They say that a hero is only as good as the adversaries that he or she goes up against. Just take a look at the rogues of Batman and Spider-Man. The Joker, Two-Face, the Green Goblin and Doc Ock? Those are A-list trouble makers right there and that's just from the comic book medium. The world of gaming has some pretty despicable baddies, too. Sure, some of them are affably evil, but then you've got those that are some straight up nasty SOBs. GreatVillains of Gaming is where the baddest of the baddest get their due. I don't adhere to any particular rules like one villain per franchise. I can tell you right now that you'll be seeing a couple of characters from the same series. What you won't see are normal enemies. This feature is regulated to bosses, big bads and dragons.
Astaroth (Ghosts 'n Goblins Series)
Just look at this guy. You KNOW he's evil based off his appearance alone. Some villains wear their malevolent intentions on their sleeves. Astaroth wears them all over his freaking body. But if you need further proof of his evilness, I'll elaborate.
You may think that Satan is the big bad of the Ghosts 'n Goblins games because he kidnaps Arthur's woman, Princess Prin Prin, but in actuality, Satan works for Astaroth. Let that sink in for a bit. Satan, the prince of darkness answers to a higher power in the underworld. That right there is enough to tell you that Astaroth is on a whole different level.
I believe that Astaroth is also a natural born leader. Have you ever seen College Humor's flash short, Video Game Bosses? It's a hilarious animation about the bosses of video games instructing their minions on what they should and shouldn't be doing. You see a lot of bosses in the video like Dr. Wily, Eggman, and Mother Brain. One boss you don't see correcting his baddies in the video is Astaroth. You know why? Because he taught his demonic, undead mooks how to do the job properly. Not many gamers have actually beaten a Ghosts 'n Goblins game because Astaroth's underlings have mauled their anuses every single time they've made an attempt. Sure, there's that clocking ticking down that limits the time you can spend in a level, but let's be real here. The enemies are the true threat. Zombies that couldn't give two craps about being killed because seconds after you put them in the ground, they get right back up to make your life a living nightmare. Big Man, ogres that hurl maces at you and lower you into a false sense of security with their enormous size. Think these guys are slow? Get within spitting distance and they will charge you. Astaroth's minions are second to none in terms of just how badly they want to kill you and they had to get that from the big guy.
I can just picture Astaroth at his castle, commanding his subordinates with firm authority with that deep demonic voice.
"All right, all of you, listen up! I've sent Satan to kidnap Princess Prin Prin. No doubt Arthur will come to the castle and try to rescue her. But he will fail. And do you know why he will fail? Because you will impede his progress. You will frustrate him at every opportunity. Don't attack him at once. That is the method of fools. You're an army, so act like one! Attack him in packs! Yes, I know you can't always attack in a group. But if there's just one of you, you fight him to your dying breath! You give him a fight he won't soon forget! Break his armor, kill him and bring me his remains! I will display his bones in my throne room like a trophy! ARTHUR! WILL! FAIL!"
In the event that Arthur does make it to the castle and defeat, Astaroth, Satan has a rather sadistic surprise in store for him. Your victory of Astaroth? It was a fake. Princess Prin Prin, the throne room, it's all an illusion cooked up by the big bad's right hand man. In order to rescue the girl for real, Arthur has to trek through the whole game again on an even harder difficulty. Yeah, this sinister ruse was Satan's doing, but again, Satan works for Astaroth. That along with his tenacious demons and ghosts means that Astaroth like David Xanatos from Gargoyles, surrounds himself with smart and competent folks. Astaroth has more than earned a place at the table of the best villains in video games.
Marx (Kirby Series)
If you haven't played Kirby Super Star or the DS enhanced port or any Kirby games for that matter, you may be looking at the above image in bewilderment. And you may think that King Dedede deserves to be in the place of Marx. The worst thing Dedede ever did was steal Dream Land's food. Compared to all the others that have threatened Kirby's home world and other planets, Dedede is a saint. Besides, he's more of a rival to Kirby than a villain and he's worked with Kirby on numerous occasions to save Dream Land. Marx, on the other hand is just plain evil, despite that initial cute looking appearance he has.
