Top 6 Most Formidable Video Game Antagonists

6 indiscriminate villains from the last 20 years of gaming

By LG18, Posted 30 Jan 2021

The feeling of fear in video games is a form unique to the medium. Games manage to bridge the gap between protagonist and player particularly well, making their fear your fear, and just as much your scary scenario to escape as theirs. Crucial to eliciting feelings of horror in a player are, of course, great villains; but not all are created equal.

Here are six particularly menacing antagonists that typify the plethora of clever ways games can make us unnerved, panicked, and appalled!


Nemesis
Resident Evil 3


Upon first sighting, it’s easy to see why Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis is so terrifying: 9ft tall, muscles the size of boulders, and with teeth, that as Neil Gayman might describe, are merely a little too long; Nemesis was the embodiment of a nightmarish being. It’s not just his horrific appearance that would have a player's heart racing, though. The developers wove the character into Resident Evil’s quiet, slow, and suspenseful gameplay to bring about unpredictable and stark changes in pace. Nemesis could appear at any time, and in any place, with your only option being to run. Knowing that this could happen at any time but not knowing when made Resident Evil 3 a masterfully tense and atmospheric survival horror experience. 

The visual depiction of the character was enhanced for the Resident Evil 3 remake, with Nemesis's intimidating aesthetic now glistening with grizzly detail. As far as villains who instill fear through stature and brute force, Nemesis is one of the greats.


Flaming Nemisis


Vaas Montenegro
Far Cry 3


Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro is an incredibly memorable villain, owing to the stellar performance of Michael Mando and an excellent script. Vaas, and the small empire he built for himself across the Rook Islands, cause hell for all who live there. Imprisonment, torture, murder; Vaas and his gang partake in it all, with protagonist Jason Broady and his naive and arrogant friends being as good a catch as they come. 

Carefree, merciless, and violent, Vaas epitomizes the chilling inhumanity of a thoroughly sadistic villain. He plays with his prey, taunting them with stilted monologues and fractured philosophies, and his overwhelming presence throughout the island means the player never knows when he might show up next - and what barbarous event may be in store.

At the start of the game, players are thrown straight into an escape from one of Vasa's camps. The frenzied sprint through the jungle, and the hair splittingly narrow getaway that follows, form one of the best intros to a game in the last decade. Vaas was the first of what is now an archetypal main antagonist for the Far Cry series - unhinged, unusual, flamboyant, and above all else, ruthless.


Vas Motenegro torture


The Xenomorph
Alien Isolation


Ridley Scott's Alien elicited fear in two key ways - the trepidity associated with the unknown, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small vessel in deep space. The film was especially good at conveying the fear of being trapped with something you have almost no hope of escaping from. As such, the Alien universe was the perfect setting for 2014’s Alien Isolation - one of the most suspenseful survival horror games of recent times. 

The undeniably terrifying metallic menace that is H. R. Giger’s Xenomorph is at the center of the game as it was in the film. This black, exoskeletal abomination is enough to evoke revulsion in anybody and is perhaps even scarier in Isolation than it was in the film. Set from a first-person perspective, combat isn’t usually an option. Protagonist Amanda Ripley is virtually powerless, with her only real option being evasion and escape. 

Video games usually give us something to fight back with; but the overwhelming power of the Xenomorph doesn’t allow for that, heightening the suspense with every tentative footstep. It's a deadly game of cat and mouse, with the Xenomorph being one of the most threatening predators we've faced in a video game.


Lurking Xenomorph


Irene Engle
Wolfenstein: The New Order & Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

The Nazi regime in World War 2 is always a harrowing topic of history to visit, and it certainly doesn’t get any rosier in fiction. One of the most chilling depictions of fictitious Nazi rule in the video game realm was that of Wolfenstein: The New Order, and its sequel, The New Colossus. The games depicted a scenario whereby the Nazi party won World War 2, having access to incredibly powerful, technologically advanced equipment. ‘Dystopian’ would be putting it lightly, and most sickening were the main antagonists.

Irene Engle was one such foe. Brutal and apathetic in regards to human life, and with an assiduous drive for all things evil: Engle’s actions throughout the two games and her delight in it all makes her one of the most detestable villains in gaming. Moreover, the firepower she had behind her in the form of the high-tech, mechanized German army made the prospect of the resistance’s success all the bleaker. 

Machine Games and Engle’s voice actor Nina Franoszek did a magnificent job of rendering this obscene character; she represented the deepest depravities within the bleak alternate future of Wolfenstein's Nazi party, and players won’t be forgetting her reign of terror anytime soon. 


Engle and B.J.


GLaDOS
Portal & Portal 2


Unlike most on the list, Glados is a menacing, rather horrifying depiction of AI gone wrong; while not as overtly violent in her approach as other villains, her demeanor is uniquely sinister. From the monotone, emotionless diction to her continuously brutal - albeit hilarious - insults, the scary thing about Glados is her learned ability to utilize the rawest of human emotions to bring about her psychological torment. While these are always funny, there’s an uneasy creepiness to the whole thing. This sentiment is echoed brilliantly in the deteriorating mental state Aperture Science survivor Ratman. The subtle juxtaposition between comedy and fear was a great way to keep the player on edge, never to know the true extent of the threat level until the end of the game.

Glados can be heard and can watch from virtually any part of the aperture science facility, to the point where she may as well be the facility. Truly the definition of the walls having ears, as the saying goes - as well as a passive-aggressive bid to end your life. We’ll never see another villain like Glados. She’s one of the most memorable and uniquely menacing antagonists in all of interactive entertainment.


GLaDOS Lair


The Combine
Half-Life 2 & Half-Life Alyx


The combine isn’t a single entity but deserves a place on this list for sure. The head crab and its distinctly repulsive method of species proliferation are enough to make the hardiest of characters wince, but the most terrifying thing about Half-Life’s universe is undoubtedly the ethereal nature of the Combine. Who or what the combine is, no one knows. We know the grotesque, grub-like Advisors are closer to the top of the hierarchy, but the true extent of the Combine regime is never revealed.

The Kardashev scale would place the combine as at least a type-3 civilization - one that has managed to master space travel and colonize other galaxies, which is a concept far beyond our comprehension. That’s what’s so scary about the combine. Our tiny brains couldn’t even begin to contemplate the regime of such a vastly superior being, and if this is the case, the prospect of fighting back seems all but hopeless.

Not to mention the human mutilation and enslavement we saw within the citadel in Half-Life 2 - that’s enough nightmare fuel alone. The combine is ultimately an unfathomable enemy. The scale of their miserable administration includes the enslavement of many other species - those likely far more advanced than humanity.


City 17

 

Do you agree with our list? What are your most memorable and menacing video game antagonists? Let us know below.


Linden Garcia,
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Capcom
Developer(s): Capcom
Genres: Survial-Horror
Themes: Horror
Release Date: 2020-04-03

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