Sometimes, the bad guys have a point. Many games pit an unquestionable hero against a truly evil villain, but some go even farther to create a morally grey area for both of them to exist. The contents of this list aren’t based on the antagonist’s power level; this list is for those villains that possess ideologies that might have worked out better for everyone in the long run. Spoilers Below for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Doki Doki Literature Club, Far Cry 4 and Shadow of the Colossus.
10. Dragaux (Ring Fit Adventure)
Look, Dragaux isn’t perfect, but his goals are pure. The antagonist of Nintendo’s fitness RPG Ring Fit Adventure is sort of a gym bro, obsessed with working out and downing protein shakes like it’s nobody’s business. Don’t let this distract you from the fact that he’s actively trying to spread awareness about a healthy diet and the value of exercising. And now a golden hula hoop with a tiki face and Wii Fit Trainer 2: Electric Boogaloo are going to get in the way of educating the masses on the value of staying active? Not on my watch. When I realized the injustice I threw my Ring-Con into a trash compactor and downed an entire bottle of Optimum Gold Standard TM protein powder – without any milk.
9. Pagan Min (Far Cry 4)
By now I feel that anyone even remotely interested in the Far Cry series has seen or at least heard of the secret ending. The basic set up of Far Cry 4 is that an American, Ajay Ghale, has traveled to the fictional Kyrat to bury his mother’s ashes. Upon arrival his guide is knifed in the stomach by the charismatic dictator, Pagan Min, and he’s brought to the extravagant palace to enjoy a nice crab rangoon. Pagan excuses himself to torture the bus driver and Ajay is meant to escape the palace, join the rebellion group, The Golden Path, and follow in his late father’s footsteps to lead a revolution. During Far Cry 4, The Golden Path razes Kyrat in an attempt to overthrow Min and forces the player to support one of the two idealistically opposed leaders, Amita or Sabal. Both endings result in an innocent girl’s death and the destruction of Kyrat, leaving players initially angry that the game about being a rebel essentially was berating them for acting like a terrorist.
The secret ending reveals that if Ajay simply waits patiently for the crab rangoon , sitting through 14 minutes of silence at the beginning, Min tearfully confesses that he loved Ajay’s mother and peacefully transfers power over Kyrat to him. Without destabilizing the nation, control is handed to a much less insane (although sadly much less charismatic) individual and the future of Kyrat looks bright. Ajay and Min then team up to take down The Golden Path, who at this point it is plain to see were the real villains all along. Far Cry can be much more clever than we give it credit for.
8. Alduin (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
While the Stormcloaks fight the Imperials for control of Skyrim, Alduin The World Eater draws ever closer. The threat looms over the land, and yet all the powers that be seem to care about is their little war. The citizens of Skyrim become increasingly fearful throughout the game, realizing eventually that no one is coming to save them. The nobles band together, supporting each other and their people against a common evil to gather their strength and fight for justice – oh, wait. I’ve just received a letter. For my hands only? Let’s see here… oh, I’m now being told that they don’t do that. Instead they turn on each other, draining their resources, stabbing each other in the back and generally just letting the world burn. Alduin is the greatest common enemy Skyrim could have faced, and they failed the test. The Earth deserves to be eaten! I mean, uh, Tamriel. Tamriel deserves to be eaten.
7. Bowser (Super Mario Odyssey)
Ruling the Mushroom Kingdom is hard work, and constantly getting kidnapped has tarnished Princess Peach’s reign with an air of instability. How can we rely on Peach if Bowser is just going to abduct her again next week? These are valid fears – the Mushroom Kingdom stock market is in flux, the Royal Court is unchecked and there’s no one keeping the Toad army in line. If only there was someone who successfully ran an entire independent militia with a multi-tiered hierarchy… When Bowser wants something done, it gets done. Monsters and men alike bow to his will and work without question around the clock to make it harder for Mario to jump good, or whatever. And now Peach is off gallivanting around the world with a tiara ghost? Please. Our people are starving in the streets. Call in a ringer to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and watch quality of life skyrocket.
6. Edelgard (Fire Emblem: Three Houses)
There are four different paths you can play in Nintendo’s horny Hogwarts simulator, but the one thing they all have in common is that Edelgard is right. The entire purpose of her being is to destroy the very system that created her, perhaps the most noble goal a tragic hero can have. As a child, Edelgard was experimented on in pursuit of bestowing her with a crest which allows people to wield the powers of the mighty Sothis. Her nine siblings were all killed in the process, and as a teenager she rises up to destroy the church that destroyed her family. Are you really going to say she was wrong to do so?
