The 8 Ball 8.20.13: Top 8 Game Villains
Posted by Marc Morrison on 08.20.2013
From Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2 and Makarov from Modern Warfare 2 and 3 to Culex in Mario RPG and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Video Game Villains!
Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week we're talking about the top villains in video games. My predecessor David McGregor made a list here detailing his thoughts. However he had a different take on what Liana and I think, so both of our lists are a bit different. I tried to write mine not using any of his choices and succeeded in my goal. A few of my choices might not be in the main stream, but this is what I came up with, on thinking about games with great bad guys. Let's begin
8. Luca Blight -- Suikoden 2
Luca is interesting because while he is evil incarnate in the game, ultimately he isn't the real final boss. Luca however is the main instigator for the war that consumes the land and for getting your friend, Jowy, to turn on you and continue his schemes. Don't get me wrong, Jowy is a much better multi-layered bad guy than Luca, but his view on it is pragmatic, he does honorable things, and his view is at least partially understood. Luca is almost a caricature, a mustache (if he had one) twirling villain who is only after power to right the wrongs done to him and his family. While part of this can be accepted, his overall douchiness warrants his name on this list.
7. Cyber-Akuma -- Marvel vs. Street Fighter
The end bosses in the Capcom/Marvel games were always pretty cheap (although Abyss was a push-over) but Cyber-Akuma really takes the cake. The annoying part about him, compared to the other bosses, is how blinding quick he is. Apocalypse, Onslaught and Abyss were all large characters you could be agile against. Cyber-Akuma was your size, about one and a half times your speed, and punished you non-stop. His favorite trick is to launch a normal fireball then fire off his arm rocket which can knock you down cold. His upgraded moves are all also dangerous, especially the Shining Gou Shock. He wasn't as overtly punishing as the bigger bosses, but Cyber-Akuma could definitely hang out in their league.
6. Makarov -- Modern Warfare 2 and 3
He's the big bad boss Modern Warfare 2 and 3 and the cause of almost all the problems that go on in those games. While other villains are crazy, Makarov is crazy with the added bonus of being able to plan and have massive amounts of followers. He tricks the United States twice in each game, in MW2 the whole Russian airport mission kicking off the massive war to follow. Then later on in MW3 when you're ready to assassinate him, he reveals he knows all about the plan and in the end kills Soap. Quite a nice upgrade considering he was barely mentioned in MW1 at all.
5. Handsome Jack -- Borderlands 2
Angel herself said it best when she called Jack an asshole and he lives up to that moniker. Borderlands is generally full of psychotic characters that make you laugh, but Jack's insane egotism and narcissism are great. He truly thinks he is the hero of the game, despite killing hundreds (if not thousands) of people, torturing people, and ruling everyone with an iron fist. He has his own static view of the world and is hilarious, sarcastically frustrated when things don't turn out his way. I may not be a huge fan of Borderlands overall, but Handsome Jack is still a great villain from it.
4. Arthas -- Warcraft 3/World of Warcraft
Arthas fall from grace has been well documented in both Warcraft 3 and in WoW. The turn from heroic prince to death knight is largely a pretty decent one. It showed the corruptive influence of pride well, due to Arthas wanting to be a champion and save everyone, while the true perpetrators used that against him. The only semi-negative thing about him is how he was used in WoW. He really only popped up in the Lich King expansion. It would've been nice to see him earlier in the game either in vanilla or BC. With Arthas now dead (in canon), but the Lich King still alive, they can always go back to the well at some point.
3. Culex -- Mario RPG
Culex wasn't the main bad guy in Mario RPG, but he is the villain everyone who played that game remembers. Culex was memorable because while he was completely optional he was way more difficult than the actual boss, Smithy. Everyone had different strategies for taking Culex down, from just using the Star Egg over and over, to taking out the crystals in a set pattern, to just trying to beat the hell out of Culex no matter what. My own strategy was usually to take out the fire crystal first, then the wind crystal, then gang up on Culex, ignoring the water/earth crystals. Whenever I replay Mario RPG, I always fight him, because it's the best fight in the game. Well, him and the Axem Rangers, of course.
