-by Dylan DiBona
Heroes are important for any story-based game, but inversely so are the villains. A good villain verifies all of the heroes trials and growth, making them feel like they’ve changed for the better by the time the final battle rolls around. Not only that, but a powerful villain should evoke feelings of hatred and even fear.
It’s hard for me to think back on a game that I felt had a really standout main foe. I like Ganondorf for basically being Satan himself, the complete manifestation of all that is evil in the universe, but he lacks depth and reality. Plenty of acclaimed bad guys are mostly comical like Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie or Bowser from Super Mario Bros. When was the last time you played a game and genuinely felt like “I have to take this guy down!”?
You can debate on whether a great villain is supposed to make the user feel as though the world truly is ending, or simply intrigue you. I’ve never completed Final Fantasy VI, but fans around the globe cite Kefka as one of the greatest villains in gaming due to his psychotic nature and iconic 16-bit laugh.
On the flip side, my time with Final Fantasy VII provided me with Sephiroth; a villain I found to be interesting and deeply disturbed. Sephiroth was given a personal past with the hero Cloud and we see him grow into the madman he is. There’s something inherently interesting about seeing a normal person fall into immoral insanity.
Usually when I play a game, there’s a part of my brain in the back reminding me that “it’s just a game”. It might be simply impossible, but imagine if a villain were to topple that part of my brain and truly make me feel upset and like something were at stake. Simply put, that’d be astounding. Maybe it’s a bit too much to ask that out of human writing, but the very idea makes me excited.
The best way to make a villain is the same way you make a hero; make them relatable and believable. Part of the reason viewers loved Breaking Bad’s Walter White was because he was a down to Earth common person. By the time he turned into essentially a villain, we still liked him and maybe even rooted for him. It’s why Sephiroth was so cool to me, he was a strong and smart soldier brought down to a villainous nature by his twisted past.
A villains goals are also very important. Does everybody have to rule or destroy the world? In very few cases such a desire feels justified; in Majora’s Mask, Skull Kid would rather obliterate the world than feel loneliness ever again. When I look at my own personal list of favorite games, it becomes evident that the villains don’t truly matter in those games- it’s the adventure.
I hope one day to find a game with a bad guy so sick, twisted yet real enough that I almost feel bad taking them down.
So what do you guys think about video game villains? Which video game had the best villains? What’s the key to writing a good villain? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.