2. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)Final Fantasy VII is generally regarded as the true masterpiece of the venerable Final Fantasy series, and it stands firmly on the shoulders of perhaps the most compelling storyline ever put to a videogame. The beautiful, tragic and desperate quest the noble Cloud must undertake to thwart the power-hungry Sephiroth is a perfect Campbellian journey that can stand toe-to-toe with any film of this generation.
Sephiroth, portrayed as a fallen angel through symbolism and even his famous theme song, "One-Winged Angel," learns that his amazing strength and power are the result of genetic experimentations conducted by his parents while he was still in the womb. Angered, he turns on his fellow military and tries to destroy the project. But his well-meaning deeds turn sour as more and more innocents die, and soon he becomes a martyr when Cloud defeats him, casting his body into the lifestream.
But it's there, in the burning energies of the planet, that Sephiroth's power grows, and the anger that fuels the passion and conflict of Final Fantasy VII is born. Even if you've never played an RPG, this game stands as a classic among classics and should not be missed.
1. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong)Sure, Donkey Kong later became a cartoon star, the hero of his own series of games and an all-around affable Nintendo icon, but there was a time when he was the most notorious nemesis in all of video gamedom. As the grinning, taunting villain in one of the most popular arcade games of all time, Donkey Kong was the original great bad guy, the first video game character we loved to hate.
Created in 1981 as the main antagonist in his eponymous video game, Donkey Kong was a simple creation whose name meant to imply a "big, stupid ape" by his creator, the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, who has had a hand in the creation of almost all of Nintendo's iconic characters. The game was a sensation, second only in popularity to Pac-Man, and the marketing of the sensation led to a rather unique phenomenon in the world of video games: a developing hero's journey across several generations of titles.
The original Donkey Kong was an exercise in pure brutality. From the desperate race of the girders to the absolute mayhem of the elevator level, Donkey Kong mercilessly hurled barrels and fireballs at your dashing plumber hero, Jumpman (that's right, Mario didn't even have a name yet), who was just trying to save his girlfriend. And every time you battled your way to the top, the big guy would just steal her away to an even less forgiving board. This sadomasochistic, neverending quest was event sent-up in a recent episode of Robot Chicken.
Like Darth Vader, Donkey Kong found redemption and turned back to the light side. The path to Kong's acceptance with the public began with Donkey Kong Jr., when Mario imprisoned Kong and poor Junior had to save his suddenly sympathetic Dad. Suddenly, Kong was part of the family, and a clear trail was blazed toward Kong's starring roles as the beloved protagonist in everything from Donkey Kong Country to DK Bongo Blast.
The evil legacy of Donkey Kong still lives in the hearts of old school gamers, however. Haunted and somewhat crazed old-schoolers who can steal hear that opening theme music in their cubicles and that cranky laugh while they brush their teeth. No matter how many Happy Meals he sells, Donkey Kong will be forever remembered as the most merciless quarter muncher of all time. In fact, they've even made a film about the wrath of Kong: Check out the fantastic documentary, "The King of Kong," coming this summer, for an inside look at gamers chasing the perfect game. And watch out for falling barrels!