Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for—the top five most iconic video game villains of all time.
Donkey Kong from Wikipedia
#5: Donkey Kong: King of video game gorillas!
Donkey Kong is known as one of the first games to have the semblance of a plot—rescue the Lady from the evil ape! Though the original Donkey Kong may not have had much of a personality, you can’t ignore the thrill of battle as you navigate the hero Jumpman through the treacherous levels of ladders and barrels. Upon reaching the princess, a sweet taste of victory in your mouth, you are thwarted when Donkey Kong scoops up the Lady and carries her to the next platform. DK has evolved much in the past 30 years, including an update to his wardrobe consisting of a bright red tie with his initials. Along with Mario, he is a Nintendo icon, having appeared both as a playable character in games like Super Smash Bros. and as the star of his own games such as Donkey Konga. As one of the first memorable villains with his own story, and for his sheer popularity among gamers and non-gamers alike, Donkey Kong deserves a spot on our list. King Kong, eat your heart out!
Ganon from Wikipedia
#4: Ganon: The Dark Beast
Dark sorcerers always make for interesting villains, and Ganon, the main antagonist of The Legend of Zelda series, is no different. What puts Ganon head and shoulders above most of the rest is his versatility. He’s a powerful magician, a brilliant strategist, a master manipulator, a shape shifter, and an excellent swordsman. He also possesses the Triforce of Power, a mystical relic that grants him enormous power and allows him to survive normally fatal wounds, such as being stabbed in the heart. Generally, you don’t have a chance of hurting him unless you have sacred weapons at your disposal. Further, in the event that you are able to kill him, Ganon is not likely to remain dead. Sometimes he is resurrected by his followers, and other times he simply finds a way to cheat death. The Legend of Zelda is the only game, other than Mario, to appear on every single Nintendo console. And I think we can all agree that Link wouldn’t be a great hero if he hadn’t faced such a spectacular and worthy enemy.
Sephiroth from Gamespot
#3: Sephiroth: One-Winged Angel
Although not as diabolically evil as some of the other villains on this list, there is arguably no other RPG character—villain or otherwise—more recognizable than Sephiroth, the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VII. Traditionally pictured carrying the iconic Masamune sword and wearing black armor, with his long, platinum blond hair billowing out behind him, the very image of Sephiroth conjures villainous thoughts. After Sephiroth realizes he is the product of a biological experiment, created from cells of a being known as Jenova, he goes mad, burns an entire village to the ground, and begins a quest to become a god and rule the world. Perhaps the most memorable scene from the game is his murder of Aerith Gainsborough, a universally loved character. In a moment of complete silence, Sephiroth impales her from behind as she is praying at an alter. Sephiroth’s cultural impact on the gaming community is huge. Log on to any MMORPG and you will find a myriad of players who named their characters after him, though because there can be only one true Sephiroth in each game, most players resort to distortions and obvious misspellings in order to claim even the semblance of the name. I placed him third on our list because two other villains had more impact on video gaming as a whole, but Sephiroth is my personal favorite.
Bowser from Wikipedia
#2: Bowser: The most dangerous turtle ever created!
Children today recognize Mario more often than they do Mickey Mouse. But where would Mario be without his arch-nemesis, the kidnapper of his princess, and the coolest turtle ever? Serving as the main antagonist in almost every Mario game, Bowser, or King Koopa as he is sometimes known, is nearly as well known as Mario himself. While Bowser generally relies on the same types of tricks to beat his nemesis each game—such as breathing fire and trying to stomp Mario into the ground—Bowser is nothing if not patient and persistent. Whenever one plan fails, he’s always back in the next game with another agenda. In his most recent game, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Bowser becomes a playable character along with Mario and Luigi, and the game provides a humorous look at interactions between Bowser and his incompetent minions. With so many video game appearances to his name, it’s no surprise that Bowser remains one of the most iconic video game villains ever created.
Pac-Man from Wikipedia
#1: Pac-Man Ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde
Who else could be number one? When Pac-Man debuted in 1980, video game arcades were saturated with Pong clones and space shooters. Pac-Man proved an instant success and became an immediate cultural icon. Practically everyone recognized Pac-Man, even if they’d never played the game. But the game’s fame is not why Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde deserve the number one spot on this list. What makes them so special is that there’s no guaranteed way to beat them. You have no special code to punch into the game to make it easier, no combination of buttons for the final fight, and no game guide to follow. Over the years, fans have analyzed the ghosts and their “personalities” and drawn some general conclusions regarding speed and possible interaction with one another. Supposedly the direction of the ghosts’ eyes will tell you which way they will turn. But overall, the ghosts are random, and no two games are ever the same. Constant practice will, of course, improve your reflexes and help you survive longer, but there is no real, consistent strategy that can be applied. The only thing you can be sure of is that they’ll all converge around that last dot you accidentally missed and be ready and waiting to snatch victory from your clutches.
And there you have it—my personal choices for the most iconic video game villains in history. Now that you’ve read my list, make sure to share yours. Whom did I miss that you’d definitely include? Who is your choice for the top spot? Did any of the characters I listed bring back special memories for you? I can’t wait to read your stories!