Gaming's most malicious machines

Sure, organic enemies are tough, don’t get us wrong. Nazis, mercenaries, cannibal chefs, insane clowns, monsters of every shape and size, zombie everything: gaming’s fleshy baddies have a rich tradition of wreaking havoc and murdering our favorite characters. But fully organic opponents have always lacked that extra something that makes a truly epic amoral sociopath: processing power. The technological terrors below have all the advantages of clean circuitry and streamlined programming to churn out the homicide. Untroubled by annoying human traits like the necessity for food or an aversion to wide-scale genocide, these machines can compute carnage at a speed that leaves the human brain in the dust.

SHODAN (System Shock, System Shock 2)

Now this is the kind of lady you take home to mom … if your mom is a sentient AI with a taste for murder. Originally designed to oversee an orbital mining/research space station, SHODAN takes off the kid gloves when a hacker peels back the ethics software keeping her in check. She then proceeds to slaughter everyone onboard.

Why is she on this list? Beyond being incredibly efficient at exterminating humans with her army of cyborgs and mutants, she wasn’t satisfied with just killing the local population and then amusing herself for eternity playing Battle Chess with their cybernetically reanimated corpses. No, SHODAN considers herself a godess and won’t rest until all of humanity has been eradicated or genetically transformed into servile mutant killing machines. No slouch at mind games and manipulation, she spends the better part of System Shock 2 impersonating a dead scientist, tricking a desperate soldier into putting down the ravening hordes that she herself was responsible for creating. Talk about feminine wiles; human girls have nothing on SHODAN.

GLaDOS (Portal, Portal 2)

A sort of spiritual successor to SHODAN, GLaDOS is a great example of why giving your hyper-intelligent AI access to deadly neurotoxins BEFORE installing her “morality core” is probably not a great idea. Created to oversee the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, GLaDOS at first comes off as a reassuring, if slightly detached guide through what’s essentially a futuristic obstacle course. It’s not long, though, before the wheels come off, and GLaDOS is revealed for what she is: a human-hating, power mad machine intelligence who under no circumstances will be responsible for providing her victims with cake.

HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)

While all of the machines on this list have a certain propensity for death, no one delights in it quite like HK-47. Like the Spiderman of homicidal robots, HK-47 happily quips away while brutally butchering inferior “meatbags” with deadly blaster fire. Created as a more subtle approach to destroying the Jedi Order, HK-47 proved every bit as efficient as his planet destroying super-weapon predecessors. With a trail of dead Jedi in his wake that would put Darth Vader to shame, HK-47 is every Sith Lord’s dream: a remorseless assassin droid who, in his own words, is always “anxious to learn more of lying, betrayal, and new ways to harm innocents.”

Omega Weapon (The Final Fantasy series)

It’s hard not to respect an entity that’s a bizarre fusion of magic and technology birthed by unadulterated hatred. Though Omega Weapon doesn’t share SHODAN’s megalomania or HK-47’s ability to make murder hilarious, it is reflective of another kind of evil entirely: impossible video-game boss evil. This mother has somewhere in the vicinity of 1 million hit points. Let us just restate that for the record: ONE MILLION hit points. While we’re still unclear as to what, precisely, an actual hit point is, we’re damn sure that that’s at least 900,000 too many – even in a game in which you can summon a meteor strike.

Omega Weapon was originally a monk that was cast out of his order for rebelling, or something, and got so pissed off about said proceedings that after his death he was reborn as a party wiping mechanized superboss. Or something. But let’s be clear here, Omega Weapon’s defining characteristic is that it’s insanely difficult to beat; throwing city-leveling mega-attacks at this thing is like a Chihuahua trying to bring down a brick wall by pissing on it.

Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley was once a Hardware Writer for GamesRadar and PC Gamer, specialising in PC hardware. But, Alan is now a freelance journalist. He has bylines at Rolling Stone, Gamasutra, Variety, and more.