As obsessed as our society is with the concept of good versus evil, sometimes it’s a refreshing change of pace to root for the bad guy. Sometimes, just sometimes, the heroes in our games are overshadowed by far more interesting villains, driven by complex (or not so complex) motivations that add meaningful layers of depth to characters that we love to hate. While good villains are often times hard to come by, this generation has spawned a few memorable baddies. Here are the top five villains this generation has enjoyed.
5.) General RAAM
While fairly one-dimensional in his quest to destroy the human race, General RAAM makes it very clear early in Gears of War’s campaign that he is one bad dude. After jamming his enormous, scary-looking sword through Lieutenant Kim’s abdomen and looking deep into the eyes of his prey while wrenching the weapon further, the player is assured that this is someone (thing?) that needs to die. When the player finally catches up to RAAM on a high-speed train chase, the big bad is waiting with a Kryll shield and a Troika machine gun to defend himself, leading to a tense and difficult firefight that feels appropriately satisfying when the last bullet punctures RAAM’s thick, dinosaur-like skull.
4.) Albert Wesker
Although technically introduced as Resident Evil’s traitorous S.T.A.R.S. member a number of years back, Wesker’s recent resurgence into the gaming landscape with Resident Evil 5 put this pseudo-British Umbrella employee back on the map. One of the few villains who is far more awesome than the game’s main protagonist, Wesker makes it a habit to perform increasingly evil and more badass things throughout the course of his Uroboros-fueled obsession with culling the weak from the earth. With several memorable lines delivered expertly by D.C. Douglas, a killer crocodile leather trenchcoat, and perhaps the slickest sunglasses ever seen in gaming, Wesker is an exemplary example of the villain you can’t help but want to be. Chris? Who’s Chris?
3.) The Illusive Man
Perhaps the most mysterious character on this list, The Illusive Man is one of the more complex and multi-layered villains introduced in this generation of gaming. Although initially just a figure whose intentions were deliberately withheld from Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard, The Illusive Man quickly becomes a multi-dimensional character with whom Shepard shares a delicate relationship. Indebted to the omniscient Cerberus CEO from the beginning, Shepard’s decisions ultimately sculpt the true extent of The Illusive Man’s villainy. Opting to place the human race above all others is selfish, but given the position of the species within the Mass Effect universe, can anyone honestly blame the guy for wanting to give humanity a larger place in the galaxy? While his methods may be ruthless and calculating, The Illusive Man is a character who believes in the preservation and empowerment of mankind at the expense of all else. How evil such a concept is to the player defines the extent of The Illusive Man’s malevolence, and that is truly unique.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to not imagine Portal’s treacherous A.I., GlaDOS, when thinking of the most popular villains in gaming. The snarky robot is constantly hurling hilarious insults your way, and is primarily more focused on making you laugh than inciting any kind of fear or worry. That is, until the end of the game when you remove her empathy core and she floods the boss chamber with “deadly neurotoxin”. GlaDOS could’ve been a fairly generic and boring villain in an otherwise puzzle-based game, but her thematic ramblings and melodramatic monologues made the entire Portal experience something worth remembering. As a villain that took a physics-based puzzle game and almost singlehandedly introduced a motivation other than beating the end of the game, GlaDOS takes our number two spot.
1.) Andrew Ryan
Oddly enough, our number one villain doesn’t have superpowers, isn’t a mythological character, or even carry a discernible weapon. No, Andrew Ryan is merely a man, and a very mortal one at that. Andrew Ryan is the best villain of the generation for a number of reasons: he’s a believable character with real motivations and a strong moral compass that actually seems plausible in a real-world situation. Andrew Ryan isn’t so much evil as he is simply unrealistic and misguided. His ideals feed off of the typical capitalism industrialist that governs so many of our society’s most brilliant minds’ lives, and his vision of a utopian city was only destroyed by the easily corrupted hearts of man. The powerful mantra, “A man chooses, a slave obeys”, that Andrew Ryan chose to live by was also his downfall. An influential and powerful figure ultimately ruined by his own creation, Andrew Ryan is easily the best villain of current-gen gaming.
What do you think? Is there some malicious and wicked character we’ve overlooked? Leave your thoughts in the comments!