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25 Video Game Villains That Outshine the Hero

Collage of the best baddies of all time

25 Video Game Villains That Outshine the Hero

Great video games tend to have great mechanics, great atmosphere, and great narratives. Some of pop culture’s most discussed characters are the heroes of our favorite video games. But sometimes in popular media, the hero plays a more supporting role as the villain takes the front stage in the narrative and the hearts of fans. Here are 25 video game villains that easily outshine their heroes and are the stars of the show.

Bowser

  • First Appearance – Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Of course, we had to start this list with the original Big Bad himself. Bowser is one of the most recognizable big bads of all time. He’s imposing and demands the attention of the player every single time he’s on screen. As the Mario series continues to grow and expand, Bowser’s characterization seems to only get better.

GLaDOS

A screenshot of GLaDOS from Portal 2

©A screenshot of GLaDOS from Portal 2 – License

  • First Appearance – Portal (2007)

It’s easy to outshine the hero when the hero is a silent one but that doesn’t mean GlaDOS doesn’t deserve all the praise she gets. Her cold, calculating demeanor contrasted with her dry wit and comedy makes her one of gaming’s most complex characters. She has the uncanny ability to simultaneously captivate and repulse players.

Dr. Robotnik

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Sega Genesis

Dr. Robotnik, also known as Dr. Eggman, is just as impactful in gaming as Bowser. He’s one of the most easily recognizable video game characters and with Jim Carrey’s masterful portrayal in the live-action films, he only continues to grow in popularity. His elaborate schemes and brilliance as a scientist are shockingly endearing and it wouldn’t be strange to say that fans of his want to see him succeed.

Shao Kahn

Shao Kahn's promotional picture for Mortal Kombat (2019).

© Shao Kahn’s promotional picture for Mortal Kombat (2019). – License

  • First Appearance – Mortal Kombat II (1993)

Shao Kahn was inspired by Darth Vader, one of the most influential baddies of all time. His legacy came from his straight-up unfair boss fights in the games he’s present in. But he was also praised for his character design and mannerisms. Many fans of Shao Kahn love the fact that he mocks and taunts the player while being unfair. This character was so popular he was even nominated for the Nintendo Power Awards’ “Worst Villain” category back to back in 1994 and 1995.

Ganon

  • First Appearance – The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Ganon has two forms depending on what game he’s present in. In the original The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, Four Swords Adventures, and A Link Between Worlds, he is depicted as a blue, bipedal pig wielding either a large sword or a trident. In Ocarina of Time, Windwaker, Twilight Princess, and Tears of the Kingdom he takes on a humanoid form known as Ganondorf. No matter what form he takes, he is a menace to those around him and one of gaming’s most recognizable villains.

Albert Wesker

Resident Evil 5 gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

  • First Appearance – Resident Evil (1996)

Albert Wesker was first introduced as the captain of the Raccoon Police Department’s Special Tactics And Rescue Service unit or STARS. However, he betrayed his allies, faked his death, and became the series’ main antagonist until his defeat in Resident Evil 5. He’s been regarded by game publications as one of the most memorable villains in video game history but he has had his fair share of criticisms as well. Whether you love or hate Albert there is no denying he’s a man that demands conversation.

Handsome Jack

  • First Appearance – Borderlands 2 (2012)

This list would not be complete without Handsome Jack. What makes him so interesting as an antagonist is his balance between being comedic relief and a villain who demands respect. Fans love this character and Dameon Clarke’s performance of him and he is honestly the face of his franchise. Even more so than claptrap. This character was so popular he placed twelfth on GamesRadar’s list of top 100 video game villains. In our opinion, he should’ve been in the top 10.

Vaas

Promotional art of Vaas Montenegro for Far Cry 3.

