When it comes to video games, sometimes the NEMESIS is the best part of the whole dang thing. You can have an engrossing story, great characters that you really care about, along with innovative gameplay and mechanics – but if you have a crappy villain or antagonist, then the whole thing can just fall flat in the end.
There are more games than I can count where one of the top two or three things I mention is how good (or bad) the main villain is. In fact, when it comes to my favorite games, the main big baddie is typically one of the primary reasons why the game ends up standing the test of time as one of my top games ever. Since this month’s Loot Crate theme is NEMESIS, and Loot Gaming is all about vanquishing evil and yelling HUZZAH! to your comrades after a job well done, I figured now would be a great time to break down some of my all-time favorite video game villains!
Revolver Ocelot/Liquid Ocelot, Metal Gear Solid – The Metal Gear Solid franchise is known for many things – and epic boss battles with intense and often fantastical and/or supernatural villains is one of them. I have done a list of my favorite boss battles in MGS in the past, but when it comes to iconic villains, Revolver Ocelot is most certainly near the top of that list for me. This guy went on a pretty insane journey over the course of the five Metal Gear Solid games. At one point he appeared to be a simple mercenary for hire in the first entry, but following having his hand cut off and replaced with the severed hand of Liquid Snake (it’s all very complicated…) he spent the rest of his career as a diabolical villain hellbent on destroying society and civilization as we know it. Ocelot is also the only character that appears in each of the five MGS games, so he’s nearly as iconic a character in the franchise as Snake himself.
Sephiroth, Final Fantasy VII – Of course Sephiroth, the primary antagonist in Final Fantasy VII, was going to be on this list! Not only is he one of my favorite villains of all time, but he is also pretty consistently included in other gaming publications and journalists top villains lists as well, and he has been since the game launched back in 1997. Sephiroth is a bit angsty as far as villains go, but honestly, I can’t blame him – once someone finds out that they were just a biological experiment gone wrong, I think anybody would be a bit upset. But in Sephiroth’s case, this biological experiment was him being injected with super-powered cells from an alien being, so when he gets upset, he, ya know, uses his super alien powers to try and destroy the world. He does some pretty dark and evil stuff, including being behind one of the most iconic and surprising deaths in video game history, before finally being taken down in a beautiful and stunning (for it’s time, at least) final boss battle.
Kefka, Final Fantasy VI – So we’ve already covered one villain from the Final Fantasy universe, but easily my favorite from the franchise, and maybe one of the most terrifying and truly evil villains ever realized in a video game, is Final Fantasy VI‘s Kefka. This guy is basically DC’s Joker on steroids, in my opinion, and is the epitome of a villain that simply wants to see the world burn (and then literally makes it happen, laughing maniacally as he does it). This guy was so cruel, that it wasn’t until I played through the game again as an adult that I was like “hot damn this character is DARK”, as he poisons a town’s water supply after he’d already defeated them in battle and tortures and destroys and pillages for his own amusement. Fortunately, as is the case with all the Final Fantasy games, despite the irreparable damage he inflicted upon the planet, the heroes of light are able to vanquish him in the end – but not before he establishes himself as one of the greatest video game villains ever created.
Arthas the Lich King, Warcraft – Warcraft has known its fair share of villains in its long and storied history. Iconic and infamous villains like Illidan, Deathwing, Gul’Dan, Sargeras and even the Old Gods themselves. But the most well known, the most iconic, and in my opinion the most complex of them all is Arthas Menethil, also known as the Lich King. Once a valiant protector of life as a Knight of the Silver Hand, Arthas is eventually corrupted by his own desire to defeat his enemies. At one point, his journey for power was a pure one – one that was meant to vanquish evil. However, in the end, the power he sought out to defeat his foes consumed him, and his ignorance saw him entrusting his life, and eventually his soul, to the power of the Lich King. Becoming the Lich King, the ultimate Death Knight, Arthas waged war against Azeroth, killing many of its champions only to bring them back as his undead puppets. The atrocities he committed were numerous as he attempted to turn the whole world to the undead in an attempt to spit in the face of the Old Gods themselves, who are unable to control the will of the undead. This, among many other things, is what makes Arthas the most iconic villain in Warcraft, and one of my favorite big baddies ever.
Ganon, The Legend of Zelda – There are few villains in video game history that have the longevity that The Legend of Zelda‘s main antagonist has. Ganon has known many names, and many, many forms, but at the end of the day his role is largely always the same: he is an evil and diabolical villain whose sole purpose is to rule the world. But when you take the entire canon of Legend of Zelda, you realize that Ganon is much bigger than all of that. He’s not just an evil character, he basically IS evil. He’s evil incarnate in every iteration; a never-ending, never-wavering entity. No matter how many times his true form is revealed, and no matter how many times he is defeated, he comes back again, and again. Thankfully, though, where there is darkness, there is light, and where there is Ganon, there is Link and Zelda, and where there is evil to be defeated, the Hero of Time will always appear to keep the balance. I for one am so happy to see the Legend of Zelda franchise moving forward the way it is, and I can’t wait to take up my Master Sword once again to strike down Ganon, my favorite and most iconic villain in any video game, ever.
Honorable Mention: Diablo – This was a really hard top five list to put together – so many incredible villains to choose from, and so little time! And with that said, I have to give a quick shout out to the Lord of Terror himself, Diablo. This titular villain has terrorized (ha, see what I did there?) for decades, and hopefully, we’ll be facing off against him for many more to come.