For every hero, there's a villain, and in gaming, the villains can take many forms, from demonic deities, super soldiers, megalomaniac tyrants, sorcerers, and or seemingly normal every day human beings. Whatever form they take they're essential because they provide the gamer with a purpose, and done right, a villainous character in a game's story will often be as memorable if not more so than the heroes.
Every good villain has a purpose or a goal that keeps them motivated, and there's often an underlying reason as to why they do the things that they do. They can even share similar traits to the story's hero, they can be proud, they often have the respect of others and are usually portrayed as having strong leadership skills. In fact, they can even be portrayed as being an equal with the hero on many levels in order to be seen as a worthy opponent.
The modern day video game can have a great story on par with film and even literature. As a result, some of the best and the evilest villains have appeared in many different gaming genres, such as RPGs, adventure game and straight up action shooters. Here are 15 of the most evil characters in gaming:
15 Deathshead - Wolfenstein
Prior to becoming a cinematic shooter, the Wolfenstein series made its debut 1981 and is considered by many to the prototypical stealth-based game. It also helped popularize first-person shooter genre in the early 90s. The series made another comeback with the successful release of Wolfenstein: The New Order in 2014 combining solid stealth and FPS mechanics in semi-open environments. The game’s story was also well told through the course of the game, helped along by one of the most despicable villains in gaming.
Oberstgruppenführer Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse is an incredibly cruel doctor, researcher, and the leader of the SS Special Projects Division. He’s a man who thinks compassion is a pointless human instinct that should be ignored, which is reflected in his cruel human experiments especially in the horrific brain torture scene in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
14 Pagan Minn - Far Cry 4
The self-appointed King of Kyrat, Pagan Min of Far Cry 4 was a Hong Kong-born son of a mid-level Triad drugs boss before he worked his way up and became a tyrannical warlord in the Himalayan Mountains. After he developed his militia, he took advantage of the warring factions of Royalists and the Golden Path rebels, by siding with the Royalists and their distant heir. However, it wasn’t long before Min murdered the heir and appointed himself the new king, killing anyone who didn’t fall in line with his rule.
Picking Pagan Min over Far Cry 3’s Vaas was an easy choice because Min is a more ambitiously evil and layered character as opposed to the very one-dimensional second-in-command thug that is Vaas. He wields far more power than Vaas ever did, and his appearances never overstay their welcome with boring cliché monologuing about the “definition of insanity”...yawn!
13 Dogeyes - Sleeping Dogs
Sam “Dogeyes” Lin is one of the main antagonists the Hong Kong-based open-world action game Sleeping Dogs. Before becoming the leader of the Jade Gang, Dogeyes began his career with the Sun On Yee Triad as a ‘professional boyfriend,' and this meant that he would use his sociopathic charm to date pretty young girls, so he could get them hooked on drugs and turn them into prostitutes. Prior to the events of Sleeping Dogs, Dogeyes did the same thing to the game’s antagonist Wei Shen’s younger sister, using and abusing her in the same manner before she overdosed on heroin.
Dogeyes is a cruel sociopath and a sexual sadist with a complete lack of empathy towards anyone — especially Wei Shen. He’s quick to kill anyone in his path and takes a great pleasure in brutalizing the innocent civilians in the Market District despite them paying his extortion fees.
12 Sephiroth - Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth is Square Enix's most popular villain in the Final Fantasy franchise. There's so much more to him than just being another pretty-boy villain with a cool sword.
One only has to look at some of the acts that he's indulged in throughout the timeline of the game to see that he's deserving of being on the 'most evil' list. He's betrayed those closest to him, committed acts of mass murder on several occasions, and not only did he kill Aerith, but he murdered Tifa's father and Cloud's mother too. To get a better idea of his most evil acts, take a look at The Gamers 15 Most Disturbing Acts Committed By Sephiroth.
11 John Konrad – Spec Ops
Spec Ops: The Line was a military action shooter that told a surprisingly good and deep storyline. It was based on Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. The John Konrad character in Spec Ops is based on Marlon Brando’s performance of Walter E. Kurtz in the film. Instead of the Vietnam setting of the film or the Congo in the book, Spec Ops’ story took place in a modern day Dubai.
