If I asked you to name the top five best villains in video game history, it would really be a gargantuan task since there have been so many! With that in mind, instead of trying to establish the five best, I am instead going to pick out five particularly memorable villains from games that I have played.
5) Queen Myrrah – Gears of War
It’s obvious Queen Myrrah is a complete badass, purely because she can keep the bloodthirsty Locust armies in check and control their homicidal tendencies. Throughout the Gears of War series she sends her armies against the forces of Sera, driving humanity to the brink of extinction, whilst also contending with the deadly Lambent in her own home, deep underground. With a strong tactical mind and an inspirational but vicious temperament, Myrrah is a villain worthy of the title.
What makes her even more interesting however, is her backstory and the reason she went to war with humanity in the first place. She is trying to save her people from the horrors of lambency, caused by the living parasite known as imulsion. It was an unexpected twist since players were lead to believe that imulsion was simply a highly valuable fuel source and that Myrahh just madly wanted world domination. It gives her character a lot more depth but it is still extremely satisfying to end her in the climatic final battle in Gears of War 3.
4) Pyramid Head – Silent Hill
I was too young to play Silent Hill 2 when it first came out in 2002 but have sat down with it recently and realised why Pyramid Head has become a cult classic for video game villains. Although the game is more of a psychological horror where you fight your inner demons, Pyramid Head personifies a very real threat to your personal safety.
He is very scarily dressed, equipped with his iconic Great Knife and became so popular among fans of the series that he became a recurring character. His appearance strikes fear into our hearts and the first time he attacks the player is definitely a memorable moment for many gamers. He is certainly one of the creepiest opponents in gaming history.
3) GLaDOS – Portal
When you first start Portal, you don’t feel any immediate danger from the unemotional robotic voice that guides you through the training rooms. GLaDOS is the only means of gaining any kind of exposition about your unknown surroundings but also harbours a dark secret, namely your death once you have served your purpose. This makes her betrayal even more shocking and haunting as you suddenly realise that this had been the plan all along and there really is no cake! The evil AI then attempts to bring about your demise at every opportunity, saved only by your quick thinking and puzzle solving capabilities.
Eventually you arrive at the central control room where you meet GLaDOS face to face, so to speak, and have a final showdown in which you manage to destroy her. Even though she’s gone, that voice still haunts my dreams.
2) Illusive Man – Mass Effect
We all loved the depth and breadth of Mass Effect’s story and it contained a huge cast of fascinating characters from various alien races. The Illusive Man is a particularly absorbing antagonist since he is committed to preserving and promoting humanities interests in the galaxy, but does so in the most unethical ways possible. This contradicting mind-set evolves into a mad plan to control the Reapers so humanity can become the most powerful race in existence.
Excellently voiced by Michael Sheen, in Mass Effect 2 the Illusive Man recruits a reluctant Shepard into Cerberus to stop the Collectors from abducting more human colonies. This a noble cause but one that he wishes to profit from at the expense of everyone else. In Mass Effect 3 he becomes even more desperate and dangerous, eventually becoming indoctrinated by the Reapers in his attempt to control them. The crazy thing is, he turns out to be right and control is one of the available options at the end of the game. He is such a good villain that you almost forget that the primary threat is the Reapers!
1) Handsome Jack – Borderlands
Has there ever been a video game villain that you’ve wanted to punch in the throat more than Handsome Jack from Borderlands? I personally can’t think of anyone. He is the most patronising, sarcastic and narcissistic character in the series, constantly pestering you with his arrogance and annoying chatter. That being said I love him, or more specifically I love to hate him! The voice work for Jack is absolutely spot on and the script writers really did give him some hilarious and memorable lines.
As you progress through the story of Borderlands 2 you learn just how nuts Jack really is, his insane goals and how far he is willing to go to accomplish them. He isn’t just a wise ass, his character has a far more interesting backstory than you may give him credit for at face value. I don’t think I have ever felt more gratification than when you finally get to kill him, vengeance is oh so sweet in this case. If anyone ever asked who I thought the most interesting and memorable video game villain was, at least from more recent times, I would definitely say Handsome Jack.
Who would get your vote as the most memorable video game villains? Let us know in the comments below!