Welcome, fellow gamers! It’s been a little while since I posted up a Top 5 list, and I spoke with a couple of folks to ask ‘what kind of list would you like to see?’ While I’m working on some reviews on some pretty killer games, I really wanted to do some more fun and subjective pieces to keep my creative factory running.
The first list I had pitched was by my good friend (and wife to my co-contributor) who asked about my favorite villains. My top pick was easy; honestly, anyone who has ever talked to me about video games and knows the game they are from has heard me go on and on about them. To fill in the other four spots, though, I had to do a little more thinking on a few different levels.
I got to wondering about what made a good villain to me. There’s something about the feeling when you think of a good villain and specifically how they stand out to you. Asking on Twitter warranted a lot of different responses including being drawn to comical villains or sympathetic villains that you can relate to. A lot of great names came up- Bowser, GLaDOS, Ganondorf and one particularly well suggested James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2. Seriously, if you like dark storytelling, you need to play that game.
But I digress.
Listed after the jump is my personal list of Top 5 Villains. Your opinions may differ, and I gladly welcome you to chat about them in the comments or on Twitter with me. You’ve been warned, though. There are spoilers in here since you can’t really explain the villainy of characters without at least describing some of their actions, though they aren’t necessarily game ruining tidbits. Also, this list is entirely subjective. Did I mention that yet? It also changes just about everytime I think about it so without rambling on too much more-
Lights. Camera. Villainy!
5. Wendy O. Koopa – Super Mario Series
Proving that this is a subjective list, I have to start this off with a villain I loved as a kid. Those questionable Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World cartoons be damned, I loved the Koopalings and specifically, Wendy O. Koopa, the sole female in the brother laden Koopa clan. Bowser is an iconic adversary for the Mushroom Kingdom. I’ll never doubt that. Something about this little lady always intrigued me more than the other Koopa kids, though.
First, she’s unique. There’s no completely correct way to say this, but Wendy being the only girl villain- and probably the first I had exposure to as a kid- excited me as a budding gamer. Not only that, but she is one of the (if not the absolute) toughest of Bowser’s offspring. She shoots rings from her wand that rebound around the room and also attacks you herself. The fact that she wasn’t the last of the Koopalings to stand in your way before the king himself still kind of boggles my mind to this day.
Then there’s the amazing rumor that still echoes sometimes to this day of the ‘Wendy O. Suit’. Supposedly, if you could find it, you could use the same power as Wendy herself. It supposedly was a random drop that you could only enable by doing some tough work with the whistle or hammers or- honestly, I don’t remember the exact details. I just remember this was a rumor when I was growing up and I sought that suit out diligently until it was finally put to rest that it was just that. A rumor.
Still, Wendy was cool and bad enough for me and the other gamer kids around me to want to actually do what she did in the game. She’ll always hold a special place in my digital rogues’ gallery.
4. Vlad Dracula Tepes – Castlevania Series
There are a number of villains in video games that are based on real life figures, but one of the most recognizable and prolific would be Dracula, prime target of the Belmont clan in the Castlevania series. Ever since his debut in the original title, he has appeared in almost every entry as the prime objective.
In each game, not only do you deal with Dracula, but you deal with his influence throughout as well. He has servants, devoted to his humanity forsaking beliefs. He has a castle that appears to bend to his will. He appears in a number of forms, usually within the same altercation. It also seems that no matter how many times he’s laid to rest, there is always someone or something that will bring him back to spread terror across the land.
Going on into the series, his tragic background begins to outline his motivations and the catalyst to his disdain for humanity in general. He has been wronged, and he has seen the pieces of the world that he thought beautiful snuffed out by God and by the world at large. His curse is one of vengeance, his existence the entire life’s purpose for an entire family line devoted to his destruction. It is also said that he comes back to life only due to the malice in people’s’ hearts.
On a technical level, Dracula also has a near bottomless pit of tricks up his sleeve. While there are plenty of devotees to his cause ready to fight at the mere mention of their master’s threatened demise. In the end of nearly all of the Castlevania stories, though, it is the great vampire himself who gracefully and viciously faces the hero of the day down. He takes on many forms and never goes down without a hard-fought confrontation. When he gets his say- voice acting quality aside- he usually has some pretty great prose to throw before jumping into the fray, as well. Not to mention that it is insinuated pretty heavily that his castle itself is under his power, at times shifting to his whim.
In short, chasing after Dracula is always a treat but facing him down has an exhilaration all its own by the time the end draws near.
3. Scissorman – Clock Tower Series
This may be a bit of favoritism, but with my love of slasher films, my appreciation for Scissorman from Clock Tower: The First Fear and its sequel is pretty fervent.
