This is one of a series called “30 Days of Video Games“, an exercise on daily writing.
Follow the link for the full list.
Oh we do love our bad guys. The best bad guys make the best games, it’s really that simple. While a good antagonist isn’t all you need to make a great game, a well-written villain can make a game memorable, tense, fill you with dread as you play, and then, relief and joy when you, along with your protagonist, throw down your enemy and smote his ruins on the mountaintop.
Sorry, I was getting a little dramatic there (not me!) Let’s delve into what makes a, uh, good bad guy.
It’s a funny thing that so many games delve into the realm of good & evil. Most bad guys are evil, but a handful of games have got it really right – the best bad guy isn’t an insane evildoer with no reason to cause a ruckus (see: Diablo, or Wart getting all up in Mario’s dreams – omg spoiler!) but rather has a drive that the gamer can identify with. I would say that the best bad guys are NOT evil, per se, but pushed to their limits, or just opposed to the protagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the game, after all – it’s why your protagonist has their panties all up in a bunch to go save the world, after all.
Or… is that true? Sometimes the best antagonist is not the primary enemy, but rather the thorn in your side, the stinging pest with their own agenda that sometimes aligns with, and oft contends with your protagonist. Sometimes that pest is incredibly powerful but you just can’t do anything about it at the moment, focusing on the greater challenge or direct threat.
Sometimes the best bad guy really is bat-shit insane. But that great kind of insane that endears you as you just have to admire the perfection of it all, the pure beauty of their deadly plan, their grace in destruction, their plans within plans.
That’s quite the list, no? Well I think there’s one antagonist that meets those requirements. Her name is Sarah Kerrigan, The Queen of Blades.
Over at TFG’s site (who answered the same), I suggested that Saren Arterius, the primary antagonist of Mass Effect, was my favorite antagonist. In Saren, you had somewhat of a sympathetic villain, a rogue agent that had touched the veil and made somewhat of a Faustian pact in order to save the galaxy. Saren was pretty hardcore, a prototype that Commander Sheppard wouldn’t deviate too far from (especially the renegade version,) but with a coldness that was pretty brutal to behold. Saren ended up being a pawn of the galaxial reset-button known as the Reapers, and after Mass Effect, a footnote in the series. After giving it more thought, Kerrigan is the clear winner, and one of the all-time great video game bad guys.