In a world of polarized politics, it seems that there isn’t much that many of us agree upon these days. Every decision is now the kind of love it or hate it scenario we used to reserve for marmite. Things have gone so awry that the comic book fans among us have started to watch for signs of a nuclear, utilitarian Doctor Manhattan, ready to save humanity by forcing them to unite against a false enemy.
While this kind of side-picking is true for almost all aspects of our daily lives at present, one stunning exception to this rule, is the idea that villains get all the very best lines. On that, surely, we can all agree - Doctor Manhattan or not. From Heath Ledger as Joker’s ‘Wanna know how I got these scars?’ to Michael Mando as Vaas’ ‘Do you know the definition of insanity?’ - bad guys always seem to have more fun, and heaps more panache than their chaotic good counterparts.
And that’s probably a good thing. Barring a few notable exceptions (like Spiderman and Deadpool), the eccentricity that makes these characters so humorous, remains a villain's game - giving a twisted, irreverence to a story otherwise bogged down by the seriousness business of defending freedom, love, and life. But good lines aren’t necessarily the only marker we use to designate a crook as bad-ass or not, and so enters power. Skyrim’s Cicero was mouthy enough until he proved fairly easy to beat, and now most of what we remember him by is his regrettable love for the Night Mother. No, to be a brilliant villain, you need strength, too. Here are eight of PlayStation’s most powerful baddies, and seven of their absolute weakest.
16 Powerful: Zeus (God Of War II)
It’s difficult to keep your ego down while playing as Kratos. Born a Spartan (read ‘hellish warrior of death’), Kratos impressed his seniors and killed enough of Sparta’s enemies to eventually rise to the rank of general, while also, unbeknownst to him, retaining his position of demigod - son to Zeus, and a mortal woman named Callisto.
Going up against gods like Ares, Kratos is the plucky, roguish underdog we all love to be. For the time we’re in a simulated environment, that is. Actually being Kratos would not be so chill. Anyway, in the anti-hero narrative that had us fight our way through a bevy of Greek gods, sprites, and spirits, there wasn’t any fight we look forward to more than Kratos’ one-on-one with dad, Zeus. It’s ZEUS, for goodness sake! On the Summit of Sacrifice, we watched as Zeus conjured sirens, and threw lightning bolts while we tried frantically to use Golden Fleece to block his blows. Phew, what a ride!
15 Weakest: Jecht (Final Fantasy X)
Jecht, or ‘The Great Jecht’ as he calls himself, is a troubled man. Apart from a drinking problem that could have cost him his livelihood, Jecht is also too drawn to the pretty lights of glamorous life. He wants fame. He longs for it. Then there’s the issue with his tattoo. Can anyone not directly looking at fan art actually see what it is? Barely.
Although maybe that’s an issue that arises with being that jacked; your six pack lines start competing with ink. He’s also clearly confused about his role as father to Tidus, turning up the awkward dial every time he tries to communicate his true feelings. All of this doesn’t make for a strong antagonist, there are just way too many flaws to be exploited. Come back when you’ve had some time to think things through. And, uh, buddy? Get some help, okay?
14 Powerful: Wander (Shadow Of The Colossus)
Now, we’re gamers. We understand what it means to play a conflicted character. But damn, is Wander conflicted AF. The details, if you’re hazy: you are Wander, a regularish dude who has his heart set on resurrecting a young woman named Mono, who was killed for having what some people deemed to be an ill-fated destiny. Minority Report type stuff. So, seeing as that sucks completely, Wander goes in search of Dormin, a disembodied soul rumored to have the power to bring back life to the dead.
Dormin agrees to help - with a catch. Obviously. In order to help Wander, Dormin asks that he kills sixteen powerful colossi. Wander goes about this in an all-out amazing way that made Shadow one of the absolute best games of the PS2 generation, but in the end, we find out the colossi were just peacekeepers trying to make sure Dormin stays up, and otherwise living their lives out in peace. C’mon, man, no.
13 Weakest: Scott Shelby (Heavy Rain)
Scott Shelby gave one hell of a fight in the end there, make no mistake. That’s a given no matter who ends up in that gross warehouse with him in the final minutes of the game. And yup, he had a pretty grim backstory that made him as the famed Origami Killer seem possible, even when it’s difficult to picture a man that size folding intricate patterns into paper.
So, why isn’t he designated among the powerful on this list? Simply because we’re not entirely sure he deserves his strength and prowess. He does look like he played a contact sport for a measure of time in his youth, aha. But, the only cardio that man’s seen in years was purely accidental - an occupational hazard that was as infrequent as it was taxing. There’s no way Shelby could execute the moves he did that fateful, rainy evening, without suffering some swift rebuke from his heart.
