5 Video Game Villains You Should Have Been Rooting For
Video game bosses, by definition, are supposed to give you the biggest fight of the game to that point. You've just made your way through countless obstacles and henchmen, and you want to battle the big kahuna with every skill, weapon, and strategy at your disposal. But every now and then what you anticipate to be the gaming equivalent of a 15-round knock-down, drag-out battle with Muhammad Ali ends up being more like a scuffle with a blindfolded toddler, whom you wind up just feeling bad for.
Super Mario Galaxy -- Hatch a Baby, Immediately Kill Him
The Super Mario franchise follows the same logic as the Friday the 13th movies -- when things start getting stale, send your main character to space. The end result is so whimsical and fun that by the time you defeat Bowser for the 500th time you'll have completely forgotten that your amazing adventure kicked off with the brutal murder of the first boss. Meet Dino Piranha, who's not exactly the most threatening foe Mario has ever faced.
As a general rule, not having eyes places you at a disadvantage.
Those of you familiar with piranha plant physiology will note that he looks rather young. That's because when you encounter him he's peacefully incubating in his egg. At this point you and your violent plumber avatar slam into the egg at an incredible speed, cracking its delicate exterior.
If Peach wants a space omelet, she gets a damn space omelet.
With the shell still partially intact, the poor newborn stands upright and begins wandering around with his tail trailing behind him.
"Ah, the miracle of life. Well, time to beat the shit out of it."
Blind, aimless, and undoubtedly terrified of the sudden harsh reality that's just been thrust upon him, Dino gets his second trouncing when Mario knocks his tail into the sky. The elastic appendage comes careening back into the egg, shattering the only remaining barrier between the baby and the horrible outside world that, as far as he's concerned, means only to kill him in a painful and humiliating manner.
Dino then stomps around the little planetoid in pain and confusion in an attempt to kill the man who forced him into this miserable existence before he even had the chance to fully develop. Mario, giving few to no fucks, continues to launch the blind baby's tail into the stratosphere, where it now comes crashing down onto Dino's soft, mushy head. Carnivorous dinosaur plant or not, we can't think of a more ridiculously cruel fate for a baby than being beaten to death with its own tail.
"Why? Why was I born to only feel pain?!"
After three hits, Dino Piranha goes down like a bloated sack of potatoes, screaming and exploding into a brilliant purple cloud. Call that a fulfilling life, do you, Mario?
"It's a-me, your greatest nightmare!"
Your reward for committing infanticide is a power star you'll feel dirty about collecting. That's right, gamers. If you go out of your way to prematurely hatch an egg that was minding its own business on an isolated planetoid, and then enrage and destroy the blind and innocent child within, you're a star! Do that in real life and you'd be labeled a psychopath, and yet Mario is still allowed to golf on the Mushroom Circuit without creating a scandal.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater -- Wear the Face of Your Enemy's Dead Lover
The villain of Metal Gear Solid 3 is Colonel Volgin. He's not as helpless as the monster baby above. He beats his girlfriend, he tortures people to death, he electrocutes you until you piss yourself, and, oh yeah, he nukes his Soviet homeland. He's kind of a dick, to be sure.
"Compensating? Oh, you haven't even begun to see the meaning of that word."
But the way you end up beating him is almost as bad. Volgin has the ability to manipulate electricity, which you can nullify with water or, uh, mushrooms (don't try that at home, kids, or at least don't say that you heard it from us). Or, you can mess with his head in a few ways that range from bizarre to nightmarish.
First, you can throw a frog at him. No, really -- the badass psychopathic Soviet colonel is scared of frogs. If you capture one and carry it around in your back pocket for half the game you can throw it at him. He'll leap out of the way and focus his attacks on it, allowing you to get in a couple of cheap shots by turning a terrifying killer into a wimpy kid. It's presumably only a matter of time before the frog gets his own spinoff game where we learn its gritty origins and that it was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
But that's nothing compared with the other psychological tactic you can employ. The game has a special mask that allows you to disguise yourself as a character named Ivan Raikov, who just happens to be one of Volgin's lovers. Earlier in the game, you beat up and shove Raikov into a locker (or just kill him).
Apparently, J-Pop members join the Soviet Army after retirement.
So if you show up to the boss battle with the Ivan mask on, Volgin will stop and say, "Ivan!?" As in, he's relieved to see his missing lover alive and well:
"I'm so glad you're OK! Hey, what's with the gun?"
As you get closer, his relief is palpable: "Ivan, is it really you!?" It seems too good to be true. He lets his guard down, wanting to believe.
"Nope! That will teach you to love, nerd!"
And it is too good to be true, for he should know that video games are a cruel universe in which tragedy pervades the very air he breathes. The traumatized man watches as "Ivan" -- that is, you -- attacks him. Volgin can only stand helpless in his haze of grief and betrayal, as he is slammed to the floor.
Right in the emotions. And the spinal column.
Finally realizing he is dealing with an enemy even lower than himself, Volgin rises and shouts a completely justified, "How dare you!!" before flying into a rage.
