Missing: Good Bad Guys

GladosA hero is only as good as his villain, or at least that’s what they say. But when you think about the old saying, there really is a lot of truth to it. I think when it comes to movies, novels, games, the stories that stick out to me most are the ones with a really great antagonist. It seems like these days, we don’t quite get as many of those in our gaming stories. But why is that?

Greg Kasavin, a producer for 2K Games, offers up a great article looking into the idea of Proper Villainy in gaming. He theorizes that one of the main reasons that we don’t see very many great bad guys (he cites Bioshock, Super Mario Bros, Portal, and Legacy of Kain as prime examples) these days is in large part due to game design. It is hard to develop great antagonists simply because players will have to kill them on their first encounter, and it would be cheap and/or cheesy to have them always escaping in the nick of time. I think the man has a great point to be sure, especially when he points out that the most memorable bad guys this generation tend to be ever-present but unreachable dudes, like Glados, Andrew Ryan or Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

It’s definitely a fascinating read, and an issue I’ve been thinking about more and more. So many games these days don’t have well defined antagonists, and it really is a shame. What do you guys think? Who are some of your favorite bad guys in gaming?

Source- Kasavin

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

13 thoughts on “Missing: Good Bad Guys”

  1. Definitely my favorite this gen was Saren from Mass Effect. He was so believable as a villain, and if you were Paragon, you could sway him from Soveriegn. The ending of the game and the whole hunting down of Saren was truly memorable. Some of my other favorites are the Joker, Ganondorf, and the Lich King.

  2. I’d have to say [CENSORED] (is this necessary now?) from Modern Warfare 2 was a pretty cool antagonist simply because he betrays you, and I love me a good betrayal. He’s haunted by the failures he had in the War in Unspecifiedistan and wants so desperately to redeem himself that he’ll sacrifice his own people.

    Andrew Ryan was definitely an awesome bad guy because I loved his Fire-Side Chats. I always love me a classy villain.

    Oooh, but the best villain by far was the AI Director from Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. You can never fight him – ever – and most people don’t even know he exists, but once you find out, you must fight for survival – a struggle you will ultimately lose – against an invisible yet omnipotent being who pleasures himself by forcing mortals to undergo terrifying trials all for his hollow enjoyment.

  3. [EDIT] I accidentally submitted before adding this one:

    The Spaniard from Assassin’s Creed 2 was always a cool bad guy, and maybe he was a bit bland, but he was still cool. He symbolizes the corruption in the Catholic church during the Renaissance very well, and the final fight…well it was comical but his staff o’ doom was cool.

  4. I agree with all he cited, especially Andrew Ryan. Also, Cossack, Shepard was a great antagonist. I love me some “WTF? OH NO!” in games and despite the overall story of that game, the characterisation was simply superb.

  5. I always liked Cortex, I think he was a perfect villain for a hero like Crash Bandicoot… he was a nice blend of humor and evil

    When thinking about villains I usually compare games in the same franchise… Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan was unforgettable, Bioshock 2’s Elenore Lamb was obnoxious to me… I think having anger towards an enemy is important but also a little understanding, I like when games show both sides of the story

    oh and you need an epic boss battle lol

  6. Fighting Glados in portal was totally awesome because that game is basically 2 in 1. The first half is just the puzzles and stuff, but the whole last piece of you behind all the scenes trying to get out was where the game really surprised me.

    Also, how about the G-Man? Is he really a villain? Can I shoots?

  7. Darth Malak from KOTOR he destroyed a whole planet in order to kill one jedi, also he has one of the best lines in the game. Solus from Breakdown not only does he look bad-ass he shows up early in the game and you know that you need to get away from him as soon as possible, he was one of the best boss fights ever. Mr.X and William Birkin from Resident Evil 2 they would pop up at the most unexpected and inconvenient times and you knew you had to get the hell out of doge or hit them with every thing to take them down.

  8. Have to say genral knoxx so far is the most hilarious enemy i have seen i havent even met him i have just heard 2 echo recordings of him. And his starting phrase was a sigh, then describes the job he has to do sucks and the planet they are on smells like hemerois wrapped in bacon, finishing of with a “oh yea and kill ya and stuff”. What more could you want?

  9. Saren for sure was very memorable. mainly because through out the whole game you see his struggle against Soveriegn, the fact bioware put a personal battle into the mind of your enemy made it amazing. the fact that there was good in him all along (as he can go paragon at the end) yet he was still the bad guy. ahhh so good haha

  10. Saren and Sovereign were totally awesome. The Thorian was pretty cool too, because he was a bit of a jerk for a giant plant.

    Mass Effect 2 had a lame villain in the Collector General, though. He just possessed some guy and promised how you “would feel this”. Creepy.

  11. But Mitch, the Collector General was himself possessed by a Reaper. Makes you think about how powerful the Reapers are if they can possess someone who possesses one of their minions.

  12. ya, in mass effect two the main bad guy, or the apparent one (the collectors) was not really that good. it made for good story driven conflict, but it had no real power as a bad guy. however the underlying bad guy, being the reapers was fantastic. because in mass effect 1 the underlying bad guy was revealed as the reapers, and in mass effect two they made it more evident, so it seems like they where building up to the third game where the main bad guys where the reapers. like they were such a force to be reckoned with that they needed to build them up before even getting to them. which made for an awsome villian in the mass effect 2.

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