The game of the week for this week's Retro Weekly is one that is very close to my heart: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
The Most Underrated Villains In Gaming
It is easy to find multiple lists about the best villains in video games. They are littered with the same names: Bowser, Ganon, Sephiroth, The Joker, GLaDOS, and the other usual suspects. They are great characters, with that there is no doubt. However, there are plenty of other names that deserve some recognition for the terrible things they’ve done.
In this list you’re going to find some names that aren’t mentioned much. You won’t find most of these in IGN’s Top 100 Villains list, either. You may even be taken aback by my number one choice. Either way, these are the top ten underrated villains and it’s about time they get their spotlight.
BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR MANY GAMES!
10. Giovanni – Pokemon Red/Blue
One of the first things you get to see in your first Pokemon adventure was a Gym that could not be entered. Only the best of the best were able to go inside the Viridian City Gym. Not only that, but the Gym Leader’s identity was unknown and he wasn’t even inside the Gym. He was off doing “business”. Turn the clocks forward and you’ll find out that Team Rocket’s leader was actually the Gym Leader, as well. Giovanni kept dual roles and for a purpose.
You see, Giovanni wants to capture, contain, own, and abuse the power of every Legendary Pokemon known to man. As the Gym Leader for Viridian City, the last challenge before the Indigo Plateau, Giovanni figured that powerful trainers would be his only challenge and therefore increase his chance at finding more powerful Pokemon.
In the games Giovanni’s purpose and story is pretty simple but the show and movie gave him plenty more of a chance to be seen as a true villain. His clone experiments of Mew, the fabled Pokemon, proved valuable with the creation of Mewtwo, an extremely powerful Psychic Pokemon who gave Giovanni near unlimited power for a time.
9. Kane – Command & Conquer
Kane is a mastermind in war but also seemingly immortal. While Command & Conquer’s main series was usually very realistic in a way while bringing a version of futuristic war, Kane’s origin is still mired in mystery. There are plenty of theories that Kane may actually be the biblical brother of the murdered Abel. If that is true, there is no doubt that Kane is able to resurrect himself time and time again. He has been seen throughout 100 years of C&C continual story and while C&C 4 may have ended the series, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Kane.
8. Hojo – Final Fantasy VII
While everyone speaks of Jenova and Sephiroth, the diabolical scientist Hojo sits in the background plotting and plotting. No one ever mentions how sinister Hojo was and how deep his plans and ugly face are connected with the events of Final Fantasy VII.
Hojo started the Jenova Project which took the cells of the alien Jenova and implanted them within humans. Thus came the SOLDIER project, which then spawned Sephiroth, Angeal, Genesis, Zach, and even Cloud somewhat. Sephiroth, mainly, was a complete byproduct of the SOLDIER and Jenova Projects. Sephiroth is actually Hojo’s child and he used that child in an experiment with Jenova cells.
As you can see, it is primarily Hojo’s fault for many things within the Final Fantasy VII Compilation. He is the reason why Vincent was infused with Chaos (to save his life after being shot by Hojo), he was the reason Sephiroth was created and manipulated into an insane psychopath, he was the reason Omega was summoned, and he was the reason why Jenova was used for her power at all.
Also, his battle atop the Sister Ray was hard. Seriously, three forms? Insane resistances? Status ailments galore? On everyone?!
7. The Arishok – Dragon Age 2
The Qunari in Dragon Age are a simple people. Some may look down on them are overbearing, prideful, and demanding. That just isn’t true. To understand the Qun is to be of the Qun. While cryptic as that may be, it just signifies that the Qunari are a race of beliefs and once they settle into a belief it becomes their lives. The Qunari are devoid of their own emotions in favor of honor, the mission, and the chain of command.
