Monday, July 16, 2012

My Top Thirty Video Game Villains

I've stated my love for good villains before, and since Greg has recently done a Top Thirty Movie Villains list on his blog, I figured I'd follow suit with a similar one for video games on mine.  And keep in mind that these are my personal opinions on my favorite villains from the video games that I have either played or witnessed somehow: the villains I consider most fun and memorable. So, enjoy:

RUNNER UP: 
The Bonne Brothers (Megman Legends) - Fun to watch, fun to beat, and just plain fun are all things that describes this family of sky pirates who loot and plunder the most valuable tech they can find while in search of Catilex Islands' most valuable treasure and become a constant thorn in Megaman Volnut's side. The manic, flamboyant, yet soft-hearted deep down leader Tiesel, upbeat, sneaky, kind of bipolar mechanical genius Tron, and literal big baby Bom are all relentless but amusing villain characters. However, they took on an anti hero role by the end of the original game, and that role only increased with each installment they appeared in, to the point where nowadays Tron Bonne is most well known as a combatant against superheroes and supervillains of Marvel and Capcom. Which is the reason they couldn't get on the following list.

 30: Pong Rectangle (Pong) - Perhaps the first villain to ever grace video games. As was once said, "how can this count as a great video game villain? It's just a rectangle! An EVIL rectangle!" No matter how much you hit that ping-pong square, that damn rectangle will knock it to a place where you didn't want it to go. It's the embodiment of the trope "The Computer's A Cheating Bastard", and that is pretty heinous!

 29: Mike Toreno (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) - "Grand Theft Auto" is a video game series that I loathe. It promotes anarchy and gives young, impressionable people all the wrong ideas about society. However, one installment of the series, "San Andreas", had one big redeeming quality to it's name: this guy. Mike Toreno is a smarmy, cynical, imperialistic slimeball of a drug dealer for the Loco Syndicate, and his enigmatic, underhanded, insidious ways of handing out missions to the main character are quite entertaining to watch. What really brings him to life is the voice performance by the always awesome James Woods, and he even bears a physical resemblance to him too! Ultimately, he even proves to be the better man than our Scary Black Man protagonist, which gives him that much more reason to be appreciated. If only someone like him could've made it into a GOOD game instead!

 28: Saavedro (Myst III) - A pained, broken, vengeful psychopath played to menacing perfection by Brad Dourif, Saavedro is one of those memorable antagonists who genuinely terrified me. Since the "Myst" games are like computer games where you're not playing as any character or avatar, and Saavedro is being played by a real person, something about the moments where he speaks to you seem so real. Like the TV/computer screen is the only thing separating him from you, and you're always fearing that he could break through at any moment and try to kill you. At the same time, though, he's a very tragic villain who invokes immense pity in you. When the option comes to either send him off to his still living family to give him the happy ending he thought he wouldn't have, or to leave him stranded forever, well....you'd have to be a heartless cad to choose the latter.

 27: Porky Minch (Earthbound) - An Eric Cartman-esque sociopathic spoiled brat with a ruler complex. Possibly the youngest villain in video games to achieve any sort of domination of the world. While funny and delightful to watch, Porky is also so detestable and cruel that there's no way one cannot feel the need to kick his ass.When he's finally taken down, you feel great pleasure in his ultimate demise, 'cause he was no friend of yours!

 26: Sinistar - The demonic super weapon of galactic destruction from the arcade game bearing his name was probably the first scary baddie to ever be put in a video game. As you play, you hope to clear the game before he can be completed. If he is, you hear him say "Beware! I live!" and he comes after you. The lines he shouts out afterwards like "Run, coward! Run, run!" have been known to haunt the players in their nightmares.

 25: Clockwerk (Sly Cooper) - An upgraded, colder, more intelligent, more evil, and even scarier version of Sinistar. Oh, and he's an owl, too! This dirty bird is the leader of the Fiendish Five that murdered Sly Cooper's father and stole his thieving secrets for themselves.Why? Because Clockwerk hates the Cooper family, that's why! Hatred is what fuels this guy! He is the personification of undying hate and petty vengeance. He also planned on leaving Sly broken as he expands his criminal empire all over the world, plans which are fortunately stopped by Sly and friends at the end of the first game, but even after that, his evil lives on in the second game where the consciousness in his parts becomes one with the corrupt Constable Neyla. Even with his dying breath, Clockwerk had nothing but hate for his enemies.

