Greetings, gamers. Super Bowl Sunday is behind us again, and somehow remarkably the Eagles pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. So Philly fans decided to celebrate through self flagellation and we assume the Patriots will get to spend the offseason finding new ways to cheat. See, while we are casual football fans, we didn’t have much invested the big game, other than the desire to see the Patriots lose. After deflategate and getting caught filming the competition, it’s getting harder to support the team that always wins. They’re basically the Cobra Kai of football at this point winning by sweeping the leg. They are the current villains of football and I didn’t think anyone could take that mantle from the Raiders.
Which got us thinking about our favorite villains in gaming. We’re not talking individual bosses because Bowser and Ganon and Mother Brain would run away with that list, but the best bad guys that show up over and over in games. Here now are the top 5 bad guys in games.
Let’s start this list off with the obvious choice. Zombies have for decades served as bullet sponges for gamers. While we certainly killed our share of walkers in old school games like Castlevania and Ghouls and Ghosts, zombies didn’t start to hit critical mass until Resident Evil perfected the zombie massacre simulator. Years later, after so many other Resident Evils, Dead Risings, and similar titles like ZombiU, the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing. Our vote for top zombie series would be Valve’s Left 4 Dead franchise that avoided the cliché of defending your barricade from the swarm of walkers and instead provided a tight, replayable, cooperative experiences featuring likeable protagonists on the run from the relentless tide of sprinting zombies trying to just make it to the chopper. For zombie games, it doesn’t get any better than that.
We don’t even want to try to list all of the WW2 shooters there are out there, but history’s greatest villain continues to serve its logical role as the obvious enemy of choice for so many games. It’s not just FPS games, we could even add in a few pretty great Indiana Jones titles or the brutal Sniper Elite series to this list. We honestly felt like we’d run the well dry though of Nazi games until the latest incarnation of Wolfenstein that proved that not only are the Nazi’s still great bad guys to hate, it’s always enormously satisfying to lay waste to armies of them.
When games felt like they needed to pull punches, they’d tell gamers they’re killing robots, not humans. This worked for games like Ninja Warriors, Mega Man, and the surprisingly terrible Mighty No. 9. We were always partial the savage difficulty of the arcade shooter, Escape from Planet Robot. Robots continue to serves a formidable baddies like in Mass Effect’s incredibly threatening reapers and Horizon Zero Dawn’s predatory robot dinosaurs, and, most memorably, as the hilariously captivating and equally as deadly Wheatley and GLaDDOS from the Portal franchise. They are the villains we need, but perhaps don’t deserve right now.
We’ve been fighting the aliens for decades both in arcades with games like Xenophobia or Contra and in console titles like Bart vs. the Space Mutants and, well, Contra. They’ve served as bad guys for tactical shooters like X-Com, to beat-em-ups like Alien vs. Predator, to what is likely to be your first gaming experience ever, Galaga. There are too many to count. Lately though we’ve been hugely impressed with the Earth Defense Force series that have delivered dozens of epic alien boss fights in every game (all thankfully cooperative online too). My particular favorite as of late is the criminally underrated Alien: Isolation.
The game not only made the xenomorph scary again but provided a stunningly well designed homage to the original Alien film that should be studied by game devs for its fidelity to Ridley Scott’s original vision.
Nothing is quite as fascinating to fight as you. We’ve seen a number of games tap into this idea from the regular level boss Dople in Binding of isaac that mirrors your moves to the evil “edgy” dark Prince that challenged you through Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Notably The Legend of Zelda featured Dark Link a few times, both at the end of The Adventures of Link and most memorably in a surreal fight on a reflective pool drenched in a white fog towards the back half of Ocarina of Time.
My favorite from recent gaming was the Dark Samus from the Metroid Prime franchise that was just an ass to you throughout Prime 2 and felt so good to finally destroy in Prime 3. Perhaps the most impressive though would be recent indie game Celeste that features a doppelganger known only as Piece of You that doesn’t seem to want to outright attack you, but undermines you throughout the mountain climbing game of self discovery and tries to fill you with enough doubt and insecurities to give up your quest. When it comes to a good villain, it doesn’t get more interesting than a version of you.