What makes a good villain in a game?
Why do I love Illidan as the bad guy of The Burning Crusade more than almost any other villain in World of Warcraft? Certainly more than the Jailer, who is basically just a walking plot device, but only slightly more than I liked Deathwing — and I would have liked Deathwing a lot more if he’d done less I’m a big Kaiju with a weird obsession about mating with my ‘sisters’ and more of the whole manipulating nations deal he used back in the novels. Similarly, while I enjoyed Arthas as a villain, it’s fair to say that he and Sargeras share a general desire to prove themselves right at any cost, but Arthas feels more like a person — he has a personality. Sargeras’ appearances in Legion barely qualified as scenes and he never says or does anything that makes me care about why he does what he does.
So it seems that for me, a good villain has to be one that I can on some level relate to. Maybe it’s disturbing that I found N’Zoth and Yogg-Saron interesting as villains — I couldn’t pretend to fathom the motives of extradimensional corruption monsters, but they felt like they had personality just because their minions tend to be so extra. One of my favorite villains in WoW is Garrosh Hellscream — his utter conviction, his complete unswayable belief in the rightness of his actions, it’s compelling to me.
I mean, this doesn’t just go for WoW or Blizzard games — the person I consider the true villain of Horizon Zero Dawn (and no spoilers) is a really fascinating character with a lot going on and you like to watch him interact with Aloy. And I’m always gonna love Kefka from Final Fantasy VI because he actually won, and that made him compelling to me just because it’s such a departure. Corypheus is less interesting to me than Solas, the Reapers are a grave threat but the Illusive Man is an actual villain you can actually hate, the Cult of Kosmos needs the face characters it gets to make Kassandra’s hate for them make sense. So what about y’all? What makes for a good villain in a game for you?
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