The hero. The protagonist. The lead. A character who just forces us to rally behind them in their pursuit against some sort of antagonist. Be it their charm, humor or plight, a protagonist is meant to be likable, even if their motives don’t align with our own. Occasionally, this fails to pan out as expected, with a protagonist that just doesn’t gel with players. Couple this with an antagonist who ticks all the boxes their advisory does not, and all of a sudden you are rooting for the bad guy.
This list is dedicated to all of those villains who, despite their storied status, wooed us over from the good side.
Please note – possible spoilers, you have been warned.
10. Bohan – Heavenly Sword
Heavenly Sword was set to be a game that made us want a PS3. A title that pushed the consoles graphics and gave us all new fidelity in storytelling. With an epic premise and a seemingly enjoyable cast, Heavenly Sword only seemed to really saw us harmonising with the villain of the story; Bohan.
Throughout the game, players are stuck controlling Nariko, a bland and over-serious warrior with a need for less revealing battle attire. This is in comparison to the sarcastic and campy, yet bombastic, villain… who is also voiced by Andy Serkis. Even with his misguided deeds, Bohan maintains his vibrant personality to the bitter end. The disparity between Nariko and Bohan is evident throughout the cinematics in the game, with the latter outperforming the former in nearly every instance. If it weren’t for how frustrating he was at the end of the game, I probably would have been upset at his untimely ending.
9. Kuja – Final Fantasy IX
If one theme existed in Final Fantasy IX, it was the thought of how finite life is. Outside of Vivi’s tragic tale, that of Zidane and Kuja’s is nearly as heart wrenching. Choosing to punish the world in fashionable (Tim Gunn may disagree) methods, Kuja simply wants the power to rule Gaia. His method of speech is poetic, and he often speaks in rhymes with deep meaning. He is extravagant and has one of the most flamboyant and colorful personalities of a Final Fantasy character. Never having the chance to experience a natural life, Kuja remains stuck in his insecurities. In fact, Kuja is similar in character as Kefka, and he hurls insults and connotative names at his allies and enemies alike. As he learns of his mortality, he, eventually, understands just some of the pain his actions have caused – and, in that, shows a glimmer of hope.
8. Pagan Min – Far Cry 4
Far Cry 4 toyed with gamers’ minds and emotions. Creating a clearly psychopathic villain in Pagan Min, Far Cry 4 presented players with an ethical conundrum. At the onset of the game, Pagan Min kidnaps you and brings you to his sprawling mansion – after his soldiers opened fire on your bus (though he killed the soldier who disobeyed his order to take you peacefully). During your ‘visit’ to his home, Pagan is called away by an apparent ‘terrorist’ (by his words) attack, asking you to sit tight for just a few minutes. Should you actually listen to him, he does, in fact return, only to take you to your mother’s resting place (a memorial that he built himself). Of course, most gamers did not choose to trust Pagan, thus creating him as their villain. And even through the whole game, Min offered you multiple opportunities to rejoin him – all due to the love he held for your mother. And what do you, the ungrateful protagonist offer in return? Nothing but a potentially violent death.
7. Captain Qwark – Ratchet and Clank series
The Ratchet and Clank series is known for its fun spin on villainy that takes the pastiche of Saturday morning cartoons and goes to town with it. Fish themed assassins, dramatic evil geniuses and a dimension-hopping witch. All great villains, but none of them have anything on Captain Qwark.
Qwark is an antagonist of the greatest kind, dropping to the purges of darkness from the heights of heroics out of sheer jealousy. What makes Qwark even more compelling is his ineptitude in nearly every situation that just compliment his lack of self-awareness perfectly. Compared to Ratchet, who is also a fun character, Qwark outshines and brings out the bizarre world in which the games are set. There is a reason that Qwark has the best lines in the series and that’s just because of how darn lovable the lummox is.
6. Dr. Eggman / Robotnik – Sonic the Hedgehog series
Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik is the best character in the Sonic series. Sure, the blue speedster can break the sound barrier, and maybe his friends all have fun quirks and personalities, but none of them feel as human as Eggman does (yes, I see the irony there). Every other character in the series can be summed up in one personality trait. Sonic is cool, Tails is smart, Shadow is dark, and so on. Eggman’s character is informed by nothing but Eggman himself. Sure, his default state of being is a combination of haughty and egotistical, but when he gets serious, he gets serious (like when he threatened to destroy everything his enemies loved in Sonic: Lost World). He can even show a noble streak once in awhile, even if it tends to be for the sake of an evil plan. That’s still a lot more layers to work with than the rest of the Sonic cast, and I’m always more excited to see what he’s up to rather than how the heroes plan to stop him.