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5 Memorable Antagonists

Nearly every game has an antagonist. Whether it’s a being of untold power, or your fellow man, over decades we’ve faced off against those we’ve come to love as well as those we’ve only developed a stronger hatred for. Today, we pay respects to a few of the enemies who left a mark on gaming in their own ways.

Spoilers ahead.

#5Yellow 13, Ace Combat 4

Fans of the series will have fond memories of Yellow 13, the unnamed leader of the infamous Yellow Squadron of the Erusean Airforce during the events of Ace Combat 4. During repeated encounters and cutscenes through the game, players were treated to a surprisingly compelling character that was known as an unforgivably difficult enemy for his time in terms of AI, and one of the more ‘human’ feeling antagonists for the time when the game was released.

He was also an honorable foe, expressing not anger or a lust for vengeance for the player, but a mutual respect, knowing they were just two pilots on opposite sides of the war–pawns on a chess board, going where they were needed. Yellow 13 would meet his end making a final stand over the capital of Erusea, before being shot down in flames of glory, a warrior’s end among the skies.

#4Mehrunes Dagon, The Elder Scrolls (series)

The Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon has been a lingering shadow throughout the entirety of the Elder Scrolls series. Motivated by a lust of conquest, and a need for chaos, Dagon’s goal is a simple one beyond the complexity he has used to attempt to gain it; the mortal world of Nirn, specifically the continent of Tamriel, is but a victory away from being his foothold in the plane of mortals.

While he is the deity behind some of the most infamous moments in the franchise, his closest claim to victory would come during The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He had a mortal cult worshiping him called the Mythic Dawn, and they nearly ended the blessed Septim bloodline that controlled the Amulet of Kings which was a necessary tool to ‘close shut the jaws of oblivion’. The only thing that stopped him was a determined hero (the player) and a son of the Emperor that had been hidden away none-the wiser. The two would face down Dagon when he laid siege to the Imperial City, and it was only due to the power of the Amulet of Kings that Dagon’s plans were thwarted.

#3Andrew Ryan, BioShock

Andrew Ryan is the eccentric business tycoon at the center of the jewel of the sea, Rapture. A city built beyond the reaches of global governments, with the mantra “No Gods, No Kings, Only Man.” A man in defiance of authority, a believer in absolute freedom for man and woman to pursue a life they see fit without traditional laws and regulations.

Where Rapture would see initial successes, over time Andrew would see his dream of this entrepreneurial Utopia start to crumble and he’d find himself becoming the very thing he hated as he tried to keep his crowning achievement from slipping away from him. Even in the final days of Rapture, as the population dwindles and writhes and pain and the city crumbles around him, he stands defiant. Rather than concede, he concludes “A man chooses, a slave obeys” and uses the player as a means to meet his end.

#2Arthas Menethil, Warcraft III/World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

When a desire for victory goes to far, it can drive even the most good-hearted people into doing despicable acts of evil. Arthas Menethil’s fall from grace began during Warcraft III, as the young paladin’s desire for glory, as well as victory by any means necessary, leads him to slaughter the City of Stratholme. Knowing that the city had received tainted grains that would turn those who ingested it into the undead, Arthas adopted a scorched earth policy. He didn’t wait to confirm who was infected, and who wasn’t; he killed them all.

It was a first step of many in his corruption, which would lead to him killing his own father after picking up a cursed blade called Frostmourne, and later still, becoming the dreaded Lich King, the leader of the undead scourge of Northrend. Arthas would stand defiant to the end of the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, and it was only then that his humanity shone through as he made his peace with his father’s ghost.

#1Big Boss, Metal Gear (series)

What happens when everything you stood for betrays you? That is the question that Big Boss had answered. Once a patriotic American soldier in the height of the Cold War, that would all change following the events of Operation: Snake Eater when he found out his orders were a mixture of lies and half truths. He would slip away from the country he once fought for, and with the help of interested allies, founded Militaires Sans Frontieres (Soldiers Without Borders).

A neutral party on the global stage, the MSF was a mercenary organization that gave home to soldiers that had lost a cause to fight for, or had been abandoned and betrayed by their own home nations. It was only when MSF fell victim to a trojan-horse attack under cover of nightfall, as Big Boss saw all he had built and many of those who followed him die in front of him, that something inside of Big Boss would break.

Following a nine year coma, when Big Boss would awake he’d be consumed with ambition and revenge. His goal was to rebuild in secrecy, and the only way he could possibly do that was to divert attention. His most trusted lieutenant, also in a coma, underwent facial surgery and hypnosis so that when he awoke he believed he was Big Boss. A sinister plot, and one that would buy Big Boss enough time before initiating an uprising several years later where he would seize a small nation with the goal of taking on the world. A goal, to give soldiers eternal purpose instead of being cast aside.

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  1. I’m not really sure that Andrew Ryan qualifies as an antagonist. He’s more like the spirit of Rapture.

    Arthas is a downright twat, but I suppose he is memorable.

    My favourite antagonist must be the Elder God from the Legacy of Kain series. His machinations and endless hunger are an ideal driving force for the events of the game. Plus him being voiced by the legendary Tony Jay gives him extra gravitas.

    Some honourable mentions go to Vergil from DMC3, Shao Kahn from the Mortal Kombat Series and Sandro from Heroes 3.

    • the_puggerz on May 8, 2019 at 12:47 am said

      Yeah, Andrew Ryan was pretty great, but wasn’t the actually antagonist really. Frank Fontaine was.

