Looking back at games I’ve completed to come up with this list, I do find that most individual bad guys are usually nothing but forgettable place holders, only an obstacle to overcome as a boss at the end of the game, whilst throughout the rest of the game, they’re nowhere to be seen, not really bring anything additional to the experience. Only are there a few examples that counter this stereotype, of enemies that drag the story by its hair, forcing you to look at the cutscene as the voice actors put on some of the best performances of their life. These enemies are so harrowing and convincing, both they and the story comes off as much more realistic, alongside being much more emotional and memorable, sometimes doing a better job than the protagonist at carrying the story. What follows is my top 5 list of Bad Guys that have defined some of my most favourite gaming moments.
5. Guy sat on bog (GoldenEye)
Now bear with me here, as I’m being dead serious. The reason why I mention our Russian friend enjoying his time on the toilet is because he’s so familiar to many of us. Just the simple mention of him, and I know that we all have the same image in our heads, looking down on the guy from an open vent as he’s sat there, oblivious to being spied on as he takes care of business, whilst we’re deciding which gadget to take him out with. I’m pretty much sure this guy has suffered numerous ways of humiliation at the hands of millions of players, shooting his little cap off for him not to notice, or opening his cubicle door to karate chop him in the face. Maybe it was placing c4 around him or taking pictures with the camera on your watch.
Playing this game as a kid, I struggled for ages to complete the entire game, and even then badly. So just replaying the first few missions over and over, was pretty much my thing, exploring levels throughout hoping for secret areas etc. Torturing the guy on the toilet made up most of my time playing Goldeneye if I wasn’t otherwise playing golden gun mode on multiplayer. Whilst the overall story in both the game and movie are spot on, nothing scared me more than when the guy finally noticed me up in the vent, running into my cubicle to shoot up at me. I would retreat, consigning James Bond to nothing but a rat stuck in a vent.
4. GLaDOS (Portal 1 & 2)
The robot with a human attitude. The Aperture Science Laboratories seem to have a knack for making robots that are very bad at being robots, imitating the humans that no longer seem to populate the test center. GLaDOS is the strict headmistress of Aperture, a swivelling head that rolls on rails from room to room, in charge of conducting ongoing tests with her human test subjects whilst looking after the dilapidated laboratory. In the first Portal game, she treats you as a lab rat, pushing and poking you through her experiments with her lingual jabs and see-through promises. She eventually becomes the antagonist as your nameless character looks for a means to escape from the facility, finally getting into the hub that contains GLaDOS’ mainframe, ensuing a battle requiring portals to direct the rockets she fires, back at her.
The voice of the robot is fantastic, with Ellen McLain’s voice broken over a saw-wave frequency, allowing for a creepy, analytical effect to further emphasise GLaDOS’ homicidal phrases. In Portal 2, though she starts off as the bad guy, it soon turns around as she is forced into a mini computer powered by a potato. I absolutely laughed at this and there’s an entire story arc here, being able to discover about GLaDOS’ past and the history of Aperture. Her character is really well ingrained into the story as a whole, carrying the series brilliantly and I don’t think it could have worked out any better for the games. She’s a fantastic ‘bad guy’ and I hope to see more of her sometime in the future.
3. Dark Link (Zelda: Ocarina Of Time)
One of the greatest boss fights I’ve had the joy and frustration of experiencing. You fight against Dark Link as a middle boss in the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. Bearing in mind that the Water Temple upto this point had been a bitch to solve, with spiders jumping on me from left, right and above, walking into a certain tranquil room, I thought I could finally get some peace. The room is beautiful to explore, walking atop a lake of shiny liquid, which is reflected along the far-reaching walls. In the centre of the room is a small island with a tree. Exploring around this doesn’t reveal anything unusual, so we advance to the door at the back of the room, only for the dark circle underneath us that has been our shadow this whole time to roam back to the tree, in which Dark Link emerges from. Now the appearance of Dark Link is fantastic, being a carbon copy of our Link, holding a Master Sword with which he’s coming right at us with.
This is a fight that you have to think on your feet for, as Dark Link is able to evade our attacks, and not only that, he can counter attack whilst standing atop our own sword. Having to time your attacks just right is critical, unless you put him in a corner and spam attack. He also has the ability to sink into the ground and reappear at any moment behind you, requiring fast reflexes to jump out of the way of his attack. The more damage you do get on him, the more he’ll come back hitting, getting faster and more agile. It’s a great sensation knowing that Dark Link is just as powerful as regular Link, maybe even more powerful seeing as he has certain additional abilities and moves, which means we have to give it our all just to be that millisecond quicker on the attack. I enjoyed my encounter with Dark Link, a boss that helped give the Water Temple its reputation. I really did consider him a commendable adversary and would have really liked to have had him appear in future games of the series as a more mainstream character, specially more so in Twilight Princess with the shadow realm, but other than a glimpse, he makes no other appearance. He does make his appearance’s in Smash Bros, so Nintendo do still acknowledge him, it’s just making him relevant to the series. Otherwise in Breath of the Wild, he’s nothing but a skin for Link which I again just think is a real shame. Will always be keeping my eye out for his return one of these days.
2. The Joker (Batman: Arkham series)
To be honest, the assigning of positions for one and two was up in the air, but seeing as The Joker from Batman does get to benefit from mountains of lore from comic books, cartoons and films, he’s already a well established character, whilst the bad guy we’ve chose for the number one spot is purely from a video game, so I think he just edged in front for his win of being the most homicidal bad guy in video games, but that’s not to say that Joker pulls his punches.
