The 12 most misunderstood videogame villains

One reason we like games is that the stakes are high. The good guys are really good, the bad guys are really bad, and the princesses are really doe-eyed. But sometimes, games manage to work in villains that operate in shades of gray… and other times, they accidentally make a villain out of the most sympathetic guy in the story. Here are 12 videogame bad guys who, all things considered, you could probably grab a beer with and have a fine time - and a few heroes who, on deeper reflection, are kind of dicks.

1. Bowser

The Mushroom Kingdom is ruled by a non-democratic monarchy enforcing a strictly divided class system, favouring those Mushrooms who faithfully serve the Princess by giving them natty vests. As far as we can see, Bowser and his Koopa Clan are attempting to bring about a coup that would give equal power to the underprivileged Goombas – who are presently confined to dangerous, cramped ghetto areas.

Above: Ghettoes are the same all over the world: they stink 

Admittedly, their methods are hardly the sort of thing Ghandi would advocate. But when a pair of goons are brought in to violently put down the rebellion – doubtless to keep Brooklyn’s mushroom resources healthy – Bowser seems less a villain and more the sole heroic holdout against a dodgy Cold War-esque power-bid.

Above: Viva La Revolucion! 

2. M. Bison

There’s no end of sob-stories of all the horrors Bison’s Shadaloo Empire is apparently responsible for: killing Chun-Li’s dad, running some sort of drugs and/or weapons empire out of Thailand and harnessing forbidden psychic powers to enable the cheapest move in the damn game.

Above: Oh, eff off

But honestly: how many of these folks’ stories really check out? Guile, a psychologically scarred war vet, is clearly projecting his horrific wartime experiences onto Bison. Cammy, a longtime amnesiac, by definition cannot be relied on for accurate testimony as to Bison’s malfeasance. And look at the class of “evildoers” he surrounds himself with: blissed-out monks and smiling moms.

Those tourists look happy enough to be funding the death-by-psychic-annihilation business. We’d stay at Shadaloo.

3. Atlas

(SPOILER ALERT: if you are either of the two people not yet aware of the plot of BioShock, we advise you read this instead of the next entry.)

When we say “Atlas”, we of course mean the guy he ends up being: cheery old faux-brogue-sporting old black-market-running old Frank Fontaine. But how bad a guy is Fontaine? Well, he did save your life repeatedly in the game’s first half, as well as making the hugely perfunctory tutorial sequence marginally less of a trial than it could have been.

Above: Would you kindly take the exposition machine? 

Fontaine’s main shtick is soon revealed to be getting you to kill your dickhead dad, Andrew Ryan. Well, good: Ryan displays precious few positive traits in his scant screentime, and Rapture doesn’t look like it’s been a fun place to live for quite some time. Ryan’s empire is a waterlogged, dystopian wreck: at least Fontaine’s honest about it.


  • linkganon - March 6, 2010 7:25 a.m.

    how about big boss? he was a villain in the first 2 metal gears ever? all he ever wanted was to end abuse and exploitation of soldiers by The Patriots and politicians, which was also his interpretation of The Boss's will. Big Boss was seemingly inspired to create Outer Heaven as a response to Gene's "Army's Heaven" — a supposed haven for soldiers that would in fact be victimized in the pursuit of his goals. Big Boss stated that the true soldier's sanctuary lay "outside" Gene's "heaven".
  • ryno - January 14, 2010 9 p.m.

    general Sheridan from fracture would be good on this list. he was trying to help his people fight agaist genocidal nazi cyborgs.
  • jackthemenace - October 6, 2009 7:43 p.m.

    OMFG loved the kirby bit at the end. The fat guy FTW, the english lit bit was good too XD
  • noobeater - October 4, 2009 6:16 p.m.

    well wat about carlito off dead rising...sure he pissed everyone off and tried toturn the world to zombies but can u not blame him when his home town was destroyed and yet again the government were hiding up this case like that of santa cabeza. EXACTLY!!
  • Rhesus - October 4, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    You forgot Tenpenny! He's not evil. Like any civilized man, he just doesn't want a silly little town blocking his view!
  • coolfool - October 4, 2009 3:25 p.m.

    Bloody hilarious article, especially the enter the dragon reference. Now they just need to make prequel to the Mario games entitled "Bowser in da hood" and it will an instant success.
  • vitoruss - October 2, 2009 7:32 p.m.

    Why isn't the Jackal from Far Cry 2 here? He's got me convinced he was doing the right thing, even if it was... genocidal. But check it-- He died (possibly...) saving all of those fleeing Africans' lives!
  • Harmonator - October 2, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    YES! I'm SO glad you guys put Yggdrasill on here! Thank you! okay, after that nerdgasm, yeah, he was kinda misunderstood. I did feel kinda bad for killing a bad guy with good motives... and what a lame final boss battle, too -_-;; but the rest of the game was AMAZING!! @_@
  • RoxasXXion - October 2, 2009 5:07 p.m.

    Guys in Bioshock if the vita chambers are set 2 Ryan's genetic code than he can't be dead???? So is he still alive????
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - October 2, 2009 3:50 p.m.

    I've always rooted for Meta Knight... Well at least he gets his own back in SSBB, I've never been happier playing as kirby and letting him beat the stuffing out me. ReCaptcha - $60,175,000 thud An accurate depiction of your reaction to a bill, I think....
  • oryandymackie - October 2, 2009 3:26 p.m.

    What about Sander Cohen? BioShock made him out to be some ultra-villain but all he did was try to make a living by asking people to attend his never ending piano lessons.
  • erreip199 - October 2, 2009 2:13 p.m.

    the cripled guy from final fight can actually walk... and has a crossbow...
  • ClusterShart - October 2, 2009 1:30 p.m.

    I hated killing Solidus. He wanted to end the !!!SPOILER!!! Reign of the patriots. !!!Spoiler!!!
  • Ithilgore - October 2, 2009 9:17 a.m.

    Actually Wind Waker went a long way towards making Ganon a bit sympathetic, and not as a joke, either.
  • matt588 - October 2, 2009 5:10 a.m.

    hmm.. I was half expecting to see saren from mass effect.. oh well, blood soaked mario was funny as hell recaptcha: azazel now
  • TKTOWA - October 2, 2009 2:38 a.m.

    "Did anyone truly, irredeemably evil ever do their dastardly work out of love for their dear old Mom?" Only one of the most popular gaming villains of all time. Sephiroth.
  • JC182 - October 2, 2009 2:19 a.m.

    I never really thought that Bowser was all that evil
  • Ninja-KiLLR - October 2, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    C&C red alert 1. the greatest pc game ever
  • Yeager1122 - October 2, 2009 12:07 a.m.

  • tjkjr1992 - October 1, 2009 11:45 p.m.

    I always felt the worst over Solidus.

Showing 1-20 of 30 comments

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