85. TMTF’s Top Ten Video Game Villains

TMTF has already featured a top ten list, but the old impulse to categorize things has stirred again deep within my blogger’s heart. This time, the object of my top-ten-list-mania is video game characters.

We cheer for the heroes, naturally, but—let’s be honest—the villains are usually much more interesting. Thus TMTF is excited to present…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Video Game Villains!

10. Dahlia Hawthorne (Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations)

Ace Attorney villains aren’t typical video game baddies: they don’t breathe fire, wield chainsaws or threaten to inflict any other kind of bodily harm. No, their villainy is much more insidious. The player must corner them in court and prove their guilt with hard evidence. Of all these criminals, none is creepier than Dahlia Hawthorne, a dainty young lady with a parasol and a lacy dress. Behind that fair façade lurks a vindictive, selfish and manipulative murderer. Although she wears a sweet smile, Hawthorne betrays her true nature by glaring murderously at any attorney foolish enough to cross her.

9. Bowser (Mario series)

Bowser may not be the most threatening villain—or even the most competent—but his tenacity is remarkable. After twenty-five years of trying to defeat Mario, he’s still at it. Bowser is delightfully self-conceited. At one point, he announces his entrance by roaring, “Did somebody page the king of awesome?” In spite of his shortcomings, he can also be pretty scary. Giga Bowser, anyone?

8. Majora (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)

Before reading further, go back and spend fifteen seconds looking at Majora’s Mask. Go on. I’ll wait for you. I could write lots about Majora, but everything I have to say is expressed much more eloquently in the mad, nihilistic stare of those horrible yellow eyes. Majora is demented, with no apparent motivation other than bringing the world to ruin. Ambitious, power-hungry villains are scary, but at least we understand them. Truly terrifying are villains like Majora, who are driven by nothing more than a detached, inexplicable determination to see the world burn.

7. Sarah Kerrigan (StarCraft series)

Sarah Kerrigan isn’t a villain at first—in fact, she’s hardly a major character. Kerrigan is introduced as an insurgent fighting to topple an oppressive government, and she seems like a pretty decent person. Then she’s betrayed by her superior, left to die and assimilated into the hostile extraterrestrial species known as the Zerg. Now a superhuman creature, she begins a campaign to conquer the sector, betraying allies and showing no mercy. Kerrigan’s unexpected descent into evil earns her a place on this list, along with the cool, casual way she grinds her enemies into the dust.

6. Giygas (Earthbound)

Earthbound is not a typical RPG. Its heroes aren’t warriors with swords and lances, but kids with baseball bats and frying pans. The game is cheerful, full of bright visuals and quirky humor. All this stands in stark contrast to its villain, possibly the freakiest enemy to appear in any video game ever. Giygas is… an extraterrestrial entity driven insane by its own power, maybe? Whatever it is, it looks terrifying and can speak only in the fragmented phrases expected of a creature whose consciousness has been dissolved by evil. The fact that it’s impossible to defeat without using a strange trick makes it that much scarier.

5. Lavos (Chrono Trigger)

Chrono Trigger is another unusual RPG, not to mention a masterpiece. The hero travels through time from prehistory to the far future, and his companions—a medieval knight, a cave woman and a dilapidated robot, among others—span the whole of the world’s history. Their enemy? An extraterrestrial parasite called Lavos that burrows into the world’s crust, spends millennia draining the planet’s life and emerges to reduce it to ashes. Lavos isn’t so much a character as a deadly force, a cross between a plague and a thousand atomic weapons, destined to destroy the world—unless the player can stop it first, of course.

4. GLaDOS (Portal series)

GLaDOS, a computer developed by Aperture Science, is childish, sarcastic, spiteful and surprisingly likable. It puts the game’s protagonist through a series of tests, promising her a slice of cake if she succeeds in passing them all. Only partway through the game does it become clear that GLaDOS is trying to kill her. Even after its sinister nature is revealed, the computer remains an engaging character. For an amoral machine, GLaDOS earns quite a lot of respect—and perhaps even sympathy—from the player. Plus, GLaDOS sings “Still Alive.” Need I say more?

3. Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy VI)

Yes, he looks a bit like Joker from the Batman franchise, and yes, he shares the same twisted sense of glee, but Kefka is unforgettable. Before Kefka, most RPG villains were distant, predictable tyrants, who relied upon minions to eliminate the protagonists and sometimes made brief appearances to taunt the player. Then Kefka appears on the scene—as a lackey. A servant of the evil Emperor Gestahl, Kefka runs like a coward every time the player confronts him. Through betrayal and deception, however, Kefka attains an ancient power and devastates the earth. In the end, the protagonists don’t save the world—they save what’s left of it. Besides his memorable rise to power, Kefka is notable for his nihilistic views and fantastic musical theme, the four-part, twelve-to-seventeen-minute “Dancing Mad.”

2. Ganon (Legend of Zelda series)

Ganon, also called Ganondorf, is one stubborn guy. Generations of heroes rise to confront him, yet he manages to press on, century after century, relentlessly seeking the powerful relic known as the Triforce. Each game gives a slightly different spin on Ganon’s character. In Ocarina of Time, he’s a thief: arrogant, treacherous and cruel. Wind Waker introduces us to a sorrowful, bitter Ganon, and Twilight Princess gives us a Ganon pulling strings from the shadows. In every game, whether controlling fiends, transforming into monsters or facing the hero in single combat, Ganon is a force with which to be reckoned.

1. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)

Don’t be fooled by the long silver hair and stylish coat—Sephiroth is about as evil as a villain can get. Tragic backstory full of disastrous misunderstandings? Check. Delusions of godlike grandeur? Check. Utter disregard for morality, conscience or decency? Check. Tendency to massacre innocent, unsuspecting people? Check. Driven by a lust for power and revenge, Sephiroth manipulates one protagonist, brutally murders another and casually inflicts all kinds of havoc upon the world. Add his epic musical leitmotif, “One Winged Angel,” and you’ve got a villain to give the bravest hero second thoughts.

O people of the Internet, what great video game villains would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!