Demons, villains, angels, and heroes; whenever you start to play a game, we often see people which fit perfectly in those roles. However, we think that we would find those games to be rather boring if they were always like that. Thankfully, there are more than enough games out there with complex characters. The role of the villain is something which is generally looked at in the most black and white of lenses simply because they are your opposition. A series can generally be seen only as good as its villain. Why? It’s simple, we don’t want to have a boring counterparts and we do not want to have to fight against someone (or something) that is unable to keep our attention for one reason or another. The more complex the villain is, the more pleasure the game has the potential to produce. That’s why it’s refreshing to see some villains who lack the constant oozing of pure wretched evil.
Conversely, there is such a thing as “not bad enough,” when it comes to having an adversary. If they don’t seem threatening in some way shape or form, then there is no point to having them in the game. Although his movie portrayals are most remembered (for better or worse), Bane is a perfect example because he has a human side to contrast his more villainous side. Contained in this list are 15 iconic villains who aren’t really that bad of people, at least by villain standpoints.
Keep in mind, spoilers lie ahead!
The fearsome leader of the Legion in the Mojave, from Fallout: New Vegas, very much belongs on this list. He is strong, tireless, and has an indomitable will to spread across the former United States just like the Romans and, depending on who you ask, he’s either a Trajan or a Nero. This character is in a fairly unique position in this list due to the exact time and place he’s located. This dictator rules over one of the most inhospitable wastelands in fiction. The scarcity of resources and the constant tribal warfare have necessitated that someone rise to the challenge to pacify the land. Caesar and his Legion may not be the New California Republic, but that might be a good thing. The Legion is without the corruption of the NCR and seem to exert a greater level of authority over the lands it assimilates. Under Caesar’s authority, it appears that there is less suffering than in the “free” territories of the NCR. The game is set up in such a way as to make you side against Caesar, but when you consider everything, it’s hard to say he’s in the wrong. Ave – true to Caesar!
14 Nathan Sheridan
Although Fracture was only somewhat entertaining, General Sheridan was a redeeming factor. He is another tragic character on this list, having lived much of his life within a country which rejected genetic therapy and manipulation to save lives. The General’s story begins with his children, both of whom had a rare genetic disease. In that stage of his life, he tried to flee with them to the western half of the United States so that they might find a cure, but unfortunately he failed. The death of his children only served to bolster his resolve to make gene therapy legal. Being a man on a mission born from the love of his children, it’s hard to argue that Nathan is a bad man. All that the General wants is to have it so that anyone who needs specific medical treatments will be able to get them. From the point of view of the protagonist in the game, he is a villain and needs to be stopped, but in reality he isn’t so cookie-cutter of a villain.
13 Big Boss
Big Boss is the single most important person in the Metal Gear series. A founder of The Patriots, founder of Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land, and mastermind behind the Metal Gears, there is seemingly no limit to his genius. Where Big Boss the villain comes into play is his vehement wish to implement his version of The Boss’ vision. Early in the series, he is depicted as a madman, hell bent on creating a world in ceaseless war, but over time that image softened. Big Boss was revealed to not want a constant war, but to end the very organization he founded and establish a world where soldiers are more than political pawns. The means to this end were seemingly irrelevant, so long as it was done. Big Boss is highly polarizing among fans, as some see him as a hero and others as a villain. It’s up to you to decide.
12 Sotha Sil
For those who are familiar with the Elder Scrolls series, particularly Morrowind, Sotha Sil has probably come up at some point. For a little background, Sotha Sil is one of the three Gods of the Tribunal pantheon in Morrowind. He was able to make deals with a number of Daedra and generally did his best to keep the Dunmer (Dark Elves) safe and well through the use of Kagrenac’s tools. So far, nothing really seems out of place, so why is Sotha Sil a villain? Glad you asked! Sotha Sil, along with the other members of the Tribunal, brought about a lot of change and suffering to their people. They angered the Daedra to the point of changing the Chimer to the Dunmer and were directly responsible for the death of Lord Nerevar. Sotha Sil was always the kinder of the mortals-turned-gods, but because of his actions in creating the Tribunal and breaking his oath with Lord Indoril Nerevar, Red Mountain’s eruption and the near extinction of life in Vvardenfell lay at his feet.
