Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for each villains respective games.
Bowser – “Super Mario” series
Starting off the list is the rival synonymous to Mario, and probably the most well-known in today’s culture for being a video game villain. Bowser’s main aspiration in pretty much every game is to forcefully take Princess Peach as his own wife, causing his nemesis Mario (and sometimes Luigi) to jump into action. After being around for over 30 years, you have to give him for credit for keeping at it all this time. While not the most terrorizing villain now of days, he still is one of the most iconic villains in any medium. With all that he’s done to the Mushroom Kingdom, it’s nice of Mario to continually invite the King Koopa to his kart races, parties and multitude of other sporting events.
The Joker – “Batman Arkham” series
A comic book villain commonly associated with his time on the television or film screen; this version of the Clown Prince of Crime was superb in his appearances throughout the “Batman Arkham” games. Part of his success comes thanks to good writing, though it certainly does not hurt to have the incredible Mark Hamill lending his iconic voice of the character to the role. He plays the Joker as the perfect antithesis to Kevin Conroy’s Batman, always getting a laugh out of the player with his deranged humor in usually dire circumstances. Even when the Joker dies in “Batman Arkham City,” the way they brought him back in “Arkham Knight” worked brilliantly. Thanks to the Joker injecting Batman with some of his diseased blood, the caped crusader often hallucinates his old nemesis at the worst times possible, providing laughter in a story that probably would not be as good without. I know Heath Ledger is often thought of as the best Joker, and rightfully so, I do think Mark Hamill deserves a strong spot in the conversation for these games in particular.
Jack Baker – “Resident Evil 7”
The “Resident Evil” games do a great job at balancing their ridiculous horror scenarios while still maintaining that feeling of terror. Jack Baker is the perfect model for this; delivering ridiculous and usually funny lines while making the player still feel scared beyond comprehension. Throughout the game, he’ll come busting through walls at random, and just when you finally think you’ve killed him, he’s back in a stronger form later down the line. What makes him worthy of making the list is how the game makes you feel sympathy for him at a certain point. While the protagonist is knocked out and under control of the game’s real antagonist Eveline, you come face to face with Jack, who is the calm and melancholy man he was before coming into contact with Eveline. He and his family (except his son Lucas) were just like any other family until they came into contact with the science experiment gone wrong, causing them to hallucinate and mutate based on what Eveline wanted. He pleads for Ethan to free his family, which makes the games ending all the more satisfying.
Ganondorf – “The Legend of Zelda” series
Also referred to as Ganon, Ganondorf is a character who did not quite reach a true level of villainy until his appearance in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” As you walk into his chambers and see Zelda trapped above him as he plays the organ was a frightening scene at the time, his haunting music helping to make that scene just as good today. His multi-stage boss battle in “Twilight Princess” still remains one of the best in the series, transitioning from him puppeteering Zelda, his beast form as Ganon, a battle on horseback in Hyrule field, and ending with a duel between him and Link. There are even more final encounters with the male Gerudo that still remain just as good today, helping him to make his mark on video game villains.
GLaDOS – “Portal” series
Probably the best villain in any video game, GLaDOS is a sadistic A.I. who’s main goal is to run more and more tests in the name of science. As she previously killed everyone at Aperture Science, she uses the lone subject Chell to accomplish all of her tests of the portal gun in the original game. Her blunt and sarcastic humor is part of what makes her so great, and her voice actor Ellen McLain’s delivery of the character is phenomenal, making sure we never grow tired of the charming robot given we never hear another voice. Without revealing too much, her role in “Portal 2” is just as good, which is a rare thing for video game sequels, and is part of why it remains one of my favorite games of all-time. Given its countless sales in conjunction with stellar writing and perplexing puzzles, the “Portal” series is a must-buy for any gamer, if only to experience this villain.
Yourself – “The Sims” series
You read that correctly, the villain is you the player. Almost everyone has played a “Sims” game at one point, likely falling into the cycle of promising yourself you’ll play with no cheat codes, then growing bored after day three and giving yourself infinite money to build with. It’s a bit after this that you begin torturing these poor virtual people, starting off simply as sending them off to work without getting the chance to eat or bathe. I’ve seen some lure their Sims’ friends into the secret underground lair at parties with the buffet table, only to delete the staircase and leave them locked for eternity. These prisoners are usually then taunted with access to a room with windows for walls, only no doors which can lead them to their oh-so close freedom. A personal favorite of mine and many others was locking one in a small room with no doors, only large rugs and a number of fireplaces, resulting in events you can probably predict. It’s we as players that are the villains of the game; subjecting the virtual characters to a number of atrocities which would likely land anyone in the psychiatric ward. I don’t think we as players are the reason for this though, only the repetitive gameplay which I think makes the mainline series a tad bit overrated.