When it comes to video games, the villain is just as important as the main hero. Every good guy has to have a bad guy. It’s like an unspoken rule. What would be the point of being a good guy if there was no bad guy to want to at least try and stop? There are a bunch of different kinds of villain’s, but what truly makes a good one?
For me, a good villain is someone who was starting out on the right path, trying themselves to be the good guy, but then eventually got so twisted that they ended up the villain in the end. These villains are the best kinds of villain because they truly believe that they are doing something that’s still good no matter how far they took things. Sure, they’re the bad guy meaning that they had to have done some pretty horrible things on their journey, but they weren’t always the bad guy.
There are a ton of games that cater to this, a ton, but while some of them are cut and dry some of them you have to really dig to see that at one time they were trying to help. When it comes to the cut and dry good guy turned bad guy, my favorites are The Illusive Man (Mass Effect 2 and 3) and Knight Commander Meredith (Dragon Age 2).
You’re introduced to The Illusive Man at the beginning of Mass Effect 2 when he spends a ton of money to rebuild the only one who can stop the Reapers, Commander Shepard. He’s trying to do the right thing, funding scientists and trying to save the humans from being wiped out by this threat that no one will believe Shepard about. Sure Shepard doesn’t really trust him, but his intentions are good. No one else is doing anything to try and stop the Reapers, but The Illusive Man and Cerberus are. By the time Mass Effect 3 rolls around he’s done some pretty shitty things making him the true villain of Mass Effect 3. Forget the stupid space child or even the Reapers for that matter. The main goal of Mass Effect 3 is stopping The Illusive Man and Cerberus.
Kudos: By the end of Mass Effect 3 you can make The Illusive Man see where he went wrong. This is seriously one of the winning moments of Mass Effect 3, talking The Illusive Man down and having him finally realize that he went to far.
In Dragon Age 2, Knight Commander Meredith comes off as the bad guy right away. She’ll do anything she possibly can to stop the mages from terrorizing Kirkwall and she’ll use any means possible to do this, but it isn’t without reason. Even though she’s extreme if you support the Templars you’ll get to hear her side of the story, hear about how she’s doing all of this because of her sister. You’ll get to see her in a different view this way so that she isn’t just a horrible person who hates people because they’re different. She’s seen first hand what magic has done and thinks that she’s doing everything right by bringing down harsher restrictions on mages, but then she turns to Red Lyrium and goes bat shit crazy making her one of two villains in Dragon Age 2.
While these are my favorite cut and dry good guys that turn into bad guys, there are also some that you have to dig really deep to see that at one time they were good. As for those my favorites have to be Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2) and Sophia Lamb (BioShock 2).
You never get the chance to see Jack as the good guy at all in Borderlands 2. He’s bad right from the start no matter how you look at it. He’s using his own daughter to charge a Vault key! How much worse could you possibly get! Even though you can’t see it, he wasn’t always like that. In Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, you’ll see him as just someone who is trying to rise to the top of the Hyperion ladder. Sure he’s a little ruthless, but in that situation who isn’t? The events at the end of the Pre-Sequel will help you understand what made things change for him, what made him become even more ruthless, making him a badass bad guy.
Another favorite of mine is Sophia Lamb. You’re introduced to her in BioShock 2 and from the start she’s just the worst. She’s manipulative, ruthless, and just down right bad. You can’t possibly see her as anything else, but if you read BioShock Rapture, the in between book of BioShock 1 and BioShock 2, you won’t exactly see her that way. She wasn’t always the bad guy that she’s made out to be. She was brought to Rapture to help people after Andrew Ryan clearly failed at his little experiment. Rapture isn’t what it’s supposed to be, people aren’t living in the life of luxury they were promised. Sophia wants to change that, she strongly opposes Ryan and like every good villain takes it a little bit too far in turn making her the villain.
There are a ton of games that cater to this type of villain. I could go on and on naming countless other video games that have these, but these are my absolute favorite. All of these villains, while they need to be stopped like every other villain, are worthy adversaries for the chosen hero. They all believe strongly in what they’re doing no matter how twisted things got along the way. While some see it at the end others unfortunately don‘t, either way each story ends the same with the hero coming out on top and doing what a hero does.