2. Killbane -- Saints Row 3
I love that at the start of Saints Row 3 Phillipe Loren is propped up as the big bad guy. He's responsible for Gat getting killed, bankrupting the Saints and leading the Syndicate. But then he gets crushed by a giant metal ball at the end of act one. KIllbane then takes over and goes aptly crazy, killing Kiki and trying to turn all of Steelport against the Saints. He comes into his own during the wrestling match though with you either taking his mask or him teaching you the "Apoca-Fist" move. He's fairly certifiable but not as insane as the next guy on this list.
1. Vaas -- Far Cry 3
While Killbane can vary between being crazy and sane, Vaas goes full tilt insane all the time. His charisma is only matched by his blood-thirstiness and the increasing amount of frustration he feels toward Jason. Vaas has some incredible writing behind him, his whole insanity speech comes to mind, and the way he continually taunts Jason. However the brilliance of Vaas is due to Michael Mando's performance, both with performance capture and voice acting. He makes Vaas come alive with his energetically crazed voice work and little facial/body ticks. The only real downside to Vaas is that he is taken out about half way in the game and replaced with a far inferior bad guy, Hoyt. Frankly, they should have pulled a double cross and have Vaas/Citra working together on creating Jason, but that's just me.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Awesome Game Villains
One's preferred flavor of villainy says a lot about them. This week's exercise in self-discovery made me realize that I'm probably too forgiving, since many video game antagonists didn't really seem truly villainous to me. A true villain doesn't just do bad things. They have to be conscious that it's wrong. For instance, is the Illusive Man really a villain since his Reaper indoctrination? I decided no. However, I allowed Artificial Intelligences because I can suspend disbelief and accept that an inorganic life form is still capable of moral choice if a given game's creators will it. With those parameters in mind, I dove into the wild world of digital villains, and discovered that eight spaces is nowhere near enough space to include every great bad guy or gal. So consider these eight choices my favorites from a very large buffet of badness.
Oh, and obviously, what follows contains some plot spoilers.
8: David (The Last of Us)
While a relatively minor character compared to others on this list, my husband was insistent that this Last of Us late-game addition was "creepy." He just kept saying the word "creepy" in the way he usually reserves for certain weirdos at sci-fi conventions. David is a soft-spoken Voltron of zombie apocalypse villains, mixed with that teacher you had in elementary school who always leaned over your desk just a little too close, and the character is so grotesque that it's almost comical. Almost. My cynicism regarding all-things-zombie made me roll my eyes at just how big a sicko David is, but then I realized that it would take a completely, thoroughly, repugnant member of the human race to make Ellie psychologically break. Even Bill's gay porn stash didn't do that!
(Note: there are no scenes with David that are safe for work because he is gross and Ellie has a trucker mouth. Also, if you're still planning on playing the game, skip the spoilery clip!)
7: SHODAN (System Shock)
Originally I was going to put GlaDOS in this spot. But before there was GlaDOS, there was SHODAN, and SHODAN was freaking scary! And kind of sexy, but that's just a weird admission. It's a testament to the power of SHODAN's presence in the System Shock games that she spawned so many other great gaming characters, most notably the aforementioned GlaDOS and the mid-game "Atlas is Frank Fontaine" reveal in Bioshock. However, elements of almost every female AI character in games owes a debt to SHODAN. There are moments when EDI sounds eerily similar, and I still don't believe that Cortana is dead. She just got a new look.
Bowser is kind of like Madonna and Cher: known by a single name with no additional identifiers. But video games' favorite princess absconder is only at number 7 because, you know, at least he's offered to marry Princess Peach. All these years and nothing from Mario. And we all know if you let the plumber lay pipe without making him take out a warranty, he's just going to keep springing leaks without commitment. ... That was possibly the weirdest dirty metaphor I've ever created. Anyway, Bowser beats out Ganondorf as my cuddly Nintendo villain of choice because of the long portions of Zelda games where you barely even see him. It's not lost on me, however, that both Bowser and Ganondorf are ginger kids. Maybe this maligning of my people is why I've never been a big Nintendo fangirl.