©Promotional art of Vaas Montenegro for Far Cry 3. – License

  • First Appearance – The Far Cry Experience (2012)

Vaas is my favorite video game villain of all time. This character is so good that Ubisoft has been trying to recapture the magic and precedent set by this character for over a decade. Michael Mando completely killed this role. While Vaas’s scenes are short, every single time he’s on screen he demands the attention of the player. He is everything a good villain should be and will be studied for years to come.

Kefka Palazzo

Final Fantasy VI Kefka
  • First Appearance – Final Fantasy VI (1994)

Kefka is first introduced as the court mage of Emperor Gestahl. Throughout the game, he reveals himself to be a nihilistic psychopath, gone mad from the cruel experiments that gave him his magical powers. Kefka is one of the most recognizable Final Fantasy villains of all time and some fans have even compared him to the Joker from the Batman franchise. Fans love how present he was in Final Fantasy VI and feel like that game can not work without him.

Pyramid Head

A screenshot from the video game Silent Hill 2, depicting an in-game painting of the character Pyramid Head. The game was developed by Team Silent and published by Konami.

© A screenshot from the video game Silent Hill 2, depicting an in-game painting of the character Pyramid Head. The game was developed by Team Silent and published by Konami. – License

  • First Appearance – Silent Hill 2 (2001)

Silent Hill is a series that is full of symbolism and psychology. Pyramid Head is not only popular for his design but what he means to the protagonist. Pyramid Head represents the protagonist’s wish to be punished for his wife’s death. His popularity is uncanny especially since the character has no voice and no face. He is popular because of his implications in the narrative which isn’t an easy feat.

Andrew Ryan

Screenshot of the video game BioShock.

©Screenshot of the video game BioShock. – License

  • First Appearance – BioShock (2007)

Andrew Ryan is an idealist businessman who created Rapture to avoid the government. What makes him such a great villain is how relatable he is. His ambition seems unending and his end goal of freedom of scrutiny is a relatable one. Andrew Ryan has appeared in several top character lists, ranking as the 15th top video game villain by Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition and the 10th top video game villain by IGN.

Arthas Menethil

Artwork of Arthas Menethil

©Artwork of Arthas Menethil – License

  • First Appearance Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor (2000)

Once a paladin of the Silver Hand, Arthas Menethil became corrupted by the blade Frostmorne and became the Lich King. Arthas is loved because he presents just how easily power can corrupt. Fans of WoW wanted him to live and survive. They wanted him to be able to be redeemed because there’s something poetic in someone of pure evil being able to overcome greed and corruption to become a person. His tale is a cautionary one for sure and one that’ll be talked about for many years.

SHODAN

Render of SHODAN from System Shock 2

©Render of SHODAN from System Shock 2 – License

  • First Appearance System Shock (1994)

SHODAN is the blueprint for the many evil AI characters that followed her. She was created on Earth to serve as the artificial intelligence of the TriOptimum Corporation’s research and mining space station Citadel Station, which orbits around Saturn. Fans of System Shock love her threatening omnipresent nature. Some gamers even say that she is one of the most diabolical and you’ll hate her more than any other video game enemy.

Dr. Neo Cortex

  • First Appearance Crash Bandicoot (1996)

Neo Cortex is another iteration of a common villain trope but that doesn’t stain his legacy whatsoever. He’s the perfect foil to Crash and the series wouldn’t be the same without him. There is just something so inherently charming and funny about a big smart evil genius who demands to be taken seriously. Only to be defeated by a wacky marsupial.

Ridley

Ridley as he appears in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

©Ridley as he appears in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – License

  • First Appearance Metroid (1986)

Ridley is one of Nintendo’s most well-known characters of all time—an evil and aggressive creature who is the archnemesis of Samus Aran after killing her parents. Fans of Metroid love this character so much that they criticize Nintendo when he is missing. He feels just as important to the Metroid franchise as Samus Aran.

Sephiroth

Final Fantasy VII Remake character model

©Final Fantasy character model

  • First Appearance Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Sephiroth is a top ten villain of fiction, period. He is a constant subject of video essays and analysis of his plan to become a god. A poll organized by GameSpot placed Sephiroth as the best video game boss of all time. He received five times more votes than Bowser and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know nothing will.

