Antagonists play an important role in storytelling, and knowing a villain’s motivations can be a great way to wrap up a story in a satisfying way. This is true of all media, and video games are no exception. A likeable villain can add emotional depth and conflict to a game. For example, the final boss fight is coming up. A player can begin mashing buttons through the villain’s monologue, scanning bits of important information, and being treated to a seemingly endless backstory.
But wait! Did you just say that you ripped off this oil company to pay for your mother’s cancer treatment? Maybe that will change how the audience feels about him. There are more than a few antagonists who give a somewhat valid reason for what they do. It can be an interesting thought experiment to decide what we could do ourselves in any of these given situations.
Related: Top 10 Movie Villains Who Should Have Won
10 Thomas Lamb (Catherine)
Katherine is a unique blend of narrative and puzzle elements with themes of romance, sexuality, relationships, and death. Lately, the men have been experiencing nightmares in which they are trapped in a ladder, traveling upward endlessly, and must climb to the top to survive the night. Those who fall die mysteriously in their sleep. It turns out that this is caused by Thomas “Boss” Mutton, the owner of the Stray Sheep bar. He is carrying out the will of a higher being by choosing men to send to the Great Trials each night among the bar’s patrons.
When confronted, Boss finally reveals why he is sending these men. He talks to his clients and singles out men in their 20s and 30s with relationship problems. His purpose is to prevent these men from hindering the population by reducing the birth rate, a problem that is prevalent in Japan.
Their reasoning is that these weak-willed and evasive men are wasting the time of young women who want families and children. Either they will survive the nightmare and learn to value what they have, or they will die in the night, leaving the young women free to move on and start a family. While this level of interference is certainly not excusable, the men he selects for the Great Trials are often not good people, making his selection at least somewhat understandable.
9 N (Xenoblade Chronicles 3)
A more recent release, xenoblade chronicles 3, has a large number of antagonists throughout the game. The most notable and possibly intriguing of the lot is the mysterious “N”. She is clearly a mirror image of the player character Noah from the jump, but her motivations are veiled through various encounters. Noah and Mio are an inseparable pair of protagonists who face it together, and discover that N also has a partner who mirrors Mio, known as “M”.
N and M are Noah and Mio from another reality. The only way they can protect the infinite amount of time they have together is to make sure nothing changes in this reality. Noah and Mio threaten that with their actions, so N and M get caught up in a never-ending cycle of chasing them so that their time together doesn’t run out. N is ultimately defeated by the pair, with the help of M. Still, Noah muses that if he had been given a choice, he’s not sure he could refuse eternity with his love either.
8 Morris (Stardew Valley)
the premise of stardew valley it is simple. Your character must move to a small town to take over the farm that your grandfather left you, and you must nurture it in the hope of making a profit and improving the town. When you move in, you’re greeted with the news that a JojaMart has opened in town, and many of the locals aren’t happy about that. Through the game’s main route, you work together with forest creatures to bring the town to prosperity and send JojaMart manager Morris packing.
Alternatively, you can choose to get a membership at the Mart and enjoy all the offers and amenities of the store. Doing so doesn’t actually change the town, showing that perhaps many of the townspeople’s fears were unwarranted.
7 soul (fear)
How much trauma must this little girl endure at the hands of scientists? FEAR is a horror game with a first person shooter bent. The player faces the consequences of a lifetime of horrifying experiments on a girl named Alma Wade. She was being studied and used by her psychic powers and forcibly used for reproduction.
Is it really surprising that eventually those psychic powers turn on anyone who gets in their way? It’s hard not to be sympathetic in this situation, even while you’re praying, his gaze won’t turn to you. She may be the antagonist, but it seems the real villains were Armacham Technology Corporation for the atrocities they committed, turning Alma into the fearsome being she is now.
6 Fireflies (The Last of Us)
The last of us is a heartwarming game where Joel, the protagonist, informally adopts a young teenage girl named Ellie as they work together to survive in the zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland that surrounds them. The game does an excellent job of building the relationship between these two characters, making the audience feel fiercely protective of the pair. These feelings culminate when Ellie is suddenly kidnapped by a group called the Fireflies.