      It was played as though he was the real bad guy, but Fontaine was the real bad dude. In the second game he was just a background “character” (if you could a voice on a few tapes a character).

      He was almost one of the good guys trying to stop Sophia Lamb in Bioshock 2.

  2. Cameron Wallace on April 17, 2019 at 6:41 pm said

    I am very surprised that Handsome Jack did not make this list. Easily the most memorable villain that I have ever seen in gaming.

  3. mmetalfan on April 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm said

    One that has always stuck with me the most was Shodan from SS1 and SS2. Especially in 2 for me. The AI constantly teasing and taunting me all the way up to the final confrontation was and still one of my most memorable antagonist for me in all my years of gaming.

  4. GandalfSquad on April 18, 2019 at 7:51 pm said

    This list could be 25-50 if you want it done proper.

  5. ArdentVector on April 19, 2019 at 3:40 am said

    Jon Icarus from BG2 is my fav antagonist of all time

  6. jaysgambit1 on April 19, 2019 at 12:40 pm said

    Type text here…Handsome Jack

  7. LowSanity on April 19, 2019 at 1:43 pm said

    There’s quite a lot of memorable antagonists. Off of top of my head: Glados(portal), Bowser(mario), Sephiroth and Kefka(ff7 and ff6), Isair and Madae(icewind dale 2), The Master(fallout).

  8. rjkiii2526 on April 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm said

    Nice list.

  9. Braddah Kimo on April 22, 2019 at 8:18 pm said

    Whereʻs my man Handsome Jack tho

  10. Sad Handsome Jack isnt on this list.

  11. Mehrunes is probably my favorite on this list. The lore surrounding him is fantastic, and his entry into Mundus was crazy.

    But Big Boss is something else entirely, and realistic not only in story but in his vision. Great list!

  12. Sergio dos Santos on May 7, 2019 at 6:34 pm said

    I kind of think that Vergil was very memorable in DmC 3. Otherwise I would say Zeus from the OG God of War series.

  13. Not sure Mehrunes Dagon is that memorable. Tbh other Daedra are more memorable (not to mention one and only Prince of Madness) than him in Oblivion.

    I’d go with Master (Fallout 1) probably – guy is weird, memorable by both looks and voice, but also he can see sense in your arguments.

  14. Mandrothain on May 7, 2019 at 6:54 pm said

    I think basically anybody from the Yakuza series fits here
    Baldur from God of War 2018 was great
    Sephiroth and probably the whole Shinra Corp were pretty good antagonists too.

  15. martin2130 on May 7, 2019 at 7:28 pm said

    Soap McTavish

  16. Handsome Jack should definitely be here.

  17. leatherlungslucas on May 7, 2019 at 9:54 pm said

    How the hell did Adolf Hitler and The Third Reich from the Wolfenstein series get lost in the shuffle? I mean, he WAS one of THE most dangerous men in history!!! Flying bells, The Thule Society and all…

  18. Nolan Pinkerton on May 7, 2019 at 10:03 pm said

    Solid Snake is one of the most memorable protagonists ever.

  19. max.disciple on May 7, 2019 at 10:09 pm said

    Vaas/ Farcry 3 and Handsome Jack / Borderlands 2

  20. kingrockkid on May 7, 2019 at 10:37 pm said

    An interesting list. I was expecting Antagonists that range from Mortal Kombats Shao Kahn to Gwyn the Lord of Cinder in Dark Souls. To each their own though. Good Job.

  21. TedDBear on May 7, 2019 at 11:51 pm said

    Excellent list that elder scrolls moment is still epic

  22. pmadden225 on May 8, 2019 at 12:29 am said

    I’d argue that Altas would be a better pick than Ryan. Atlas masterminded your whole coming to Rapture, used you to kill Ryan, and then proceeded to try and kill you. Ryan was just sort of minding his own business.

  23. Neff or Magin from Altered Beast….. as a kid I never know who the hell this robe wearing dead guy can transform into some rather nasty things. Later in life, replaying I just smile remembering getting mad at that guy for ‘cheating’ by turning into a monster throwing his own head… CHEATER! 😉

  24. I think The Illusive Man is worthy of being in the conversation. He’s the hero of his own story, and depending on how you play things, comes to realize that he has been a pawn all along. Add in the awesome voice work by Martin Sheen, and TIM is definitely among the top antagonists of gaming history.

  25. kevin.arood on May 8, 2019 at 4:54 am said

    Big boss after MGS 5 is just a mystery to me, he recruited Chico a child soldier instantly but when it came to venom he tried to give the African child soldiers a chance up until they left with liquid, while in the background he left Miller alone to go after some idea and hope of some enemy that he never saw or met in the hopes of finishing some idea his mentor had.

  26. vancet26 on May 8, 2019 at 5:56 am said

    Honestly, the 2 tragic Dark Cloud 2 antagonists do it for me. Despite being built up as these intimidating villains, I always end up at least teary-eyed by the end of their respective cutscenes. I’ve played the game since I was 5, and I’ve done it every time lmao.

  27. vega1victor on May 8, 2019 at 7:01 am said

    Man trying to make a list for this would leave me sour. I would never be able to do it justice. I am surprised however that neither Bowser nor Ganondorf was on this list. Heck maybe even Truth from Halo.

  28. mauricio.neptune on May 12, 2019 at 10:39 pm said

    haven’t played ace combat nor WOW/warcraft series so i can’t fully agree here nor add anything. plus biggboss was a extremely good

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