 24: Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2) - I've never actually played a single game of this series, but this iconic character just scares the crap out of me. A silent killer devoid of feeling, this guy is the ultimate boogeyman. His name describes exactly what he is, and his design is what terrifies me the most. He literally wears a long, sharp, triangular shaped helm where his head should be. It has no expression or symbol on it, and it looks even scarier when he turns to the side. He never speaks, only moans and grunts like your typical slasher, but that actually adds to his creepiness. He symbolizes deep psychological fear of, and even desire for, death. And that is super scary. Pyramid Head is the stuff of nightmares, and the primary reason why "Silent Hill" is easily better video game horror than "Resident Evil".

 23: Dark Matter (Kirby 64) - Just a orb of darkness with one weird looking eyeball, and a frightening one at that. Dark Matter scores major points here for being a perfect example of a vile villain in a saccharine series. For a game series as light-hearted and easy playing as Kirby, this villain was really tough and imposing, not to mention nightmarish. It's an evil force of nature that lives for nothing more than spreading darkness and raising Hell. These games could never have a villain more evil and more memorable than this.

 22: Lavos (Chrono Trigger) - What can really be said about this...thing? It's exact origins are unknown other than it's an alien parasite, it's very existence drives people to madness, it has a cult following of fanatical worshipers, and it seeks to drain all the energy from Earth just to make itself stronger so it can go on doing the same to the rest of the galaxy. It truly is a perplexing being, but also one that is wicked and soulless. You're not going to rest easy once this freak of nature surfaces, and it actually surfaces relatively early in the game, despite being the final boss! YIKES! That sort of thing alone puts Lavos here on this list!

 21: Dholmagus (Dragon Quest VIII) - The first and best host of the demon Rhapthorne, Dholmagus is a mad jester who longed for power and riches even before he was possessed by that cursed staff. Rhapthorne only used his hellish darkness to fuel the evil that was already in Dholmagus' heart. The jester proceeded to curse King Trode and his daughter, take the staff, and go on a killing spree all over the country. He would torture and kill anything in his path, not even taking sadistic joy out of it so much as being simply amused and indifferent towards it. "Such a pity" he would always say. This creep had a great on-screen presence and after chasing him down, was very satisfying to fight and kill.  So what if Rhapthorne jumped afterwards? The game still felt empty without this guy. We got Dholmagus, gov! Such a pity!

 20: Albedo (Xenosaga Episode 1) - When this guy was first introduced, he had some serious potential. I mean, seriously: just go find his introductory scene on Youtube. It's a character establishing moment in which he's kidnapped a little girl, is sitting on a throne in a room full of skulls and corpses, psychologically scares the girl as he rants and raves in madness, dismembers himself right in front of her (while enjoying it and cackling the whole while!) only to re-grow his limb minutes afterwards, and then uncomfortably holds and strokes the girl, who has been paralyzed with fear. And the scene ends with that chill-inducing laughter of his. *shudders* This guy was a seriously scary psychopath, voiced brilliantly by Crispin Freeman. There was no doubt that he'd sink to any low in order to achieve what he wanted, and that his destructive plans had to be stopped at all costs. He's not even finished off by the end of the game, too! Then the sequel came around and turned him into a generic, pretentious white-haired prettyboy with an angsty past and a Foe Yay relationship with one of the main protagonists. And the final installment after that just turned him into a joke. But he was effective enough to make the list.

 19: Dracula (Castlevania) - While I'm really not too big on Castlevania, I'm a huge fan of Count Dracula, and this has to be THE best visual representation of the iconic vampire villain ever. He looks exactly like how he should: an old, pale, vampiric version of Vlad Tepes the Impaler dressed in dark nobleman's clothes and a flowing black cape. He's also as fiendish, sophisticated, ruthless, and immortal as you'd expect Dracula to be. He is scary, bloodthirsty, and evil.  Being voiced by the great Norio Wakamoto in Japanese is the icing on this cake. This is a villain that you simply have to fear, for he's one that is always out for blood.

