There is something particularly special when a game not only has a great story, great main character, and great mechanics, but also has a villain that is not only likable, but cool as heck. I’ve played my fair share of video games, and from time to time I’ll find myself not only feeling bad for a villain, but wondering what brought them to the point they are at. Dishonored specifically did a really good job with that concept giving you the freedom to be the villain or the hero, and it created an impact on the player to react accordingly. While Dishonored isn’t the only game to do this, it showcases it very well, and with the additional DLC packages, you can get a taste for the real villain and, believe it or not, you start to feel bad for them.
Video games have a way of immersing you into a character so much that you oftentimes forget there is a difference between good and evil. Evidently, video games have steered more toward the freedom of choice, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about regardless of how awesome that topic is. The main point I would like to get across in this article is discussing what makes a villain cool, or memorable, or even likable in some ways. So, before you will be a self-picked list of 15 video game villains that I believe fit that bill based on their character development, looks, super powers, or just overall likability.
15. Jack of Blades – Fable
Maybe one of the first video games I played that gave the character the freedom of choice was in the Fable series; specifically the Fable release before Fable: The Lost Chapters. Now, I’m generally in love with the whole open world setting and choosing between good and evil, but Fable holds a special place in my heart for being one of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences that ever graced this land, and even its sequels measured up to that standard. Something that really stuck in Fable was the villain: Jack of Blades. The mystery behind the mask that you become familiar with throughout your Fable adventure is not the only reason, but add on the deep, dark voice that appears in Fable: The Lost Chapters along with the fact that he turns into a huge dragon in the end game and you’ve got not only one of the most memorable villains in video game history, but also by far one of the coolest. A lot of people prefer his more seductive voice in the first ever Fable title, and while I can see some good argument for that, I prefer the updated version.
14. Handsome Jack – Borderlands
You’ve probably played Borderlands by now, and by that I mean you’ve probably reached the 100 hour mark. I would certainly hope at least given that Borderlands has everything from a great adventurous story to unique characters to make the experience that much more rewarding. In the Borderlands universe, you come to know a guy by the name of Handsome Jack, and just from mentioning the name people remember the character for what he truly is – a dictator. From his fancy-esque clothing all the way to his seemingly stitched on face, Handsome Jack certainly takes the cake for not only being one of the cooler styles of villainy, but he also gives you a shiver down your spine whenever he comes into play in the video games. This particular villain has been relatively well received being that the voice actor Dameon Clarke won the “Best Performance by a Human Male” award at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards.
13. Ganon/Ganondorf – The Legend of Zelda
Because of his humongous role in the Legend of Zelda franchise, everybody and their mother knows who Ganon (or Ganondorf) is, and if you don’t, get on Amazon right now and purchase a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before reading forward. Now, just based on the design of this character alone, you’re not too surprised to see his inclusion on this list. Hell, he’s been included on any villain list you can find on the internet be it from judging by his coolness factor all the way to his role in the video game franchise. Not only does his design get praised though, but also his overall play into the games has garnered a humongous splash of positive criticism. My very first (and probably many people’s) experience with Ganondorf was with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, especially given that the very first time you see this character, he’s running off on his horse with Princess Zelda right behind him. It fills not only the main character with anxiety, but it sets you on the adventure that you are about to endure.
12. The Lich King – Warcraft
Of course, what kind of list would this be if I didn’t include one of the coolest and most beautifully crafted characters in any video game franchise: The Lich King. Although the younger generation know the namesake more by World of Warcraft, there are a large numbers of people, especially in my generation, that know The Lich King through Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, which is safe to say is by far one of the best video games in the genre and franchise. The game allows you to follow the story of Arthas Menethil as he takes on the scourge although later becoming the very enemy he set to destroy. The entire lore of The Lich King certainly plays into his coolness factor, but I personally love the overall look of him with the mask and the fact that he sits at The Frozen Throne wreaking havoc and decisively planning Arthas’s fate.