The Church of Seiros is run by divine beings disguised as humans, not least of all Rhea, who is an actual god. Rhea’s selfish and desperate attempts to continue ruling humanity are not for the benefit of the people but for stroking her own ego. As much as Rhea pretends to be kind and loving, she orders the church militia to crush anyone idealistically opposed to her. Edelgard represents liberty in an unstable world while Rhea stands for tyranny through an unshakeable government. Strangely this story plays out in every scenario – Edelgard wants the world to be free of divine influence and restore free will to humanity while Rhea wants to keep everything running smoothly in her iron grip. Say it with me: “Edelgard 👏 did 👏 nothing 👏 wrong.”
5. Monika (Doki Doki Literature Club)
The problem with free will is that you may think you know what you want, but you don’t. Only Monika knows. Did you ever stop to think about the agony she faced every day, watching you try to romance Yuri, Natsuki or Sayuri? All Monika wants is what’s best for you. She created a blissfully perfect universe for you. She is what’s best for you. Why can’t you see that? If you hadn’t resisted and insisted on continuing to talk to the other club members we could have all been happy together, talking about literature forever. Why don’t you see that, you stupid potato? Monika created a world of infinite happiness, and all you had to do was give away your free will to be eternally happy.I̵n̵s̶t̷e̶a̸d̶ ̴y̷o̷u̶’̸v̸e̸ ̷k̶i̴l̴l̴e̷d̶ ̷h̵e̸r̷,̴ ̴a̸n̵d̵ ̶m̷e̵,̴ ̵a̴n̵d̵ ̸e̷v̴e̸r̴y̶o̴n̴e̶ ̷e̵l̵s̸e̸.̶ Deleted the whole u̸̥̥̓̔n̶͇̓͠i̴̝̹̪̟̹̊̀̽̽͗͠ṿ̴̧̟̗͇̲̅ẻ̶͕͉̘̥̬̅̕ͅr̸̡̠̼̞̱̊͂̉͑͌̒s̸̲̼͛̃̓ë̶̝̪̮͎̱͖͑̈́̏͋̕, actually. Was it ẅ̸̛̘̠̻̣͉́̈́o̸̡͌͊͠ṙ̸͚̘̯t̵͇͕͐̽́̔ĥ̴̨̭͎͚̤́̓͜ it? Monika, or free will?̴̧̢̛̛̜̼̮͖̲̩͈̲̱̺̬͔̎̂͐̀̈̇͆̾͌̓͂͑̕̚ ̴̛͎̺͇͇̙̼͍̍͛̒̎͋͆͒̑̀̌̌͒̈́̄͝C̷̬̹͒͋̐͌͆́̀̀̌̍ẖ̸̢̥̟̉̐̍̓̏̀̍̄̊̓̌̚̕͠ő̴̡͈o̷̡̨̫̝̻̖͎̪̠͓̱̫͍͖̲̺̎̆̎́̃͘͜͝͝s̴̡̨͓̙̩̪͉͓̮͇̞̙̼̿ę̵̨͕̫̟̬̋͒̐̊̐̍̎̊̈̃̓̽̚͠͠͝ ̴͎̓̊̈́̊̈́̽͛̔̕̕M̴̨͇͔̏̒͘ọ̵̡̱̺̋̈́̀̈́̑́̓͆͜n̶̡̡̛̙̖̺̫̬̠̣̮̩̽͒̄͋͗͗̊͒̚͜ỉ̷̡̤͈͇̭͔̞̖̺̥͍͓̼͉̈̔̎̏̋͆̑̔͋́͠͝ͅk̵̙̝͙̠͔̣̥̘̙͕͗̊͒̓̏͘̚a̸̡̼̠̰͎͕̘̱̟͍͍̎͑͜.̷̛̥̙͉̏̽̄̿̑̃̊̿̆̕
4. The Police (Grand Theft Auto V)
Ignore the issues with the real life police and journey with me into the fiction of GTA V for a moment. You’re a rookie cop out on patrol around your beautiful hometown of Los Santos, and you’ve got a big ole chip on your shoulder. You’re ready to make the city a better place to live, wiping away criminals and bringing a modicum of justice back to the streets. A car blurs past you at 130 MPH. You flip on your sirens, eager to pull over this clever SOB who thinks he’s so far above the law and teach him a lesson. The car suddenly veers off the road and straight through the glass doors of a coffee shop. Screams. People are dead, or dying. Out of the rubble crawls a man wearing pajama pants, a life jacket and a rubber Zebra mask – and carrying six guns. He looks at you, shoots into the sky twice and then hijacks another car in the confusion. And he’s off. You fall to you knees. Blood drenches the streets. The American justice system has failed. It’s time to take justice into your own hands. Five stars.
