Yes, video games don’t necessarily need a villain. As a medium, video games are flexible and a big bad baddie at the end of the game is not really necessary. Even in early Mario games, Bowser was only a weird, fire-spitting spiked turtle players had to jump over to complete the level. He was a boss, sure, but he didn’t have any personality traits nor posed a huge menace. Even today, many games use bosses, instead of villains and they don’t take anything from the experience. So, what is the purpose of video game villains, and what part do they play in video games?
How video game villains make the games better
Villains give the player purpose. They make you them like heroes, tap into the savior trait, and push the game’s story forward, not to mention, that a great villain makes video games memorable and increases the value of replayability.
Take Handsome Jack for example. The president of Hyperion Corporation, the dictator of Pandora, a self-proclaimed hero, the manipulating and deceitful puppet master, and the charming, witty, and funny antagonist of Borderlands 2 – he is the main driving force behind the game’s story. A video game villain you love to despise. He’s a character devised to steer players through the game so at the end they can cheer when he finally falls. Handsome Jack is a perfect example of how to craft a superb video game villain and use him as a plot device to push gamers forward.
In Bioshock, you are greeted by the voice of Andrew Ryan, the man who built the underwater utopia called Rapture. Entering the city you see statues of the man, videos projected on screens, and as you progress through the game, the man himself contacts you over the speakers. Andrew Ryan doesn’t show up until midway into the game, but Bioshock’s story is so well written, that even a short appearance by its antagonist turned out to be one of the best plot twists in video game history cementing Andrew Ryan in the pantheon of the best video game villains.
Another prime example is Vaas Montenegro who wasn’t even supposed to be in Far Cry 3. However, Michael Mando’s performance was so fantastic that the developers created a character specifically for him. Vaas’s famous line about insanity will forever be recorded into the video game history. If not for magnificent Mando’s performance as a deranged psychotic villain, Far Cry 3 probably wouldn’t have become arguably the best game in the series. Vaas’s presence makes you want to replay Far Cry 3 over and over again, and that is what makes a great video game villain.
Sephiroth, Joker, or GLaDOS are only a fraction of the best video game villains that made their respective games shine and stand out in the crowd. Villains may not be important to enjoy a game, but they sure do make video games a lot better.
If you haven’t met some of the notorious video game villains, it’s never too late to get acquainted.