Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
In any story, the antagonist can be just as well-developed and interesting as the protagonist. That’s no different when it comes to gaming. This week, I’ll be sharing my favorite video game antagonists ever, ranging from insane enemies to misunderstood characters. As always, feel free to share your favorite in the comments below!
5.) Ardyn Izunia - Final Fantasy XV
FFXV certainly had its fair share of issues when it pertains to the story, but this character was not one of them. In fact, the game left me wanting more of him. I wanted to see his past, with a clearer explanation of how the throne was stolen from him. The reality is that he stole every single scene he was in during the main story, and he deserved to get more than he did. From beginning to end, Ardyn was brilliantly acted. Speaking of the end, I believe that’s what secured him the spot on this list. What makes him great is that he wins. It’s such a rare thing to see villains succeed, but I love it when it happens. In the end, even though Noctis “won”, Ardyn got everything he wanted. He stands tall as my favorite villain of this generation.
Next up, the best character in all of COD Zombies...
4.) Edward Richtofen - Treyarch Zombies
When Treyarch began development on their iconic zombies mode, they had no intention of adding a storyline. It was something that they had made during their spare time, and they had no idea that it’d take off like it did. When that happened, they began adding things with each DLC map. Mechanics, weapons, enemy types... and yes, a story. With that story came four playable characters; Dr. Edward Richtofen was one of them. Fans were eventually able to piece together his convoluted backstory through character dialogue and hidden audio logs, which led to the revelation that he was, in fact, the villain. Players were controlling the antagonist, and helped him succeed in his plan to gain control of the zombies (which eventually led to the destruction of the earth and the exploration of different dimensions). Oh, I almost forgot; the character is literally a pyschopath. This led to a mix of ridiculous, funny lines and terribly important comments in the character’s dialogue. It was an odd balance that few voice actors could pull off, but Nolan North was one of those few. He made the character, and by extension the story of Treyarch’s Zombies, far better than it ever had the right to be.
In third, the greatest comic book villain of all time...
3.) The Joker - The Batman: Arkham Series
I debated whether I should put this character on my list, but I ultimately decided that I had to. Yes, he’s a comic book villain. He’s been featured in live action and animated movies, and was given plenty of attention in Batman: The Animated Series. It would be unfair to let these legendary, non-gaming appearances influence the choice, though. So, I did not. I looked only at his role in Rocksteady’s Arkham series, and concluded that he is still deserving of this high of a spot. In the main trilogy, players were given the treat of three amazing performances from the definitive Joker, Mark Hamill. Even in the criminally underrated prequel, Arkham Origins, we were given a great version of the same Joker voiced by Troy Baker. The Arkham games covered everything that made the character legendary, from parts of The Killing Joke and Death in the Family to fully original moments like his huge death scene in Arkham City. This mixture of classic and new stories led to not only one of gaming’s best villains, but one of the best Jokers of all time.
Up next, the best of Metal Gear Solid 3’s excellent cast of enemies...
2.) The Boss - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
What makes this character so special is that she’s not truly a villain. She’s made out to be one for the entire game (even if she never acts like it), but as Snake Eater approaches its conclusion, it’s revealed that she’s the exact opposite of that. The idea of a good character fighting another good character is rarely done, and when it is it usually falls flat. Yet in this game, it worked. Both Snake and The Boss were just following orders, and neither were right or wrong; they were just pawns in a larger war. It’s not just her history with Snake, but this final realization that makes her death so tragic. Further, her death went on to inspire many of the series’ key characters and put the events of the story into motion. The Boss is the reason that this list is about “antagonists” and not “villains”; calling her the latter of the two wouldn’t do her story justice.
In the top spot this week, the best character in the Borderlands universe...
1.) Handsome Jack - The Borderlands Series
The largest criticisms leveled at the original Borderlands were story-related. The lack of an interesting plot, the abrupt ending, and (you guessed it) the villain were all noticeable faults. With the sequel, though, Gearbox rectified those issues. The story was stronger, and the ending was better. As for the villain? Arguably, he’s one of the all-time greats in the gaming medium.
Like most Borderlands characters, he makes plenty of crude and memorable jokes. He is so much more than that, though. Characters like Tiny Tina and Claptrap are filled with personality, yet even they can’t compare to the masked monster known as Handsome Jack. Every bit of his backstory is as memorable as his hilarious dialogue. Through sidequests and audio-logs, players can get an idea of what happened in his family life. With the spinoff, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, fans were given insight into even more of Jack’s past. His motivations made sense, and when looking at them objectively... it’s possible to agree with some of his actions. From being abused as a child and losing his wife, to being betrayed by those he trusted, he experienced his fair share of trauma. Pandora is a world full of killers, monsters, and literal “psychos”. Is Jack bad for wanting to change that? With all the evil things he ends up doing, the fact that this question can even be asked says a lot about how well-realized this antagonist was. Before he went off the deep end (something that was largely due to the “heroes” we played as in the first game), Handsome Jack was considered a good person who wanted to fix the world he lived in. It’s both the reasoning for his downfall, and what happens during it, that make him compelling enough to be my favorite video game antagonist of all time.
As always, thanks for reading! Check back next week for another huge top 5: my favorite video game protagonists.