  18: The Ferines (Tales of Legendia) - With cretons like Vaclav, Solon, and Schwartz in here, this game was quite lacking in enjoyable villains. These three characters from the aquatic race of the Ferines (not to be confused with the Merines, the Orerines, Teriques, Nerifes, Wearties, etc.) were the exception. The cocky, rude, condescending young warrior Walter, the warped, destructive, almost psychopathic Merines Shirley, and the man behind it all: the zealous, manipulative, nefarious Chief Maurits. There are some villains that I love for being charismatic, but others like these that I love for being total jerks whom I want to punch every time I see them, which makes their evil equally cool. And they're interesting in that they've shifted with the ocean itself, and their self righteous, hateful, racist nature that drives them to insane extremes is not only the Raging Nerifes' will, but also the product of bigotry and mistreatment from the Orerines that invaded their home. So in lashing out at this, the Ferines became the very prejudiced monsters they were fighting against. These were easily the most developed and deliciously wicked villains in a game with few, so their presence was welcome.

 17: M. Bison (Street Fighter) - The evil dictator and crime overlord of the "Street Fighter" fighting game series. While he's called M. Bison in the US, his name is actually Vega over in Japan. He and two other characters were subject to 
a three-way name reversal in dubbing and localization, but now M. Bison is the name he's most commonly known as. Anyway, his usual gig is organizing fighting tournaments with some hidden war agenda that he hopes will allow him to take over the world. OF COURSE! I love this guy. He's a diabolical, underhanded, evil monster, but is so brutal and bombastic about it that I can't help but enjoy his villainy. His hammy portrayal by Raul Julia in the live action movie actually helps his status. And he's voiced by the equally hammy Norio Wakamoto in Japan. Bison will destroy whomever and whatever he pleases, and for him, it will be Tuesday. He is truly larger than life.

 16: King Zephiel (Fire Emblem)
A textbook example about what a bad family life can do to a guy. Prince Zephiel was a naive, kind hearted, thoughtful, innocent boy whose parents, King Desmond and Queen Helen, had broken apart. Zephiel lived with his mother, while his cherished little sister Guinevere lived with his father. The prince longed for nothing more than for his family to be united and happy again, even going so far as to pray to God to make this happen.  What did he get instead? A direct attack on his life by his own hateful father! This drove Zephiel to madness, since he now believed that he could never truly be happy. So he grew up to be a nihilistic, callous, monstrous tyrant who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. He made plans to utilize the power of dragons just so he could watch the world burn. And thanks to him, many heroes, including Hector, were slain. I love Nergal and the Black Fang villains who dominated the prequel game, but Zephiel is easily the most hardcore villain in Fire Emblem.

 15: Gruntilda (Banjo Kazooie) - Your common stereotypical witch, this particular villain is quite the bitch. Her claim to nasty, wicked fame was as the antagonist of three great "Banjo Kazooie" games. While she herself does not inspire much fear, she's always threatening what Banjo holds dear. She is always on the attack to claim the beauty that she lacks. With great one-liners and hilariously screechy voice, Grunty was an ideal choice to make the 15th spot on this list, and for that reason I insist that I stop typing this in rhyme and just get to the bottom line. Bottom line is that Grunty's a hilarious baddie and quite easily the best to come out of Rare when it was up and running. Her presence bewitches me every time I play.

 14: Andross (Star Fox 64) - He's a giant ape head with two huge hands and is actually a giant brain with tentacles on the inside. How does that not make for a lethal foe? To be more precise, he was a Cornerian scientist who went mad with power and now rules over his space monkey subjects as a galactic dictator of planet Venom. He is mentioned throughout the game, but not seen until the last level. But boy, is all that build-up worth it. His chilling, gravelly voice makes him that much more memorable after the game is done. Let's ignore his embarrassing return in "Starfox Adventures": the true Andross is this mean monkeyfucker.

