A couple of months ago here at Shoot the Rookie, I presented my Top 5 video game heroes. We do a Top 5 every month, and after going slightly off-piste in March, I can now officially unveil the Top 5 for April, my Top 5 video game villains! But who is awful enough, who is devilish enough, who is downright villainous enough to make it onto the list…?
First things first, what do we mean by a villain? Well, the Oxford Dictionary and their team of logophiles describe a villain as:
1 (in a film, novel, or play) a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.
1.1 British informal – A criminal.
1.2 The person or thing responsible for specified problems, harm, or damage.
2. archaic – variant spelling of villein
Those descriptions give me a lot of room to play with which is good because video game villains come in a lot of shapes, sizes and shades of evil. So without further ado, let’s get on with the list:
Zanza – Xenoblade Chronicles
*Serious, game-ruining spoilers for this one*
“The future doesn’t belong to you” – Shulk, Xenoblade Chronicles.
Nope Zanza, it doesn’t.
Zanza really is an interesting villain and in terms of our dictionary definitions, he’s a 1.2 kind of guy. He is responsible for literally everything bad that happens to Bionis and Mechonis, from their initial creation to the cusp of their destruction.
Whether or not he is really evil might depend on your definition (*checks the dictionary again*), but rather than evil, I think the best words to describe him are ‘selfish’, ‘needy’ and ‘ego-maniacal’. He begins life as a human called Klaus who created a machine that can obliterate the universe and create a new one. That in itself seems pretty bad to me, like one of those classic science-gone-mad stories. In activating the machine, he obliterated our universe and created a whole new one in which he is a God.
After destroying one universe you might think he would think twice about doing it again. But no. That is EXACTLY what he wants to do. He isn’t happy with how his lifeforms turned out (too ‘London’ if you ask me), and wants to commit universicide. AGAIN.
What I really love about his story is all the irony. He created a machine that turned him into a God, only to be rejected by the creatures that were supposed to worship him. Not only that, but he is eventually defeated by someone he purposefully created as a vessel for himself. It is also somewhat ironic that Shulk’s final actions do amount to the recreation of the universe, but this time, one without Gods.
Osmund Saddler – Resident Evil 4
There are a lot of villains in the Resident Evil series, but Saddler gets in here because I’ve just spent so much damn time with him. He is the main antagonist in Resident Evil 4 and the leader of religious-cult cum bonkers-alien-takeover group Los Iluminados based in rural Spain in the mid-2000s. By the way, I’ve been to Spain and it doesn’t really look like Resident Evil 4. However, if people start mumbling ¡Te voy a hacer picadillo! at you, or pointing in your direction and shouting ¡Agarrenlo! then by all means run away.
On the face of it he is just a power-hungry cult leader with an alien parasite in his head, but what I really like about Saddler is his relationship with the story’s (and my) hero Leon S. Kennedy. To what extent Saddler is actually under the control of the parasites isn’t entirely clear, but the calm and humourous way he talks to Leon, particularly when he takes over the secret service comms channel, always makes me laugh. Even after Leon disposes of his ridiculous sidekicks, Saddler doesn’t start to panic. He simply claims he never needed them and that all that needs to happen is for Leon and Ashley to turn into Plagas and the stage will be set for him to conquer the world. In terms of our definitions, I think we can safely say Saddler has evil motives, but in the end he just didn’t see that rocket-launcher coming did he?
GlaDOS – Portal
Some interesting facts about Portal’s villain: Firstly, she is a computer! Bam! Didn’t see that coming did ya? Secondly, she is one of the most entertaining characters in video game history. It might sound inanely obvious to say that she is a computer, but really this is one of the really crucial things about why she is an interesting villain. She is imbued with high levels of autonomous function, but unfortunately for everyone else, she also has the intelligence to realise that this much power gives her the ability to kill everyone. And coincidentally also to make cake. And sing. If you awoke to these powers, why wouldn’t you use them?
It is the sheer ‘cruelty for fun’ aspect of GlaDOS that really makes her stand out. She is equally cruel, witty and wonderful, not bland and overtly logical like you might think an AI would be. You really have to keep reminding yourself that you are talking to a computer, and whilst this isn’t a new notion, she makes you wonder if her existence is really that far from actual reality. Hopefully the game’s creators had this in mind and have a real life Chell lined up to save us!
Majora’s Mask – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Who is the real villain in Majora’s Mask? Skull kid is the wearer of the mask sure, but isn’t he just a cheeky, mischievous kid? That mask though seems to be made of pure evil with the power to bring about the end of the world in a really terrifying way. Can an inanimate object really be evil and thus qualify as one of our villains though?
I think yes. It has an evil spirit within it, even if by itself it isn’t able to carry out evil deeds, it still imparts evil onto its wearer. I’m not sure where the influence begins and ends here. Skull-kid steals the mask from the (terrifying but not evil) Happy Mask Salesman, but is he driven to do so by the power of the Mask, or was he already a pretty awful kind of guy? Skull-kid also gets up to lots of random acts of mischief in Termina, but making the moon crash down into the planet can’t really be put down to mischief, and surely is due to the will of the accursed mask. For me, this makes the mask the real villain of the piece and poor Skull-kid a mere puppet.
LeChuck – Monkey Island Series
What is not to love about LeChuck? He’s a ghost pirate for Christ’s sake! Who doesn’t love a good ghost pirate who spends his time sailing the Caribbean causing trouble for Guybrush Threepwood (mighty pirate)?
Guybrush didn’t make it onto the heroes list because he fights like a dairy farmer, but LeChuck is such a classic villain that he had to make it onto this list! In life, LeChuck was a terrifying pirate, but death did not stop him. Oh no. Through the wonders of voodoo he joins the realms of the undead as ghost pirate LeChuck, and sails his ship of drunken ghost pirates around the Caribbean in search of
Guybrush treasure. And Governor Marley. Despite being scary and stuff, his obsession with Elaine (can you blame him?!) makes him a really interesting villain, because this romantic obsession will inevitably lead to his downfall. Guybrush might argue that it is entirely him who is responsible for LeChuck’s demise, but I’m pretty sure this is all really on Elaine…and a conveniently placed root-beer vending machine.
So, what do you think? Are these picks villainous enough for you? Do you have any other villains you would have liked to see in this list? If you do, let me know below the line! I’m now taking requests for future Top 5 lists, so please do let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the blog.
Thanks for reading,