The war over which fictional character is stronger than another fictional character has been going on since the time of recess and the time of powerful villains in media intersected. While those fights carry on at recesses across the globe to this day, they've really gone into full force on Internet comment sections. Unfortunately, some of these Internet comment battles are more racist, cruel, and ignorant than any playground battle on the same subject could have gotten. Am I right?
The reason these arguments have never seemed to taper off is because they're limitless. You can have this argument about comic book characters. You can argue about comic book characters from just Marvel or DC or you can pit two heroes or villains from these major publishers against each other. The same debate can be dropped into horror movies where one argues if Mike Meyers or Leatherface would win in a showdown.
Lucky for readers of this fine site, we can discuss who the most and least powerful video game characters are. Today, that argument will be in regards to villains that appeared in games exclusive to Nintendo. Keep in mind these are all the opinions of the author, but feel free to tear me a new one in the comments section. Bring your friends!
15 Powerful: Dr. Wiley
Of course, everyone will probably argue that Wiley is just an old inventor with no real set of powers - but the dude turned into a freaky alien in Mega Man 2 that could only be killed by...well, okay. He could be taken out by bubbles, but still. Nothing else could kill that alien. Not freezing time. Not spinning buzz saws. Not, umm, a spinning circle of leaves. Bubbles just happened to be the kryptonite to a mad scientist that is otherwise Superman.
We also need to consider the fact that Wiley somehow always survives. He keeps coming back again and again. The ability to make eight Robot Masters every couple of years, in addition to the insanely powerful and high tech guardians in his own lab, can't be shirked at either. Dr. Wiley's speed must be on par with that of Barry Allen!
14 Weakest: Birdo
You're on the brink of beating the first stage of Super Mario Bros. 2. You climb a vine and enter a new screen. The music goes from a jaunty little ditty to what sounds like the background jam for an intense boss fight. Your adrenaline is pumping. You take a few deep breaths. You jump off the vine and head to the right. The first thing that comes into frame is some dark-red brick that would suggest a treacherous castle ahead. You jump up on the first platform to face your adversary...
...and it's a pink dinosaur no bigger than you?
The dinosaur approaches. Then it steps back. It approaches again. It backs off again. Then...
...it spits an egg?
The egg is coming right for you! It's still coming. It's still coming. It's still coming...
...well I suppose there is plenty of time to either drop out of the way or hop on.
Grab three eggs, toss them at Birdo. Didn't nail the timing? Use the egg to block the new one. She never gets more difficult than this. A toddler wielding a bag of candy poses a bigger threat than Birdo. The candy could at least give you cavities.
13 Powerful: Shadow/Dark Link
Depending on the game, some players might tell you Shadow Link isn't that powerful at all. In other games, many players will tell you that defeating Shadow Link is more challenging than defeating Ganon. The Shadow Link we'd like to specifically mention is the iteration that appears in Zelda II: The Adventures of Link for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Shadow Link is, by far, the hardest boss in the entire series. Many would argue he's one of the hardest video game bosses of all time. Not only that, but his ability to survive through time and space is nearly equal to that of Ganon, Link, and Princess Zelda. He comes back in a number of other games in the franchise.
12 Weakest: The Koopa Kids
The Koopa Kids (also known as Koopalings) were one of the coolest additions to the Super Mario franchise. If Super Mario Bros. 3 didn't look cool enough at launch, the prospect of facing bosses that looked like Bowser but offered a legitimate challenge beyond running under him or jumping over him was a major appeal to players at the time. It also brought back the original Mario villain in a big way after Super Mario Bros. 2 used villains like Mouser, Birdo, and Wart (in North America) instead.
The only problem is that the Koopa Kids are always shockingly easy in every game they've appeared in. If it's not a mere three bumps on the noggin and some simple dodging, it's just a simple puzzle to beat these kids. Stages in the first level can be more challenging than taking on the Koopalings themselves.
11 Powerful: Tom Nook
Okay. Hear this out.
Tom Nook of Animal Crossing fame gives you massive home loans without a single background or credit check. Even when you do pay the loan off, he just gives you another one. Rinse and repeat. This practice would only be adopted by someone who wants to make sure they can keep you in their grip for as long as you live. You are forever in debt to Tom Nook. In many cases you can do menial labor jobs for him, meaning, he pays you to put the money right back into his pocket.
Nook also owns a major shopping center in the area. Much of what you aren't giving him to pay your loan, you are putting into his store.