The Arkham series of Batman games has been some of the best RPGs I’ve ever had the chance to play. Setting aside the fantastic story, exploration and combat, the characters really bring the game to life, none more so than the Joker. Joker is usually 5 steps ahead with his plans, planning to the finest of details every possible scenario that can occur, so that he can throw some of the wildest ideas Gotham has seen. Being able to work off Batman’s weaknesses, the Joker will always make time for the Bats, usually trying to get into his head and question the status quo. He doesn’t think twice when torturing those loyal to him, and embellishes in wiping out his enemies. His positive attitude and laugh ensures that tense situations feel creepy as fuck, and yet still manages to scare you further when his temper flares within a flash, a not-so-happy clown any longer.
Mark Hamill so wonderfully brought this character to life, with the amazing voice acting and really deserves an award for sticking with the Joker for so long. To act as one of the most devilish characters in all of fiction for the length of time he has, I can’t believe Hamill is as cool headed as he is today in real life. Joker really is Batman’s opposite in every way, and the clash of personalities plays out fantastically in the Arkham series. Fighting against the Joker whilst he’s jacked up on roids was pretty cool in Arkham Asylum, and I was in awe of the inner battle Batman experiences throughout Arkham Knight, with the Joker tagging alongside in the darkest corners of Batman’s mind. Sadly Arkham Knight was to be Hamill’s last performance as the Joker, but who knows what the future has in store. All I do know is that I suffer from nightmares thanks to Joker’s cackling laugh.
1. Vaas Montenegro (Far Cry 3)
I’m at a loss. How do I praise the most psychotic villain we’ve ever had the pleasure of facing. How do I ensure he receives full credit for being the ultimate bad-ass. How do I put into words that after his death, I was at a loss and no longer wanted to play the rest of Far Cry 3.
A great hero is nothing without a great villain.
Jason Brody would have accumulated to nothing if it wasn’t for Vaas, mentoring him from the sidelines in how to survive the jungle and more importantly, amongst people.
The interactions we have with Vaas throughout the game, absolutely sets the tone of the game. Being captured by pirates, you find yourself and your brother tied up in a bamboo cage, watching footage of your time on the island during innocent times. Outside of your cage is Vaas, interrogating his prisoners as though they’re game show contestants, breaking up his calm demeanour with flashes of aggression, remarking that you are now his bitch. He tells you exactly how it is, facing the truth of our lifestyles seen from the sides of those on the poverty line. After daring your escape with your brother, making it to the edge of the compound, whilst discussing your next move, Vaas shows up behind you both, shooting your brother in his neck. Whilst you’re trying to stem the bleeding with your hands, Vaas walks away, leaving you to your brother dying in your hands.
Throughout the experience, you will face off against Vaas numerous times, with him capturing and trying to kill you a number of times, even being stabbed into the stomach at one point, but you manage to still escape each time and get fixed up. The speeches he gives between each encounter are worthy of being quoted throughout, and generates a menacing feeling in the game. When it comes to the final showdown between the two of you, his sister sends you out to kill him and for some stupid ass reason, you’re on a drug bender, chasing after Vaas and illusions, only for him to jump out and attack you. You manage to turn the knife around, stabbing Vaas, causing hallucinations of Vaas essentially being reborn into Jason. Do we now behave that what we tried to stop? I hated that most of this was nothing but a cut scene, with no challenge required in killing a seasoned warrior like Vaas, and considering your hallucinating most of the time, does any of it really happen? I’m really hoping that Vaas managed to escape for a big comeback, which I was hoping to be Far Cry 4, in which he would have absolutely nailed being in Min’s position, a ruler of an entire country, but it seems Ubisoft struggle at keeping a good thing going.
For dying half way into the game, Vaas had more personality than the protagonist throughout. Once he’s gone, the game becomes extremely dull to play having just hit its peak, with you now essentially doing the same things of acquiring further upgrades, taking over camps, going after other bosses, having to listen to whiny friends back at base over again. The definition of insanity.
The interesting thing is that Vaas didn’t actually exist at the beginning of Far Cry 3’s development. We all have actor Michael Mando to thank for bringing Vaas to life in every sense of the word. Now it is well documented on the Internet, but essentially Mando went to Ubisoft to audition for a different character in the game. His audition was so good, that he was called back to voice a new character that the whole game would be rewritten around because of him. Mando would not only put his voice to the character, but also his face and body image aswell as providing motion capture. At the time of release, Ubisoft also commisioned a web series starring Mando perfectly dressed up as Vaas, hunting down the film maker McLovin. Just like Walter White was a hit for Bryan Cranston, Vaas Montenegro was for Michael Mando. It’s sad to see that he was cut down in his prime, I could have continued playing against Vaas for many games to come.
On the topic of Breaking Bad, Mando is currently in the spin off show, Better Call Saul, and I have to say that he is not only carrying that show, but fucking killing it. If it wasn’t for him, the show should really be called Kim Wexler & Friends, as for Saul, he barely makes an appearance throughout the entire thing. It’s just a shame that Mando can’t go as crazy on set as he was as Vaas, but we atleast see an opposite side to the actor, with his very powerful, emotional performances.
My waffling can do this character no justice, which is why I recommend you read Jennifer Jackson’s article on Vaas, where she meticulously explains the psychology of Vaas and of the relationship between him and Jason.
It feels weird, creating a list of the best villains from video games, as we’re essentially rooting for them to win. Whilst it can be troubling to see parts of ourselves in these characters, we have to remember that these people, who are intelligent and at some point wanted better things for this world, usually suffer some trauma at a turning point in their lifetime, setting them on this course that we find them on, essentially showing how this transformation could happen to the best of us when we lose our way and that it’s important to show compassion to those that are treading a slippery slope. We’re lucky that when we play a game, we get to automatically jump into the driving seat of the hero protagonist, rather than the antagonist who has/wants to set the world on fire, as I’m sure we’d learn more about ourselves, questioning ourselves as the villain than we would ever want to.
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