11. Giovanni – Pokémon
Flashback to the final gym of Pokémon Red when Giovanni was the leader of the gym, and you had to finally put your best foot forward in order to succeed. Giovanni to me is one of the coolest and most memorable characters in a Pokémon game not only for his role as leader of Team Rocket, but for also testing the main character in Pokémon Red. Giovanni also ensured that your team was strong enough to not only take on the trainers and gym leaders throughout the game, but also prepared you for the Elite Four and beyond. Of course, my first actual Pokémon game was Pokémon Yellow, though the events with Giovanni remained relatively similar to the previous original games in the franchise. His overall cunning outlook on the main goal to collect rare Pokémon works well with his simultaneous mysterious character nature. I still remember him as one of the most difficult trainers in the game and that includes the Elite Four.
10. Wizpig – Diddy Kong Racing
Anyone else remember Diddy Kong Racing? It is to my knowledge one of the finest racing games ever made for the Nintendo 64, and I have so many memories of playing the game to its end multiple times. One of the most memorable parts of this great game was the main villain: Wizpig. Do yourself a favor real quick and search on YouTube “the Wizpig theme” for the races in the video game, and take yourself on a nostalgia trip. While simultaneously having one of the coolest video game based songs, Wizpig is certainly one of the coolest character to ever show up in a racing video game. It does come with some disappointment though that it doesn’t seem like there is really any way to make Wizpig a playable character, as well as he doesn’t show up in really any other racing video games for the Nintendo 64. I still remember the first race with Wizpig being one of the hardest races in a video game, but the satisfaction of finally beating him in a race was insurmountable.
9. The Covenant – Halo
The Halo franchise, although one of my all time favorites growing up, to my knowledge has seen a consistent fall in quality over the years. Some may disagree with me on that, but something we can all agree on is the coolness factor of the covenant. Everything from the prophets, to the brutes, the elites with laser swords, there’s really nothing bad you can say about them, unless you’ve played the first Halo game on legendary and know what actual Hell looks like. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the very first Halo game gave us a taste of what these alien-like creatures were capable of, but then we were able to play as them in the sequel, giving you a sense of immersion and of course being able to use the laser sword. If I were to take anything away from the Halo games if at some point the series dies, the covenant alien species is one of the coolest style of enemies I’ve seen growing up.
8. Shaun – Fallout 4
Fallout 4 wasn’t necessarily well received across multiple platforms, but one thing people can agree on is how much impact Shaun ended up having if you chose to side with him. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t choose to side with their son? I know I did on my first play through. The reason I think Shaun deservedly falls on this list is because throughout your entire experience of Fallout 4, you’re led to believe that the institute is this terrible place filled with monsters and bad guys. You then come to find out that you were scared for nothing as Shaun is the director of said bad place. While people may not have felt a connection with Shaun given that they may have forgotten about the main quest entirely, nothing comes close to how I personally felt when Shaun decided to allow his father to take over the business, and pass away with the knowledge of the institute now being in good hands.
7. Darth Traya – Star Wars – Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
I’ve had many experiences with Star Wars – Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, as I’ve talked about this particular game a lot on this website and several others. Through one of my many plays, I was able to finally get to the bottom of what made the Kreia character so unique and special, and it’s because she herself is a Sith by the name of Darth Traya. If you weren’t aware of this, well this game has been out for a while, so I don’t feel bad for spoiling the surprise. Personally, coming to this realization hit a part in me that never allowed me to hate this game, even if it is as dated as it is, because of the simple fact that it still holds many secrets that I’ve yet to find in the many hours I’ve spent on it. Then of course the end game gives you an idea of what happens to the universe you spent so much time on through the words of Darth Traya.
6. Gruntilda – Banjo-Kazooie
The Nintendo 64 is home to many games that I hold so dear to my heart, and Banjo-Kazooie is one of those games. I’d even go as far to say that Banjo-Kazooie and the sequel Banjo-Tooie are in my top 10 favorite Nintendo 64 games. Gruntilda being the main villain in Banjo-Kazooie has allowed this game to not only age as well as it has, but it’s also left a humongous impact on gaming in general by creating a story driven by a crazy witch who seeks beauty and young age. You’re put through many of her trials as you traverse through the castle formed through her wishes as well as discovering the backstory of how she became the witch she is. The final battle is also one of the most intense and blood boiling battles in a video game of that time. All of that mixed together alone makes it easy to place Gruntilda on this list.
