In a video game, no one is as important as the main character. Most video games’ stories are shown from the player character’s point of view. For every heroic main character, however, a great villain is needed to make a very compelling story. These villains act not only as a foil for our heroes but sometimes as the main vessel of a game’s plot. Today, we will be taking a look at 15 of the best villains in video games of all time.
Before we share our picks, we’ll be discussing how we came up with our list.
Categories In Choosing The Villains In Video games
Creating a list of the best villains in video games is not easy. Numerous iconic and popular villains have been showcased in different video games. However, Robots.net chose to list villains from both classic and newer video game franchises. Since nostalgia is a big factor when deciding on favorite characters from all forms of media, it is better to show villains from the game of our childhood as well as ones from more modern titles.
This way we can also compare iconic bad guys and show how timeless they are compared to their modern counterparts. Lastly, we’ll explain our picks and why they fit the criteria of a great villain.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at our picks.
15 Best Video Game Villains Of All Time (Classic & Modern)
As mentioned earlier, we’ll divide the entries into 2 groups, classic and modern villains. Let’s start with timeless villains from our childhood gaming experiences. Lastly, a huge spoiler warning for our readers.
1. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy 7 and Other Media)
The first entry on our list is the One-Winged Angel himself, Sephiroth. Arguably, the most famous video game villain to ever come out of the Final Fantasy franchise. Sephiroth came out during the 1990s and people back then like villains that are not only bad but also look cool. Nothing looks meaner and more badass than having a single wing while brandishing a super-long sword.
What made Sephiroth a great villain was when he killed a very crucial character in Final Fantasy VII, Aerith. Video game deaths back then were usually found at the end and for non-primary characters. However, having that twist happen in the middle part of the game was eye-opening. His appearance on Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core added a new layer to his persona, showcasing him as heroic and saner during his younger years.
Sephiroth also appeared in other gaming franchises such as Kingdom Hearts, Smash, and Dissidia.
2. Akuma (Street Fighter Franchise and Other Media)
From one badass to another, Akuma might be the definition of that term. First making an appearance as a Secret Boss, Akuma has now become a mainstay in Street Fighter and other Capcom fighting games. This assassin pays homage to masterless warriors known as Ronins in Japan. Akuma is not the main villain in Street Fighter but more of a villain in the story of the franchise’s main character, Ryu.
Akuma is the opposite of Ryu but he plays a part in Ryu unlocking a more violent state aka Evil Ryu. However, Akuma pushes the envelope when he becomes Oni, a living embodiment of violence and evil. Lastly, Akuma is the original owner of arguably the most popular super move in fighting game history, the Shun Goku Satsu (Raging Demon in English).
The masterless assassin made appearances on numerous Capcom crossover titles as well as a guest on Bandai Namco’s Tekken 7.
3. Bowser (Super Mario Franchise and Other Media)
Bowser is the definition of iconic, as most people have vivid memories of playing the Super Mario games. He might be one of the more simple and comical villains. However, this brutish monarch turtle is timeless and is always scheming to kidnap Princess Peach. Bowser is a villain in its simplest form, a foil to our main hero but props to Nintendo for making him a more layered character recently.
Aside from the slew of Mario main and spinoff titles, he also made appearances in the numerous Smash iterations.
4. Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy 6)
Sephiroth might be the most popular Final Fantasy villain. However, if we’re talking about the best one, Final Fantasy 6’s Kefka Palazzo might be it. Kefka started as a court mage but due to an experiment that made him unstable, he became more chaotic and violent. Eventually, he took over the Empire. Not only that, but he’s a villain that achieved his goals. Become a god and destroy the world. At least, not in the end.
Kefka is also playable in the Final Fantasy Fighting Game spinoff franchise, Dissidia.
5. Ganon/Ganondorf (Legend Of Zelda Franchise)
The foil to Link is another timeless villain from one of Nintendo’s main franchises. Ganon (Ganondorf when in human form) is a villain through and through and is the scourge of Hyrule. Considering his multiple appearances in the franchise, Ganon for most of the time was the main antagonist and the final boss of those games.
Like his Mario counterpart, Ganondorf/Ganon makes appearances on the hit Smash games.
6. Dr. Neo Cortex (Crash Bandicoot Franchise)
The Crash Bandicoot Franchise is known for its whimsical comedy. This is what separates it from its peers like the Super Mario series and the Sonic games. The most memorable villain from the lovable marsupial’s adventures is Dr. Neo Cortex. N. Cortex as he is famously known is your typical mad scientist that gets foiled by our hero. His looks are memorable as well with his shorter stature, yellow skin, and that big N on his forehead.
Neo Cortex is one of the best video game villains of all time because he compliments the whole tone of the franchise. He is comical for a series of games that have a distinct sense of humor.
7. Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat Franchise)
Ah yes, the final boss. Some games have the main antagonist as the final boss. However, who we thought was the main villain gets swapped at the end for an even bigger villain. Introducing the Emperor of Outworld himself, Shao Kahn. Shao was introduced in Mortal Kombat 2 as the game’s final boss. If you thought Shang Tsung was the main baddie, Shao is his boss.
