Lets just get this out of the way: We love video games. Theyre fun, challenging, and have even stirred our emotions from time to time. That said, as weve noted before, were a little tired of being murderers in games, particularly when its the same type of dude over and over again.
There are enemies weve had to slaughter so many times that its hard not to roll our eyes when they pop up, guns blazing, in a new game. Weve blown up these bad boys so many times that theyve lost whatever sense of danger they once had. All of these types of henchmen could use a break, so if you happen to be making a game, try to exclude these guys from your encounters...
If a games big bad is the ruler of a country, then they have a whole army at their disposal, but if theyre merely super rich, theyve got to hire outside help. The problem is that mercs are fighting for a paycheck instead of queen and country, so were confused at just how much your average mercenary will risk in search of a paycheck. Theyve been known to follow their prey into certain death without the slightest hesitation, even when said enemy has killed hundreds of their merc brothers that afternoon. Dont these guys know they cant collect a paycheck after burning to death?
Recent offender: Uncharted 3 has this in spades, though the whole series is guilty of it. In one of Uncharted 3s most intense sections, Nathan Drake has to make his way out of a burning building on the verge of collapse. And with fiery death all around them, the mercs still shoot at Drake from behind (burning) cover. Maybe the big bad of the game only employs gunmen diagnosed with suicidal tendencies.
When the super rich villains of games hire a small army of mercenaries to hunt down one puckish rogue, they must have a huge segment of the budget set aside for helicopters. Sometimes a chopper shows up as a good close to a stage, but more often they appear by the dozens, just floating around, waiting to be blown up by a bazooka. We get the allure of shooting down a helicopter--it explodes in the air, then it blows up again when it hits the ground!--but how many helicopters can one security contractor own? Do they have a manufacturing deal or something?
Recent offender: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand taught us two things: That the rapper/business mogul is great at killing terrorists, and that he HATES helicopters. Fiddy blows up so many choppers in this game it borders on parody, with multiple boss fights ending in a climatic helicopter shootout. Wed have appreciated it the bosses had instead jumped into a hydrofoil once just to keep things interesting.
That same guy you just killed, but with a different hat
Making games is hard work, so we can forgive some corner cutting, like the occasional backtracking or reused area. But when combat is the main focus of the game, give us a little variety in who well be decapitating. Dont just have four enemy types and then swap out little details like skin color or accessories, thinking youve fooled us. We know that new enemy is the guy we just fought, only now he has a helmet and 30% more health.
Recent offender: The recent Killer Is Dead falls into this trap a lot. There are around seven types of common foes, and they come in a number of colors. Sure, you killed that red, mace-swinging giant 10 times already, but you havent killed him when hes blue and wearing armor, have you?
In the eternal war between Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, science fiction normally has an edge in originality because it has to make up unique alien races for every new universe. Meanwhile, fantasy worlds can just be filled with elves, fairies, and most annoying of all, orcs. The ugly green beasts are easy shorthand for killable brutes; their faces just begging to be messed up. We applaud the games that try to give some dignity back to the orc race, but most titles are fine with outfitting them with armor and throwing them in front of an army of archers.
Recent offender: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine not only has an incredibly obvious name, but it also has a limitless supply of orcs to throw at players. Technically theyre orks, but the name change and added space armor arent fooling us. The green jerks bleed all the same.
When you strip away the current love for the undead, these guys are functionally as boring as robots, only they smell worse. Zombies allow for devs a perfectly good plot device to create oodles of mindless cannon fodder that run straight into the line of fire. Shooting these walking corpses in the head can be more addictive than popping bubble wrap, but weve long since passed the point of diminishing returns. Can this undead plague be stopped before it infects every new title announced?
Recent offender: Seemingly half of all games from the last five years.
The boss thats now a common enemy
We feel the most pity for this entry. Being an in-game boss should mean youre in a whole other class of bad guy, a special and unique snowflake among commoners. Thats likely how some early big bads feel, but as the game continues they get called on to join the ranks in regular encounters. The first time you battle this former boss in a normal fight might have some shock value, but soon theyre just another face in the crowd.
Recent offender: Ninja Gaiden for the original Xbox (later ported to PS3 and Vita) had a fine variety of enemies without reusing bosses, so its sad the game fell prey to this trope. An early boss battle in the adventure features a pack of demonic dinosaurs, which (if youre 13) is the coolest thing that ever existed. By the end of the game these bright red creatures are more ubiquitous than ninjas in a title thats ostensibly about killing ninjas.
This particular complaint is thrown at every T-rated game trying to get violent content past the censors. Chopping off the head of some android functions just the same as if they were a ninja or soldier, but with none of the guilt of murder. Additionally, robot henchmen can be mass produced and have little concern for their own wellbeing, avoiding the logic problems with reusing human mercenaries over and over again. It makes robots the perfect enemy for all ages, which is why they are everywhere!
Recent offender: Disney Infinity does this, specifically in the Incredibles adventure. The mode plays like a watered down, open world action game, with the heroes assigned to destroy the same robots over and over to keep the city safe. Disney Infinity lucked out that a robot army was a core part of the Incredibles universe, but that doesnt make it any less annoying.
Seriously, we have had it up to here with robots, those this particular brand of robot exists only in superhero games. You see, developers would love for heroes like Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and Hulk to kill army men like your average space marine, but colorful comic heroes have strict no killing policies. Because mediocre action games require endless waves of enemies, heroes like Iron Man end up exploding automatons far more often than they fight supervillains.
Recent offender: The recent Amazing Spider-Man movie tie-in fell prey to this. Manhattan is overrun with robots, including a couple that are roughly one fourth the size of Central Park. These would be silly enough in your average comic book, but the game is supposed to take place in the same reality as the film Amazing Spider-Man. That movie tried to lend the world of Spidey a little more believability, which was shattered when skyscrapers were routinely knocked down by trillion dollar robots.
Even prior to 9/11, using terrorists in games lent a title a kind of powerful, ripped from the headlines vibe, and that power only grew with the prevalence of the war on terror. But now theyve become so overdone that seeing a ski-mask wearing insurgent elicits more yawns than gasps. While theyre undeniably a threat in the real world, weve knifed enough terrorists to know that a well organized cell of twenty can be felled by one sneaky spy.
Recent offender: Splinter Cell: Blacklist once again indulges in the series red meat of terrorist execution. This time protagonist Sam Fisher has become so experienced at that he cuts down swaths of group known as The Engineers with ease. Blacklist gets bonus points for not tying the terrorists to any one country or nationality, thus making the game as commercially viable as possible.
Bonus: We miss killing Nazis
Even five years ago Nazis would be worthy of inclusion here, but theyve nearly vanished from mainstream games. Sure, youll kill them in the odd RTS, but now that the FPS genre has abandoned World War II for the near future, the National Socialist Party has been replaced as the leading, morally justifiable enemy. We didnt realize how much we enjoyed shooting them in the head until they went away. It makes us long for the days of the Nazis. Wait, that doesnt sound right
Recent offender: The upcoming Wolfenstein reboot might finally make Nazis hip again thanks to its fake future/past conceit. If the Nazis won WWII, then that means we can kill them all over for the first time.
Enough is enough
Those are our picks for overused bad guys, but what villains are you sick of killing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
And if you're looking for more gaming repetition, check out tired video game tropes that need to die and the most annoying fighter cliches (we still totally love).