Joel fights his way to save her, killing many fireflies. On the way to retrieve her, he finally kills her leader. He saves Ellie from being operated on and experimented on, but there’s a twist. Ellie is immune to the zombie virus that has infected almost the entire world. The Fireflies were going to use it to create a cure that could help save humanity. There is a chance that her death could help bring about the restoration of Earth.
However, Joel makes the decision that it’s not worth it; he must rescue Ellie. But there’s certainly an argument in favor of letting the fireflies have it. Are the needs of many more important than the needs of a few? This is the very basis of Utilitarianismso it’s safe to say that the answer is debatable.
5 Josh (Until Dawn)
What could go wrong trying to prank someone while staying in an isolated cabin in the mountains? Much more than this young group of friends predicted. In Until sunrise, the game begins with the group of friends tormenting the twins Beth and Hannah with a cruel prank, leading them into the woods. In their panic, they fall off a cliff to their death.
Josh, the older brother of the twins, invites the group to return the following year to participate in a party in memory of the twins. While there, the group is haunted by what they believe to be a serial killer. Josh reveals that he was pranking them in increasingly horrible ways as a form of revenge for the death of his sisters. He was clearly deeply disturbed by the tragic accident that took his sisters from him and blames the group. Other events cause party members to be injured or killed. Still, Josh never did anything on purpose except try to scare the group out of anger.
4 Comstock (Infinite Bioshock)
Comstock is the main antagonist of infinite bioshock, while Booker is the protagonist. The two characters are one and the same, revealed to be reflections of each other from parallel universes. Comstock is the result of Booker not being sorry for his crimes. Booker must undergo a baptism to be cleansed of these sins. Most of the things Comstock does throughout the game are inexcusable, but one choice he makes stands out to me in particular.
Comstock is unable to have children in his timeline, while in a parallel world, Booker has a daughter named Anna. Comstock travels between dimensions to take Anna as his own daughter and renames her Elizabeth. Booker finally recognizes Elizabeth as hers Anna’s daughter because she had her finger cut off when she was taken out of her world.
It’s understandable that Comstock couldn’t bear the thought of not having his own daughter. His logic may have concluded that Anna is technically her daughter, albeit from another dimension, so he may have felt justified in retrieving her.
3 The Queen (OFF)
OFF is a surreal indie game from France with a main character known only as “The Batter”. He is known this way because he carries a baseball bat that he uses to “clean” various areas. While many gameplay elements are deliberately left vague, the narrative becomes clearer as the end nears.
The Queen is the penultimate boss you must face to finish clearing the areas. She tries to reason with you, appealing directly to the player and hinting that The Batter has been up to no good all along. Your perception changes and you realize that instead of clearing zones, you have been blindly going on a murderous rampage. The Queen, although your enemy must be struck down, she is simply trying to protect everyone from your war footing.
2 Skull Kid (Majora’s Mask)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is widely considered to be one of the darkest and most difficult Zelda games. Link is fighting against a three day time loop to stop the skull boy from lowering the moon to crush the earth. Skull Kid only has this power because he has stolen the legendary and powerful Majora’s Mask from the happy mask salesman. The dark power of the mask is corrupting him from within and causing destruction.
In an earlier game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Navi has a text that reveals that the skull children are not happy because they no longer have faces. Skull Kid lives his days alone in the Kokiri Forest, so it makes sense that he would be attracted to Majora’s Mask. He probably called to him with a dark power, offering him a face and the ability to do whatever he wanted. This is a tempting offer, especially for someone as reclusive as the Skull Kid.
1 Hades (Hades)
Hades is the game’s titular antagonist. hell. You play as Zagreus, his strong-willed son. Zagreus is forbidden to leave the underworld, but he is determined to do so. He rebels at every turn against his stubborn father and must fight him over and over again to earn the right to rise to the surface of the earth. When he is finally able to defeat his father in battle, Zagreus leaves the underworld alone to make some important discoveries.
His father was hiding his real mother Persephone from him, and Zagreus cannot survive long on the surface. Hades can be a distant, cold and abrasive father, but he’s been trying to protect the family from him all this time. He loves Persephone and her son Zagreus. He may have been wrong about his protective methods of keeping them apart, but he was operating in fear of the Olympians. The game ends with the family working things out and finally getting close again. Hades may have been the antagonist, but by the end of the game, his actions become understandable.
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