The residents of Pop Star have a serious problem on their hands with the sun and moon fighting day and night. It's at this time that Marx appears before Kirby, telling him that if they could summon NOVA, they could put an end to this senseless fighting. NOVA, being the being of immesurable power that he is, has the power to grant one wish. If they wish for the sun and moon to stop fighting, they could bring peace back to Pop Star. But summoning NOVA requires that one obtains the powers from the Dream Fountains located on other nearby planets of Pop Star. Once Kirby does a lot of leg work, he summons NOVA to make his wish. Marx boots Kirby aside and makes his own wish: control of Pop Star. NOVA grants Marx' wish, transforming him from a cute-looking jester to a creepy bat-like creature with unfathomable power.
Marx was playing Kirby for a sucker from the start. He got the sun and moon to fight, he got Kirby to summon NOVA for him and he gained his wish for ultimate power. At the time, it was very unexpected to see a manipulative villain in a Kirby game. If we learned anything from Kirby's Adventure, it's that things aren't always what they seem. Marx appeared to be friendly, but in reality, he had his own agenda all along and concocted a multi-part plan to achieve his goals and in the end, he got what he wanted. Marx proves that even cute creatures can have the worst of intentions.
There's one thing that always bugged me about Marx. That laugh is creepy, sure, but's even more disturbing is the fact that Marx is always smiling. He never frowns or looks angry. It's like he's expression is locked in constant state of happy, like the Joker from the 1989 Batman movie and it weirds me out.
Tom Nook (Animal Crossing Series)
"But Reg, Tom Nook is not a bad person."
LIES. I don't care if doesn't have a mustache to twirl or any kind of maniacal laughter. Tom Nook is an evil master mind. Sure, he may not look like one, but the best villains are the ones that look like stand up individuals. While Astaroth's appearance is dripping with evil, Tom Nook greatly contrasts this by looking like an ordinary, nice guy. But anyone that's played the Animal Crossing games knows better.
When you first get into town, you have no place to call home. Enter Tom Nook, who fixes you up with a house. He even includes a stereo with it so you can listen to K.K. Slider's music once you can get some tunes. Aw, isn't he just swell? But since nothing in life is ever truly free, Tom Nook forces you to become his slave by working part time to pay off the debt you now owe him. Thankfully the part time job is short lived but the same cannot be said for the mortgage payments. Each time you complete a payment on your home, the debt just gets bigger and bigger. This is where Tom Nook's villainy comes from. Where as most villains are content with world domination or kidnapping girlfiriends, Tom Nook gets his jollies from screwing you over where it hurts the most: your wallet.
In the first three Animal Crossing games, you don't get any choice in the matter of upgrading your home to a larger size. Once you finish a payment, Tom Nook locks you into even greater debt by forcing you to make your house bigger. You literally cannot say no to him. To be fair, you get as much time as you need to pay him off, but really, does anyone enjoy having an unpaid bill hanging over their head?
In New Leaf, you're given the option of upgrading your house or leaving it as is. Pretty sweet, huh? Well, no not really. See in New Leaf, your house can be bigger than ever with a total of six rooms and there's even more stuff to collect and display in your home than in the previous games. Do you really think you'll be satisfied living in a broom closet? This means that the debt for paying off your home in full is bigger than it's ever been before. We're talking well over 7 million bells here and you'll be running around ragged trying to get the bells needed to be free of Nook's financial noose that's been tossed around your neck. And just to rub salt into the wound, each time he tells you the staggering amount of bells made for that expansion, he grins like a school girl and has the gall to call that outrageous sum chump change. I don't care how much you may dislike violence, you will feel the urge to kill rising like never before whenever he does this.
Tom Nook is the worst kind of video game villain. He's not out to conquer the world. Revenge has no meaning to him. He sees little value in capturing damsels and he hasn't killed anyone (unless all those fossils you're finding are really the remains of all the poor saps that never paid him back). All he wants is to watch you squirm, because for some people, keeping them alive and watching them suffer is the best form of punishment. Nook does all of this under the guise of a humble business raccoon, all the while being as cool a cucumber. How often do you see Nook looking angry or losing his temper like a lot of other villains? You don't. When you move into town, he's already won. No matter what you do, you can't win against Tom Nook and for that, he may very well be the best villain to ever grace a video game.
M. Bison (Street Fighter Series)
Street Fighter II taught players many things. The fine art of the Hadoken, charging, the brilliance in combos and the sheer misery that are SNK Bosses. Oh, sure the game was developed by Capcom, but make no mistake, M. Bison was an SNK Boss long before someone had even coined the trope. After all the torture you went through just to make it to Bison (using a ton of continues to get through the likes of Balrog, Vega and Sagat) you suffer further humiliation as the man in red effortlessly mops the floor with you. Although in hindsight I probably should have realized that I was going to get owned something fierce when he took off that cape. Tough-lookin' dudes with capes are always bad news.
