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The best villains in video games

20. Kane (Command & Conquer) 

Absurdly high IQ: check. Apparent immortality: check. The power to rule over the Brotherhood of Nod with an iron fist, while simultaneously exuding the charm and charisma that only a bald-headed man like himself is capable of: check. Kane has terrorized the world a countless number of times and won the hearts of many a player with his unforgettable FMV performances. Kane has no qualms executing his minions if they fail to respect his authority - because either way, his subordinates are expected to die for him. He will also kill you if you mistake him for the WWE wrestler of the same name - but with that gloriously shaven head of his, that hardly seems possible. 

19. Alma (F.E.A.R.)  

The best villains aren’t always the all-powerful, conquering, resolutely evil types. Some of the most captivating and enduring adversaries are the ambiguous, nuanced ones who aren’t just there to be feared, but understood. Alma is one of the best of this category. Her actions are undeniably nightmarish and vengeful, but unlike many antagonists, she has genuinely justifiable things to avenge. Abused and brutalized from early childhood as a result of powers that were no fault of her own, she effectively had her life vetoed from birth by scientists arguably more sinister than she. Thus, while Alma remains a consistently terrifying, profoundly unsettling presence - and a very real supernatural danger - she’s just one element of a whole ecosystem of mutually perpetuating horrors, and ultimately one you’ll entirely sympathize with just as you nervously try to dodge her ghostly advances.  

18. Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2) 

Handsome Jack is a classic villain. Well-spoken, intelligent - even charming, in a way. But there's no mistaking that he's utterly evil with it all. He thinks nothing of killing people or animals. Brilliantly, he lives in a Death Star-style satellite in the shape of an H (which stands for his beloved Hyperion Corporation), which is always visible in the sky, especially when it's firing lasers down onto the planets surface. And there's no more nefarious way to flaunt one's endless wealth than buying a pony made of diamonds and naming it Butt Stallion. 

17. Arthas (World of Warcraft) 

One of the things that makes Arthas Menethil such a compelling villain is that he used to be a righteous hero - one we watched fall into madness. Raised as a Paladin of Lordaeron, he had sworn to protect the citizens of his kingdom. But he was so loyal to his vows that he would risk anything, even his own humanity, to do so. That's why he took up the cursed rune sword, Frostmourne, which consumed him, eventually turning him into the greatest force of evil Azeroth had ever known. Eventually he became the new Lich King, gaining an unfathomable power with which he raised a terrible army of ghouls, demons, and corrupt souls. Thousands were killed by his soul-consuming sword, millions more under his feared banner of death. Once a beloved champion, Arthas now leaves only destruction in his wake. 

16. Kefka (Final Fantasy 6) 

Kefka is the most beautifully realized, nuanced, off-kilter, and flat-out terrifying villain in the entire history of Final Fantasy. He might not be a genetically modified, single-minded supersoldier or an omnipotent sorcerer capable of bending time and space to his will, but that's exactly why he's so scary. Kefka is a big bundle of psychosis and very human frailties, clawing together every last scrap of (ultimately apocalyptic) power he gains through his own desperate rage. Long before that point though, he was still the most effortlessly cruel of all Final Fantasy bad guys, poisoning a besieged towns water supply even after the battle was all but won. Following that, he brought about the end of the world as a casual side-effect of his ultimate grasp for power, then spent the days after the end of days nihilistically torturing and destroying the world's put-upon survivors simply for his own amusement. A horrific, anarchic nightmare of a man/god, Kefka is regardless far from unrelatable. Essentially an angry, petulant toddler in the body of an apocalyptic harbinger of destruction, underneath his countless atrocities there always lay a scared, sad, out-of-control kid just trying to make sense of his lot. 

15. Revolver Ocelot (Metal Gear Solid) 

Solid Snake has been involved in some of the greatest boss battles ever developed, including a lengthy bout with Sniper Wolf and a trippy encounter with Psycho Mantis. But his ultimate foe's best skill wasn't combat - it was deception. Revolver/Liquid Ocelot knew how to hide in the background, working as a double, triple, even quadruple agent from the early 1960s well into the 21st century. Born on the battlefield, Ocelot worked for at least one treasonous President of the United States, as well as the shadowy Patriots organization. When he finally made his move to betray them all and conquer civilization, he made it count. Through it all, Ocelot has an incredibly annoying sense of pride, which he usually demonstrates through his expert marksmanship and revolver twirling. 

14. Flowey (Undertale) 

At first glance, this sentient flower seems to be as far from villainous as a character could possibly be. How could that smiling, winking face be anything but pure? Yet the further you delve into this phenomenal RPG, the clearer it becomes that Flowey's sunny disposition belies truly sinister intent. What initially seemed to be your first friend in Undertale's world is actually a malevolent manipulator, with a frighteningly omnipotent power: remembering all your playthroughs, saves, and actions, breaking the fourth wall in a manner most terrifying. Oh, and Flowey's final form is the stuff of nightmares... but maybe there's something worth redeeming underneath all that malice. 

13. M. Bison (Street Fighter 5) 

Vega, Master Bison, Dictator - no matter what you call him, anyone who harnesses the destructive might of Psycho Power energy has got to be bad news. The leader of Shadaloo is one of the most malicious baddies of all time, scheming to conquer the world whenever he isn't stomping his boots atop his opponent's skull. He also embraces malevolence on the smaller scale, including (but not limited to): capturing and torturing Ryu, brainwashing Ken, murdering Chun-Li's dad, killing Guile's best friend, and abducting teenage girls, including Cammy, to be part of his indoctrinated Dolls assassins. Most people don't commit those kinds of atrocities in a lifetime of evil - but for Bison, it was a typical Tuesday. 

12. The Joker (Batman: Arkham Knight) 

It's not simply The Joker's psychosis, disregard for all forms of life, or sense of total anarchic freedom that makes him frightening - although they do allow him to operate on a level Batman can never tackle directly. Joker is a powerful enemy not because he's so different from Batman, but because the two are such fundamentally similar. They act as skewed mirror images of each other, giving the other a purpose that the Dark Knight could never have without his counterpart. That strangely symbiotic relationship is brought to the forefront in Arkham Knight, developing the Joker even further as he inhabits the dark recesses of Batman's brain. 

11. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy 7) 

It must not be fun to find out your existence is merely the result of a scientific experiment, so it makes sense that Sephiroth was a tad bit upset. Unfortunately for everyone on the planet, said experiment involved Sephiroth getting injected with the cells of an alien as a fetus, meaning he grew to be super powerful and thought himself a god. Sephiroth's master swordsmanship and immense strength made him a formidable foe, and his eerily calm demeanor is terrifying to behold. Of course, his heinous actions were a critical component to his fame. The burning of Nibelheim, the attempted murder of Tifa, the actual murder of Aerith, and the fact that he summoned a huge meteor and set it on a crash course with Gaia give you plenty of incentive to put him down once and for all. Plus, his theme song still gives us chills.