Don't you need somebody to love?
Video game ne'er-do-wells get into the villainy business for all kinds of reasons: greed, jealousy, megalomania, maybe even because they think the hero simply needs somebody to fight. But let's take it one step further back - what causes them to fall in with such a bad crowd in the first place? Turns out that they just want what we all want, man: love.
Rough childhoods, absentee parents, lack of recognition, unrequited romances - yet we sweep them all into the same category as those one-dimensional bad guys who just want to wreck shit for no good reason. Shameful! So I say no longer. Come with me as I recognize some of gaming's most despicable villains who really just need somebody to cuddle.
Bowser Jr. wants to be with his mother
I don't know what awful reproductive events transpired to bring Bowser Jr. into the world, but at the start of Super Mario Sunshine, his dad has him convinced that Princess Peach was an important part of the process. Biology aside, you can't blame Jr. for wanting the Mushroom Kingdom's vision of grace and gentleness in his life, given what must have been a pretty rough upbringing in the Bowser household. The little fella just wants a hug from a pair of arms that aren't wearing spiky bracelets.
I'm not sure what gives it away - maybe how Peach doesn't seem to recognize him, maybe that she despises his father, maybe the fact that she has soft human skin instead of a spiny turtle shell - but Jr. eventually realizes that she isn't his mother. If my dad manipulated my deep maternal longing as part of his evil schemes to kidnap a princess and rule the world, I'd probably be a bit upset. To be fair, I had parents who tried to raise me to be a good person rather than as a living, breathing tool of vengeance.
Skull Kid has serious abandonment issues
If four of your closest friends all decided to up and leave one day without telling you why, you'd probably be a little upset, right? Welcome to the first installment of Life Sucks with Skull Kid. Later on they briefly return, only to banish him for pulling endless mean pranks on the residents of Termina. After that, he wanders around for a while, eventually making friends with a nice little Kokiri boy who teaches him a song on his ocarina and then also disappeared for seven years.
There's no denying that the Skull Kid has a lot of mischief in his soul - that's just the way he rolls. But if all his friends didn't keep vanishing, they might be able to turn that prankster spirit toward more creative pursuits. Seriously, somebody who has the gumption and gusto to be the trick-pulling scourge of an entire kingdom could probably do some really admirable stuff if he put his mind to it. Poor Skull Kid just needs a pal to keep him on track.
Vaas learned the definition of insanity early on
I know what you're thinking. "Vaas doesn't need more love, he needs a life sentence or intense therapy, preferably both." And it's true that he does seem to derive a bit more joy from being a murderous, treacherous asshole than the other people on this list. But it all could have been different if he'd literally anybody to rely on aside from Citra.
If you've finished Far Cry 3, you know that Citra doesn't quite match the the noble resistance leader image she tries to cultivate. Vaas learned that a long time ago. Maybe, aside from ordering him to kill people to prove his Rakyat loyalty, she was a loving adoptive sister. But judging by the really unhealthy way Citra uses sex as a carrot-on-a-stick for her most loyal soldiers, I'm guessing there was some more creepy shit going down there. You can't blame Vaas for ending up a little bit off and betraying his people (whatever that means). You can still blame him for kidnapping outsiders and selling them into slavery though, because that's just an uncool thing to do in general.
David Archer is a computer
If you didn't play Mass Effect 2's Overlord DLC, you never met the Mass Effect series' most sympathetic antagonist. I could recount the sad story of David Archer leading up to his encounter with Shepard, how his brother Gavin was using him to command the Geth to claim their armies for Cerberus To be honest, it's pretty much Rain Man, if Tom Cruise had abused Dustin Hoffman's talents for memorization and calculation by strapping him into a computer to dominate a synthetic life form instead of making a couple bucks at a blackjack table.
That's pretty much the definition of being a shitty brother, right there. Inevitably the plan goes sideways, David's consciousness is shattered, and he takes over the entire facility and kills almost all of its occupants. His story can have a happy ending if you free him from the machine and take him to the Grissom Academy, at least.