12 Powerful: Gehrman, The First Hunter (Bloodborne)
Bloodborne was another game in the vein of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls that proved there are more masochists in gaming than the sexually conservative among us would feel prefer to believe.
Yet, there was something uniquely awful about Bloodborne, maybe because it’s gothic themes are ones we learned to fear in childhood through stories from the Brother Grimm et al (what were our parents thinking?), or maybe because it features this guy - Gehrman, the First Hunter. Your first interactions with him are creepy, not threatening, although this show of ableism is fairly scary in and of itself. But should you refuse him or cross him in the Hunter’s Dream after a run in with a certain wet nurse, he will reign down Germanic fury on you with his larger-than-life scythe. You died. You died. You died, again.
11 Weakest: Tiny Tiger (Crash Bandicoot)
Tiny Tiger has the appearance of someone who has spent the overwhelming majority of his life drinking protein shakes and doing pull-ups on Venice Beach. He’s not just muscle for show either; his super strength is not something to joke about, but we welcome you to try.
When he's somewhere where it’s warm, skipping leg day once again, Tiny Tiger can be seen riding out a serious case of stockholm syndrome with his master and mentor, Dr. Neo Cortex. What makes Tiny Tiger weak despite all his bulk, is his intelligence, which Dr. Cortex has claimed is so low, that he’s able to manipulate Tiny into doing wrong things quite easily. Let’s look at some of his popular quotes, and you see for yourself. ‘Tiny squish puny CARS! Uka Uka and Cortex want Tiny get Crystals, and bring them to the big coliseum in Rome. Crash! Leave them for Tiny, or Crash get CRUSHED! Charming.
10 Powerful: David (The Last Of Us)
As far as jump scares go, you can’t beat the clickers. It gets you every time they lunge at your neck and you have to watch as the contents of Joel’s carotid artery are emptied on the surrounding floor. But David is scary in a different way.
Leader of a cannibalistic survival tribe, we meet David while Ellie is hunting for deer. She agrees to trade the meat for antibiotics she needs for Joel, but later discovers that David is one of the raiders who had attacked her and Joel at an earlier point in the game. David lets her go at gunpoint, but has her tracked and kidnapped. David’s interactions with young Ellie become increasingly sinister and "adult," and the final boss fight between them is frightening not because David is especially strong, but because we play as Ellie, who is decidedly at a disadvantage in physical strength. A rare glimpse for many of us into the fear many women live with even today, apocalypse-free.
9 Weakest: Rafe Adler (Uncharted 4)
Let this be a lesson to every parent who thinks their child can outlive a bold name choice. Rafe didn’t turn out okay, despite what we’re sure his parents told his teachers as he moved schools yet again for undisclosed reasons. In fact, Rafe turned out to be a bully. The rich kind, too, which doesn’t help his case.
That said, for all his wealth, Rafe never made that much of a formidable villain. Yeah, he had the money on his side, but what did he really end up doing with it besides hiring a mercenary to do his dirty work, and get into heated debates with one of the Drake clan? Not much. Not much at all. Unless you count dealing in the antiquarian black market, and almost no one does.
8 Powerful: Nadine Ross (Uncharted 4: A Thief's End)
South African mercenaries are not to be messed with. If you ever meet one in person (because they are everywhere but South Africa, where most of them are wanted for crimes against humanity), it’s best to treat them like the sun; never look them in the eye, and find cover from exposure as soon as possible. Nadine Ross is no exception.
When we meet Nadine at the Rossi Estate during that fateful auction in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, you know already that she’s bad news - courtesy of her plus one and fellow listee, Rafe Adler (scroll down for more on our buddy, Rafe). But it’s really only when Drake has his one-on-one fight scene with her, that we understand just how much trouble he’s landed himself in with crossing her. Suffice it to say, Drake’s rusty right hook was no match for Nadine’s honed unarmed combat. We can’t wait to see her in The Lost Legacy.
7 Weak: HADES (Horizon Zero Dawn)
Hear us out. HADES definitely has some power. It’s an AI with the ability to reverse terraforming efforts across an entire planet, which it chooses to do without remorse or reason out of its own fair will. That’s not nothing.
But for all its catastrophic potential, HADES’ leaves a lot to be desired in a final boss. For one thing, it’s not even it you’re up against. HADES reanimates a fallen death bringer, and Aloy fights that. Yeah, so, there’s not much leeway with Ai, and no, we couldn’t think of anything better either, but we’re not being paid to do it, okay! In the end, you finish HADES off with a manual overdrive. You couldn’t ask for something more on the nose.