Part of this has to do with the fact that it could be anyone. The original Scissorman that threatens Jennifer Simpson and her friends in the Barrows Mansion turns out to be Bobby Barrows, one of the demonic twins born to Mary Barrows. He is a sinister force, unstoppable by most means as Jennifer’s only defense is to hide or find something to deter him long enough for her to escape. It’s clear through a number of ways that he assaults the girls that he is a bit more than human. He’s a monster in every sense of the word.
In the second game, though, Scissorman is not so much an actual person. He’s a concept. It’s established pretty early on that there are a number of characters who could be a copycat killer, but the notion is never put to rest that this could be the real Scissorman who has started a new rash of murders. Scissorman’s identity, however, is much more complicated depending on your protagonist and your actions throughout the game.
While in reality, a number of characters take up the mantle of ‘Scissorman’, there is always one common factor if you play through to the end of the story: the Scissorman’s influence causes regular people to do highly irregular things including (but not limited to) kidnapping and murder. All of the characteristics remain the same, though. The hunched figure lurching after you, the sudden attacks that require quick responses to escape, and the haunting sound of metal against metal as a giant pair of scissors searches for its next victim.
2. Luca Blight – Suikoden II
It was actually a really close choice between this and my number one pick and if it weren’t for personal bias, the prince of Highland would have easily taken the top spot.
Luca Blight is first mentioned in terrified whispers by those who serve below him and have knowledge of what he can do. It isn’t long before the player also gets to see this first-hand, arriving in a waypoint village as he is slaughtering its inhabitants. It’s not just a slaughter, though. The entire village is set aflame and everyone trying to escape- men, women, children- is being pursued and cut down. Meanwhile, Luca is in the center of town, satiating his sadistic bloodlust by humiliating the townspeople and eviscerating them himself. In all honesty, it is probably the most chilling scene I’ve witnessed in an RPG simply because of Luca Blight and how he acts throughout the ordeal.
He is not without his reasons. It’s a startling story that is exposed regarding an attack upon his family and how it played out. His demeanor and presence throughout the story, though, is not that of a subtle conspirator who is trying to fell his enemies through backstabbing and indignities. Luca Blight is maniacal and revels in being the one to murder anyone related, directly or indirectly, to those he deems have wronged him. He is driven by vengeance and shows no remorse or mercy when he has set himself to task.
This blurb honestly doesn’t do justice to Luca Blight’s reign as the antagonist of Suikoden II– but it makes it all the more satisfying when the final encounter plays out.
1. Kefka Palazzo – Final Fantasy VI
If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy VI and general-turned-god Kefka doesn’t make your top list of villains, you should seriously reconsider your definition of the word. Kefka’s arc as a villain is ridiculously delicious to watch and analyze.
When we first meet Kefka, he’s being sent out on a ‘throwaway’ mission to Figaro Castle to investigate King Edgar’s involvement with the disappearance and harboring of a Magitek riding young woman (who you just happen to be playing as at the time). While his diligence is admirable, he is easily outmaneuvered by our heroes and left to go back to the Empire empty-handed. As the game goes on, however, he becomes a bit more of a nuisance and starts to show the depths of his disparity, showing up in the snowfields of Narshe to claim a mythical Esper there and poisoning an entire kingdom against the wishes of his fellow generals. There is no secret that Kefka is a problem brewing, and his potential is only dwarfed by his always untrustworthy superior, Emperor Gestahl. Even when he comes off as ridiculous, however, his malevolence feels like it’s just waiting to bubble over.
Everything escalates by bounds at the game’s “halfway” point. When the heroes reach the summit of a floating continent that Gestahl and Kefka are awaiting them at, the series of events that takes place is so monumental that the world as the heroes- and the players- know it has been rearranged, torn asunder by Kefka’s actions. When the story resumes, the seas are crimson, the land is infertile, and a cult worships their new god who has cast the light of judgement down upon them.
Their new god? Kefka.
See, the reason Kefka tops this list isn’t because of the despicable things he does throughout the narrative. The actions he takes are just parts of his devious rise. What brings Kefka to the top of this list is that he wins. Ultimately, he achieves what he set out to do- destroy the world, make people suffer, and generally sow chaos. While you don’t encounter him face-to-face until the game’s finale, his presence is everywhere. Everyone has felt the weight of his actions and, for all intents and purpose, he has become omniscient.
The journey to reclaim what is left of the party’s world is an involved one, but the anticipation that builds as the party reforms and the final confrontation draws near is so perfectly built that by the time everything comes to a head, you feel empowered. You feel like the party that you have come to care about throughout a literal cataclysm is facing off against the penultimate evil- and it’s all due to how Final Fantasy VI handles their adversary.
So there’s my list! If you’d like to check out another Top 5, head on over to Shoot the Rookie’s Top 5 Villains list from a little while back. If you have your own, feel free to post or shoot me a comment to share!
Otherwise, have a great weekend and thanks for taking the time to check out the blog!
– Matt a.k.a. The3rdPlayer