What exactly makes a good story when it comes to games? A likable protagonist, interesting plot development, climax, and a definitive resolution are often the key ingredients, but a great antagonist is often times what can separate a story from the rest of the pack. The same concept applies to video games, some of the most memorable characters in gaming history have been the ones gamers despised. From Bowser to Ganandorf to Shao Kahn, villains can give their protagonist counterparts a meaning, and a platform to shine. This list will break down the top 10 gaming Antagonists since the year 2000. There will only be one antagonist per franchise, and no reiterations of characters made before 2000.
Resident Evil has long been home to many great villains. The likes of Albert Wesker and Jack Baker just to name a few, but Resident Evil 4’s king of the Las Plagas was special. Lord Osmund Saddler deceives his way into a cult following and forms a plan of world domination. To start this plan Saddler enlists the help of Jack Krauser, who is tasked with absconding with the President of the United States' daughter. To make matters worse, once she is taken, Saddler infects her with the Las Plagas virus and plans to betray Krauser. This leads to an eventual winner-take-all collision course with Leon S. Kennedy.
The original Gears of War trilogy introduced gamers to one of the more unexpected villains in recent times. Queen Myrah, leader of the Locust Horde, is actually a human. Throughout the first Gears, the phrase “For the Queen” was thrown around by locust troops time and time again without any idea as to who the queen was. Once her identity was revealed, it was surprising to see that she is actually human. A traitor to her own people, Queen Myrrah is responsible for the deaths of millions and for organizing Emergence Day, the day Sera changed forever.
This Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare villain had no problem killing our favorite protagonists like he’s George R.R. Martin orchestrating the red wedding. Makarov wastes little time in becoming the most evil antagonist of this trilogy by opening fire on the innocent bystanders of Zakhaev airport, killing Yuri in Modern Warfare 3, and being responsible for the death of fan favorite Soap MacTavish. It was Makarov’s call to drop a nuclear bomb in the original Modern Warfare which resulted in the death of 30,000 marines and the events of the entire trilogy.
Mass Effect gave to gamers one of the wildest fights for survival seen thus far in the form of the war against robotic behemoths named The Reapers. Beyond the Reapers, though, was The Illusive Man. Almost a Keyser Soze like figure, The Illusive Man heads the renegade group Cerberus, who the game's protagonist, Commander Shephard, is actively fighting against most of the game. What really sets The Illusive Man apart, though, is what he does when he finds a beaten and battered Commander Shephard in space. He revives him and sets him free again. As interesting as he is puzzling, The Illusive Man lives up to his name.
GLaDOS of the Portal series definitely stands out from the other characters on this list in that it is not even human. GLaDOS is the central core of the Aperture Science computer-aided Enrichment Center. What makes this villain so great is that she doesn’t appear to be a living entity at first, as she initially sounds like prerecorded messages. In a crazy revelation, the main character realizes this is not the case, and the player has to survive and escape GLaDOS’s death traps. An unexpected reveal and very interesting dialogue make this character one of the more memorable Antagonists in all of gaming.
Skull kids are introduced in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time which was made before the year 2000. It wasn’t until Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask that the player encounters the most unique skull kid of them all. Once banished by the four giants, this skull kid returns to Termina only to become a prisoner in his own skin. Under the influence of the dreaded Majora’s Mask, skull kid starts wreaking havoc, including sending the moon on a one-way collision course with Termina. What separates Skull Kid though is that he is not inherently evil. A trickster, yes, but not evil, and he is being transformed before our very eyes into one of the most demonic Zelda villains of all time.
One of the most charismatic faces in gaming, Handsome Jack of Borderlands 2 is as hilarious as he is maniacal. Vault Hunters beware, Jack really is the Deadpool of video game characters. He is just as likely to crack an untimely joke as he is to kill you in twisted fashion. Constantly claiming to be the good guy and on the right side of things, Jack has understandable motives that are completely lost in translation with his murderous deeds. A very colorful vocabulary and an ego the size of Pandora make Handsome Jack one of the most memorable antagonists in history.
Far Cry 3 introduced the world to one of the best villain performances ever. Insanity has never looked so good. Michael Mondo, the actor who portrayed Vaas, deserves an Oscar for the way he would change tones and start contradicting himself resulting in violent raging outbursts. This made his character feel so lifelike and real, and it made encounters extremely exciting. He really does appear to be a true Hollywood villain from a nightmare vacation to hell. Vaas Montenegro did not care for any living person, his life, or anything. It seems the only thing that mattered to him was pirate life and messing with other’s minds. The man is nothing but insane, and he prides himself on it. He will ask the definition of insanity, as if he’s not insane, all while sinking a man to the bottom of the sea with a cinder block tied to his feet.
Often times the power to influence and manipulate is stronger than any gun, sword, or army. Red Dead Redemption 2’s Dutch Van Der Linde had the unbelievably powerful ability to trick and deceive, all while masquerading as a caring, compassionate man. To start off, he essentially preyed upon two outcast teenagers, John Marston, and Arthur Morgan, so he could raise them as his unquestioning supporters. He takes advantage of people’s bad fortune to gain their trust and essentially turn them into his mindless followers, and his power of speech is so unmatched he can talk men and women into doing terrible deeds and actually convince them they were doing good. As his true colors finally come to light, Dutch exposes himself as a murderous, money loving, selfish sociopath. In a way, Dutch talked himself into not only fame and fortune, but an early grave.
The ultimate con-man. Throughout the first Bioshock game, the player’s only friend in the downtrodden utopia is a stranger named Atlas. Claiming to be the only one in the underwater city that can help the player, Atlas repeatedly gives what seems like advice on how to escape Rapture, but in reality, are just mind control commands. It turns out Atlas is none other than Frank Fontaine, a power-hungry smuggler reportedly shot and killed in a shootout years prior. As it turns out, Frank Fontaine isn’t even his real name, it’s Frank Gorland. He stole the name Frank Fontaine to gain access to Rapture and cons the player into doing his dirty work which then results in the murder of Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture. The player, Jack, turns out to be Andrew Ryan’s genetically-altered son who was brainwashed and grown to become Frank’s personal hitman, so long as Fontaine, or Atlas, used the phrase “Would you Kindly”. One of the most breathtaking twists in gaming history results in Andrew Ryan’s own son being used against him by the monstrous, multi-named conman Frank Fontaine.