6 Powerful: Lord Hastings (The Order: 1886)
You nearly forgot about this game, didn’t you? Granted, it was released in the early days of the PS4, but this little gothic beauty deserves to be remembered. Think back to its gorgeous good looks. Its glorious story-driven levels that waved off empty action like Christopher Nolan waves off 3D. With grace, that is.
Plus, there’s a good shortage of werewolf vs vampire games in the industry at the moment, and we’re not standing for that. Right, so, back to Lord Hastings, otherwise known as Jacob van Neck (on second thoughts, maybe this wasn’t all that well-written). He’s the smug wealthy guy behind all the Whitechapel murders being blamed on one ‘Jack the Ripper.’ He’s also a vampire, if the hint hadn’t landed yet. True, you don’t get to fight against Hastings all that much, but counting his ties to the United India Company, and the way he shrugs off accusations with a name drop, we’d say he’s pretty powerful.
5 Weak: Willie Wumpa Cheeks (Crash Tag Team Racing)
You can’t be too harsh on a game made to include children as a primary audience. It’s just not fair to call any aspect of these immature or badly thought out, just because adult brains are more developed. Though there’s a line, and Willie Wumpa Cheeks crossed it - a ton.
Come to think of it, the audience this character was genuinely appropriate for were yet to develop fine motor skills or speak multi-syllabic words at the time of its release, so even console-playing children of an older age (you know, like, six) would have found this sentient Wumpa fruit irksome. No points there, then. He also straight-up tells everyone he’s stolen a black power gem, because he was annoyed that no one had noticed yet. Friend, that’s not how theft works. And as if it could get any worse, Willie only speaks in rhyme. Send help, am dying.
4 Powerful: The Master Of The Valley (The Last Guardian)
When we heard that the developers behind Shadow of Colossus, Team Ico, were making another game, we knew it was going to be awesome on a number of levels. But few us anticipated just how much it would make us cry. No, no, no. You cried. Oh, you cried. Bet your bottom dollar. (What is it with animal movies that will get you right in the heartstrings?)
Now, any enemy up against the love between a young boy and his hyena/cat/gryphon is bound to be looked upon with an unfriendly gaze, but one that sends out Tricos to bring back children for it to consume in order to sustain its immortality? Yikes. That’s one super evil, powerful little orb thing.
3 Weak: The Phalanx (Demon’s Souls)
A weak Demon’s Souls’ boss. On the surface, it sounds like a contradiction. A sentence without meaning, or one so absurd that it can’t possibly be true. But if you think about it logically, there was always going to be an easiest Demon’s Souls’ fight, wasn’t there? One you fight and only die thirty or forty times, tops.
The Phalanx, whose name (we’re ashamed to admit) made us giggle, is essentially a gigantic blob of cold, hardened fat, covered in armour. It was named after a military formation most recognizable as the tactic used by Sparta’s Leonidas and his group, while Xerxes’ men rained down arrows. You get the picture. Since this monster’s focused primarily on defense, and even then, not exceptionally well, it’s easily defeated with some key blows. After you get rid of its skeletal friends first, of course.
2 Powerful: Wendigo (Until Dawn)
In the United States and Canada, we’ve heard about the wendigo, but to the rest of the world, it’s a beast unknown. We suspect then, that the words ‘What hell, North America?! Why did you have to go and give us an entirely new species of thing to be afraid of? Couldn’t we have gone on living in a Wendigo-free world?’ have been spoken in many languages across the world since Until Dawn’s release.
To these questions we must answer like we have for most of our recent exports, ‘Look, we didn’t want to suffer alone.’ And we won’t, because the image of a spindly, ultra-quick monster of the night will haunt the nightmares of people from the top of Europe to the bottom of Africa for years to come. Eons.
1 Weakest: Joshua Washington (Until Dawn)
If it seemed strange to you that people would honor a friend or sister’s memory by returning to the scene of their death for one last bender, congratulations! Your power of reason is very much intact. The same could not be said for any of the characters invited to the Washington Estate by Joshua Washington. Still, it was a year since the disappearance of their two besties, Hannah and Beth, so maybe thinking clearly wasn’t top priority.
To no one’s surprise but theirs, the party didn’t go off as well as, presumably, at least someone (anyone?) was hoping it would. This is partly owing to Josh’s penchant for luring his friends into Saw-like situations to enact revenge for the part they played in his sister's’ vanishing. It’s weird and spooky, no doubt, but Joshua seems to lose steam too soon, and really, you just want to give the guy a long hug and give him the name of your therapist.