The Final Fantasy series, for the first five games, featured mysterious, dark figures whose true identities were a mystery until basically the end of the game, and who seemed like these all-powerful forces that couldn't be beaten. This all changed when Final Fantasy VI was released in 1994 with a more...unusual villain.
Kefka was unlike the previous villains in the franchise in that he had a colorful personality. From the first time you meet Kefka, in the desert when he gets soldiers to dust the sand off his boots, followed by his maniacal laughter, you can tell this guy has a couple of screws missing, and there's no way you'd expect him to do what he does later on the game. Even the music that plays whenever Kefka shows up has a more comical tone than one of a deadly, sinister villain who simply wants to watch the world burn.
Kefka also changed the way villains were perceived in that he actually accomplishes his goals. In previous games, the almighty villains were seconds away from executing their plans before the heroes came in and saved the day. Kefka successfully ripped the entire world to shreds and basically becomes a form of a god. There isn't the same satisfaction when Kefka is finally beaten as with the other games, as the damage is already done.
You'd never think a mask could be capable of destroying the entire world, but it almost happened back in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Majora's Mask is simply evil incarnate; it wants to obliterate the world and everyone on it. There's no hidden agenda or motivation other than pure destruction. Most other villains had some sort of reasoning or vision for their evil plans, but Majora's Mask wished for to kill everyone just because. It doesn't get much more evil than that!
Majora's Mask is so powerful that even though he possesses a skull kid, he nearly succeeds in accomplishing his simple but horrific goal of destroying the earth. One can imagine what he could have done with a more developed or sophisticated person.
Finally, it's worth noting that the mask's plan to destroy the world is well conceived and technically unstoppable. Link could not do everything he needs to do to stop the world from ending in regular time. However, Link getting the ability to turn back time allows him to accomplish everything required to stop Majora's Mask.
Majora's Mask was an evil and efficient villain who got screwed over by a time machine. The frustration is real!
Lavos from Chrono Trigger was one of the early examples that showed how terrifying and powerful the games' enemies were through the gameplay rather than cutscenes or in-game dialogue. If the player attempts to or stumbles into a fight with Lavos in the early or middle parts of the game, they are immediately obliterated by the massive alien parasite's incredible powers. Lavos also plays a key role in the time travel aspect of Chrono Trigger.
The giant creature landed on Earth in 6,500,000 BC and has slept deep underground throughout the years, slowly absorbing the planet's life and energy. It emerges in the year 1999 AD and unleashes a devastating attack on the planet, basically triggering an apocalypse. By the time the games' heroes travel to the year 2300 AD, the planet is completely desolate and drained of life. This sends the heroes on a journey through time to prevent Lavos from destroying the planet.
Lavos' story is also different from many role-playing game villains of the time. Rather than being some criminal mastermind or force of pure evil, its sole focus is on draining a planet of its resources to produce genetically enhanced spawn that can then to the next planet and do it all again. This focus on survival more than pure destruction was a first for video game villains.
GLaDOS (standing for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) is easily one of the greatest video game villains conceived in the 2000's. The character was born when Portal co-creator Erik Wolpaw was using a text-to-speech program to write lines for the game Psychonauts. The game developers found the lines to be hilarious when they were spoken in the computer synthesized voice, and this led to the character's creation for Portal.
She was originally just supposed to appear in the early parts of the game, but the game designers enjoyed her so much that her role was expanded to the point that they cut other characters out of the game, leaving GLaDOS as the only other character the protagonist will meet.
GLaDOS starts out as a seemingly innocent voice that helps guide the player through the games, but her actions and choice of words become more and more aggressive as the game goes on. What starts out as a simple guide turns out to be _the _villain of the past decade.
It takes more than a plot twist to make a legendary baddie though, and GLaDOS will be remembered for her sharp, cutting humor, witty replies, tongue-in-cheek jokes, and of course, the song 'Still Alive'.
He's not even the main enemy in Metal Gear Solid, and he's not in about two-thirds of the game, but fans of the franchise fondly remember Psycho Mantis as one of the most memorable and groundbreaking boss fights in the history of video games.
Psycho Mantis' claim to fame was breaking the fourth wall, engaging the player themselves rather than the character. He did so in ways such as using the player's controller rumble function to display his 'powers of psychokinesis' and causing the screen to black out completely as if the power had just gone out. On top of that, if the player had saved data from certain games (these games being Azure Dreams, Suikoden, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Vandal Hearts) on their memory cards, he would comment on them as if reading the player's minds and commenting on their tastes.
Of course, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima decided that if the character was going to break the fourth wall, the only way to beat him would be to also break the fourth wall. Psycho Mantis can dodge all your bullets and can read your every movement, to the point that he seems unbeatable. In order to defeat Psycho Mantis, the player must change their controller from Port 1 to Port 2, which allows the player to land shots and have a fighting chance (After the boss fight, the player can hear Mantis say softly, "So, you used the other port").
While the Metal Gear Solid series has earned it's fair share of criticism for over-the-top boss fights and villains, Psycho Mantis has stood the test of time as one of the most unique and unforgettable video games produced.
The epitome of 'If at first you don't succeed, try again'. Bowser has tried time and time again to kidnap Princess Peach and stomp that pesky little Mario, and every single time he is thwarted. Does that stop him? No way! He picks himself up by his spiky shell and tries again. Jumping from kingdom to kingdom, and then from galaxy to galaxy, Bowser is nothing if not persistent.