Khan is one of the best fighting game villains and final bosses of all time because of who he is. He is a walking cheat code that hits like a truck and spams the most irritating moves. Aside from that, he also taunts players about their skills.
This goes so well with how aware and meta Mortal Kombat is as a franchise.
8. Albert Wesker (Resident Evil Franchise)
There are smart villains, cool-looking bad guys, and maniacal tyrants. However, one video game villain is an amalgamation of those three and his name is Albert, Albert Wesker. The true main villain of the earlier Resident Evil games, Wesker played a game of deception and power-grabbing unlike any other. At first, you thought he was an ally but then realize he is working with Umbrella. Later on, he’d splinter off and create a new strain of the virus. In Resident Evil 5, you’ll finally be able to beat him but his legacy lives on in later games.
9. Arthas Menethil/The Lich King (Warcraft Franchise)
The case with Arthas Menethil is that of a fall from grace. A crown prince and the protector of his people, Arthas will do everything to do this. Sadly, after losing his life and being resurrected, he became a darker character. Arthas’ power grew once he acquired Frostmourne and he eventually became the Lich King. As the Lich King, he has dominion over Undead forces. He also had a fated encounter with another Warcraft Villain, Illidan.
Arthas Menethil also made appearances in World of Warcraft and the Heroes of the Storm MOBA.
Now that we’ve discussed our picks for the best villains from games of the past, we shall now take a look at the best villains from more recent titles.
1. Caesar (Fallout Series)
The leader of 87 tribes known as the Legion, Caesar is a very smart villain that resorted to methods from the past. Much like the origin of his name, Caesar and his Legion adopted a life like the Romans. Conquering and pillaging whatever they stumble upon. What makes Caesar a great villain is you can sympathize with him while playing Fallout: New Vegas. He is not outright brutal but rather diplomatic and even tries to win you over.
2. Mohg, Lord of Blood
Elden Ring is set to be the biggest game of 2022. The game is already a heavy favorite for the game of the year award even if we still have a lot of months to go. Elden RIng, much like its predecessors, Dark Souls paint characters in a very big grey area. However, one of the best true villains in the game is Mohg, Lord of Blood. An omen, he is the twin of Morgott, King of Leyndell.
While Morgott disregarded his Omen roots, Mohg did the opposite. He embraced his identity as an Omen. Mohg is now driven to create a new dynasty in service of the Formless Mother. Even kidnapping one of his siblings to become their consort.
3. Doctor Octopus (Sony’s Spider-Man Franchise)
Otto Octavius is one of the most iconic Spider-Man villains of all time. After his appearance as the eventual main villain of Sony’s Spider-Man game, he might be one of the best video game villains of all time. Like Arthas, Otto’s story is of a fall from grace. What sucks is that he acted as Peter’s mentor at the start of the game but becomes the game’s main villain in the second half. Otto is not just one of the best but he is up there as one of the smartest video game villains of all time.
4. Vaas Montenegro (Far Cry Franchise)
No one is more psychotic than Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro. One of the best psychological villains in video games, Vaas was as unrelenting as he was calculated. Think of someone you want to punch in the face but are scared to do so. That is Vaas Montenegro in a nutshell. The only thing that prevented Vaas from being the perfect villain as he was killed off in the 2nd half of the game. Revealing a different villain with half of his charisma and craziness.
5. The Reapers (Mass Effect Franchise)
So far we’ve talked about singular villains but now we’re going to talk about a whole species. The Reapers are the main threat in the Mass Effect universe. Organic machines that act as a colony and indoctrinate colonies and lifeforms that they can conquer. What’s great about the Reapers is that the plot of the first Mass Effect trilogy revolves around them. They are not just a colony of bad machines but they act as the vessel for Commander Shepard’s story.
6. Khotun Kahn (Ghost of Tsushima)
Khotun Kahn, the cousin of Kublai Kahn is as brutal as he is cunning. The leader of the invading Mongol forces, players are introduced to Khotun at the start of the game. He may seem brutal at first but Khotun is cultured and educated. Much like his ancestors, Khotun is a very good fighter that mixes strength and speed with every blow. He is the definition of brains and brawn in one package.
What Makes A Good Video Game Villain?
A great video game villain does not just act as a foil, he has to either be a layered character or someone who compliments the feel of his franchise. Some video game villains stand out but do not necessarily fit the mood and feel of a franchise. Other villains tend to be just plot materials or in-game checkpoints.
The best video game villains tend to mix stand-out performances while progressing a game or franchise’s story. They also need to fit the vibe that the games are looking for.
Experience The Best Villains In Video Games
Nothing beats experiencing the best villains in video games for yourself. We encourage everyone to play the games these villains make an appearance. This way, you can enjoy finer details as well as know the motives behind their actions.