While some of us may not be willing to admit it, we’ve all secretly imagined how cool it would be to play as the villain in our favorite video game. After all, being a bad guy means access to some impressive perks. Whether it’s unlimited money, an endless supply of minions, or fancy island hideouts, villains are always one step ahead of the hero.
And that’s before taking into account their ability to recite long and drawn out speeches all from memory. You’ve got to commend that level of dedication! To celebrate how much more fun villains have, we’re highlighting the best games where you play as the bad guy.
This includes games with optional “evil” paths, ones with traditional villain protagonists, and ones where the main character is a morally gray antihero. Make sure to check back for future updates and consider reading through our other curated lists for more gaming recommendations:
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God of War
To kick things off, we’ve included the Ghost of Sparta himself, Kratos. Also known as the God of War, Kratos spent years hunting down the Greek Gods for manipulating him into killing his own wife and daughter. While his plight is somewhat justified as a revenge story, it’s hard to see Kratos as anything other than a bloodthirsty murderer who won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way.
This is most evident in the first God of War game, which sees Kratos slicing his way through innocent civilians while on a warpath to confront the Greek God Ares. There’s also a point in God of War III where Kratos uses Poseidon’s Princess as a counter-weight to open up a door, resulting in her being crushed to death. Although 2018’s God of War soft reboot portrays a more mature, slightly rehabilitated Kratos, he’s eventually pulled right back into his old murderous ways.
Grand Theft Auto
The Grand Theft Auto series is one giant power fantasy fueled by fast cars, guns, and money. Each installment sees you playing as a different work-for-hire criminal who’s more than willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty for mob bosses, street gangs, or just for the sake of anarchy. Although we’d argue that criminals killing criminals isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things, most missions end with at least one if not dozens of civilian casualties.
However, the series wouldn’t reach its peak bad guy potential until Grand Theft Auto 5, which is the first entry to feature three playable characters: Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. While the first two aren’t wholesome by any means, they still possess a clear moral compass, making it easy to look past their mistakes. Trevor, on the other hand, is basically a psychopath who goes around killing people just for the hell of it.
In Dungeon Keeper, you play as an omniscient, all-seeing entity responsible for managing dungeons and ensuring heroes don’t break-in. You’re given access to a wide range of deadly tools along with minions you can place in different areas to do your bidding. Unlike most titles within the “god game” genre, Dungeon Keeper has a sick sense of humor that’s continuously on full display.
For example, instead of outright killing a hero with one of your traps, you can slowly torture them over time by chaining together traps to create a domino effect. When you’re not watching would-be heroes bleed to death after stepping foot in a room full of spikes, you’re encouraging minions to work harder by physically slapping them. We would almost feel bad for committing such grave atrocities if not for how satisfying Dungeon Keeper makes it all feel.
Things get a bit murky when discussing the moral integrity of Hitman protagonist Agent 47. While he may be everyone’s favorite bald assassin, there’s something awfully dark about a guy who’s willing to kill people for money, even when they have it coming. That’s not to mention the numerous civilians who put themselves in Agent 47’s crosshairs simply by having a disguise he needs or access to an off-limits location.
Some fans try to rationalize 47’s behavior by painting him as an antihero who’s ultimately making the world a better place by getting rid of the career criminals. This has been somewhat mirrored by recent installments where his character is assigned redeeming qualities to make him more relatable. At the end of the day, any person who goes around launching homing briefcases at pedestrians is not to be trusted.
Overlord casts you as a reanimated corpse who was brought back to life after their goblin minions decided to stuff them into a magical suit of armor. So in a way, every crime you go on to commit isn’t technically your fault, but that of the hundreds of goblins who call you their king. At least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves as we go around pillaging towns and conquering kingdoms.
While the game gives you the option to approach quests with some civility, there’s no real incentive to do so. In fact, you’re encouraged to be as ruthless as possible, since corrupt behavior is rewarded with better-looking armor and a superior story ending. There’s also something inherently satisfying about sending hordes of gremlins to wage war on your behalf, knowing there’s a fancy pair of duds in it for you.
Destroy All Humans!
From the start of the game, Destroy All Humans! wastes no time in setting up its evil protagonist Furon Cryptosporidium, aka Crypto. Presented as a little grey alien with a mouth full of sharp teeth, Crypto has a complete disregard for human life and is also not too fond of cows, either. Luckily for him, his mission involves infiltrating planet Earth to harvest DNA in order to ensure his species’ survival.
