It’s often argued that villains tend to be the most interesting characters in many stories. There’s something darkly fascinating about them, their motivations and their actions, whilst a protagonist is often only doing what they (or anyone) would define as right, antagonists tend to do whatever the hell they want.
They could be disturbed, greedy, insane or just have a fairly substantial chip on their shoulder, but whatever the motivation, we love to examine them, preempt them and despise them. With that in mind I thought it’d be fun to run through a series of rogue’s galleries, each one counting down 10 of the worst, nastiest, most compelling evil doers in a given medium and the kick it off, we’re looking at villains in gaming.
10. Gravemind – Halo Series
The ‘voracious hive-minded aliens’ trope has certainly been around for a while, from the Xenomorphs to the Zerg to the Tyranids to those three-eyed guys from Toy Story, but none are more creepifying than The Flood.
A mysterious, all-consuming race of unknown origin, they already have one apocalypse under their belts and are game for another, controlled by their leader, Gravemind. It speaks in iambic pentameter like a giant slimy Iago and maniacally revels in the chaos it creates, particularly in Halo 2 when it gleefully snatches Cortana away from you, hurling you out of your comfort zone like a big hairy kid who takes your favourite toy on the first day of primary school.
9. Pyramid Head – Silent Hill Series
What’s more frightening than a twisted shade of your own reflection? Mannequins, but the twisted reflection thing is still at least in the top 5 and that’s what Pyramid Head is, a dark, twisted embodiment of your darkest recesses. In Silent Hill 2 he serves as a representation of violent, domineering side of masculinity, constantly hounding James Sunderland as well as all the other abominations blighting the town.
When there’s something out there that’s not only hunting you down but also all the other horrors that you’re fleeing from, you know there’s cause for concern. His menace and relevance waned in later games but the original design of the character still looms in the nightmares of many a 90s kid.
8. Vaas Montenegro – Far Cry 3
We’ve all been there, you’re getting hammered with some friends from university on a South Pacific island and then out of nowhere you’re enslaved by a local gang lead by a bug-eyed lunatic. It’s inconvenient and the travel insurance people are always difficult about it.
The really creepy thing about Vaas is that you never really figure out what he’s after, one minute he wants to sell you, then kill you, then win you over to his side but one thing remains constant: he joyfully fucks with your head at every available juncture, staring you down from between the bars of a cage or ruminating about the definition of insanity. You never know if he’s going to kill you or kiss you, or which of those things would be least preferable.
7. GlaDOS – Portal
It’s never any fun being double-crossed, but with GlaDOS you kind of see it coming. As she guides you through the early puzzles of Valve’s physics bending masterpiece you might feel safe and secure in her care initially, with her soft, digital voice wafting you from room to room, but something never feels right. When the moment of betrayal does come though, things get even more sinister than you could possibly predict, she goes batshit crazy.
I don’t mean Joe Pesci in Goodfellas crazy either, this is Fatal Attraction crazy but with Glenn Close (which even sounds like GlaDOS, which I will treat as suspicious) replaced by an omnipresent CPU. As you scramble through the rotting bowels of Aperture Science you are haunted by her constant insistence that you wronged her and broke her heart. Even when the game is done you aren’t safe, as she serenades you in an unsettling but undeniably catchy song that repeatedly states that she is ‘still alive’…
6. Captain LeChuck – Monkey Island Series
Captain LeChuck is the cockroach of gaming villains, you just can’t seem to get rid of the fucker. Throughout the series he is killed time and time again and he always comes back in some newer, creepier form to summon up another crew of undead pirates, conquer the Caribbean and take Elaine Marley as his bride. Beyond merely being a power-hungry, lovesick swashbuckler though, LeChuck is hilariously bloated, arrogant and inept. The first time he meets Elaine Marley she tells him to ‘drop dead’ and he elects to take it literally, only to be resurrected by voodoo magic.