Okay, so I’m cheating with this one (what’s a villain list without a little cheating?), but the Colossi belong here thanks to the game’s construction. Shadow of the Colossus is arguably one of the greatest video games ever made, but what it did best was make you feel terrible for killing those gargantuan majestic beasts. The Colossi have tremendous power and try and kill Wander once engaged, but there’s just one problem with this, you’re actually the bad guy! In what is possibly one of the biggest plot twists in game history, the Colossi, which you are so keen on hunting down and murdering, are nothing more than guardians who just want to be left alone. The Colossi, being the “heroes” of the game, are there to keep an old and powerful evil from manifesting in the world again, but unfortunately they ran into you. Since they did absolutely nothing wrong, they are probably the best “people” on this list and definitely the worst villains.
N is one of the more enigmatic characters in the Pokémon franchise, as his attitude and motivation seem to be very much inspired by groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). N, whose full name is Natural Harmonia Gropius, was forced by his father to care for abused and mistreated Pokémon in his youth, which caused him to view humanity as nothing but a bunch of sorry creatures who only know how to hurt other living beings. N’s attitude led him to become a criminal in the Pokémon universe, seeking to set establish two separate worlds in which humanity and Pokémon could live respectively. Although N is a villain, he does learn from his mistakes and eventually comes to accept that people and Pokémon can both live with and learn from one another. N’s character development is what makes him a good person, especially after he helps ensure his criminal father is arrested.
The Daedra aren’t bound to the same rules and regulations as mortals, as they are beyond good and evil; they just do their own thing. Jyggalag is the Daedric Prince of Order and the primary antagonist in the Shivering Isles DLC for the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Jyggalag is really a sad story because he was doomed to live his days as the madness and uncertainty that he hates so much, embodied in the “mad god” Sheogorath. Jyggalag’s Grey March is a symbolic event where he returns in his true form to destroy the Shivering Isles at the end of each era in Nirn’s history. Jyggalag wants nothing more than to make sure things run neatly and without any sort of chaos. He is not inherently bad, even by mortal standards, because he does seem to want what he thinks is best for his worshippers. It may be “misguided” of him to want to ensure that peace and order exists without surprises, but hey, can you blame him when the world is so uncertain?
8 Queen Myrrah
Queen Myrrah is a central antagonist in the Gears of War universe. As leader of the Locust Horde, Myrrah has sought to combat the above ground humans so that her “children” might live. The origins of this self-titled monarch date back many years before the start of the first Gears of War game, back when a group of scientists conducted experiments on Lambent infected humans. Being a descendant of these scientists, Myrrah saw herself as the designated leader of the Locust “children” and so dubbed herself queen. Although human, Myrrah wanted to eradicate humanity for what they did to the Locusts, seeing them as more evolved humans. She sought to establish an order in the surface world where the Locusts could be free from both the oppression of humanity, but also from the infected Locusts with whom war was constant. Queen Myrrah’s misguided ideology is sad, at heart. It takes a special kind of person to renounce their humanity and willingly become a monster, but motherly affections may do that.
7 The Master
Have you ever heard of the tragedy of The Master? Or even heard of him from Fallout 1? The Master, leader of the Mutant Army and the central god to the Children of the Cathedral, is a creature with a great vision and the muscle to do everything to try and make it a reality. The Master, as a villain, has his personality rooted in the vision of creating a new order from which to make civilization rise once more from the wastes. That sounds like he is actually a hero, right? Well, no, The Master wants to turn all of humanity into mutants in an attempt to end the “genocide” of mutants and make it so that they have a place to actually call home. Although this is not an inherently bad idea for a mutant, the problem is that there is no way for his plan to succeed. Why couldn’t it? Well, mutants are completely sterile and it would just lead to the useless extinction of human life. Upon learning of the futility of his mission, The Master decides that life is not worth living and kills himself.
6 Revolver Ocelot
Once all things are considered, Revolver Ocelot is possibly the most confusing entry on this list. For fans of the Metal Gear series, there may be a wide array of feelings on the character. In each of his appearances throughout the series, you might notice that he never seems to quite fit within the organization’s frame, outside of his fanatical devotion to Big Boss. Ocelot, in the early games in particular, plays a major role in stopping The Patriots to fulfill the vision of his leader, Big Boss. To some people, it may seem crazy for a founding member of an organization to go rogue and seek its destruction, but Ocelot is not your normal person. The ultimate goal for Revolver Ocelot is to plunge the world into chaos so that it might be reborn. That is sort of crazy. Whether you want to call Revolver Ocelot a hero or a villain, it is quite clear that he is not normal, while he has a heart which may not be gold, but is far from coal.
