Villains are some of the most intriguing and fun characters in multiple stories. Regardless of the medium, a compelling villain always ups the emotional stakes of the story and brings out the best in the protagonists. Holmes has his Moriarty, Batman has his Joker, and Mario has his Bowser.
There is no shortage of memorable villains in the gaming world. However, it should be remembered that an ESRB rating below M should not prevent a developer from providing a truly menacing antagonist. Just because they’re in kid’s games doesn’t mean the villains have to play with kid gloves.
10 Monkey Island’s LeChuck is as menacing as he is funny
LeChuck is the undead pirate who scares all the other seafarers in the series to even take a dip. The story goes that he was in love with the governor of Melee Island – Elaine Marley. Unfortunately, she told him to drop dead – a request he eventually complied with in his quest to find the secret of Monkey Island.
He has slaughtered several privateers to serve as his ghostly crew and plans to take a chair made from the bones of the hero Guybrush Threepwood. Throughout the series, he returns as a ghost, zombie, demon, giant golem, and once as a walrus.
9 The Empress of the Nyakuza ups the ante just in time
in the A hat in time, many of the enemies the Hat Kid faces can eventually be placated, have traits that make them somehow likable, or simply turn out to be misunderstood. None of that applies to The Empress in the Nyakuza Metro DLC, which makes the diminutive hero realize that betrayal or failure to serve the syndicate will mean her instant death.
Players are forced to serve as subordinates in the crime gang mentioned above in order to acquire the clocks in this downloadable chapter. Like Queen Vanessa, each hit by the Empress results in an Instakill, so players need to watch what they do.
8th Maligula is the most feared psychic in Psychonauts 2
In the world of psychonauts, no character is irretrievable, no matter how hideous they may seem. Throughout the two games, players will delve into the minds of many hostile and seemingly ruthless characters, only to find that all they really need is someone to help them resolve their inner struggles. The mass-murdering psychic Maligula puts this philosophy to the ultimate test.
Long thought to be dead, she was responsible for the deaths of countless innocents, and some infiltrators within the agency wanted to bring her back. The ultimate revelation of Maligula’s true nature triggers several lingering plot points from the first title.
7 Clockwerk makes the other criminals in Sly Cooper look tame
Most of the criminals the Cooper gang challenge are comical villains who, while undeniably devious and dangerous, are not entirely without redeeming qualities. Clockwerk isn’t one of those villains. This owl aims to use machines to cheat death, making him one of the oldest and most enduring foes Sly has ever faced.
Unlike the other crooks, Sly has personal reasons for bringing down this mechanical monstrosity, as Clockwerk killed the young thief’s parents right before his eyes. Although the gang manages to destroy him, his followers want to bring him back in the following games.
6 Even death isn’t enough to stop Ad Avis’ quest for fame
Dark wizard Ad Avis seems to tick all the boxes for a thoroughly reprehensible villain. Petty and vindictive? Check. Murderous? Check. misogynistic? Check. He gives his first appearance in Arabic style Quest for Glory II Cruciblewhere he aims to summon the dark spirit Iblis in the kingdom of Shapeir.
Ad Avis uses all of his dark arts to achieve his goal, like summoning elemental spirits and mesmerizing the protagonist. Although seemingly dispatched in the second title, he reappears as Nosferatu in shadow of darkness, eager to quench his thirst for revenge on the hero who thwarted him.
5 Old Scratch does not forgive his debtors in Cuphead
It’s hard for a game aimed at kids to have a villain more insidious than Beelzebub, and this particular incarnation isn’t messing around. The game’s whimsical storybook intro establishes that mischievous Cuphead and his reluctant sidekick Mugman take a bet from old Scratch – only to show up and get a big, fat snake eye.
After the duo begs for mercy, the devil hires them to collect the souls of his numerous debtors before midnight. Should players manage to survive the game’s brutal boss battles, they will be offered the opportunity to serve as the Prince of Darkness’ minions.
4 Manannan moved Llewdor’s infant mortality rate in King’s Quest III
The instruction manual for King’s Quest III contains a short story detailing the origins of the great bad. Manannan was a powerful sorcerer who decided to delegate his menial duties to a child. Years after tricking a naive boy into becoming his slave, the vile wizard killed him for trying to learn magic and escape.
From then on, he decided that the children he kidnapped would be killed before they reached their 18th birthday. This cycle went on and on, with several children being enslaved and dying at the hands of the sorcerer. Players are tasked with stopping Gwydion from sharing her fate and thwarting Manannan once and for all.
3 Chara gives the player a proper comeuppance in Undertale
Players finally come face to face with Chara after successfully depopulating the underground. This handsome kid offers to undo the player’s genocide in exchange for their soul. Regardless of her decision, Chara gives the player a taste of her own medicine, forcibly ending the game.
Should players restart the game, everything will appear as before. However, when they attempt a pacifist run, their happy ending is yanked out of their reach – a reminder of what they did and sacrificed.
2 Pokey goes from being a nuisance to a nightmare in Earthbound
Pokey is basically Eric Cartman years ago South Park was even on the air. When introduced in game earthbound, he is a selfish and rude nuisance who has no friends. He becomes a temporary party member at the beginning, but when Ness and the group are told about the prophecy of four children who will save the world, he runs away in fear.
Throughout the game, he constantly tries to hinder the heroes in their quest, culminating in his teaming up with the big bad Giygas. He reappears in the sequel, mother 3where he loses any redeeming qualities he might have had before.
1 Kefka’s initial clowning belies his true nature in Final Fantasy VI
When players first meet this character, they could be forgiven for mistaking him for a clown resembling the villains from previous games, but nothing could be further from the truth. His criminal record is pretty impressive for a game originally rated E-10: poisoning entire villages to death, torturing Espers for his sick ambitions, and successfully bringing about Armageddon.
Many of these acts don’t happen off-screen either. A shocking scene shows the results of Kefka’s actions as Cyan cradles the bodies of his wife and child. It’s a testament to Ted Woolsey’s writing that despite Nintendo’s strict censorship policies, Kefka was able to maintain its sheer meanness.
Next: 9 Games You Didn’t Know Were Spinoffs Of Final Fantasy