The 47 Most Diabolical Video-Game Villains of All Time

The bossiest of bosses are counted down in our retrospective through long, breathless nights with sweaty palms, thrown controllers and endless battles against the baddest-ass villains we've ever faced -- both new and old-school. Of course, with these famous foes, it's a love/hate relationship. Did your favorites make the list? Comment and let us know!

Further reading:

Top 10 scene-stealing villains

Ten great games with terrible storylines

In Pictures: the sexiest cosplay girls in the galaxy

Video game characters that are supposed to be sexy... but aren't

47. Richter Belmont (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)

It was a shock for fans of the Castlevania series to see a Belmont as the lord of Dracula's castle, but this was only one of several storyline stunners in the masterpiece that was Symphony.

46. Vega (Street Fighter II)

You've never felt pain until you've felt the pain inflicted by a ninja bullfighter! Zesty!

45. The Colossi (Shadow of the Colossus)

Towering mythological titans, perhaps the most impressive and fearsome creatures ever rendered in a videogame, and incredibly cinematic experiences that had us checking to make sure this was still the PlayStation 2... need we say more?

44. Carmen Sandiego (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?)

When you're famous enough that every child in the world is hunting for you, it's clear that you've made your name with an impressive legacy of villainy. Did anyone ever really know what Sandiego did wrong, though? (Answer: she was a thief).

43. Kane (Command & Conquer)

Kane was the diabolical leader behind the shady Brotherhood of Nod organization, which plotted to take over the world. And, as the storyline implies, he may just have been the immortal Biblical figure Cain. Living up to that rep, he went ahead and murdered his own brother. "I ain't your keeper, dude!"

42. Dahlia Gillespie (Silent Hill)

This would-be antichrist (and hella creepy old hag) is the ringleader of the dark cult that draws its power from the supernatural reckonings within the town of Silent Hill. (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

41. Lady Vox (EverQuest)

Every EQ raiding party cut their teeth on this vicious dragon, an encounter that paved the way for WarCraft's Lady Onyxia. Getting WTFZOMGPWNED by this beast is just a rite of passage in MMO gaming.

40. Albert Wesker (Resident Evil series)

A modern-day Cavendish, Albert Wesker was once an honorable member of the S.T.A.R.S. special forces unit that has been drawn to the disturbing events of Raccoon City in the various Resident Evil games. However, he betrayed his comrades and has taken the helm of a shadowy organization that seems to have an agenda for the disturbing biohazard outbreak... and the story continues to unfold. (Photo Courtesty of Wikipedia)

39. Dr. Wily (Mega Man series)

Clearly a standout from the overcrowded school of mad scientists, Dr. Wily has gone on to terrorize the honorable Dr. Light... who, in turn, apparently didn't get into the overcrowded school of elderly chosen-one teachers for nothing-he also can create great robots, like Mega Man!

38. The Thief (Zork)

Okay, dude... I'm so dedicated to this damn game that I'm gonna go through the trouble of typing all of my actions and just read text to create the entire scenario in my head. Yep, that's right... type. In my leisure time... I'm gonna read. And you're gonna come along steal my crap? Again and again? You, good sir, suck.

37. The Creator (The Final Fantasy Legend)

If you want to ask God himself why He needs a starship, you can find Him as the final boss of this game. You gotta wonder... how many hit points did the developers give God?

36. Ragnaros (World of WarCraft)

Big, spiraling lava dude at the end of Molten Core, the first truly epic dungeon of World of WarCraft (requiring a 40-man raid party). Before the Burning Crusade, Ragnaros was the threshold between hardcore and lite WoW players. If you'd beaten him, you were a playa, player.

35. Officer Tenpenny (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas)

This corrupt police officer is a masterful puppeteer, manipulating Los Santos' cops, its gangs, its community and its seedy drug runners, eventually resulting in an all-out riot. You gotta respect a guy who takes a stand and says, "No, man. We can't all just get along." (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

34. Lavos (Chronotrigger)

You've heard one story of an alien parasite who came to Earth 65 billion years ago, you've heard 'em all. Unless you're talking about the diabolical Lavos, who had three distinct phases and then two parts in his final phase and then a whole 'other form in Chrono Cross. My boy goes through more makeovers than Madonna.

33. Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)

Let's face it-we could populate this entire list with characters solely from Square games. And yeah, there will be a couple more. But this guy enslaved our girl Terra and, let's face it, committed genocide. I mean, it's not like he threw some fireballs at us. Homey killed billions.

32. Evil Otto (Berzerk)

Don't judge us for putting this bouncing smiley face in front of the guy who killed billions. Look, you try playing the frantic neural spasm that is Berzerk and tell us if Evil Otto doesn't freak you out too. (Photo Courtesy of classicgaming.com)

31. The Flood (Halo: Combat Evolved)

The arrival of the Flood marked a completely unforeseen turning point in Halo's previously straightforward storytelling, but the developers were too busy throwing a brutal, unforgiving assault at Master Chief to stop and pat themselves on the back. Now THAT is adrenaline.

30. M. Bison (Street Fighter II)

This guy had the nerve to look you dead in the face, threaten your very soul and then tell you he represents an organization called Shadoloo. That's brave, man. You get the image of him busting into a breakdance fight against Sha Na Na. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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29. Nemesis (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis)

Anyone who played this game must still have post-traumatic stress disorder from this guy. His constant pursuit made RE3 memorable even among the other, superior installments in the series. My policy: Whenever a guy has an eyeball in his shoulder, I vamos! (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

28. Bob the Killer Goldfish (Earthworm Jim series)

Come on-the dude is a goldfish! And he has cat minions to do his evil bidding! Bob may not be the toughest boss on this list (in fact, he's probably the easiest, since he's famous for never putting up a fight), but he's definitely one of the most creative. It'd just be nice of the developers shared whatever they're drinking... unless it's goldfish. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

27. Cats (Zero Wing)

"All Your Base Are Belong To Us."

