When you first come to consciousness in the laboratories of Aperture Science, the flatly lit and immaculately clean white walls paint a pretty inviting picture that is anything but ominous. A woman’s soft, electronically altered voice speaks over the intercom, guiding you to your next task and informing you of how to get from A to B. GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) begins as this helpful AI guide through a series of lab tests. Very gradually however, she turns into the most malevolent, and undoubtedly hilarious video game villain of all time.
As you progress level after level and prove yourself to be a worthy lab rat who is unconcerned with the intentions Aperture has for you, GLaDOS steadily reveals herself to be much more than an objective AI unit programmed to observe your status. She insults your past, attempts to lure you into test chamber traps, and even places an adorable Weighted Companion Cube before you, only to force you to destroy it later. Only Valve could employ the design and writing skills necessary to make you feel heavy emotions after tossing a block of metal into an incinerator.
The player and the outstanding game mechanics implemented in Portal ultimately take a backseat to the performance of GLaDOS and her hysterically witty comments and downright diabolical nature. GLaDOS is the only sentient being you interact with throughout the entire game, and it never once becomes trite or redundant. The relationship you build over the course of the test chambers amounts to a truly unforgettable experience as the AI unit attempts to manipulate you in various ways and tries to corrupt your very will to go on through the facility.
GLaDOS’ passive-aggressive behavior and comedic dialogue contribute to a narrative style that few games throughout gaming, if any, have been able to pull off successfully. Her wicked aims subjected players to gameplay that was as much a strain on the psyche as it was on the fingertips, and amidst all of it, she managed to vault herself into Internet meme legend with the ever-catchy, post-credits song “Still Alive.” If GLaDOS began as a simple guiding mechanism and means to progress the game forward, the terrifyingly hilarious machine ultimately became unforgettable company and transcended the gaming industry altogether.
Since the release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997, the RPG genre has been forever transformed and popularized in markets that were previously thought to be unattainable for Japanese developers. Few games will ever be able to boast the longevity and impact that Final Fantasy VII has had on the industry, and perhaps even fewer will feature a more polarizing figure than Sephiroth.
Originally a hero of Shinra’s SOLDIER division, Sephiroth discovered that he was actually a product of Shinra’s biological experiments. That angered him, so what does any all-powerful super soldier do? Destroy the village of Nibelheim and all who inherit it. Sephiroth becomes much more than a murderer of innocents however. The events of Final Fantasy VII see him attempting to become a god that rules over the entire planet by merging with the planet life force, known as the “Lifestream,” and taking control over it. In order to do so, he must summon “Meteor,” a destructive meteorite from outer space that can catastrophically damage the planet which would enable Sephiroth to merge with the exposed Lifestream.
If killing all life on the planet wasn’t enough to exacerbate your dislike for the man, Sephiroth also initiates what is now infamously known as one of the most shocking, saddest scenes in all of gaming. Those of you familiar with the game will know which moment I speak of, and will somberly remember the dear friend and squadmate we lost in the process.
Though the Illusive Man plays the role of helpful, guiding benefactor in Mass Effect 2 (after all, it was he who brought Commander Shepard back to life), he settles nicely into the role of antagonistic bastard bent on galactic domination in Mass Effect 3. Though he claims his only goal is to elevate humanity to its “rightful place” in the galaxy, he has an odd way of going about it. The Illusive Man remains steadfast in his belief that the only way to survive the apocalyptic extermination by the Reapers, a sentient race of ancient, massive aliens capable of destroying entire planets, is to control them rather than destroy them. Shepard, as well as the rest of the Earth, share the same thought process: both the Reapers and the Illusive Man need to be nixed.
It never becomes clear whether T.I.M. and his oppressive military force, Cerberus, wish to control the reapers for the sake of saving mankind or simply want the Reaper technology to exercise force over all other races in the galaxy. Regardless, T.I.M.’s snarky attitude gradually build up the your anticipation to kick him square in the balls when you finally come face-to-face with him, seeing as how he is a villain who deals exclusively through holographic communication. A bad guy cannot do anything more to piss off a player than to rob them of the opportunity to beat the sh*t out of them, so finally getting the chance to put a bullet between his eyes at the end of the Mass Effect trilogy makes the anticipated moment that much more rewarding.
The illusive and mysterious G-Man would be higher on this list if we knew which side he actually operated on. Perhaps the most enigmatic charter in all of gaming, the G-Man pops up at the most inopportune, sometimes opportune, moments across the Half-Life series of games.
Even to this day, more than a decade after the the original Half-Life was released, G-Man’s identity and motives remain almost completely unexplained. Throughout the franchise, he plays the role of the omniscient deity as he remarks on the Gordon’s progress via grainy, blurry mind-control sequences. He also clearly has the supernatural ability to control almost any outcome or situation that Gordon find himself in as well as the power to stop time itself (evident by the ending events of Half-Life 2), making him out to be a seemingly insurmountable enemy should he ever reveal himself as a villain.
The Joker is perhaps the most recognizable villain within the Batman franchise, and the performance of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and his unforgettable presence in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City only added to the character’s legendary stature.
In Arkham City, Joker is instrumental in just about every criminal activity and instance of trouble that goes down behind the walls of the massive prison. Batman learns from Joker’s doctor that the unstable properties of the “Titan” formula are mutating in Joker’s blood, gradually eating away at his body and killing him. The Joker captures Batman and performs a blood transfusion on him, infecting him with the same fatal disease and forcing the Caped Crusader to find a cure for them both. What a d**k. Joker’s ability to make light of the most grave situations and to squirm out of almost certain peril makes him a truly infuriating, yet very formidable nemesis.
Of course, the King of Olympus who has the ability to manipulate the power of lightning and do just about anything he damn well pleases, was bound to make his appearance on this list eventually. Within the God of War universe, Zeus initially aids his son Kratos in killing the evil and deceitful god of War, Ares. After Kratos takes his place on Mount Olympus, Zeus gets a tad frightened that his son his coming for his place and throne. Instead of having some cliche father-son chit chat, Zeus tricks Kratos into draining his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus. Kratos, stripped of his power, becomes mortal again, allowing dear-old dad to finish him. Unfortunately for Zeus, Kratos gets pissed by the concept of his dad betraying and killing him. Understandable. His decent to the Underworld sets in motion one of the most brutal, gruesome, and all-around epic vengeance tales the gaming industry has to offer, at last ending when Kratos kills his old man with the very blade he once forced his son to drain his powers into.
A defining characteristic of any legendary villain is the ability to deceive the player for their own personal, diabolical benefit. Frank Fontaine, perpetually stuck in the underwater dystopia of Rapture, put on a ruse for the ages in the original BioShock.
Initially posing as your old Irish pal “Atlas,” Fontaine uses his disguise to send the player on a handful of seemingly innocent tasks. You eventually realize that it is in fact Fontaine who clashed with Rapture leader and founder Andrew Ryan. Fontaine was a thug instrumental in organizing the gene splicing and ADAM trade that led to Rapture’s corruption and downfall.
When the player comes to the realization that Atlas is actually Fontaine, you learn that protagonist Jack was conditioned to accept a specific code phrase that would force him to act out the instruction that followed the phrase. Fontaine had planned to use Jack as a trump card in his war with Ryan, bringing him back to Rapture when the time was right. Upon learning that Ryan is actually your long-lost father, Fonatine triggers the phrase, forcing Jack to kill him with a golf club. Yeah, pretty messed up. Remember, this is all before he turns himself into a massive monster intent on ripping you to pieces. It goes without saying that after meeting Frank Fontaine in the beautifully oppressive and damp underwater tank that is Rapture, you’ll never look at the phrase “Would you kindly” the same way again.
