What makes a good villain? Well, a lust for power is a good start. A personal axe to grind with the hero is always welcome, but not necessary. And while it helps if they’re so overpowered as to make the hero look puny and insignificant by comparison, it’s arguably more compelling when the villain and hero are evenly matched. By that logic, making the villain and hero so evenly matched that they’re essentially the same person must be pretty damned compelling, right?
Well, games certainly appear to think so, judging by the number of games that have set their heroes against evil “mirror” or “dark” versions of themselves over the years. As with any other widespread trend in gaming, some instances of this are more memorable than others; the ones that follow are our favorites.
From: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mario's had his share of twins and doubles in his life, be they Wario or Bowser Jr in disguise. In fact, Mario was one of the first game characters to get a palette swap double in the form of Luigi. Despite all that, Mario wasn't diabolically "cloned" until the second entry in his space-faring series Super Mario Galaxy. And while alone they might be an annoyance, as group they're filled with giddy evil.
Technically the Cosmic Clones began with Cosmic Mario in the first Galaxy, but he was more of a friendly rival than a dark nemesis. The Clones were introduced in the Galaxy 2 trailer reveal trailer at E3 2009; displaying their ability to replicate constantly and in certain stages were always one step behind Mario, imitating his actions and ready to do damage. Whether in a standard stage or under a Clone Comet, they made each level more dangerous and exciting, pushing Mario forward and causing a painful penalty should you back track.
The Mario development team must have really enjoyed the added challenge, as the evil double has already made a return appearance. A Clone (along with his remixed Mario theme soundtrack) returned in Super Mario 3D Land to add challenge to post-game stages, even growing three times Mario's size while mimicking all his moves just a moment later. With two appearances in a row, does this mean the clones have become series regulars?
From: Tomb Raider: Underworld
Lara Croft’s last true Tomb Raider adventure (the excellent Guardian of Light drops the TR moniker) had the flexible amateur archaeologist once again trotting the globe in search of an ancient artifact that could end the world if it fell into the wrong hands (surprise!). The artifact in question happened to be Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. The whole adventure is Norse-themed, so naturally there must be an evil doppelganger of Lara, right?
For some inexplicable reason the devs shoehorned (and we mean shoehorned) a Lara copycat into the story. Just how inexplicable is Evil Lara’s existence? The game never even explicates the origins of Evil Lara. Where did she comes from? Why is she evil? What the hell is she, besides an ashen, red-haired, yellow-eyed wannabe? The game doesn’t care, because there’s tombs that need a’raidin’!
At first Evil Lara shows up simply to add “tension” to the action. See, Croft Manor burns to the ground and for some reason Lara’s friends think she did it! Isn’t that tense? Good thing Evil Lara is mute so that she doesn’t add any personality to her villain status. Anyway, the two Laras eventually fight and the clone seemingly dies, and gamers everywhere coughed out a collective “What the F was that?” The “F” it seems was actually an “F you if you want to understand what that was, unless you’re willing to pay us more money.” Underworld’s DLC fleshes out Evil Lara somewhat, but doesn’t fully explain her existence other than showing where she was created. The cool part, though, is that the real Lara seems to feel sympathy for her clone and so uses a bit of hocus pocus to free Evil Lara from whatever magic bound her to the dark side, essentially transforming her into… Neutral Lara?