This guy is a merciless as they come. An undeniably strong dictator that runs on what he likes to call Pyscho Power, M. Bison has an uncontrollable craving for power and he stops at nothing to achieve his goals. Chun-Li's father and Guile's friend Charlie are just a few of the many victims that have fallen before Bison's might. Even his own subordinates aren't immune to his wrath. Sure, he demands the utmost loyalty from all who serve him, but in Bison's game of Chess, anyone on the board that isn't Bison is a pawn and once you've outlived your usefulness, your breathing privileges are forfeit as far as he's concerned.
Some video game villains have a few redeeming qualities but Bison is not one of them. There isn't a shred of good in Bison's soul. The guy is completely incapable of feeling love or compassion for mankind, taking great joy and delight in the suffering of others, viewing all weaker beings as insignificant pieces of trash that deserve a swift death. Speaking of death, not even that can keep him down, as he's found a way to come back to life more than once.
Bison isn't just a psychopath in story, but in gameplay as well. This man probably left more foot prints on player's butts than Balrog, Vega and Sagat combined. Even when he isn't using moves that are fueled with Pyscho Power, he's a force to be reckoned with and one could argue that because he's so powerful, he has every right to be as arrogant as he is. Much of his win quotes (from any game he's been in) berate the player with a coldness that stings far more than any other fighter's. His Head Press move borders on insulting, but the most deadly move in his arsenal is the Psycho Crusher. Utilizing Psycho Power, the Psycho Crusher turns Bison into a glow, human projectile that sets your whole body on fire if you were unfortunate enough not be be blocking when he executed it. A dangerous technique to be on the receiving end to be sure, but in Street Fighter Alpha 3, the Psycho Crusher is particularly nasty. While you would suffer some serious damage if you took a Psycho Crusher in the other Street Fighter games, you're pretty much screwed if you don't block it in Alpha 3 because it drains a huge chunk of your health.
The Doctor (Cave Story)
Doctor Fuyuhiko Date, going by simply "the Doctor" in-game, this fellow is the big bad of Cave Story, a game that looks all cute and cuddly but quickly takes a turn for the dark and depressing, largely thanks to this scum.
The Doctor is one of the most vile SOBs in gaming to ever wear a lab coat. Wearing the artifact known as the Demon Crown, the Doctor posses incredible powers and due to the actions of the previous wearer, Misery and Balrog are bound to serving him. Of course even without hired helped, the Doctor is still more than capable of crippling Mimiga Village and Mimiga Island. The Mimiga are a race of adorable, rabbit-like creatures. These fluffy litter critters undergo a freaky transformation when they eat the island's red flowers. Once consumed, they go from Kirby-cuddly to something that looks like it came out of a horror movie. When the Mimiga's transform, they turn into killing machines, which exactly what the Doctor wanted. By using the red flowers to turn the Mimiga's into monsters, the Doctor sought to conquer the world.
You could argue that the Doctor is another mad scientists but he looks far different from the rest. For much of the game, his eyes are hidden behind a pair of glasses that just add to his whole "cool" factor. He always stands a bit hunched over, hands in his pockets like he's chilling the entire time his doing evil deeds. The Demon Crown, which is one of the creepiest looking head pieces I've ever seen, is the final touch. That big red eye atop the crown can't be missed, but I always find myself looking at those specs.
As powerful as he is, the Doctor prefers not to dirty his own hands unless absolutely necessary. Toroko, an innocent girl and one of the residents of Mimiga Village was feed one of the Red Flowers as a test to see if the transformation would work. It did and Quote was forced to kill her. He also sent a possessed form of Misery and Sue to attack Quote, who had to do battle with the Undead Core at the same. Yeeshh, three bosses at once? The Dcotor sure doesn't like taking chances.
When the Doctor does come out and fight, you'll find yourself wishing he was sending more minions after you, especially his second form. Gone is the calm, composed man and in his place is a rippling, Hulk-like monster with red eyes, a love for rushing and the uncanny ability to teleport right on top of you.
Bringing misery to an entire island, forcing the protagonist to kill a child, brains and muscle to match, the Doctor is certainly not Dr. Wily or Dr. Eggman.