5: Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir (Dragon Age)
Part of me feels that Loghain Mac Tir is just bitter and misunderstood, but he still caused the massacre at Ostagar and that is, admittedly, villain territory. As a study of a clash of personal interests and patriotism, Loghain could give General Zod a run for his money. But Superman never had to choose whether to keep Zod around because he's a total badass who's good at killing things. While the Arch Demon is the big monster to slay in Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain's story arc of commoner-turned-hero-turned-villain -- and then a possible final chapter of redemption – if one of the most compelling in modern fantasy, not just video games. The best villains are the ones you kind of understand.
4: Frank Fontaine (Bioshock)
Originally this spot on the list was held by Andrew Ryan, also of Bioshock. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Andrew Ryan, as messed up as he is, isn't the real villain of the story. Ryan actually has a strong ethical code, and you kind of have to respect the guy even if his whole concept of a purely capitalist society at the bottom of the sea was... inadvisable. He's a captain of industry that goes down with his ship.
Frank Fontaine, on the other hand, is a con man and an opportunist, with an intellect to match Ryan's but none of the philosophy. He'll smuggle bibles, use orphans for genetic experiments, and started charities to do little more than boost his public image. The Adam-rich sea slugs weren't the only slimy leeches at the bottom of the sea.
3: Shang Tsung (Mortal Kombat)
Speaking of slimy leeches, what kind of scumbag do you have to be to be Shao Kahn's bum boy? While I'm more than a little uncomfortable with Shang Tsung's Fu Manchu roots, I have to admit the dude makes a great villain, and he's competently performed the bad guy duties in the Mortal Kombat franchise for over twenty years. My moment of clarity regarding this evil wizard occurred while playing DC vs Mortal Kombat, and I found myself yelling at Wonder Woman to kick his ass. Wanting to see a beat down at the hands of a scantily-clad goddess is the mark of a great villain.
2: The Joker (Arkham Asylum)
If this one needs an explanation, I'm sorry, I can't talk to you. Just... no. Mark Hamill = OTJ (One True Joker)
1: Wesker (Resident Evil)
I hate Wesker. I hate him so much. Words cannot describe how much I hate Albert Wesker. Hate hate hate. But when he's not in a Resident Evil game, I do feel the void. Capcom, it's not too late to bring Wesker back from the dead! Again! After all, Jake Muller's mom insists she's sure Wesker loves the son he never knew about! That's not implausible at all! /end sarcasm.
The most amazing thing about Resident Evil is that, despite its truly horrendous writing, cheesy plots and completely broken continuity, it managed to produce a villain so popular that he was a hit in the games and in the movies.
There are a ton of either classic villains or recent ones I elected to not put on my list. Some of the classic ones might be Bowser, Ganondorf, etc. Most of these villains have only really developed a personality over the last few generations. As for newer bad guys, most of them are more multi-layered and have deeper personalities. The one big omission are any of the Uncharted villains. I've never played any of those games, so I can't judge them. Still, here is a small list of what I came up with: Liquid Snake, John Henry Eden, Mario, Rodrigo Borgia, Sephiroth, Wheatley, Wesker, Illusive Man, GlaDOS, and Kefka.
The General Roundup
Some of the comments from last week that I'll address: Shadow Broker from ME2 was good, but on the platform I played it on (PC) it was pretty jacked up. Like with the Hammerhead DLC the vehicle controls they display aren't correct. So I failed that mission about 4 or 5 times fumbling around trying to figure out how to fly the hover car. That type of stuff tends to irk me. I thought Old World Blues was very solid, and the best DLC for New Vegas, but it did bug out on me. The big Roboscorpion at the end just disappeared on me. That made it kind of an anti-climactic battle. Also, the Pitt? Really? Nothing says "fun" like collecting 100 ingots for an achievement.