 13: GLADOS (Portal) - I think almost everyone knows about this one. The twisted computer with a special female AI programming who puts you through hell in her experimental lab so that she can trap you and run sick science tests and experimentation on you, possibly killing you in the process too. The one thing GLADOS loves more than tormenting test subjects physically is doing it mentally through lies, half-truths, stealth insults, snarky comments, and general bitchiness. This computer has a very amusing and delightfully mean-spirited personality that's often masked with politeness and pleasantries, which only serves to make her scarier. And her vast intelligence makes her a huge threat, one that has to be dismantled. Oh, and she's very fond of cake. There will be cake, she promises. But guess what?: The cake is a lie! Apologies to Wheatley from the sequel game, who is great too, but I have to put the original on this list, since she started it all. GLADOS is a triumph of a creation: a huge success, and still alive!

 12: Ridley (Metroid) - The notorious space pirate from the Metroid games: the most wanted, most deadly, most dangerous one around. This creature has a remarkably menacing design, a frightening presence, a well done status as Samus' arch enemy, and a long resume of wicked deeds. Ridley is quite literally a monster. He's 
a pure evil villain that you fear and hate, and he makes you do so while never uttering a single word. 
As someone so truthfully put it, Ridley's actions and the sadistic way in which he does them speak much, much louder than words ever could. It's in his nature to be a a total dick without conscience, which isn't surprising seeing as it's based on the Alien from "Alien", and is named after Ridley Scott.

 11: Giovanni (Pokemon) - Aah, you know this one. The smooth, imperialistic, diabolical boss of the Team Rocket gang and their far reaching criminal empire. Oh, and he's also the Viridian Gym Leader, the one you have to face to earn your last badge. Giovanni was only the bad guy of the first game and was not really a fleshed out character at all (and the whole business with him wimping out of his life of crime once you beat him at his gym was bullshit!), but was still an effective villain who raised the stakes in the Team Rocket plot that you and your Pokemon fight hard to stop. And all villains in the franchise that followed him such as Ein, Gordor, Cyrus, or Ghetsis all took inspiration from him. So that shows that Giovanni and his evil team, Team Rocket, will remain the greatest Pokemon villains of all time.

 10: Sin (Final Fantasy X) - Try imagining a game where your main enemy is a large, deadly, destructive, unstoppable, unkillable force of nature? That would describe Sin in the 10th Final Fantasy game, one of the most unique video game antagonists ever made. Sin was a gigantic, armored whale-like entity that terrorized the nations of Spira, sending all of Spira into a seemingly endless cycle of death: Sin comes, Sin destroys, 
a summoner and guardians fight it with Aeons, the final Aeon is summoned, both Sin and the summoner die, Spira is at peace for awhile in a period known as the Calm, and then Sin comes back and the whole thing starts all over again. It made life in Spira a nightmare, and there was always 
a sense of dread whenever it showed up on-screen. While the church of Yevon claimed it to be an everlasting atonement for humanity's sins, the truth of the matter was that Sin is the insane parasite Yu Yevon's body armor, created from a union between him and the Final Aeon, who is currently Jecht at the time of the game's story  Once this hellish creature is forever vanquished at last, you rejoice.

 9: Emperor Griffon (Dark Chronicle) - The mysterious evil emperor who operates a time-spanning operation from his time in the past. Already in possession of the Sun Atlamilia stone, he desperately seeks the other two from different eras in time. So he calls out to whomever in whatever era will follow him and carry out his wicked deeds, deeds that alter the course of history and throw the entire world and all of time out of balance. Could Emperor Griffin's plan be to wipe out time itself and start the world over again? Much of this villain is shrouded in ominous mystery for most of the game, so when it comes time to meet him, you genuinely anticipate what's in store for you. Upon finally seeing him, you might think he's not a threat after all: he is. He puts up a tough fight and is actually pretty damn terrifying in how rage-filled and insane he truly is. His transformed state is even more intimidating: a giant griffin man who speaks in the raspy, menacing voice of Mark Hamill. And then you learn the secrets of his backstory and what led him to start all this in the first place, and it is a true tragedy. Both a tragic figure and a despotic super villain at once, Emperor Griffon is one whom you have every right and reason to fear.

