Anyone who’s played the “Mass Effect” games knows the sheer terror of the Reapers: sentient starships of unimaginable age and godlike power bent on the annihilation of all life. Most memorable among all Reapers is Sovereign, their vanguard in the Milky Way galaxy. Few other video game villains have made the player feel as small as Sovereign did when it declared, “You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.”
9: Psycho Mantis
Psycho Mantis was a boss in the classic “Metal Gear Solid,” and to this day, the battle with him stands as one of the most ridiculously original boss battles in gaming history. Mantis was actually able to “psychically” read the memory card on the player’s console and taunt them with comments about theirr gaming habits, and could even physically move the controller by using its rumble feature. Ultimately, the only way to defeat him was to move the controller to a secondary port. No other boss has had the power to actually reach into the real world the way Mantis did.
8: Albert Wesker
Cunning and manipulative, Albert Wesker has served as primary antagonist for much of the “Resident Evil” franchise of horror games. Wesker is a subtle villain who often orchestrates events from behind the scenes, but thanks to superhuman powers gained by injecting himself with an experimental virus, he’s also a deadly opponent in a straight-up fight. Albert Wesker has also broken free of the video game genre and serves as a major villain in the “Resident Evil” film franchise.
7: Andrew Ryan
In the “Bioshock” series, Andrew Ryan is a wealthy industrialist and creator of the underwater city of Rapture. He’s also a ruthless fanatic, embodying the ideals of capitalism and libertarianism taken to their furthest extremes. Ryan despises all religion, government, socialism, and altruism, believing they are all schemes to rob humanity of its freedom. He created Rapture to be a perfect society, free from “parasites,” but his experiment collapsed, and he became a dictator, thus betraying his own beliefs. Ryan is a chilling reminder of what happens when conviction becomes fanaticism and is particularly memorable for demonstrating this idea’s effect on the main character with his iconic phrase “Would you kindly?”.
6: The Lich King
The lord of the Undead Scourge, the Lich King is the most loved and hated villain to come out of the massively multiplayer megahit “World of Warcraft.” The Lich King himself is a fairly generic villain – a deranged necromancer bent on the extinction of all life – but what makes him so memorable is his history. The Lich King is a hybrid created by blending the souls of two characters who defined previous “Warcraft” games: Ner’zhul, an Orcish shaman who sold his people’s souls to the demons of the Burning Legion and thus kickstarted the entire “Warcraft” storyline, and Arthas Menethil, a human prince whose descent into madness was one of the most masterful aspects of “Warcraft III.”
5: The Queen of Blades
Sarah Kerrigan was one of the main protagonists in the original “StarCraft.” Brave, beautiful, and spunky, Sarah was the sort of person you couldn’t help but like. Which made it all the more shocking when her commander, Arcturus Mengsk, abandoned her to the alien Zerg. Sarah was thought dead, but she suffered an even worse fate: The Zerg infested her, turning her into a being of pure evil known as the Queen of Blades. Kerrigan would eventually go on to massacre millions of innocent lives and several beloved characters, but the most horrifying thing about her remains the fact that she used to be good-hearted, likable Sarah.
Ganondorf, also known as Ganon, is a dark wizard and brigand leader and serves as the primary villain of the “Legend of Zelda” franchise. Most of his evil schemes tend to revolve around capturing Princess Zelda and attempting to assemble a magical artifact known as the Triforce so as to conquer the land of Hyrule. Ganon is the epitome of greed and the lust for power, and he serves as the perfect counterpoint to the humble decency of Link, the franchise’s hero.
Appearing in “Final Fantasy VII” and several other games from the same company, Sephiroth is a super soldier created by being injected with alien cells while still a fetus. Upon learning of his origin, Sephiroth grows to hate the humanity, turning on the corporation that created him and ultimately the world as a whole. Much of his notoriety comes from the scene where he brutally slays Aerith, a companion and love interest of the game’s protagonist, Cloud Strife.
Evil machines are eternally popular in video games, but none have quite the same level of personality as the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System, or GLaDOS. The ultimate in passive aggressive computer technology, GLaDOS stars in the acclaimed “Portal” franchise, tormenting the player with increasingly lethal “test protocols” within the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. GLaDOS’s venomous wit and sarcasm are nearly as vicious as her demented tests, and no other villain in video game history has managed to simultaneously be so hilarious and yet so frightening.
What do you get when you pit a goofy Italian plumber against a fire-breathing turtle demon? The most successful video game franchise of all time, of course. The turtle-like Bowser is the main opponent of Super Mario, and thus one of the cornerstones of the most iconic and popular gaming franchise of all time. Bowser represents a simpler time where villains could be villainous without a complicated backstory and where persistence and ambition were all you needed to challenge the hero. No matter how many times gamers beat him, Bowser just keeps enacting new dastardly schemes to kidnap Princess Peach and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom.