What’s a superhero without an evil villain to fight against? Just about every video game has a group of good guys battling bad ones in the name of honor, revenge, or simply for the sake of loot drops.
That being said, there’s definitely a scale for wickedness when it comes to video game antagonists. The fear Tom Nook strikes into our hearts is very different from more conventionally evil villains like Bowser.
In this list, we’ll be ranking the most evil video game villains, starting with the least corrupt and working our way to the vilest of vile.
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Appears in: Sonic the Hedgehog
Most evil crime: Having that mustache
Dr. Robotnik checks all the boxes when it comes to the ‘mad scientist’ archetype. He has ‘Doctor’ in his name, can quickly engineer all sorts of deadly gadgets and traps, and possesses an undying resentment for anything cute or fuzzy.
Despite all this, we still find it pretty hard to take the guy seriously. Sure, going around forcing animals to fight in robot suits is evil, but his efforts are always easily thwarted by Sonic and friends time and time again. For a guy whose specialty is enslaving animals, you think he’d fare better against a hedgehog whose diet consists of chili dogs.
Appears in: Mega Man
Most evil crime: Creating Wood Man
Dr. Wily is another mad scientist with lofty goals of taking over the world using robots. Only instead of using wild animals for his experiments, he designs his creations from the ground up with the sole purpose of defeating Mega Man.
Okay, so not every robot he makes is some ultra-powerful killing machine (sorry Top Man and Toad Man), but there are a few that pose a significant threat. If not for the fact that Mega Man is constantly blowing up his creations, we’re sure Dr. Wily would have an army of robot men based on every element and object known to man by now.
Appears in: Borderlands
Most evil crime: Hooking his daughter up to a computer
Another classic contemporary video game villain, Handsome Jack can disarm his victims, even if momentarily, using his charm and wit. He’s very well-spoken and quite intelligent, especially when it comes to computer engineering.
So what is it about Jack that makes him so evil? Well, for starters, he thought it would be a good idea to use his own daughter to access Pandora’s communication systems and cheat his way up the corporate ladder. He’s also killed countless humans and animals with no remorse throughout the series, earning him a spot on this list.
Appears in: Metal Gear Solid
Most evil crime: Dropping his beret in slow motion
The Metal Gear series has seen Solid Snake going toe-to-toe with the best of the best, including a host of highly-skilled marksmen and tacticians. However, not many stack up to Revolver Ocelot’s psychological deception throughout the series.
He managed to hide in plain sight for years, often working as a double, triple, and even quadruple secret agent. Starting in the 1960s, Ocelot meticulously carried out a devious plan to betray all his enemies. His incessant need to constantly show off his revolver twirling skills mid-battle is slightly annoying but still kind of cool.
Appears in: Portal
Most evil crime: Lying about the cake
Valve’s first-person puzzle game wouldn’t be quite as enjoyable without the performance of its one-eyed robot antagonist, GLaDOS. The AI-controlled villain is always delivering snarky, auto-tuned speeches throughout the game, and the effect varies from hilarious to downright horrifying.
That’s probably a big part of what makes GLaDOS so evil, her ability to disarm victims with random anecdotes that make her appear to be just another dumb robot. Only after it’s too late do you realize she was carrying out a sinister plan all along.
Appears in: System Shock
Most evil crime: Turning your crewmates into mutant cyborgs
Before GLaDOS, there was SHODAN, a highly-advanced AI turned rogue. Having direct access to the Von Braun spaceship’s communications systems, she can be anywhere on the ship at any time. This allows her to set various traps and keep tabs on any secret plans you try to carry out.
But probably the worst part is what SHODAN did to get to this point. While your character was in cryostasis, she managed to take control of the ship by capturing all of your crewmates using them as guinea pigs for her biological experiments.
Appears in: Animal Crossing
Most evil crime: Making us all slaves
As far as chill and relaxing video games go, Animal Crossing is king. There’s no combat or real danger to speak of, and pretty much every goal can be achieved at your own pace. However, there’s still one character whose sole purpose is to cause you displeasure, Tom Nook.
Each game’s start sees the greedy business raccoon setting you up with a plot of land in exchange for a large sum of Bells. Save up enough to pay off your first loan, and you’ll eventually find yourself signing an even bigger check for the next home upgrade. Nook’s decades-long monopoly over the real estate, construction, retail, and travel industries is proof of his relentlessly evil business acumen.
Appears in: Super Mario Bros
Most evil crime: Countless kidnappings and forced marriage attempts
Possibly the most recognizable video game villain of all time, Bowser has had an extensive career both as a kidnapper and terrorist. His methods and reasons for doing so vary from game to game but rest assured they’re never justified, let alone explained.
Outside of trying to force Princess Peach to be his bride, the Koopa King has leveled entire cities, framed Mario for his own crimes, and even created a black hole that came close to wiping out the galaxy. What makes him so evil is how far he’s willing to go to get what he wants, regardless of how many lives are lost.
Appears in: The Wolf Among Us
Most evil crime: Feeding somebody’s lungs to the family dog
Although she may not be the main villain of The Wolf Among Us, we’d argue Bloody Mary is just as, if not more, terrifyingly evil as the Crooked Man. Her smooth yet sarcastic demeanor is backed up by raw physical strength that overpowers even Bigsby’s.
As if that weren’t enough, she can teleport through any reflective surface, namely mirrors. All of her wickedness becomes physically manifested when she switched to her true form, which causes shards of mirror to poke out in every direction across her entire body.
Appears in: Street Fighter
Most evil crime: Brainwashing and/or global terrorism
Known by different aliases depending on the region, M. Bison is one of the meanest characters in Street Fighter lore, saying something for a series about beating people into submission. His primary source of strength stems from the Psycho Power that pulses through his veins.
However, even without his supernatural abilities, Bison is still a pretty evil dude. He’s kidnapped, tortured, brainwashed, and even murdered his rivals’ friends and family. Probably evilest of all is that Bison is physically unable to feel any sort of empathy for his victims, meaning he’s basically a psychopath.
Appears in: Earthbound
Most evil crime: Possessing innocent animals
With nicknames like ‘The Universal Cosmic Destroyer’ and ‘The Embodiment of Evil,’ it’s no surprise Giygas ended up on this list. The evil alien’s sole wish is to plunge the world into infinite darkness by turning animals into violent monsters that wreak havoc.
The most terrifying part of trying to bring Giygas down is the fact that you never get to see his true form since he’s lost any connection to the physical realm. During your final battle, he appears as a swirling cloud that’s practically invincible, resulting in the character Paula having to continually pray just to reduce his power.
Appears in: Silent Hill
Most evil crime: Moving like molasses
The Silent Hill games are overflowing with terrifying monsters to the point that you’re probably better off just letting the first one kill you and be done with it. However, if you persist, eventually you’ll come face to face with Pyramid Head.
Initially meant to symbolize the player character’s guilt and suffering, Pyramid Head is known to slowly stalk you throughout the dark hallways of Silent Hill 2 until you’re forced to confront him as a boss. What makes him so evil is the fact that he never utters a single word but just relentlessly marches forward until he gets you. No pleading, no making amends, only death.
Appears in: Wolfenstein
Most evil crime: Being a Nazi
For a series that casts Adolf Hitler as its main bad guy, Frau Engel somehow still manages to come across as one of the most disgustingly vile human beings in the history of mankind. Her murderous career gets its start in Wolfenstein: The New Order, where we see her snatch a baby from its mother and kill it off-screen.
Although her sociopathic tendencies never get a chance to reach their full potential in the first game, she’s given a much more significant role in The New Colossus. And what exactly does Frau do with her moment in the spotlight? Shoot a ton of innocent people, decapitate others (including the player character), and continuously degrade her own daughter in front of her peers.
