1. GLaDOS – Portal
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.