One of the things gamers have come to expect from the video games we play is the bad guy. The villain is essential to a good story, but despite its importance, not all villains are treated equally. Some are more memorable than others—or more evil, or more terrifying—and sometimes a villain just sucks. If there was a spectrum that ranked the best and worst video game villains of all time, the following ten would be divided on either end.
SHODAN (System Shock)
The rogue A.I. SHODAN is the perfect example of a truly evil villain. She is cold, calculating, and void of any emotions, though she does seem to take pleasure in tormenting you. SHODAN doesn't feel fear, pain, or empathy, and her sole mission seems to be to make sure you know you're beneath her. SHODAN's big reveal in System Shock 2 ranks as one of the most mind-blowingly incredible twists in video game history, but she's so much more than that. Throughout the course of the game you could look forward to her saying things like "You are nothing. A wretched bag of flesh… what are you, compared to my magnificence?" and "You move like an insect. You think like an insect. You are an insect."
Claudia Wolf (Silent Hill)
Claudia Wolf isn't entirely evil, but the cult she leads does evil things, and what makes her truly terrifying is that she does these terrible things out of a misguided religious fanaticism. She believes that a god born through suffering is more likely to create a paradise than one who cannot comprehend empathy, and this drives her to torment Heather and her father. She believes what she's doing is right, and her unshakable belief is more than a little unnerving.
If SHODAN is on the horrifying end of the rogue A.I. spectrum, GLaDOS is one the slightly-less-if-not-still-twisted-and-disturbing other side. She's like SHODAN's less evil twin sister, and while she treats Chell much in the same way by making sure you never forget how expendable you are as a test subject, at the very least, she does it in a comedic way. Wheatley from Portal 2 also deserves an honorable mention here, because he's almost as memorable.
Illusive Man (Mass Effect)
The Illusive Man is another villain that feels he's doing the right thing. His relationship with Commander Shepard starts off a little rocky, and only gets more complicated from there. He's highly intelligent, has nearly infinite resources at his disposal, and while he says he works for the good of humanity, it's impossible to shake the feeling that move he makes is for himself. The little touches, such as the omnipresent cigarette—reminiscent of The X-Files' Smoking Man—and those bright blue eyes that feel like they're penetrating your very soul were pretty great too.
The Darkness (The Darkness)
The Darkness is one of those series that's never really gotten the recognition it deserves. It's one of those rare shooters with serious heart, a fantastic cast of characters, and an engrossing story. But the one thing that really stands out is the Darkness, voiced by Mike Patton, that haunts Jackie Estacado after his 21st birthday. The Darkness is an ancient evil that's spent centuries breaking the wills of the men it inhabits, transforming them into tools for its own bidding. Patton does some of his best work as the Darkness, turning it into one of the most memorable villains I've had the pleasure of beating in a video game.