 8: Liquid Snake (Metal Gear Solid) - This one's a classic: the deranged, jealous, maniacal, yet suave and sophisticated genetic twin of Solid Snake and leader of the FoxHound Terrorist group. Classy whereas Solid Snake was rough, ingenious whereas Solid Snake was merely strategic, blonde whereas Solid Snake was brunette. These two Twin Snakes were polar opposites in several ways. And yet supposedly, Snake got all the dominate genes in the process of cloning Big Boss, while Liquid got stuck with the recessive ones, and was thus the inferior copy. This drives Liquid in all of his underhanded and villainous actions throughout the game, and every time he appears is a joy to watch due to his often controlled level of madness and a hammy but menacing voice performance by Cam Clarke. This guy is the Hans Gruber of video games: often imitated, but never duplicated. Liquid was a real SNAAAAAAKE!!!

7:  Dr."Eggman" Robotnik (Sonic The Hedgehog) - We go further into classic territory with the one and only Robotnik (I prefer calling him that to "Eggman"). Sonic's eternal arch-foe, this large-mustached mad scientist is obsessed with one thing: robotics! He has the obsessive-compulsive desire to eliminate all natural life and replace everything with machines, wanting to robotize the world into a mechanical empire that he will rule. But that blasted blue hedgehog always stands in his way, often running circles around his plans, literally! Oh, how he hates that hedgehog! Robotnik is an ingenious inventor, but is also pretty dense and bumbling as far as villains go. And yet, from all the Sonic games up until "Adventure" (and recently in "Sonic Generations"), he was a competent threat that very well could have wiped out his targets had Sonic not been able to beat him. As a mad scientist villain, he's just great. Dr. Wily's a poor substitute and Dr. Neo Cortex is a cheap imitation: Dr. Robotnik will always be the top doc.

 6: Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy VI) - Kefka is The Joker of the "Final Fantasy" series. I don't think I can say much for him because most of it's already been said. He has to be the most evil, twisted, ruthless, detestable villain in the whole franchise, and yet he's also the funniest and most entertaining. An insane, misanthropic general of the imperial army who prances around wearing a jester outfit and makeup on, and who does not give a shit about anyone or anything else. Much like Joker, he first comes on the scene with a silly, childish, comedic nature. The next thing you know, he's twisting that knife into your back when he crosses the Moral Event Horizon and keeps right on going. He does more damage and leaves more of an impact that many other video game villains can only dream of doing, all the way up to ravaging the entire world, becoming virtually a god, ruling the world in a reign of terror, and then finally having a nihilistic breakdown in which he decides that everything in existence should be utterly destroyed beyond all repair. This psychopathic clown is f**king nuts and pure evil, that's what he is. What's most remembered about Kefka aside from all that, though, is his many hilariously crazy yet witty one-liners and his signature laugh. You may hear it here: it will never leave your head once you do.

 5: Bowser (Super Mario) - The fearsome king of the Koopas is probably the most famous and recognized classic video villain of all time, so he had to make the list somewhere. From the mind of Shigeru Miyamoto, Bowser is quite a masterful creation. A cross between a turtle and a dragon, he manages to be intimidating but in a reasonably cartoonish way. His design suggests much about his personality: he wears spiked bracelets all over him and has a spiky, flaming red mane that suggests he's a radically cool tough guy. And that's exactly what he tries to be: while he may come off as a threatening, imposing, evil character in many games, he's really a surly, inept, blundering blowhard who is desperately trying to be awesome. The scary part is that he often succeeds!  But that still doesn't stop his plans of wooing the kidnapped Princess Peach and taking over the Mushroom Kingdom from failing every time due to the intervention of that damn plumber, Mario. Deep down, Bowser's not really a total bad guy, which means he can actually get away with either teaming up with Mario and pals, or playing sports with them whenever he feels like inviting himself over. But even so, he is, and will remain, Mario's foe.

 4: Xehanort (Kingdom Hearts) - The old keyblade master turned young apprentice researcher turned lord of Darkness in the Disney/Square Enix crossover game series. I could say more, but I've already written about him. So..NEXT!