We can only assume everyone in Animal Crossing started their lives in town in a similar fashion. Money is power and Tom Nook holds the citizens of Animal Crossing under his adorable little thumb.
10 Weakest: The Nightmare King
The King of Nightmare Land is actually a pretty powerful villain. If you've ever read or seen any movies about Little Nemo's adventures in a place called Slumberland, you probably know that The Nightmare King is a dark and imposing figure of great power. Unfortunately, that is just not the case in the world of video games.
After you've mastered all the levels offered up in Little Nemo: The Dream Master (you should if you haven't), you finally confront The Nightmare King in a final showdown. The game had been pretty challenging up until now, so let's take a few minutes to prepare our minds.
Prepare? Are you pretty good at dodging? Then you've got this. The Nightmare King doesn't even move. He's completely stationary. He can't even turn around or aim his attacks behind him. It's entirely possible to glitch (exploiting the few seconds of invincibility you'd get after taking a hit in most retro games) over to the other side of him and just attack from a little spot he doesn't touch in the bottom right corner of the screen. You can attack with your scepter at full blast without getting hit until the fight is over.
All the power in the world is meaningless if you aren't smart enough to turn around.
9 Powerful: Evil M.C.
Evil M.C. from Smash TV is pretty powerful in ways beyond raw physical might and/or supernatural ability. He somehow has the masses fully engaged in and supporting a televised game show where the body count is constantly ticking upward and contestants routinely die. The M.C. is even guarded by one of the most difficult and punishing video game gauntlets of all time. It's nearly impossible to get to the Evil M.C. in a one-player game of Smash TV. Even with two players, conquering Evil M.C. is exceptionally difficult - not to mention the fact your only prize for doing so is a second playthrough at an increased speed.
The M.C. himself has several phases, takes what seems like thousands of shots to destroy, and also has a myriad of high tech weapons and guards to keep you occupied while he attacks.
8 Weakest: Dracula
While Dracula could be the most powerful villain ever, later iterations weren't exclusively Nintendo. The version of Dracula exclusive to Nintendo is very weak when compared to versions of Dracula from the future of the franchise and in other lore.
In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the original NES, the final battle with Dracula left a lot to be desired. If you approach him with the right gear, he is hands down the most easily defeated villain in the entire game, if not one of the most easily defeated villains in video game history.
If you show up to the final battle with Sacred Flames on hand, you simply throw them at him before he starts moving around. The fire keeps him immobilized and he'll die before even leaving his alter.
7 Powerful: Mike Tyson
No, I'm not trying to make an Internet version of Mike Tyson similar to the glorified version of Chuck Norris that exists on the Internet. We're going to keep this strictly to the video game world.
Mike Tyson is easily one of the most notoriously hard video game adversaries of all time. Many gamers who have played the original Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! can probably tell you they've met Mike Tyson at the end of the game, but few will be able to tell you they conquered him. If they tell you they beat him, we wouldn't believe them. They're probably lying.
If you're a little confused by the name of Mike Tyson in regards to the first Punch-Out!!, you may have played a copy manufactured after Tyson's real world sexual assault conviction and prison sentence. Tyson's name was pulled from later copies and his character was renamed "Mr. Dream." He also never appeared in any of the subsequent Punch-Out!! titles.
6 Weakest: Medusa
We could argue all day about how powerful Medusa is. She's technically not a video game character. She has the ability to turn her enemies into stone, regardless of who they are or how much power they wield. Seems pretty frightening. She also has a head full of snakes in lieu of hair. Who likes snakes? They bite and they're poisonous.
The problem here is we aren't talking about Medusa in other lore. We're talking about Medusa in video games. Specifically, Nintendo exclusive games. Even more specifically, we're talking about the Medusa in Kid Icarus on the original NES.
This iteration of Medusa can't turn you to stone, but she does shoot an eye blast that is easily absorbed by a shield. Her only other ability is to send a snake after you that travels a slow and predictable path. This is not the Medusa of legend. This is one of the least powerful and least difficult Nintendo villains of all time.
5 Powerful: Invisible Dragon
3-D WorldRunner is the greatest game that you probably don't know about. Why it was never picked up for any kind of sequel is shocking. Granted, third person games are a norm now, so a lot of the original appeal is gone, but it seems like the current state of Virtual Reality gaming would be ripe for a nostalgic revival of the title.
You play as a character named JJ (short for Jumpin' Jack), who is tasked with hunting down and defeating a number of dragons. Most of these dragons, as well as the game itself, are pretty easy. There is, however, one exception. The Invisible Dragon.
