The Greatest Video Game Villains of All Time

Last updated: 11/2/2023
6 minutes read

'A hero is only as good as his villain' is a line long used in media, and it might be true more in video games than anywhere else. The top video game villains aren't just beings we passively observe, they're active opponents to overcome. The best video game villains aren't just those who look great or act menacingly, they're those who truly explore what it means to be a test of skill.

With those ideas in mind, we created this list of the seven best video game villains of all time that you can fight. From the most evil video game villains to worthy foes with a more comical bend, these are the opponents you'll remember long after the credits roll.

The Top 7 Video Game Villains to Have Graced Our Screens

1. King Bowser from Mario

King of the Koopas, Bowser isn't the first of Mario's video game villains (that dubious honor goes to Donkey Kong), but he is the most memorable. This dragon turtle has been a thorn in Mario's side since the original Super Mario Bros.

Bowser’s hobbies include kidnapping princesses, breathing fire, and pushing players off the track while racing go-karts on a rainbow in outer space. Appearing in 69 games as of this article, Bowser is iconic, and apparently not such a bad guy. After all, why would Mario invite Bowser to parties or play tennis if he didn’t bring something special to the table?

2. Ganon/Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda

There's always been debate over how the world of The Legend of Zelda works. Is each game a retelling of the same legend, or does each title represent a new incarnation in an eternal battle? What we do know is that Ganon/Ganondorf is one of the most famous evil video game characters ever.

This might seem a little confusing to include two names but think of these video game villains as the same guy in different forms. Ganondorf is the name he takes when appearing in a (mostly) human form, whereas Ganon is the title taken when in literal beast mode.

While kidnapping is par for the course for this man-beast, more important to his overall gameplan is the theft of the Triforce. Once complete, he aims to take his place among the video game villains' pantheon by remaking the world. Of course, he has to get through a plucky adventurer in a green tunic first...

3. Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7

Final Fantasy 7 was the game that popularized JRPGs in the West, and Sephiroth played a huge part in that. A devastatingly powerful force, Sephiroth is one of those video game villains known across the world even decades later. 

Armed with this signature longsword the Masamune, and hair that is rumored to require an entire bottle of conditioner with each wash, Sephiroth is a nearly unstoppable force. We can't wait to see this guy fleshed out more as the FF7 remakes continue.

4. Dr. Robotnik from Sonic

Dr. Robotnik, or Eggman as he is mockingly known, is a power-mad scientist with no shortage of ingenuity and, apparently, funds. Robotnik counts himself as among the video game villains who face the most defeats, yet he never lets that dull his confidence. Sure, he probably could make the world a peaceful utopia, but he doesn’t want to make the world a peaceful utopia, he wants to turn animals into robots.

Dr. Robotnik is such an iconic foe, that not only was he played by Jim Carrey in the cinematic adaptation of the game, but his theme has also been covered many times in a plethora of different music styles and instruments!

5. GLaDOS from Portal

Borrowing heavily from the equally brilliant SHODAN from System Shock, GLaDOS is a robotic video game villain built to test the player's character. The problem is, she's a little too good at her job, and the effort into programming her dedication apparently wasn't equaled by investment in morality circuits. Whether taunting the player with non-existent baked goods or setting gun turrets after us, this video game villain is hilarious and memorable. If only somebody could fix her.

6. M. Bison from Street Fighter

M. Bison has been the long-running antagonist in Street Fighter. This video game villain uses Psycho Power and his shady Shadaloo organization to try to take control of the world. Noted for his ability to fly at enemies and rock a purple coat, M. Bison is a popular video game villain who so far hasn’t appeared in the latest title (thanks to being dead in the canon).

Interestingly, Bison is known as Dictator internationally thanks to name discrepancies between the Japanese versions of the game and those of other areas. Apparently developer Capcom thought they might find problems if they kept their boxer character named Mike Byson in America.

7. Vaas from Far Cry 3

Vass is an outlier on this list of video game villains because it’s not his gameplay that stands out the most, it’s his character. Vaas set the standard of memorable Far Cry villains, as he repeatedly questions your understanding of insanity, all while being the most intimidating character on an island of psychopaths.


Who is the most famous video game villain?

There are a couple of possible choices here, but by legacy, the most well-known of the video game villains would have to be Bowser. He's been a constant meanie to generations of gamers, and judging by his latest mainline appearance in Mario Odyssey, he isn't stopping anytime soon.

Who is the strongest video game villain?

This is a hotly debated topic, but of all the characters created especially for video games, RPG characters in video game villains can stand out the most. Sephiroth is a real contender here, with his Supernova attack destroying planets on the way to demolish the player's party.

What games can you play as the villain?

Some games let you play as video game villains in repeat playthroughs, as DLC, or in sequels. The most common way to play as video game villains is in fighting games, where boss characters join the roster to exchange fisticuffs.

Your Villain of Choice

This entry for video game villains might seem like cheating, but it’s always true that video game villains that stick with us are reflections of personal taste. From our personal loves, fears, or frustrations, the most famous opponents don’t need a home in AAA PC or console games to stand out.

The L block from Tetris might be your worst enemy thanks to bad experiences, and that’s (strange but) fine. Flash games in 2023, or what they’re morphed into, can also generate some famous boss encounters thanks to putting up a particularly memorable or fun fight.

We've heard people talk about dungeon bosses like Fire Knight from RAID as their favorites, while others hate Spider thanks to a general distaste of arachnids. No matter what gaming platforms and titles you enjoy, great video game villains are the ones that strike fear in your heart, or which pump adrenaline through your veins.

There are no wrong answers, except, maybe, the Pokémon Magikarp.