26. Singe (Dragon's Lair)

Dragon's Lair was a seminal sidestep in the history of videogames... not quite a portent of the future, but absolutely a step away from the past, and Singe was perhaps the most lifelike and beautiful villain ever created. And oh, boy-the breath!

25. Mike Tyson (Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!)

Now HERE is a guy who speaks softly and carries a big stick-two of them, in fact, and they're called left and right biceps. Mike Tyson arrived at the end of the NES adaptation of the arcade classic Punch Out!! to clearly define pain as a toothy grin and weird haircut.

24. Hogger (World of WarCraft)

Oh, I'm such a cute level 11 rogue, look at me running around killing pig guys! I must be good at this game, I haven't even died yet. Hey-look at that Hogger guy, I wonder why he has a dragon on his nameplate. I guess I'll kill him, too. AHHH!!! BLOODY BRUTAL DEATH! STOP MOLESTING MY CORPSE, HOGGER! (Photo Courtesy of Allakazam)

23. Dark Falz (Phantasy Star series)

A pure manifestation of hate (or "Profound Darkness"), this villain shows up as the big bad in all of the fantastic Phantasy Star games. And he had an entire solar system created to imprison him. Respect!

22. Darth Malak (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

A bad-ass Sith with no creeping morals, whiney kids or lightning-etched skin issues, Darth Malak is one of, if not the coolest expanded universe Star Wars character yet. After betraying and murdering his master (and losing his jaw in the gruesome battle), Malak attempts to use a special spiritual device to usurp the Galaxy. 'Cause we Sith all know Galaxies need usurpin'!

21. Yorgle, Grundle and Rhindle (Adventure)

In a game whose entire code consisted of less data than your desktop wallpaper, Adventure offered three dragons with distinct personalities. If you remember, the Yorgle, the yellow dragon, was afraid of the yellow key. Grundle, the green dragon, was the fierce guardian of objects, and Rhindle, the red dragon, was the fastest and most dangerous of the beasts. Now I'm going to stop playing and go outside to breakdance.

20. Goro (Mortal Kombat)

As if the fighters in the ultimate battle for the universe (or whatever) weren't fearsome enough, with the ice throwing and the bicycle kicking and the glamour photo-wielding (or whatever), here comes a dude with four arms! Ow!

19. Arthas (WarCraft III)

One of the most important characters in the long, storied history of WarCraft's land of Azeroth, Arthas' weak character allowed his soul to be corrupted by the machinations of the Lich King, Ner'zhul. Arthas murdered the King of Lordaeron and allowed the Undead scourge to topple the once-proud human city. Boooooo!

18. Ares (God of War)

A cunning and ruthless warrior who has manipulated the equally ruthless Kratos into unspeakable acts, Ares dominates the atmosphere of God of War as our bad-ass Kratos desperately claws his way toward their ultimate confrontation. Ain't no puppy love here!

17. Lance Vance (GTA: Vice City)

Memorably voiced by Phillip Michael Thomas, Lance Vance was on a bloodthirsty quest to avenge the death of his brother, Victor. The depth and personality Vice City established for this character made him indelibly sympathetic despite his psychopathic attitude. And he's got that Tubbs sparkle! (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

16. The Cyberdemon (Doom series)

So you've got a 10 foot tall minotaur straight out of hell and you're like, "Well, how do I make this guy really fearsome? Because clearly the 10 foot tall minotaurness of him just isn't enough...." Just add cybernetics and replace one arm with a rocket launcher. Viola!

15. Dr. Robotnik (Sonic the Hedgehog series)

Well you'd be pissed too if you had an IQ of 3000 and a freaking hedgehog kept outwitting you! (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

14. Diablo (Diablo series)

Diablo, the Lord of Terror, is the most devilish of the three Prime Evils guarding the gates to hell in Blizzard's oober-selling Diablo series. Diablo is so mind-bogglingly evil that he corrupts the soul of the hero of Diablo I in order to reincarnate in Diablo II. The unforgiving boss battles in the Diablo games are some of the most nervewracking in videogame history. And doggone it, there is a cow level!

13. Sinistar (Sinistar)

Sure, Sinistar may not have had the same pop-culture impact as a lot of the games on this list, but tell me you didn't get the chills when you heard a video game speak for the first time. Sinistar, the first arcade game with stereo sound, is Asteroids on tension-laced crack as you race to procure Sinibombs before the enemy workers assemble the Sinistar and it owns your sorry rump. "Beware, I live!" And beware we did.

12. SHODAN (System Shock series)

SHODAN, or Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network, is yet another artificial intelligence gone rogue, but play System Shock and you'll realize that this devious devil is far more crafty than Skynet or the machines of the Matrix, simply because she's omnipresent and constantly taunting. Simply put: you'll want to kill SHODAN more than you've ever wanted to kill any videogame enemy. Ever.

11. Dracula (Castlevania series)

In the Castlevania games, Dracula's spirits has infected the town of Transylvania, and your hero-usually a member of the vampire hunter Belmont clan or one of Dracula's own offspring-must infiltrate his dark, twisted and very haunted castle to confront him. Although the series' quality is wildly uneven, Dracula himself is an age-old evil that has transcended every medium, and always presents a nasty virtual challenge.

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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.

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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!