This walking loony bin doesn't have any fancy plots - Kefka just wants to destroy the world. Unlike most other Final Fantasy villains, his methods are painfully overt. It's clear from the first 10 minutes you're going to have to take him down, and even though you (and eventually his villainous Empire friends) try to topple him, Kefka succeeds in claiming ultimate power. He then razes the world, for real, realigning continents and torching what little survives. No joke, he actually does convert an entire world into a charred, depressing relic. The scale of destruction even prompts one of the game’s major characters to commit suicide – though she fails even in that.
Above: This used to be an idyllic green and blue world, now reduced to dust and patches of dying vegetation
An honorable clan of knights refuses to lie down and surrender, so Kefka poisons the water supply and kills the entire town. He uses parts of the broken world to construct his own patchwork lair. There's no respite from a madman who controls the planet, and it takes a herculean effort from the team to even muster up the courage to face him again.
Above: Kefka using his newfound power to piss all over the globe
If only there were a bit more meat to his goals, Kefka could have been the ultimate villain in the series. He’s a bit like the Joker, dressing in a comedic costume, laughing maniacally at all those who fall at his feet and causing chaos just for chaos’s sake. Granted, he’s one-dimensional and lacks any nuance that other (and technically better) baddies enjoy, but in Kefka’s case, his utter lack of any other qualities is what makes him stand out. Perhaps he was sane before he got involved with the Empire and its Magitek soldier program, but now he’s a lost cause. Kefka just wants to kill, and relishes the chance to do so.
Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII
Yeah yeah, it’s an obvious, popular choice, but even the hardiest of haters has to acknowledge Sephiroth's devious accomplishments. Upon discovering his own twisted, gene-manipulated history, he slaughters an entire village, burns it to the ground and smiles about it as he calmly walks away.
Above: Sephiroth returns to and destroys Nibelheim in arguably the most famous scene in all of RPGs, recreated here in Advent Children
Later, he coldly slices down the beautiful and sweet Aerith, sending millions of pre-pubescent fanboys into teary eyed fits of unrequited love (SPOILER!). At this point in the game you’ve already witnessed many displays of ruthlessness, but this straight-up murder of a primary character does indeed carry a massive weight even today. Aerith is practically about to save the world, then, mere seconds later, dead at the hands of a villain who maintains eye contact as he withdraws his sword. Creepy, man.
Above: If you’ve somehow never seen this, here you go
After usurping what's left of a powerful alien entity called Jenova (which he incorrectly believes to be his mother), Sephiroth succeeds in unleashing massive monsters from the guts of the planet, turning them loose in a wild rampage that wrecks several major cities. All this while he’s attempting to crash a giant meteor into the world so it will reveal its regenerative Lifestream, which he plans to absorb and take over, becoming a god in complete control of the globe. That’s a lot to process.
Sephiroth, unlike most villains in Final Fantasy, begins and ends the game as your main adversary. He's never dumped at the last second for some pinch hitting omni-boss or revealed to be under the spell of some higher being. He's also not a one trick pony like Kefka - Sephiroth may be vicious, but his back story and motives are much richer than the mischievous stylings of VI's jester. Seph’s even got a bit of Golbez’s tragic past, in that all his misdeeds aren’t 100% his fault.
Above: PSP’s Crisis Core fleshes out his background – he wasn’t always a murderous crackpot
And that's the bottom line. Hate him or not, Sephiroth hits all the major points of excellent villainy and still walks away as a potential victor, even when his final form is all but gone. His inextricable link to the game’s main character, Cloud, makes the story and unfolding drama all the better.
Think we’re full of it? Agree with Sephiroth’s spot but think ExDeath was the most badass tree ever and should be on the list? You’d be wrong of course, but we still want to know what you think.
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