The 47 Most Diabolical Video-Game Villains of All Time

10. Phoenix (Phoenix)

Sure, Phoenix looked a lot like its black and white predecessor, Space Invaders, and didn't seem to stand apart very much from its more widely-known peer, Galaxian. But then Round 5 came along and your starship faced off against just one lone opponent-the mothership. Not only was that encounter a quarter-munching exercise in tension, it was also the first time a player ever encountered a video game boss!

9. Bowser (Super Mario Bros. series)

You'd probably expect Bowser to be higher in this list, but the truth of the matter is that he's like Keanu Reeves-an uncharismatic lump who lucked into major roles in a number of very important titles. This giant turtle, who employs mushrooms and turtles in his quest to kidnap Princess Peach, bungles things so often that he admires the batting average of Dr. Claw.

8. Kerrigan and the Zerg Overmind (StarCraft)

As spiritual successors to the cinema's Aliens and predecessors to Halo's The Flood, the Zerg were videogames' perfect representation of a sudden, relentless and tactless rush of force. In fact, their importance in video game history has been firmly established by the community itself, since the early rush strategy has been dubbed "zerging" in almost every applicable genre.

Like the Borg, the Zerg simply infect their enemies as they consume them whole. In a fantastic plot twist, Kerrigan, one of the beloved heros of the human forces, is infected by the Zerg and serves as their strategist and spokesman in their battle against humanity and the technologically superior Protoss. In one of the most grueling grand finales in videogame history, the Protoss and Humans must join forces to assault the brutally relentless Zerg. Now that is an enemy.

And...oh...my...God... break out the Kleenex, baby, they just said StarCraft II!

7. Darth Vader (Eleven Thousand Star Wars Games)

The Dark Lord of the Sith, probably the most fearsome villain in pop culture history (at least, before he became a Stewie-wannabe in the prequels), has dominated our video gaming hearts from almost the very beginning of the medium. Old school gamers first faced the mouthbreather in his TIE Advanced starfighter (before you even knew that was its proper name) in the vector graphics Star Wars Arcade game in 1983.

Darth Vader became the go-to villain in a zillion Star Wars titles, and you could even play as the big guy in titles like Masters of Teras Kasi and Battlefront II, or in unlockable missions in the Rogue Leader games. The best representation of what it's like to fight the Dark Lord, however, is probably 1993's Super Empire Strikes Back for SNES, a side-scroller where you control Luke Skywalker in a ferocious recreation of Empire's climactic lightsaber duel.

6. Mother Brain (Metroid series)

Mother Brain, the final boss of the sprawling, epic Metroid (not to mention several of its sequels), offers an exhausting battle at the conclusion of one of the most notorious and epic final assaults in any video game. She's the brains ('natch) behind the evil Space Pirate, and apparently the head honcho Metroid.

By the time you even reach Mother Brain, you'll have battled your way through a huge laboratory with cobra-quick Metroids and other various bad guys attacking from all angles, while desperately conserving life and missiles because literally every last bit counts in this final confrontation. And then even your victory can't be enjoyed, because it leads to a breakneck race back through the entire game.

5. The Ghosts (Pac-Man series)

At the sunrise of video game history, you weren't human unless Pac-Man fever was driving you crazy. And it didn't matter if you were a carpenter, a politician or a kid with dreams of a virtual future, your life's goal was to escape those wascally ghosts-Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde-long enough to get a new high score.

They never rested, never slowed, and just got faster and faster. Even kids crafty enough to learn the fabled patterns (many of which could be found on the inside record sheath of Buckner & Garcia's Pac-Man Fever album) realized there was a point at which the ghosts became impervious to Pac's power pellets. The things that really got eaten in this game? Your quarters.

4. Ganon (The Legend of Zelda series)

Like teenyboppers returning to the mall as their ritual Mecca, gamers flock back to the land of Hyrule every few years to experience a new epic adventure as Link, the young hero who must save a world freshly corrupted by the evil Ganon. Almost every Legend of Zelda game pits you against Ganon, or Ganondorf in some cases, a vicious tyrant who has corrupted the magical powers of the legendary Triforce of Power and unleashed darkness upon the land.

Usually depicted as a humanoid powermonger who also takes a boar form, Ganon is given different backstories in every Zelda game. As the wielder of the Triforce of Power, Ganon has caused mayhem in his mad thirst for power, and the young hero Link must follow his footsteps and uncover his path while collecting the remaining two Triforces (Courage and Wisdom), and then confront Ganon in a battle for the fate of the land. The series' consistently strong writing keeps Ganon fresh in each tale, while introducing new mythologies and plot devices, including time travel in titles like A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time.

3. Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)

This brilliantly-designed villain was crafted to be so powerful that he could break the fourth wall and reach out to the player, transcending the barrier between player and game avatar. This is the kind of out-of-the-box game design that propels titles like Metal Gear Solid to become classics.

In an eerie twist, Psycho Mantis, a shady telekinetic and telepath with roots in both the FBI and KGB, seems to take over your game console during your confrontation. He reads your memory card, analyzing which games you've been playing and how many times you've saved, and then even makes your screen go blank in a way that feels like your VCR has gone awry. This chilling effect makes it feel like Psycho Mantis is watching you, the gamer, and the battle takes on a far more personal gravity. If only more game designers gave thought to breaking the fourth wall or challenging our standards for interfacing with games-then those inebriated college kids would really have something to ponder.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

GamePro staff

GamePro (online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?