 3: Ganon (The Legend Of Zelda)
Yet another classic. The pig-faced king of evil himself, Ganon, has been a recurring presence in the "Zelda" games since the first one for the NES. He started off as a great evil force that was given much build-up in the game's backstory and in what he'd done to the land of Hyrule, but when finally facing him, he was a disappointment. (A blue pig in a tunic? SERIOUSLY?)  He officially found his character in his next appearance, "A Link To The Past" for the SNES, where he was revealed to actually be a human warlock named Ganondorf Dragmire, aka Mandrag Ganon, who took on a beastly, hog-like form (in menacing looking armor this time) when covered with the power of the Dark World. This gets shown clearly in "Ocarina of Time" for the N64, which developed Ganon the most and secured his place as one of the most badass video game villains out there. For each era in the Zelda series' history, he has always been there to plague Hyrule and stand against Link and Princess Zelda. Dark, threatening, malicious, and stylish, Ganon is arguably Nintendo's ultimate villain.

 2: Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII) - But if there's one villain who can rival and even surpass Ganon in pure badass evil, it's Sephiroth, the iconic villain of "Final Fantasy VII." Much more than just a pretty face, Sephiroth is a complex existence: he went from being a morally dubious but honorable and kind hearted super soldier to a raving, murderous madman in the famous Nibhelheim incident. The Sephiroth we see in the present game is even more different: a cold, creepy, insidious, manipulative, phantom being who has inherited his "mother" JENOVA's legacy and now seeks to bring about the destruction of the planet. His plan hinges on calling fourth a meteor spell that will wound the planet so much that it will have to muster up almost all of it's lifestream to heal it, energy he will absorb into himself, draining the planet of all live and turning him into a God. And then he would do the same to other worlds, until he found his "Promised Land." What a sicko. As a heartless alien abomination now, Sephiroth is pure evil. The lengths he goes to to achieve his goals (which consist of cutting a path of destruction across the world, killing a main character in cold blood, and mind-raping the protagonist to the point of breaking, sadistically and mercilessly), his otherworldly character, his angelic yet sinister, darkly dressed design, his genuinely frightening presence, and his theme music that ranges from scary to utterly awesome, all serve to make him one of the most memorable villains in video game history. While he suffers from varying degrees of decay in spin-offs as Cloud's overexposed and always beaten arch enemy, his impact from the original game is something that will never leave.

 1: Chaos (Final Fantasy) - "Wait, why him?" you might be wondering. Well, one reason is essentially the same reason for Nostalgia Critic picking Chernabog as his number one Disney Villain: he is the devil! All that is evil, chaotic, amoral, and wrong in the world stems from him. But the big reason is that Chaos was the Big Bad villain of the first ever "Final Fantasy" game, which was a groundbreaking RPG for its' time. Years later, he re-emerged as the villain of the FF crossover fighting game "Dissidia: Final Fantasy", in which he's a despotic deity who rules over all Final Fantasy villains and whose backstory is explained in detail. He starts off seeming pure evil, but shows a more sympathetic and tragic side to him when he realizes that without the goddess Cosmos (whom he eliminated), his existence has no purpose anymore. That chaos without anything else to balance it out is boring, and can only tear itself apart. At the end of the game, he self destructs and loses his hold on the world. And then, as all heroes except for the Warrior of Light are phased from that worlds' existence, the twist ending reveals that all that transpired was a prelude/prequel to the entire "Final Fantasy" series, starting with the Warrior of Light's quest in the first game. That's right: Chaos is a villain who literally, in-universe, had a part in the creation of a series and its' entire franchise! And then with the Feral Chaos story mode in the Dissidia sequel "Duodecim", which takes place after the whole series to that point had transpired (and jumped the shark), Chaos has a part in ending the series, too! His legacy spreads on a meta-level, which makes him the greatest video game villain that I've ever seen. Also, he's voiced by Norio Wakamoto in Japan and Keith David in the US dub. And that is undeniable pure evil perfection!

And that's all the greatest video game villains there are, right?

<- Okay fine, I'll give you a shout-out, you over-glorified Boss!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, after watching my brother play it since 2013 and seeing many YouTube playthroughs, I finally played Dragon Quest VIII myself recently.

    And I'm looking forward to the 3DS remake coming out this year.

    ReplyDelete