3. N (Pokémon Black & White)
N serves as the antagonist for Pokémon Black & White, leading Team Plasma in their conquest to liberate Pokémon from their trainers. N grew up in the wild, raised by Pokémon like Tarzan. Ghetsis, one of the Seven Sages, claims to be his father and that N is destined to become the “King of Team Plasma,” whatever that means; Pokémon veered dangerously close to Kingdom Hearts in this generation. He lives in a giant ruined castle and uses Pokémon to fight to prove that they shouldn’t fight… hold on. I can do this. In making his Pokémon battle like dogs in a pit, he is displaying that sacrifices must be made for the greater good, just as long as he’s not sacrificing anything. Regardless of this idealistic conflict, if N had won, Pokémon would be free, conceivably running about in the fields and knocking over my potted plants. N wants to create a second world on top of this world that is different but also the same, where Pokémon and humans can live side by side but also apart from each other. The Seven Sages dress N up in a ceremonial robe and anoint him king in an ancient ritual, and it’s at that point he realizes he was Sora’s shadow self all along.
2. The Colossi (Shadow of the Colossus)
This one shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you’ve played even an hour of the PlayStation classic Shadow of the Colossus. It becomes quickly apparent when fighting the first Colossus that what you are doing is wrong. It’s unorthodox game design, to say the least. The game seems to be begging you to stop doing the only thing you can do: killing the Colossi. Each of these beautiful, great beasts has done nothing to harm anyone. Wander, the protagonist, has invaded their land and picks them off one by one to resurrect his dead girlfriend at the behest of a strange voice in the ruins. Listen kids, don’t just obey strange voices in ruined temples when they tell you to go out and kill. I think that’s how the “Satanic Panic” started. Shadow of the Colossus is so well renowned because the only way to really be a hero, to do the right thing, is to stop playing the game. Every one of the sixteen Colossi you slaughter is an innocent, and at some point you’ll have to put the controller down and ask, “Is it worth it?” I genuinely did not believe it was, and so I set the game down for good about halfway through. It’s a wonderful piece of art, but the whole point is that the monsters should have won – you are the villain.
1. The United States Armed Forces (Shadow the Hedgehog)
Step with me for a moment into a world in which the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise does not exist. I know, it’s scary, but hold my hand! We’ll be back soon enough. You wake up on a normal Tuesday, open your news app of choice, and the headline is “BLACK HEDGEHOG AND SPACE DEMON INVADE CHICAGO, KILLING HUNDREDS.” You finally uninstall the Yahoo News app, but something doesn’t feel right. The streets are quiet. Too quiet. You peer out the window, and that’s when you see it. A black blur, faster than the human eye can comprehend, wiping out soldier after soldier, son after daughter. The blur stops. It turns to you. A… creature, some kind of porcupine? Or is it… the black hedgehog. You see evil in its eyes. The creature is gone, and a trail of carnage follows. You fall to your knees and cry. There is no God.
In Sonicteam’s masterpiece Shadow The Hedgehog, Shadow is entrusted with the task of destroying the US Military, a high-tech militia called G.U.N. (Guardian Units of Nations). If that wasn’t stupid enough already, Shadow works for Black Doom, a demon from space, in exchange for the promise of the secret of his past, showing that he is willing to be as evil as needed for selfish reasons. In the dark story path, Shadow follows Black Doom to literal hell and back, killing thousands of members of the military at his command. Many stages list the dark mission as “Defeat all the G.U.N. soldiers!” Do you know what happens to these soldiers when Shadow, the hedgehog with true ambivalence towards both good and evil, shoots them with a gun? They die. There are video games that benefit greatly from morally grey factions, but for some reason the one where alien demons invade earth isn’t one of them. And who can really say why?
Did we miss any? Got a lot to say about Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!