To get the job done, Crypto is equipped with an arsenal of alien weaponry that allows him to read minds, shapeshift, disintegrate flesh, and even probe unassuming Earthlings whenever he so desires. If that wasn’t enough, Crypto pilots a flying saucer whose laser beam can level entire streets in a matter of seconds. Even if most of his actions fall under the category of intergalactic war crimes, at least Crypto is acting on behalf of a higher purpose.
Untitled Goose Game
There’s a certain place in hell reserved specifically for the goose in Untitled Goose Game. Much like geese in real life, this goose has an unrelenting hatred for human beings and will take any opportunity to express it. The upside is you’re the one controlling the goose and, therefore, are in direct control of its mischievous behavior.
Whether that means startling villagers with your obnoxiously loud honk, picking up their belongings with your beak before tossing them into a lake, or just getting them to chase you around for kicks, you can rest easy knowing you’ve made your goose ancestors proud. It’s never made clear exactly why the goose is harassing all the local residents, but it’s safe to say they probably deserve it.
Plague Inc. Evolved
Although playing as a deadly airborne virus that spreads throughout the world may be a bit too on the nose for 2020, it sure makes for an exciting video game. Plague Inc. Evolved sees you doing everything you can to ensure your lab-made pathogen infects as many humans as possible. Why, you ask? Because it’s fun to see numbers go up!
Jokes aside, the game actually goes pretty in-depth with its virus simulation, allowing you to assign unique characteristics to your pathogen in order to boost its chances of spreading as quickly as possible. It won’t be easy, as the humans continue to throw new obstacles your way and will eventually develop a cure if you take too long.
Released in 2020, Carrion is a reverse-horror game that sees you controlling a terrifying monster with the ability to change its shape to fit through the narrowest air ducts government funding can buy. Having been confined to a military research facility for most of its life, the imprisoned monster manages to escape one day and begins wreaking havoc on its captors.
Although one could make an argument that it’s the scientists keeping the monster trapped who are really the bad guys, it’s hard to convince people that something with that many tendrils is anything but evil. While tougher enemy types do end up posing somewhat of a threat later on, a majority of the game is spent feeling like an unstoppable killing machine.
Maneater is another recent release that approaches monster protagonists from a fresh perspective. Presented as an open-world action-RPG set almost entirely underwater, the game sees you playing as a deadly man-eating shark. You start off as a young pup whose mother was killed by hunters before eventually growing up to become one of the most feared predators the Gulf Coast has ever seen.
How you approach the game dictates both your shark’s appearance as well as which traits they develop. You can spend your time picking off beachgoers by the shore, feeding on weaker fish underwater, or pushing your luck by battling other sharks or alligators above your weight class. Considering your only option for survival is to be “bad” from the start, you’re better off just embracing your new life as an apex predator.
Black & White
One of the classic god games from the early 2000s, Black & White casts you as a newborn deity who takes on the appearance of a giant animal of their choosing. From there, the game introduces you to your new loyal subjects, a group of villagers in need of something to worship. As its title suggests, Black & White is all about making good or evil decisions.
While it’s possible to go through the entire game without making a single “bad” decision, such as destroying your worshippers’ harvest are flinging their puny bodies into the ocean, there will come a point where you’ll give in to temptation. After all, you’re a massive monster with immense power and surrounded by frail mortals, why wouldn’t you turn to the dark side?
LEGO: DC Super-Villains
While most LEGO games see you swapping between well-known heroes throughout pop culture, LEGO: DC Super-Villains instead focuses on a ragtag group of bad guys pulled from the DC Comics universe. Technically, the game is a spin-off to the LEGO Batman Trilogy, which focuses on the Caped Crusader and his band of do-good companions.
However, it’s easy to forget this is a Batman game when you’re running around doing cool supervillain stuff like throwing explosive pies at enemies as the Joker or controlling minds with Poison Ivy. It also helps that there’s a wide range of characters to play as, with the roster covering both well-known baddies as well as more obscure DC villains who usually don’t get to step into the spotlight.
Rampage is a great early example of bad guy protagonists done right. You play as a human man who, for some strange reason, suddenly transforms into one of several giant beasts inspired by famous monster movies. There’s a King Kong-like gorilla called George, a Godzilla-adjacent lizard aptly named Lizzie, and a werewolf that simply goes by Ralph. We like Ralph.
The main goal of the game is to try and see how many buildings you can destroy and people you can eat before the military inevitably takes you down. It’s quite satisfying in practice, especially the way monsters will latch on to buildings and destroy individual floors in search of snacks or the occasional nuke. There’s also local co-op, meaning you and a buddy can work together to level an entire city.