Konrad’s character began as a hero and a great leader, but the war in Dubai turned him into a monster. Konrad torments the game's protagonist Martin Walker over the radio, as he progresses through the storyline. Konrad’s ability to manipulate and force terrible and horrific decisions on Walker will stick with you for a long time to come.
10 Pontiff Sulyvahn - Dark Souls 3
Pontiff Sulyvahn is one of the main antagonists of Dark Souls 3. A frost sorcerer that was originally born in the Painted World of Ariandel, he found the Profaned Capital and took the power of Profaned Flame, and the Profaned Greatsword with ambitions to conquer and rule over Irithyl.
In his efforts to become the ruler of Irithyl, Sulyvahn would eventually institute the worship of Aldrich, Devourer of Gods. He also knowingly turned the Fire Witches insane by giving them too much of the Profaned Flame’s power. In an effort to strengthen his grip on the Boreal Valley, Sulyvahn sent Aldrich to devour Gwyndolin, the last of the gods of Anor Londo and imprisoned Yorshka in a tower above her church. In addition, he forced the maiden of Gwynevere to become a dancer for his own amusing before exiling her as an Outrider Knight.
9 Dormin - Shadow Of The Colossus
Dormin is the shadowy entity that convinced the protagonist Wander to kill the Colossi so he could resurrect his deceased lover, a girl named Mono, who was sacrificed because she had a cursed destiny. Dormin’s essence was sealed within the sixteen colossal beasts who wandered freely throughout the forbidden land, and by killing the Colossi Wander would set Dormin free.
One of the most unique and clever aspects of Dormin's character is that he manipulated Wander without actually lying to him once, and he even lived up to the promise of resurrecting Mono, which obviously came at a cost. Even before Wander set off on his journey to destroy the Colossi, Dormin warned, “but heed this, the price you pay may be heavy indeed.” Knowing that Wander would ignore the warning and do anything to bring his love back from the grave, Dormin was still very devious even when he offered some measure of honesty.
8 Kefka - Final Fantasy VI
Kefka Palazzo is the main antagonist from Final Fantasy VI. He began the game's story as the court mage of the Emperor Gestahl, although Kefka had his own agenda. Behind his monarch's back, he drained the power of the Espers and ordered attacks on various towns, eventually gaining enough power to overthrow the Gestahl. After that he] took control of the Warring Triad, turning Kefka into the embodiment of God of Magic.
Kefka may possibly be the most sadistic, maniacal, and destructive villain in the entire Final Fantasy universe. It is implied that his hatred for everything in the world and madness stemmed from a procedure that made him the very first Magitek Knight, thus allowing him control over magic. Kefka has killed thousands by poisoning an entire kingdom's water supply, he killed his own allies, burned cities to the ground and committed genocide on the Espers, all before terraforming the world and killing millions more in the process.
7 Luca Blight - Suikoden 2
Luca Blight was also known as the mad prince was the main antagonist in Suikoden 2. The Mad Prince Luca Blight could have easily been one of the most one-dimensional villains in gaming due to his pure psychopathy, but it’s his charisma and the fact that he’s completely human that makes him all the more disturbing.
Blight has burned down villages, murdered men, women, and children in the thousands and takes great pleasure in forcing his victims to beg for their lives, even forcing one woman to act like a pig right before killing her. Luca Blight has no redeeming qualities at all, he lives only to hurt and destroy others and seemingly has an unrelenting bloodlust that can never be quenched.
6 Dr. Fontaine - L.A Noire
Dr. Harlan J. Fontaine is the main antagonist of L.A Noire. He’s a clinical psychiatrist who majored psychology and medicine. He gained his reputation as both a college professor and as a “doctor to the stars” by providing professional services to high profile celebrities. He’s also the mastermind behind the Suburban Redevelopment Scandal, and the L.A Morphine Racket, managing to convince high-ranking city officials to partake in his illegal activities.