5. Alduin – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim took the world by storm by being not only one of the most beautiful open world video games Bethesda had made at that time, but also for having dragons, yes dragons! Alduin is placed on this list for not only being a dragon, but also for being one of the coolest designed dragons in the game. Just looking at the image above, you can’t even imagine what it’d be like to be the main character and see this fierce looking dragon looking at you. Though, the fact that he keeps your character from being executed is not only memorable, but scary because then you’re having to traverse through a soon to be destroyed village that you see yourself in. Hell, if I saw Alduin flying above me wreaking havoc right as I’m getting ready to be executed, I’d be better off being executed. So yeah, dragons! They’re pretty cool.
4. Corvo Attano – Dishonored
I mentioned Dishonored at the beginning of this article, be it briefly. The reason I did that was not only to showcase that I love Dishonored, but to also bring your attention to it. The main character in the main Dishonored story, Corvo Attano, makes this list for a lot of the same reasons why Shaun from Fallout 4 makes this list. Dishonored is a game wherein you play as Corvo and either bring peace or chaos to the world around you. Unlike Fallout 4, Dishonored is a lot more story driven, mission to mission, and linear as opposed to an open world environment. Some may be thinking “Well, I thought this was a villain article?” Well, it is, and Corvo Attano is right in the middle depending on how you play the game. His design and overall impact on the story with your powers and agile reflexes makes for a very interesting and sometimes intense battle between being peaceful to those around or creating havoc. While not being a traditional villain, he has a lot of the same qualities you would find in a villain, be it much more subtle.
3. Richard Trager – Outlast
I’ve talked about horror games many times at this little space I call home, and there are many reasons that pay tribute to that. One of which of course being my first experience with Outlast, and what made that experience especially more enjoyable (or terrifying depending on how you look at it) is the guy shown above : Richard Trager. Throughout Outlast, you’re met with some terrifying imagery mixed with characters whom you think could help you, but evidently only survive to give you jump scares. Richard Trager, however, goes the extra mile and acts innocent, as much as an evil mastermind can, while maintaining the scare factor by of course removing some fingers from your hand. At first, you look at this guy and think, “Man, he seems cool,” but you end up in an ongoing battle with him until you finally manage to reach the elevator. At this point, you’re not only met with the satisfaction of escape, but also with the satisfaction of crushing Richard Trager in between the wall and the opening of the elevator.
2. Skull Kid – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
You’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and you know precisely how nightmare inducing this game can be. While this game is of a depressing and oftentimes scary nature, one particular being can pay tribute for why the overall atmosphere feels like death. I’m of course talking about Skull Kid. If you’ve often wondered why you have nightmares about a short kid in a scarecrow costume with a terrifying mask on, Skull Kid is the basis for that. Although it’s been stated that Skull Kid does appear in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there’s no doubt that this character alone created the darkness you became so indulged in as you played through Majora’s Mask for the very first time. While being one of the scariest, he is also one of the coolest and has often times been the main motivation behind Halloween costumes during the holidays, and rightfully so.
1. Slender Man – Slender: The Eight Pages
We’ve talked about Slender Man and the lore that follows this mysterious creature multiple times, and while I’m not necessarily on board with the games anymore, I can’t deny how freaking cool Slender Man is. When it comes to the overall design of Slender Man, the creators in charge really hit it out of the ball park. While having a sinister look about him because the dude is missing a face, it’s mixed together really well with arms too long for a normal human, and of course the suit that Slender Man has become synonymous with. Along with Skull Kid, Slender Man also holds the title for being one of the most popular Halloween costumes, which just pays tribute to how cool it is. The character is such a simple design when it really boils down to it, but mixed with the horror of the woods and the jump scares that follow, Slender Man undoubtedly deserves a spot on this list.