He is one of the most iconic video game characters in history and one of the most misunderstood. Appearances go quite a ways when determining who is and is not a villain, making it rather difficult at times to be able to tell the difference. Although he often serves with the forces of evil, this specter from the NetherRealm is not evil himself. Wait a minute, how can someone be a villain if they aren’t evil? Well, Scorpion’s whole modus operandi is to seek revenge on those who murdered his family and exterminated the entirety of the Shirai Ryu assassin clan. A common trope in fiction, Scorpion’s motives and rapidly shifting alliances within the series make him extremely complex. Scorpion’s origins as an outright villain and transformation to anti-hero throughout the series have entertained fans for over two decades.
If you’ve ever played the Legacy of Kain series, you definitely know how polarizing the vampire lord can be. Kain’s actual personality is quite complex and developed. In the Soul Reaver games, he is presented as both arrogant and completely domineering; he did seek to destroy humanity after all. Raziel, the future Soul Reaver, was not only revived by Kain to assist in his wars on humanity to build a great empire, but was also killed by Kain in a fit of envy-fueled rage. The whole of the series is dependent on those two actions from Kain towards his “first born.” The (literally) blood sucking monarch is not evil, nor is he really a bad person. To some people, this might seem both strange and silly, but Kain’s actions are entirely centered on preserving his people and obliterating the Hylden. The Blood Omen games and Defiance spend a lot of time on Kain’s point of view and show him as being a monster, but one with good intentions. The moral ambiguity which surrounds Kain makes him one of the best villains and anti-heroes of all time, depending on where you stand on Raziel.
3 Chaos Witch Quelaag
The Chaos Witch Quelaag is one of the more tragic characters on this list. For those who’ve played the Dark Souls series, especially those who’ve taken the time to really find and pay attention to the lore, they will note that the Witch is one of the daughters of the Witch of Izalith and sister to the White Lady. The half-human, half-spider abomination may look terrifying, and she is, but she has done nothing out of malice. The homicidal rage of the terror of Blighttown is rooted in protecting her weakened and dying sister. The trauma of seeing her mother and sisters turned into the Bed of Chaos and then having demonic spiders bound to her flesh may not have affected her sanity, but it definitely contributed to her bloodlust. Quelaag is a villain because of circumstance and not choice, her monstrous and half naked looks hide the fact that she is isn’t that bad of a person.
2 Citra Talugmai
Not all villains are declared outright within a game and sometimes you have to look for subtle clues or wait for the end to see them exposed. Well, Citra Talugmai is exactly one of those villains. When you first meet Citra, she is presented in the light of a heroic warrior maiden who only wants to rid the Rakyat of their pirate oppressors and restore them to whatever glory they had before. That is all fine and good, but, her plans in relation to Jason are quite sinister. The cult leader and proclaimed “goddesses” of the Rakyat wants to use Jason as a human sacrifice to incubate her with some sort of Messiah figure; which makes me think a lot of Silent Hill. Citra’s plans involve having Jason to do whatever her will is to kill the pirates and the privateers, as well as convincing him to kill his friends in a blood sacrifice. Citra’s actions are abhorrent, but her reasoning and love for her people make her not the worst villain out there.
From comic book villain to video game villain, Magneto is one of the few villains that I can think of that is only in that category for no other reason than his general opposition to the protagonist (Professor X). Dedicated fans to the comics, television shows, movies, and games likely know that the X-Men were originally based on the Civil Rights Movement with Magneto’s persona being heavily based on that of Malcolm X. If you pay attention to the motives of the character, you’ll notice that his ultimate goal is to end the total animosity between mutants and regular people; he is a mutant separatist. His actions are only part of the reason why it’s hard to hate Magneto, his backstory shows him as someone who lived through some of the worst days this planet has seen. Magneto is only a villain in so far as he is against the X-Men and regular people, but his motives make sense and come from a good place.