Fontaine is a sociopathic and violent individual who used his charm and position as a psychiatrist to manipulate others intro trusting him and do his bidding. Fontaine has no issue murdering people to further his own agenda and continue his drug trafficking business and ties to organized crime.
5 Emperor Nero - Ryse: Son Of Rome
Emperor Nero is not only the main antagonist of Ryse he also has the unique position of being the only real life and historical character on this list. Nero was the Roman Emperor for 14 years until his suicide. Of course in the video game version, he met his end at the hands of the game's protagonist Marius.
The real-life Nero committed many heinous acts, he blamed The Great Fire of Rome on the Christians and ordered them to be thrown to the dogs, while many others were burned and crucified. He even arranged the murder of his own mother, to ensure his place on the throne. Worse still, he ordered a teenage boy named Sporus to be castrated because he bore an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife and later married him.
Although the game’s story plays very loose with historical accuracy (he didn’t have two sons), Nero’s video game counterpart seemed to accurately portray many of his physical descriptions and his personality traits, making him not only a great fictional villain but a historical one too.
4 Ganondorf - Legend Of Zelda
Ganondorf has been the main antagonist of The Legend of Zelda series since its inception, and is considered one of the most recognizable villains in gaming history. There is usually many different versions of the ‘hero of time’ known as Link, Ganondorf is the reincarnation of the same entity – the spirit of hatred, which was born of the demon known as Demise featured in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Throughout the series Ganondorf has successfully managed to send the land of Hyrule into darkness, he transformed the Knights of Hyrule into demons and unleashed an army of darkness in Four Swords Adventures. Finally, in Breath of The Wild, he brought total ruin to the world of Hyrule. Ganon isn’t just an evil villain he IS the physical manifestation of evil and darkness, never truly going away and always coming back even more determined than the last time.
3 Joel - The Last Of Us
Joel is the primary protagonist of The Last of Us and his main focus is looking after Ellie, especially after losing his own daughter during the initial stages of the epidemic that struck the country, and a soldier was ordered to kill both him and his daughter.
Although he’s generally considered a hero to most fans, the reasons for Joel finding himself on a 'most evil' list are many. The most obvious being his unwillingness to allow Ellie to be used as a means to cure millions of people if it meant risking her own life. He prevented this from happening by killing everyone in the Fireflies facility. This eventually lead to Joel lying to Ellie about what had happened at the facility by telling her that the vaccine failed. Additionally, he’s able to commit acts of total brutality without any hesitation, and even one of the game’s main antagonists David refers to Joel as “the crazy man."
2 Mr. Jefferson - Life Is Strange
On the outside, Mark Jefferson seems to be charismatic and caring photography teacher Blackwell Academy, but in reality, he’s a psychopathic serial killer and the main antagonist of Life is Strange. Prior to becoming a teacher, Jefferson is also a highly regarded photographer that gained fame in the 90s. He is shown to have an obsession with “innocence,” or rather “capturing the moment where innocence evolves into corruption,” and he’s willing to kill anyone to achieve his goals.
The developers DONTNOD did a great job with throwing the players of Jefferson's scent early in the game, by actually making his character appear very likable, while at the same creating a fantastic “ who done it” murder mystery. When Jefferson’s true colors were finally revealed, the impact was far more effective and terrifying because of his initial likeability. It’s only in the chapters that we get to see exactly how dangerous and evil he is.
1 Lionel Starkweather - Manhunt
It's quite possible the Lionel Starkweather is the most evil video game character ever conceived. He is the main antagonist of Rockstar's Manhunt. He is a character that mostly heard rather than seen, and it's the fantastic voice acting provided Brian Cox that helps sell Starkweather as an evil and sick individual.
He "directs" the protagonist James Earl Cash through many murderous scenarios for his snuff films with the promise of freedom if he makes it out alive. Starkweather also seems to get a sexual kick out killing as he can be heard moaning at times when Cash performs a kill. He even has Cash's family kidnapped and then murdered after Cash saved them the Wardogs gang -- taking great pleasure showing him the footage.