Tough bosses are one thing, but trying to take down a bad guy who can literally break the Fourth Wall is a new challenge altogether. Metal Gear‘s Psycho Mantis is a wholly unique villain in the sense that his operating space goes beyond the confines of your 22-inch TV screen.
A shady telekinetic clairvoyant with little more than a menacing looking gas mask, Psycho Mantis does not pose the biggest threat upon first glance. He can’t shoot fireballs from his hands and does not posses superhuman strength. His most utilized defense is to throw commonplace objects at you. But the reason we fear him is not the fact that he can chuck a stapler at your head. Psycho Mantis will mindf**k you, the gamer, in a way that few other villains throughout the history of gaming have been able to. The telekinetic can read your actual memory card, analyzing which games you’ve been playing and how many times you’ve saved. He then even makes your screen go blank, giving the allusion that he’s erased everything you’ve saved. If making you believe that your five games of Parappa the Rapper are lost is not enough to gain you a place amongst the most evil villains of all time, I’m not sure what is.
Peter Chung, creator and director of Aeon Flux, rose to prominence through his creation of a uniquely kick-ass style of animation. He’s recently teamed up with animation studio Titmouse, which has left its digital mark on popular, animated cult favorites such as Metalocalypse, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Afro Samurai. The result? An insanely awesome Diablo III animated short that briefly examines the game’s lore before you drop hours of your life into it on May 15th.
Diablo III: Wrath follows the actions of Imperius, the Archangel of Valor, as he and the other four Archangels defeat the armies of Hell. Imperius is eventually pitted face-to-face against Diablo himself, and with the help of his Archangel companions, Diablo is defeated. Instead of imprisoning him however, Imperius slays the beast against the wishes of the other Archangels as they know he will return in due time. Enter your role in the Diablo III universe: prevent the war of Angels and Demons from engulfing the world of men.
If you haven’t yet placed your Diablo III pre-order, this short will probably entice you. What better way to get amped for an epically apocalyptic battle with the undead than to watch some animation by the guys who put out the most hand-banging, face-melting and euphoric Metal animation each Sunday at Midnight Eastern and Pacific? The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have a riff-ripping guitar solo headed by Brendon Small set to the action of the Imperius-Diablo battle. It it too much to ask for a weekly, 15-minute Diablo animated series to premiere on Adult Swim? Mike Lazzo, make that sh*t happen.
Mark Turmell, EA Tiburon’s ex-creative director and the creator of NBA Jam, no longer makes games that feature athletes bursting into power-up flames or delivering punishing, career ending cheap shots to the opponent. Since his departure from EA, Turmell joined the prominent social network developer, Zynga, whose Facebook games currently boast over 240 million monthly active users.
If you’re familiar with the likes of FarmVille, you probably associate Zynga with the words “money” and “patience” as many of the developer’s games encourage you to purchase additional content and subsequently wait for it to take effect in-game (which translates to a lot of real world time sitting on your ass). With Turmell and Zynga’s new game Bubble Safari, which will hit the Web tomorrow, you can play as long as your winning streak will allow you. It’ll cost “energy points” to play each new round of the game, but you get your spent energy back if you win the round.
Bubble Safari is essentially Zynga’s attempt at taking a fresh angle at the bubble-shooter/pop em’ genre. The developer is implementing power-ups like sticky bombs, lightning, and the game’s “on-fire mode” (allowing you to briefly blast huge clumps of bubbles) which spice up gameplay and prevent the title from becoming a straight rip-off of previous genre hits like Bust-a-Move and Snood.
Although you’ll be able to buy bonus bubbles if you’ve fired your default set and have failed to complete the level, as well as buy extra energy to continue after you’ve failed, you’ll only be able to do so once per level. As Turmell told Kotaku earlier, “I think it’s important for players to lose and be challenged. That’s unlike a typical social game.”
A Facebook game you can actually lose at? One that requires a miniscule amount of skill in order to succeed? It’s certainly an intriguing idea. Check out the Bubble Safari preview video and get hyped to follow Bubbles on his journey through the jungle: