Epic Video Game Villains: 10 Antagonists You’ll love to hate
Who is a hero without a villain? How do you remember a game without mentioning the video game villains?
Batman and the Joker, Professor X and Magneto, Gandalf and Saruman, Dumbledore and Grindelwald, our beloved heroes and villains certainly go hand-in-hand. Hence, the same goes for video games. In fact, here, we remember the gaming villains more than we remember the heroes. Although games can be memorable for multiple reasons, some of the most iconic gaming villains make them unforgettable.
Who does not remember Far Cry 3 and its complementing Vaas? Do you recall Jason (protagonist) as much as you remember Montenegro (antagonist)? Why Silent Hill 2 is held up as a legendary horror experience, and why the phrase “would you kindly…” still has the ability to generate chills. Whether you’re playing on a gaming laptop or a mobile phone, the visuals of a villain are spine chilling!
Video game villains are one of the reasons why we cannot stop talking about adventures like System Shock 2 and Sinistar. Speaking of gaming villains, how would you judge your favorite villain? On their prowess, cunningness, gunmanship, fight IQ, leadership, or personality? When it comes to justifying your favouritism for a villain, there are multiple traits that you take into consideration. To save you from all the brainstorming, we have curated a list of the best video game villains of all time and ranked them according to various traits. The listed top 10 video game villains will make you scratch your head for sure!
Video Game Villains: The Cunning Ones
1. The Joker – Batman: Arkham
“You know what I know? What I know is that I don’t like balance. Balance is boring and boring is a four-letter word in my book.”
Manipulation Meter: Attention-deficit Nihilist
Brutality Meter: Heinous
Personality: Psychopathic, Pathological Liar and Sadomasochist
Unique Trait: Psychosis
Battle IQ: What do you think?
Resourcefulness: John Wick meter (Mental John Wick)
Description: If “If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” was a person, it definitely would be that of the Joker. An insane and homicidal supervillain, Joker is the epitome of cunningness and manipulation. He is the arch nemesis of Batman. In fact, his white skin, green hair and blood-red lips reflect the chaotic nature underlying his cartoonish appearance.
Back story: What triggered Joker’s transformation as an evil person is a mental and moral depression as well as mental disorders. Before becoming ‘The Joker’, he worked as a lab assistant and then quit his job to become a standup comedian. After failing at both jobs, he became a part of a chemical factory robbery along with 2 other people. However, he was caught by Batman. Having failed in all arenas, he decided to commit suicide and jumped into a river—but survived. These series of incidents triggered his evil side and thus, he came to be known as ‘Joker’.
2. Handsome Jack – Borderlands
“What’s that saying? “Don’t pick a fight with a man with nothing left to lose?” See, I’m going to show you just how much you have to lose… and I got the most powerful Siren on the planet to do it with.”
Manipulation Meter: Supreme Leader of all Maniacs in Borderlands
Brutality Meter: Bloodthirsty
Personality: Charismatic, Cool, Well-spoken and Witty
Unique Trait: Endlessly Snarky and Undeniably Clever
Battle IQ: High
Resourcefulness: Average John Wick
Description: Borderlands Handsome Jack is the perfect example of a villain that players love to hate. Despite being antagonistic and taunting other characters, his quick wit and sly humor have pushed him into the upper echelon of video game villainy. In fact, Jack is the most likable character in the game despite being the dictator of Pandora. What makes Jack scary is the fact that he shows us the villain we might become if we start to take ourselves very seriously.
Back Story: Handsome Jack Borderland’s backstory makes his bloodthirsty and villainous nature which games understand as well as empathize with. Under his personality, he hides the loving heart of a father who genuinely cared about his daughter. Moreover, he held an extremely personal vendetta against Borderland 2’s Vault Hunters for killing his daughter, Angel. In one of Borderlands 3’s side missions, you can see Jack as a loving husband and father—before a tragedy took his wife from him.
3. Lieutenant General Shepherd – Modern Warfare 2
“Good. That’s one less loose end.”
Manipulation Meter: The name says it all
Brutality Meter: Loyal Military Personnel turned Traitor
Skills: Charismatic, Manipulative, Tactician and Strategist
Unique Trait: Gunmanship
Battle IQ: Deceptive and Obsessed Extremist
Resourcefulness: High John Wick
Description: Lieutenant General Hershel Von Shepherd III is the secondary antagonist of the Modern Warfare 2. He is better known as ‘General Shepherd’. In Original Modern Warfare 2, Shepherd has little remorse over killing Roach and Ghost. In the Remastered version, Shepherd is more sinister when Roach grabs his arm only to shake it off with a look of disgust on his face. Although he seems like a non-descript military guy initially, it is eventually revealed that he is a traitor to his country.
Back Story: Initially, General Shepherd was a kind and loyal military officer. He cared deeply for his 30,000 marines like a father figurine. However, after a nuclear bomb drop killed his marines in an unnamed city in the Middle East, he became corrupted and ruthless. Above all, he swore vengeance toward the CIA’s most wanted criminal. He further created Task Force 141 (before he betrayed them) and Shadow Company to serve his purpose of killing Makarov when he was going to use his blank check of any resource to accomplish his goals.
Most Powerful Gaming Villains of all time (Leadership and Intelligence)
4. Vaas Montenegro – Far Cry 3
“You are so close to the end. Come on! End it!”
Fight IQ: You won’t want to get in a fight with him!
Brutality Meter: Torturer Alert!
Resourcefulness: High John Wick
Gunmanship and Marksmanship: Excellent
Leadership Skills: Prideful, remorseless and oppressive leader
Description: To begin with, Vaas Montenegro is a Machiavellian and a psychopathic, clinically insane, prideful, oppressive and remorseless leader. Although he is crazier and mentally unstable than other antagonists, he is a charismatic and masculine leader who cracked most of the jokes in the Far Cry 3 experience. Vaas’s dark sense of humor in killing anyone who looks at him in the wrong way and frighteningly obstreperous personality is feared by everyone—including his own men.
Back Story: Vaas is a capricious and mentally unstable character. He antagonizes Far Cry 3’s main character Jason Brody and also serves as his dark psychological mirror in the series. Later, Vaas is revealed as a drug-addicted wayward member of the local community of the Rook Islands. In the setting of Far Cry 3, he betrayed his people and aligned himself with the crime boss Hoyt Volker.
5. Frank Tenpenny – GTA San Andreas
“Intimidate those who intimidate others, Carl. It’s my job.”
Fight IQ: Notorious Cop-level
Brutality Meter: Frank has anger issues; Don’t mess with him!
Gunmanship and Marksmanship: Armed and swift
Leadership Skills: Sadistic, Violent, Callous
Description: Frank Tenpenny is a corrupt police officer. He is depicted as a violent, sadistic, callous and impulsive man. In GTA San Andreas, he often uses Carl as his ‘dog’. He is arrogant and ruthless and gets easily angered if things do not go pretty well. To be precise, Tenpenny is both the law and the lawbreaker.
Back Story: In GTA San Andreas, Tenpenny was a corrupt senior police officer of the LSPD who is leading the department’s corrupt unit, C.R.A.S.H. He has his colleague and right-hand Eddie Pulaski and their new recruit Jimmy Hernandez by his side.
6. Albert Wesker – Resident Evil
“Every day, humans come one step closer to self-destruction. I’m not destroying the world, I’m saving it!”
Fight IQ: Highly low on combat experience
Brutality Meter: T-virus Monster (so you can well imagine)
Gunmanship and Marksmanship: Deadly
Leadership Skills: Authoritative and Dominating
Description: With a belief that he is destined to be the god of a new world, Albert Wesker is popular for his superhuman speed and strength. To be precise, Albert Wesker is a power-hungry, traitorous, manipulative and sadistic individual. He seeks power and dominance over everything. Although his personality stemmed from his upbringing as a part of Spencer’s Project Wesker. Above all, he is a skilled, competent and resourceful schemer who constantly plots to achieve his own goals.
Back Story: Originally, Wesker was supposed to help Dr. Spencer develop immortality to create a race of superior humans. However, he defected and decided that he himself was the chosen one to become a god and rule the new world into the next stage of evolution. After discovering his origins from Dr. Spencer, himself, he killed him.
7. Dr. Robotnik – Sonic the Hedgehog
“Mark my words, Hedgehog; before this day is done, you, and the Power Rings, will be right in the palm of my hand.”
Fight IQ: Bleh
Brutality Meter: Mellow
Resourcefulness: Very High
Gunmanship and Marksmanship: Fantabulous (Uses eyes as flashlights)
Leadership Skills: Dictatorship
Description: Sonic the hedgehog’s arch nemesis and an evil genius, Dr. Robotnik dreams of dominating the world. Above all, he is a master of robotics and loves stealing big jewels. However, he stands out from the crowd with his complete and utter disdain for the fluffy and cute creatures in Sonic’s world. Unlike other robots, he doesn’t use gasoline or battery power to run his mechanical contraptions. Rather, he enslaves rabbits, squirrels and birds. And later, he shoves them in robots designed to kill Sonic the hedgehog.
Back Story: Undeniably, before he was Dr. Robotnik, he was a man named Julian living on the planet Mobius. Julian served as the war minister for King Acorn of Mobotropolis. Above all, he was also the assistant of a dark wizard named Naugus. After Acorn’s Kingdom won the Great War, Julian orchestrated a coup d’état against King Acorn with his own army of SWATbots. He further took control of Mobotropolis and renamed it Robotropolis. He then betrayed both King Acorn and Naugus by banishing them to a limited dimension called the Void, with an angry King Acorn declaring to Robotnik that he will pay for his treachery and an angry Naugus swearing revenge on Robotnik for the same reason.
Best Video Game Villains of all Time: Most Brutal and Powerful Villains
8. Shao Kahn – Mortal Kombat
“All realms will tremble before me! Outworld will again be conquerors, never the conquered!”
Fight IQ: Very High (Expert Combatant)
Brutality Meter: We’ll leave it to you to decide
Strength: Let’s not get started with this
Violence Indicator: Lethally High
Weapon of Choice: Spear, War Hammer, Sword
Leadership: Let’s not talk about this (and disrespect him)
Description: Surely, there is Joker, SHODAN, Savathun and then there is Shao Kahn, the Konqueror. Also known as the ‘Emperor of the Outworld’, Shao Kahn is hailed for his god-like strength, brutality and extreme callousness. Moreover, his fondness for personal executions is also popular. Above all, Shao Kahn taunts humanity—saying if mankind can win his fight-to-the-death martial arts tournament, he will leave Earth’s realm alone. His appearance in Mortal Kombat is quite fascinating.
Back Story: Interestingly, Shao Kahn was once the trusted advisor and right-hand to the ancient Dragon King Onaga. He was also the protector of the outworld, until he betrayed Onaga and took over as the omnipotent emperor of the outworld—in a quest to conquer more realms to expand his empire.
9. M. Bison – Street Fighter
“Resistance is useless. My Psycho Power will annihilate all.”
Fight IQ: Ruthlessly high
Brutality Meter: Destructive Psychopath
Strength: Superhuman strength
Violence Indicator: Malicious Baddie
Weapon of Choice: Shadaloo-ism (his own fighting style)
Leadership: Tyrannical Crime Lord
Description: Vega, M. Bison or Dictator, whoever messes his destructive might of Psycho Power energy will be bad news. In fact, the tyrannical leader of Shadaloo, M. Bison, is the malicious baddies of all time who seeks to conquer the world. Above all, he practices malevolence on smaller scales as well. Capturing and torturing Ryu, brainwashing Ken, and murdering Chun-Li’s dad, to name a few. For most people, committing such atrocities is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. However, for M Bison Street fighter, it is a fun Friday event.
Back Story: Overall, there is a lot of mystery surrounding Master Bison’s past; however, an often-believed story is that when he was young, he killed his own parents for unknown reasons. He was eventually found and raised by a tribe of nomadic Gypsies. The Gypsies’ leader took Bison under her wing and trained him in the art of Soul Power. In fact, her decision, while noble, resulted in many years of suffering.
10. Bowser – Super Mario Bros
“I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”
Fight IQ: Awares people with his presence itself!
Brutality Meter: Breathes Fire (so you can well imagine)
Violence Indicator: Dramatically Violent
Weapon of Choice: Fire Breathing
Leadership: Tyrannical Archenemy
Description: Lastly, to be on our list is Bowser—who cannot be beaten in terms of sheer staying power. Also known as the ‘King Koopa’, he has been an obstacle on Mario’s side since the existence of the game. Despite not being the main villain, he still makes a grand entry and makes everyone aware of his presence. However, he is neither particularly violent nor has he destroyed the world. Above all, his motives are unclear.
Back Story: So far, Bowser appeared as the main antagonist of the majority of Super Mario games, but also made appearances as either a minor villain or even a hero in several other games. As with most major Nintendo characters, he appears in most of the sports and party games of the Mario franchise. His stats in those games make him obviously destructive and powerful, but a little slow. In a few RPGs, he also sometimes teams up with Mario and Luigi.
Who’s the no. 1 baddie in the arcade town?
“Mirror Mirror on the Wall; Who’s the baddest of them all?” Certainly, the above-listed top 10 video game villains are just the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, we have SHODAN, Pyramid Head, Nemesis who can give us jump scares at any given time of the day. So, how about we save them for another day? Tell us your favorite villains who, in your opinion, are renegading in their heroes’ worlds. Who do you think are the most badass gaming villains of all time? Also, who are your favorite video game villains?
Anwesha has been a creative writer for a while. Currently, on her pursuit of tech writing, she is diving into the realms of technology to produce better content on the forever-changing world of technology. In her free time, you’ll find her humming tunes of her favourite shows or reading a book.