Appears in: Resident Evil
Most evil crime: Setting up his squadmates
In our list ranking the most powerful video game characters, we highlighted Albert Wesker’s combat prowess and high intelligence but didn’t fully explore how evil of a character he truly is. After being exposed to the T-virus, Wesker is made stronger but also more corrupt than ever.
This sort of kickstarted his career as a recurring antagonist in the Resident Evil franchise, with his main goal being to wipe out the entire world. What makes Wesker so frightening is that he can subdue his enemies using just his mind. Combine this with superhuman physical strength and speed, and you have the perfect recipe for one of the evilest villains in video game history.
Appears in: Far Cry 3
Most evil crime: Killing all your friends
Despite appearing in only one game, Vaas Montenegro is probably the most recognizable character in the Far Cry series. A lot of his strength as a villain comes from voice actor Michael Mando’s fantastic portrayal of the drug-addict psychopath, but Vaas is still a twisted individual in his own right.
The man has committed a laundry list of unforgivable crimes and somehow manages to persevere due to corrupt leaders and his natural charisma. He has a natural gift for performing to an audience and can easily manipulate people, including the player character, to see things his way.
Appears in: Chrono Trigger
Most evil crime: Trying to drain the Earth’s energy
Serving as the final boss for the classic RPG Chrono Trigger, Lavos is a real-life nightmare for any planet unfortunate enough to be visited by the galactic parasite. His routine involves stripping a world of its resources, using the energy to create spawn, and send them to other planets to do the same.
Making things even worse is the fact that he’s ridiculously powerful. So much that you end up fighting him twice in the game, both times requiring you to time travel to the past just to stand a chance of winning. Lavos’ desire for total human annihilation is so persistent and unshakeable that it earns him a spot among the best video game villains.
Appears in: Final Fantasy VI
Most evil crime: Laughing like a deranged maniac
There’s no shortage of exceptionally evil villains throughout the Final Fantasy series. From the start of Final Fantasy VI, players are directly misled to believe Kefka is nothing more than an incompetent ambassador. However, as the game progresses, his true intentions are made clear.
As if the reveal of Kefka’s betrayal wasn’t shocking enough, the acts that followed were even more harrowing. Some highlights include poisoning a town’s water supply, setting villages ablaze, and committing mass murder. To add insult to injury, Kefka continues to spew witty insults at you as his evil deeds play out.
Appears in: The Legend of Zelda
Most evil crime: The destruction of Hyrule. Twice
Ganon, or Ganondorf in his human form, is the cream of the crop when it comes to ruthless bad guys. He’s constantly trying to unleash his black magic on Hyrule and bring about an apocalypse. He also somehow manages to keep coming back no matter what Link and his allies do.
The biggest issue Ganon presents is not being able to guess where your enemy is coming from. He can travel through time, shapeshift, and even corrupt minds. Catch even a glimpse of him or one of his many forms, and you can bet things are about to get real dark.
Appears in: Final Fantasy VII
Most evil crime: Killing Aerith at the end of Disc 1
Sephiroth may come across as a calm and well-mannered archenemy, but deep down, he’s one of the most abominable characters on this list. The handsome swordsman is embedded with incredible strength caused by a failed experiment involving a Jenova fetus.
His primary goal is to cleanse every planet of life and rule the universe alone as a god. The fact that he can deliver seemingly sane speeches about such monstrous acts just goes to show how twisted and disturbed Sephiroth has become.
Appears in: Batman Arkham
Most evil crime: Infecting Batman with a deadly disease
Even in video games, The Joker manages to carve out a spot for himself among video game villain hall of fame. Suffering from an incurable case of psychosis, Joker has lost all touch with his humanity, including any remorse for killing innocent civilians, stealing countless artifacts, or hacking into Batman’s latest gadgets.
He’s undeniably iconic as far as supervillains go and Mark Hamill’s captivating portrayal of him in the Batman Arkham games helps elevate the character to new heights. What makes The Joker such a great bad guy is that he and Batman are fundamentally the same person. His ability to transcend his role as the villain and make us question our own protagonist is what makes him such an evil adversary.