This is further expanded on with the arrival of a wayward Qunari fleet at Kirkwall during the events of Dragon Age 2. Led by the Arishok (not actually the character’s name, its just his rank) the Qunari descend on the city in an attempt to release the citizens of their pathetic lives and to show them the superiority of living by the Qun. The Arishok takes the way that the Qunari live and enforces it on the people of Kirkwall in an attempt to save their of their miniscule existences, responsibilities, and worries. The Arishok believes that only by accepting the Qun can Kirkwall be redeemed and if you deny him, you die. After all, there is no worthy existence outside of the Qun.
The Arishok was a welcome villain in Dragon Age 2. The game may receive a lot of flak from fans of the first game but the Arishok was an awesome character admist many mediocre ones within Kirkwall. He was an absolute. He did not stray from his path and he never allowed himself to be compromised. It was a great tale seeing him look at Hawke with disdain, then respect, then an honored opponent. The Arishok was the true of Dragon Age 2, the rest was just an afterthought compared to how awesome he was.
6. Officer Tenpenny – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Officer Tenpenny was the embodiment of the city’s issues. He was the most corrupt of them all. Tenpenny owned San Andreas and no one messed with him. He had the cops, the courts, the drug trade, the gangs, and everyone else in his pockets. If Tenpenny wanted someone or something, he got it.
This becomes a major issue when our main character Carl is trying to be a better man. Tenpenny gets in the way many times and makes Carl’s life a living hell.
Worst yet? Tenpenny smiles all the way to the credits. If San Andreas proved anything, it’s that the court system is messed up and some like Tenpenny are immaculate. He just can’t be touched.
5. Kessler – inFamous
You learn to hate this man so very, very much throughout the story of inFamous. Well, turns out that Kessler’s crimes were for the “ultimate good”. You see, Kessler is the main character’s future self. You time traveled back and ensured that you would receive your powers earlier and experience heart-wrenching tragedies just so you would be ready for what your future self has already experienced.
Kessler has seen some crap. His life has been terrible thanks to a horrifying power called The Beast. His family is dead and everything he loved is gone. He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t strong enough. So what does he do to change all of that? He travels back into the past when before he got his powers and shook everything up.
Look, there’s no denying that what Kessler did during inFamous was wrong and terrible to Cole but as a man with no where else to turn, no one to go home to, and a giant failure hanging over his head, you almost have to be desperate to try anything.
4. Kuja – Final Fantasy IX
Among the great Final Fantasy villains such as Sephiroth, Kefka, Garland, and even Golbez, you ever rarely hear of Kuja. This underrated villain is a master manipulator and excels in provoking war between nations.
In fact, that was his sole purpose for creation. Kuja was created as a weapon by Garland, an android who was created to help a race called the Terrans survive extinction. Garland’s plane to do this is to assimilate another planet and giving the Terrans another chance at life. This was planet, the one you play on in Final Fantasy IX, is targeted by Garland and he unleashes his two weapons.
Kuja was one of two weapons created by Garland and his sole purpose was to provoke war and tragedy. Kuja does this in Final Fantasy IX by instigating war between Garnet’s nation and another using the power of the Eidolon creatures (summons). After witnessing their power, Kuja tries to control all of them in an attempt to overthrow Garland and rule.
However, Kuja’s plans don’t go as, well, planned and he gains mortality from his errors. Enraged by his inevitable death, Kuja’s new human emotions and experiences rush at him all at once and allow him to attain the Trance power. He then attempts to use this new power to destroy all of life. If he is mortal and will one day die, then everyone dies with him at the same time.
Following Sephiroth is a tough job. Ultimecia was a fine villain but didn’t live up to Sephiroth but I truly think that Kuja did. Kuja’s plan and actions were just as destructive as Sephiroth’s and his end result left the planet damaged. He certainly was insane enough to fill Sephy’s shoes.
3. Deathwing – The WarCraft Series
Deathwing may have met his demise in World of WarCraft’s last expansion pack but his past deeds detail how destructive, deceptive, and dangerous he really was.