The dragons in 3D WorldRunner, while being end level bosses, are more comparable to mini-bosses. The catch here is you literally can't see The Invisible Dragon. There is no animation, outline, or negative space. Your only insight to the dragon's location is by following the trajectory of his attacks and remembering how dragons from the previous levels attacked.
The power of a dragon with the increased power of invisibility? Yikes.
4 Weakest: Bowser
On two occasions, we've argued that part of what can make a villain powerful is their ability to keep coming back again and again, seemingly impervious to defeat. While Bowser is a member of this club along with Ganon and Dr. Wiley, that's about the only thing he has going for him in terms of might.
Bowser can do a lot of tricks and he's typically sheltered inside a difficult and treacherous castle, but the one-on-one confrontation with Bowser himself is usually pretty easy. Most of the time, you're just dodging and using a bump on the noggin, something in the environment, or his own attacks against him. He's also very predictable in his attacks. If you can't beat Bowser in the one-on-one battle after just a few attempts, it's not that he's powerful - you just suck at games.
3 Powerful: Ganon
Ganon is, by far, one of the most powerful villains in Nintendo history. His story, villainy, and reign of terror are timeless and presumably endless. Where there is a Link and a Zelda, there will eventually be a Ganon.
Ganon hasn't always been the main antagonist in the Zelda series, but he is definitely the most widely recognized. Casual fans may not even be aware Link and Zelda have an adversary that isn't Ganon or some incarnation thereof.
It can be argued that villains like Majora are more evil and sinister than Ganon, but Ganon keeps coming back again and again. In his most recent incarnation as Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild, Link appears to be in a world where Ganon has already brought about an apocalypse. When you start the game, Hyrule Castle is under his control and what appear to be familiar locations from past games lie in ruin.
2 Weakest: Mario
What? Mario is a villain?
He sure is. And he's not a very good one.
In the sequel to the original Donkey Kong, the roles are reversed. In the original Donkey Kong, you played as Mario. Donkey Kong himself was sort of an early version of Bowser. He kidnapped your princess and now you must rescue her by hopping over barrels and other obstacles that the titular ape hurls at you through what appears to be an old construction site. The game isn't all that difficult in theory, but you could find yourself wasting hours on it without ever really beating it.
Donkey Kong 2 turns the tables. Mario seems to want revenge for Donkey Kong stealing his princess all those years ago. Now, instead of stealing Donkey Kong's wife/girlfriend/princess to teach him a lesson, Mario kidnaps Donkey Kong himself and forces DK's son, Donkey Kong Jr., to come rescue his dad. Donkey Kong Jr. had nothing to do with their original confrontation. Why would Mario do this to a child when his beef is with the child's father?
Not only is Mario just plain bad at plotting out his villainy, all he did was send other defenseless creatures after Junior - forcing innocent animals to do his dirty work for him.
You'd think a plumber wouldn't be scared to get his hands dirty.
1 Powerful: The Controls (Home Improvement)
Nintendo themselves should be number one on the list for most powerful Nintendo villains since they decided to give us a game based on Home Improvement! Nobody asked for this! You know what we did ask for, Nintendo!? A video game based on the legendary film Weekend At Bernie's II! I designed the whole thing in my bedroom with crayons! I mailed it to you! I gave you gold and you gave us a game based on Home Improvement!
It's not that the controls in Home Improvement are exceedingly difficult. With [a lot of] time they could even be mastered. However, they aren't intuitive and they weren't in line with the typical controls of the time. These controls aren't user friendly in the least. Some controls were more akin to entering in a cheat code rather than using an item. While they aren't as perplexing as the controls in Batman Forever from Probe and Acclaim, they most definitely required those handy dandy instructions you always threw on the floor after you opened your new game like an ape. While Batman Forever delivered on instructions, Home Improvement did not.
The Home Improvement box had what appeared to be instructions, but when you opened them there was a big, fake sticker blocking them that said "real men don't use instructions." Game screens would remind you of this, just to twist the knife a little deeper. This was also well before the time that the in-game tutorial became the norm.
These controls were so heinous most players can't tell you about anything beyond the first level. Seriously. Ask someone what the game was about and they'll say "Tim Allen fights dinosaurs." Dinosaurs are only in the first level. People gave up and turned the game off. Copies were returned and the announced version for the Sega Genesis never happened. The controls in this game were so bad and so villainous that it even destroyed itself.