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The best villains in video games

10. SHODAN (System Shock 2) 

Long before GLaDOS existed, SHODAN was the feminine AI to fear. Her ever-watchful presence on the Von Braun spaceship means you have nowhere to hide, and she has a similar penchant for making you her personal lapdog in between scathing taunts. But what makes SHODAN so exceptional is her relation to the player. You created her, and she's still plotting to kill you even during times of reluctant alliance. SHODAN didn't just sit around while The Hacker was sleeping in cryostasis, either - she conducted biological experiments that spawned parasitic entities, which then proceeded to kill or possess all your crewmates. That's gratitude for you. 

9. Dr. Robotnik (Sonic the Hedgehog) 

If we were to go down the villain checklist, Sonic's arch-nemesis Dr. Robotnik (or Dr. Eggman to some) would cover all of the bases. He's an evil genius, has dreams of world domination, is a master of robotics, and likes to steal really big jewels. But the main thing that makes him stand out from the crowd is his complete and utter disdain for the adorable, fluffy creatures of Sonic's world. Robuttnik doesn't use gasoline or battery power to run his mechanical contraptions; he enslaves rabbits, squirrels, and birds, then shoves them in robots designed to kill that speedy blue hedgehog. Who knows what horrors those cute little animals have to endure in those machines. PETA would have a field day with Dr. Robotnik's amounts of animal cruelty. 

8. Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2) 

Silent Hill 2 is ultimately an introspective journey about fighting personal demons, but you have a much more real threat in Pyramid Head. He appears sporadically throughout the game, brutalizing anything in front of him as he silently stalks the hallways of Silent Hill. Equipped with just a spear, perplexing headgear, and seemingly unending fortitude, Pyramid Head looks as creepy as anything in the game, but he has the power to back up his threatening looks. The implications of what his grotesque appearance and detestable actions mean for James Sunderland's psyche are dire indeed.  

7. Vaas Montenegro (Far Cry 3) 

There’s a reason that Vaas became the poster boy for the entire Far Cry franchise, despite only appearing in Far Cry 3 - and it’s not his taste in tank tops. He gives good crazy like no one else, all thanks to his voice actor Michael Mando and a monologue about insanity that was inspired by Albert Einstein. A drug trafficker, pirate, and kidnapper, Vaas also enjoys enslaving his fellow islanders, and meets the game’s hero Jason Brody when he catches the gap year gang and throws them into his prison camp. Of all the villains on this list, Vaas is among the ones you might actually prefer to the bland, white bread hero you’re playing as - even if he might set you on fire or shoot you in the knee during on one of his bad days.  

6. Andrew Ryan (BioShock) 

While there are plenty of video game antagonists that have commanded our fear, few actually demanded our respect. Andrew Ryan is the rare villain that does both. Building a sprawling metropolis at the bottom of the sea is a triumphant display of hubris, and though Rapture was a failed experiment that cost thousands of people their lives, its ambition is admirable. Ryan wanted to do something crazy, and he almost made it work. That, alone, is worth acclaim. But with his passion comes a dark, dangerous side. Andrew Ryan makes it clear throughout the game that he's a man, and you're a slave. You obey orders, you do what you're told, you follow anyone with a radio and a "would you kindly." He, on the other hand, is a man who does what he wants - even if that is to demand you beat him to death with a golf club. In the end, his stubbornness leads to his demise, making for one of gaming's most complex characters. 

5. Albert Wesker (Resident Evil) 

Wesker is known for a scarred psyche, superhuman strength and speed, and a sexy pair of sunglasses. And despite being one of the more cartoonish adversaries in an otherwise grim franchise, you can't help but love Wesker's unbridled megalomania. He led the S.T.A.R.S. team in the original Resident Evil, but was a double agent for Umbrella. Wesker soon struck out on his own, making brief appearances in the next four Resident Evil sequels, continually plotting and scheming. By Resident Evil 5, he was ready to unleash a global viral infection as well as kill former teammates Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. It took hundreds of bullets, two rockets, and an entire volcano to stop him, but we won't soon forget the man in black.  

4. Ganon (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) 

Unlike many of the other villains on this list, Ganon's strength isn't in his characterization. The only things you ever need to know about Ganon are that he's evil, he wants to rule the world, and Link and Zelda are the only ones who can stop him. Ganon's strength is his mutability. Somewhere between taking over Hyrule as a Gerudo king in Ocarina of Time and haunting the castle as Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild, it became clear that Ganon isn't meant to be a single, defined character. Ganon is evil. Like evil in our own world, Ganon can never be completely contained or eliminated. He'll always appear again in a new form suited to subverting the peaceful ways that arise in his temporary absence. But no matter how great his power seems, when people unite and rise against him, Ganon's true form (a shrieking, orange-haired, overgrown swine) will be revealed and beaten back once more. 

3. Frau Engel (Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus) 

Being a Nazi automatically ensures you’re the actual worst and deserve to go straight to the bad place, but somehow Frau Irene Engel manages to be the most monstrous character in a game that features Adolf Hitler. She’s a sociopathic but backseat character in Wolfenstein: The New Order, at least until you get to her with (spoiler warning) a big robot - but in the sequel she’s legit nightmare fuel. In Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, it’s not her mangled face that makes her so abhorrent - a result of your last encounter with her - it’s her sadistic streak that twists every interaction. Watching her with her daughter Sigrun (one of her six children) is especially unnerving, a touch of humanity making her all the more real, and all the more frightening for it.  

2. Bowser (Super Mario Bros.) 

In terms of sheer staying power, nobody beats Bowser. The King Koopa has been a thorn in Mario's side almost as long as games have existed, and he's almost always the reason for trouble in the Mushroom Kingdom. Even when he's not the main villain (Super Paper Mario, for example), he still manages to make a grand entrance and let his presence be known. He's not particularly violent, nor has he destroyed the world like some other entries on this list. His motives are often left unclear: sometimes he wants to marry Princess Peach, sometimes he wants to rule the Mushroom Kingdom, sometimes he abducts fairies or living hats. And he's pretty much always handed his tail at the end of the day. But his simple, classic design is unmistakable, and for a cartoon dragon turtle, he's pretty intimidating. Other villains may be badder, but few are more iconic than Bowser. 

1. GLaDOS (Portal) 

"Didn't we have some fun though? Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said 'Goodbye,' and you were like 'No way!' And then I was all, 'We pretended we were going to murder you.' That was great." Quotes like that are what pushed GLaDOS to number one on our best video game villains list. Your journey through the various perils of Aperture Labs wouldn’t have been the same without the snarky, autotuned commentary of the one-eyed robot, and her wicked intentions both in the original Portal and Portal 2 were equal parts hilarious and horrifying. We’d love to see her make a return in any kind of Portal sequel (though we’re aware that’s probably never going to happen). Until then, we’ll continue to sing "Still Alive" and reminisce almost fondly on that time she went evil in Portal and then made a deadly return in the sequel. Just don’t mention the cake.  

Find out which villains might be awaiting your challenge in the near future with our list of the best new games of 2018.