Deathwing was once Neltharion, the Earth-Warder. As one of the Dragon Aspects, Neltharion held domain over the world’s surface and power while the other aspects governed over things like Life, Dreams, Time, and Magic. Over a long period of time, Neltharion was corrupted by the ancient enemies of the Vanir Titans, the Old Gods.
The Old Gods were imprisoned deep within the world which is still governed and a part of Neltharion. It made him an accessible and extremely powerful target. The Old Gods manipulated Neltharion to become a weapon of unlimited power using a disc-like object filled with their power. Neltharion listened and secretly had the object created as well as armor to protect himself from the weapon itself.
The results were catastrophic. While a demon army was invading their world and the other Dragon Aspects were helping the world’s races combat the terrors, Neltharion used the disc-like object, named the Demon Soul, and stole all of the powers of the dragons. Not just the Aspects, either. He siphoned every dragon’s power. In fact, the devastation tore through the Blue Dragonflight and nearly made them extinct. The dragons launched an all-out attack while Neltharion basked in his success. The black dragon lost possession of the Demon Soul and it was used to stop the demonic invasion.
After this event, the disc was lost and renamed the Dragon Soul to better describe its power after what Neltharion did. Neltharion himself was renamed Deathwing for his deception and what he did to the Blue Dragonflight. This was the only thing Deathwing did during his existence. He was also single-handedly responsible for destroying the World Pillar and knocking the elements out of balance. He razed Azeroth and burned it. He changed the world forever, multiple times.
2. SHODAN – System Shock
SHODAN will periodically hinder your progress of the game’s story and insult you harshly. She is creepy, no, terrifying. Terrifying in her own way, really. She isn’t a horror villain but she is the true embodiment of a computer with reason, emotion, and thoughts. It is truly scary to think that SHODAN could be the final metamorphosis of a computer. It hates humans. It despises them. SHODAN will do anything necessary to destroy humanity slowly while it tears you down mentally.
If that isn’t creepy, sadistic, and the basis for one hell of a game character, I don’t know what is. I can’t recommend System Shock more to anyone just because of the experience you have with SHODAN. I won’t even spoil anything here. Just go play them.
1. Solid Snake – Metal Gear series
That’s right, dammit! No one ever sits back, looks at the full story, and thinks, “holy crap, I was helping the god damn Patriots the entire time!!!”
Solid Snake was used. He was used from the beginning and he was used until he finally broke free of the Patriots’ influence and stopped them. Sure, he eventually overcame the control and came out a hero but Snake was the reason the Patriots were able to continue doing what they were doing for so long.
You see, Solid Snake was the only one who could topple Liquid Snake, Revolver Ocelot, and the combination of them both: Liquid Ocelot. Those two had a plan that would shut down the Patriots and end their regime. However, he were led to believe that Liquid and Ocelot were bad guys trying to use nukes and advanced walker mechs for terrorism. That just wasn’t the case. Everything Ocelot was doing was to slowly but surely wrest control from the Patriots and back into the hands of mankind.
That doesn’t mean that Ocelot was a good guy. He was still a creep! However, his motives and ultimate plan was what honestly made him the hero of the series. He was fighting for humanity. He was fighting for our freedom and our choices.
To be fair, so was Snake but what he did to “achieve” it was exactly what the Patriots wanted him to do. He was a pawn, he stopped multiple plans that could have crippled or stopped the Patriots, and in the end he still did what they wanted and killed Ocelot. He may have overcame them and defied them but he was a tool almost from day one until the end of his career.
Face it guys, Solid Snake was a victim. He was a played card used to further the means of the bad guys. That makes him a bad guy. He redeemed himself in the end but that doesn’t make up for all the things he did (secretly) in the name of the Patriots.
Give this character the credit he deserves for faithfully protecting censorship, fully ID people, and contradicting Ron Perlman by saying that war has in fact, changed.
And that is why Kojima is freakin’ genius.