Dr. Wily is tired of being second fiddle
You might know the phrase 'publish or perish' if you're familiar with the cutthroat world of academia. It means you have to regularly conduct valuable research and publish your findings if you want to remain relevant and thus eligible for jobs or tenure - but for Dr. Wily, it was more like 'publish and perish'. Whatever brilliant contributions he made to the field of robotics, Dr. Light was always a step ahead of him, scooping up all the praise and international goodwill.
Wily just wanted some recognition for his almost-as-impressive body of work, but they don't give out runner-up Nobel Prizes. The jealousy drove him mad, and he decided to forsake love and admiration for total domination, reprogramming Dr. Light's robot masters to seek global conquest. Dr. Light rebuilt his beloved lab assistant, Rock, into a war machine to fight the Wily menace, and the bad feelings have gone on ever since. Maybe next time Light could just share the spotlight?
Cia fell for a forbidden love
Ok, what's rule number one for maintainers of balance and observers of history? Aside from "don't have sex with your ancestors" and "don't tell anybody the lottery numbers"? That's right, it's "don't fall in love". But poor Cia spent a little too much time watching the era-spanning exploits of Link instead of reading the Triforce overseer rulebook, and she ends up developing a huge crush on him.
While she knows that her duties will never permit her to be with the hero in green, she becomes massively jealous of Princess Zelda, who can't seem to throw a musical instrument without hitting some incarnation of him. Those feelings (plus some demonic possession) drives her to take over Hyrule so so she can be with him? The guy who always fights and kills whoever's trying to take over Hyrule in any given week? Hm. She didn't really think this one through. But such is the weakness of a lovesick mind, I guess.
Gary Smith needed some parental intervention
Gary Smith is really bad news in Bully. Aside from endlessly scheming to take over Bullworth Academy, he also makes it his personal mission to completely undo every little bit of social standing that new kid Jimmy Hopkins manages to cobble together (once he goes off his meds, anyway). Seriously, he probably tortures small animals when he's not busy drawing up complex schemes to turn all the school's cliques against each other.
Here's a protip for any parents reading this: if your child is very likely an undiagnosed sociopath, you probably shouldn't drop him off at a crappy boarding school, set him up with an awful therapist in town, and disappear from his life. I don't know if Gary could ever expect to live a normal life free of megalomaniacal/homicidal urges, but a little more parental involvement could have kept him from "primary antagonist" status, at the very least.
Revolver Ocelot's mom was never the Boss of him
Is Revolver Ocelot a villain or a hero? That's tough to say with 100-percent certainty about almost any of Metal Gear's recurring characters, but Ocelot is a particularly dense knot of duty and deception. Since you end up shooting at him more often than not, I'm going to say he's a villain for the purposes of this article. Baddie cred established, what's love got to do (got to do) with it? Just about everything.
Ocelot is the son of The Boss and The Sorrow, but he's babynapped soon after birth by the Philosophers, the increasingly nefarious international organization both of his parents work for. Would the pair have retired from international super-soldierdom to raise their kid if given the option? I kinda doubt it, but at the very least they wouldn't have let him be raised in secret military academies to become an instrument of the Philosophers' will. Unlike most of the sad kids in this article, Ocelot's parents really did care about him - the Sorrow even agreed to let the Boss kill him rather than risk Ocelot's life - they just weren't allowed to show him that love.
Isair and Madae went off the tief end
Being the child of a demon father and an elf mother sounds kinda metal, but it actually sucks. Hard. Isair and Madae, the sibling antagonists of Icewind Dale 2, found that out when their mother ran out of the room and jumped off of a cliff as soon as she saw their wrinkly little devil wings and cloven hooves. Not a great start, they actually had a pretty decent childhood under the care of a benevolent priestess who sheltered them from the outside world.
But when that priestess passed away (I don't think she threw herself off a cliff) the townsfolk got their pitchforks and torches and proceeded to undo their kindly upbringing. Cast off and accepted neither by humans nor fiends, they strike off on their own and try to create a new world order where their kind can live without fear for their lives until a bunch of adventurers come around and boot them into another plane. To think, this all could've been avoided if people weren't so awful about the whole "half-fiend" thing.
No love lost
But those are just some of the poor, villainous souls who could've done with a few more hugs in their formative years. Can you think of any more villains who just needed a little more love? Let me know in the comments below!