock, we're greeted with the towering, looming presence of Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture.
His voice and vision haunt the entire narrative. As we enter the game's lighthouse and descend into hell via the elevator, we hear the voice of Ryan as he tries to sell you on his dream. Rapture was to be the place where he could reject the ways of those on the surface, but once you enter you come in contact with the reality of this vision, and it's truly the stuff of nightmares.
Ryan's presence is all over Rapture, and if this underwater city really is one of the greatest settings in video game history, then he, surely, has to be one of the industry's greatest villains.
GLaDOS - Portal
Valve recently turned 20 years old and in order to celebrate their legacy I dedicated an article to their greatest achievement: Portal 2. But this game, and that which came before, would be nothing without one of the industry's greatest antagonistic forces: GLaDOS.
As the deranged robot behind the various tests Chell has to be a part of, her beautifully dark sense of humor and absolute hatred for the poor woman is one of the most entertaining things in gaming history. She's exceptionally well written, her voice acting is remarkable and Valve have done a beautiful job of manipulating the pitch of her delivery. Let's celebrate her greatness with a quote and a wondrous compilation video!
Well done. Here are the test results: You are a horrible person. I'm serious, that's what it says: "A horrible person." We weren't even testing for that.