Revolver Ocelot

Concept art of Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

©Concept art of Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – License

  • First Appearance Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Revolver Ocelot is very interesting because he isn’t always a villain. Throughout his franchise, his role changes very frequently. A major nemesis of Solid Snake, a friendly rival to Naked Snake, the right-hand man to Liquid Snake and Solidus Snake, and a close ally to Venom Snake. You never know what he’s up to when he shows up in a Metal Gear title and that’s what makes him so awesome.

Team Rocket

Team Rocket's Meowth is a beloved, bumbling antagonist.
Team Rocket’s Meowth is a beloved, bumbling antagonist.
  • First Appearance Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow (1998)

While Team Rocket’s original appearance was the original Pokemon titles it’s the anime that cemented their legacy. Jessie, James, and Meowth are some of the most beloved characters from the franchise especially those who relate to their roles as young adults and their queercoding. In the video game, the group is portrayed as a much more serious crime syndicate. Sometimes their crimes can get very dark, they literally killed Pokemon in the original games. Talk about range.

General Shepherd

General Shepherd MW2R

©General Shepherd MW2R – License

  • First Appearance Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

The betrayal of Captain Shepherd was a moment that defined gamers’ childhoods. Lieutenant General Shepherd was an officer in the United States Army in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 who commanded the United States Marine Corps, U.S. Army Rangers, Task Force 141, and his elite army known as Shadow Company. He was a stand-up guy whom the player wanted to look up to until he revealed he was the main antagonist of the game.

Dr. Wily

  • First Appearance Mega Man (1987)

Another sign of a great villain is having a sweeping impact on the world. Dr. Wily is a perfect example of this. Wily is instrumental in the backgrounds of many characters in the Mega Man franchise and even when he isnt around the fact other antagonists are tied back to him gives him this larger than life presence. Yeah his design is a bit underwhelming but his villainy is not.

Alma

Still from the Fear Comic

©Still from the Fear Comic – License

  • First Appearance F.E.A.R. (2005)

Alma paved the way for all the creepy children that currently oversaturate the horror space. Alma’s legacy is a somber one, while she is a terrifying foe gamers can easily find themselves feeling sorry for her. She’s a powerful psychic who’s seeking revenge against the corportation that put her through inhumane experiments. Polls indicate that gamers absolutely love Alma calling her one of the most diabolical and cool villains of gaming history.

Lady Dimitrescu

©Gameplay screenshot

  • First Appearance Resident Evil Village (2021)

Even though Lady Dimitrescu is only one of the major antagonists of Resident Evil Village she completely stole the show. Her popularity was obvious ever since she was first revealed in a promotional trailer. The developers of the game were shocked by her unexpected popularity. She is praised for her dominant personality, Maggie Robertson’s work portraying her, and of course her sex appeal.

M.Bison

  • First Appearance Street Fighter II (1991)

Similar to Dr. Wily, M.Bison is another villain who’s influence is felt all throughout the franchise. Despite not appearing until the release of Street Fighter II, Bison is widely considered to be the most iconic antagonist of the Street Fighter series. He served as the main villain of the Street Fighter IIStreet Fighter Alpha series and Street Fighter V. He also acted as the force behind the events of the Street Fighter IV series, where the main villain, Seth, is revealed to have been Bison’s unwitting pawn all along.

Heihachi Mishima

Heihachi Mishima as he appears in Tekken 7.

©Heihachi Mishima as he appears in Tekken 7.

  • First Appearance Tekken (1994)

Heihachi has got to be one of the most diabolical villains of all time. On top of that, Heihachi is a very popular video game character period. His design was meant to be realistic which completely contradicts the tone of the entire Tekken series. He was intended to be a very human character and shine a light on the domestic horror of some terrible fathers in real life.

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