Since first appearing in Super Mario Bros all the way back in 1985, he has drowned in lava, fallen down nearly endless pits, thrown into bombs, and sent into black holes, and nothing will deter him from his goal. We can rest assured that Mario and Bowser will be going at it for years to come.
Gamers got to see Bowser in a new light when he was an ally and playable character in Super Mario RPG, which helped give Bowser more personality.
Almost as iconic as the battle between Mario and Bowser, Link and Ganon have been doing battle in many Legend of Zelda games over the years. Ganon has become one of the most memorable villains that video games have to offer as an embodiment of pure evil.
While in the early games, he was solely a boar-like beast that was searching for the Triforce, later games gave him a more human-like appearance as well, and it's become a series staple for him to switch between his human and beast forms when the going gets rough, being one of the first video game villains to change forms.
As time went on, the various Legend of Zelda games expanded on his personality. While he's maintained his god complex throughout the years, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker showed a more humane aspect to the villain, by explaining that his evil actions were done in an attempt to relieve his race of people from the desert.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fleshed out and polished video game character than Handsome Jack. First appearing in Borderlands 2, he also appeared in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! and Tales from the Borderlands. His charisma and narcissism made players both love him and want to kill him at the same time.
Handsome Jack showed us a different perspective of video game villains with how certain he was that you, the player, were the real villain and he was the hero in the story. His insistence on this seems to be contradicted by the fact that he commits horrific acts such as torture, enslavement, and murder, but it ultimately makes the player self-reflect on the things they've done as the 'real' protagonist, and suddenly we're questioning what is 'good' and what is 'evil'? Handsome Jack was one of the most subtle yet effective characters at showing perspective and changed how video games approached the good guy/bad guy formula forever.
Maybe not as evil and thought-provoking as other villains in video game lore, but The Great Mighty Poo fits perfectly in this specific game.
Conker's Bad Fur Day broke ground by turning the cute, loveable Nintendo platforming genre into a grotesque parody of itself, filled with dirty humor and references to movies. Riding on the success of Banjo-Kazooie, Rare madeConker's Bad Fur Day to look like another family-friendly game for Nintendo owners with loveable animal characters and bright, colorful environments, but it doesn't take long for gamers to realize it's all a charade (I mean, Conker starts the game waking up from a nasty night of drinking). The adventure has many lewd and crude moments, but none are more memorable than the boss fight with The Great Mighty Poo.
The Great Mighty Poo is, as you might guess, a giant piece of crap. That enough would make him unique amongst video game bosses, but to add some flair, the game developers at Rare decided to make an opera-singing piece of crap, complete with lyrics for you to follow along with. You fight him using, you guessed it, rolls of toilet paper to weaken him up before finally pulling a plug that flushes him down to oblivion.
The game was critically acclaimed, despite not selling too many copies, although there were definitely some unsuspecting parents who were in for some surprises when buying this game for their kids.
Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.
These are the names of the four ghosts that pursue Pac-Man around the mazes in the famous 1980 game Pac-Man. Simple characters with no backstories, they don't challenge your morals like the more developed characters of today, but they're terrifying in one aspect and one aspect only: they will get you.
Yes, no matter how long you play Pac-Man or how many times you eat the ghosts, they will come back and sooner, rather than later, they will guide you to that 'Game Over' screen. They get faster and smarter with each passing level, to the point that us mere humans won't be able keep up.
The real question you have to ask yourself would be is it worth it? To start playing a game where the only outcome is you ultimately losing? These ghosts have been invoking nihilism amongst gamers for almost four decades now.
Throughout the entirety of BioShock, you are convinced that Andrew Ryan is the ultimate villain. It's planted in your head early on, and most of the game is spent blazing through the city of Rapture and accomplishing various objectives for someone under the alias of 'Atlas' in order to get close and finally eliminate Ryan. Everything up until the end points toward Ryan as being the mastermind pulling all the strings.
In one of the biggest plot twists in modern gaming, you find out that it's actually 'Atlas' (known as Frank Fontaine) who has been pulling all the strings. Not only did he spearhead the organized gene splicing and the downfall of Rapture, but he also captured the player's character and used mental conditioning to basically get the protagonist to do anything Fontaine wanted, using the trigger phrase, 'Would you kindly?', which makes the player realize that Atlas would use that phrase anytime you had to complete an objective.
The lies and deceit made for one of the biggest plot twists ever and the charismatic fisherman 'Atlas' being revealed as the evil Frank Fontaine left gamers with shock for a long time.
With his wild mustache and ridiculous head of hair, Dr. Wily looks like an Einstein gone wrong (as it turns out, Wily's first name is Albert). Dr. Wily is the stereotypical mad scientist, using his brains and money to create powerful robots to destroy Mega Man and take over the world.
Despite the mad scientist stereotypes, Wily's motivations for being evil are surprisingly humane. He worked with fellow scientist Dr. Light to create robots that would help mankind, however, his contributions in this field were completely ignored. In a jealous fit of rage, Dr. Wily took the robots and reprogrammed them into weapons. It all backfired when Dr. Light made modifications to one of his own creations, Mega Man, and had Mega Man put an end to Dr. Wily's attempt at world domination.
Dr. Wily has consistently tried (and failed) through the years to conquer the world using robots, but nothing he creates can beat Mega Man. Perhaps somebody should tell him to stop making a series of robots that each have a corresponding weakness to one another. But what do I know, I'm not a mad scientist!