At this point he abandons all strategy and tries to ram your face off. Then, if you do your job right, you can beat him so hard that he winds up literally vomiting blood on the floor ...
He's vomiting up his broken heart.
... while his attacker strolls away, staring down at him from behind the lifeless, disembodied face of his missing lover. Victory!
Resident Evil Code: Veronica -- Literally Shooting Fish in a Barrel
Resident Evil: This Time the Zombies Are on an Island features three characters investigating the evil pharmaceutical company Umbrella's secret research facility/Guantanamo Bay-style prison camp, because apparently drug companies have those. During your struggle with the undead, an insane cross-dressing aristocrat with a split personality, and bad voice acting, you'll discover Umbrella's most horrifying bioweapon yet -- salamanders. Electric zombie salamanders.
We think we just found a new band name and logo.
Umbrella christened it the Albinoid, because they are bad at naming things. You first encounter them as babies while appeasing the fetch-quest gods -- a bunch of lil' Noids break out of containment, shock you both figuratively and literally, and scamper away. And that's all you'll see of them for quite some time, although you can find multiple notes that emphasize how tough and deadly they are. You later take another character through the same facility, since designing new areas is hard, and you'll encounter the king of the Albinoids: a fully grown mini-boss version of the creature hanging out in a pool of water that just happens to contain an item you need.
It certainly seems to live up to its badass reputation, as the big guy stomps around and shoots off electricity. An elementally charged, territorial, and vicious mutant versus a highly trained and experienced soldier? Should be a good fight.
And it would be, if you're noble and/or stupid enough to actually get in the water with it. But the pond has a path around it that the Albinoid can't climb onto or attack, and you have a gun. So the hyped-up fight with an ominous soundtrack comes down to you standing around and shooting the Albinoid whenever it swims by, while it threatens you with nothing worse than the embarrassment of a splash that makes it look like you peed yourself.
We're surprised "like shooting salamanders in a pond" didn't catch on as video game lingo.
It just paints a completely different picture of the situation -- a very sad one. The poor creature didn't ask for any of this. He was just a chill little lizard before scientists decided that mutating him was the fastest way to tell God to go fuck himself. He doesn't seek a fight, he just made a home for himself in the basement, and you came up and shot him in the face from the safety of the ledge while he was doing his daily laps.
In fact, you don't even have to fight him -- you can run in, grab the item and leave before he can get off more than one or two attacks, leaving the abomination born of mad science to his little abode. At least you feel less guilty that way.
Soulcalibur IV -- Make a Hero King Fall Hilariously to His Death, Repeatedly
Soulcalibur, the fighting game series known for its female characters with a comical lack of armor concealing their comically large breasts (well, one of the eight series known for that) is about a bunch of people wailing on each other to try to gain control of the evil sword Soul Edge. Every game introduces a new final boss who's been corrupted by the sword, and in IV that character is Algol.
"When you commit this much evil, you don't have time for pants."
Despite looking like he was recruited from an Ancient Greek-themed strip club, Algol's probably the most powerful character the game's ridiculous story has ever seen. The ancient "Hero King" is able to control the evil sword that everyone inexplicably wants despite the fact that it makes you go on murder sprees, and he created the game's titular counterpart sword of legendary goodness. Taming evil and inventing nice pretty much gives you carte blanche to lounge around in a loincloth.
But he turns evil for reasons too stupid to get into here, and the game's single-player modes end with you fighting him on top of a massive tower. He's exactly as tough as you'd expect a demigod to be -- he has a massive reach, he's quick, he hits like a truck full of pieces of other trucks, and he has three times your health.
And you can beat him by lying down at the edge of the stage and waiting for him to kill himself.
Seriously, that's it. You've won. The immortal hero who's older than civilization will be perplexed by your apparent submission and attempt his patented "somersault over your head and stab you in your back with his wings" attack, somehow forgetting that his own damn tower doesn't have guardrails. He'll fall off and gift you an easy instant win every single time, because while the game won't let you win by knocking him off the stage it forgets to check for self-inflicted falls.
The only way to lie down is to be knocked down by your opponent, which means that what should be an epic final battle between good and evil on top of the world quickly degenerates into your hero purposely getting his ass kicked so he'll collapse and open up a chance for evil incarnate to showboat and fail miserably. That's not how you should defeat pure darkness -- that's how you should defeat a snooty rival cheerleading team in a Disney comedy.
Assassin's Creed II -- Fistfight the Elderly Pope
In Assassin's Creed II, you play as assassin Ezio Auditore during the height of the Italian Renaissance. Ezio is embroiled in a complicated story featuring aliens and pseudo-time travel through genetics that you'll completely ignore in favor of dive-bombing Venetian gondoliers.
"This is for keeping me up with your damn singing!"
But the main point of the story is that assassins are good and Templars are bad. The two sides are fighting a secret war, and you and Ezio kill several high-ranking Templars by using the full extent of your centuries-old assassination skills to stab them in broad daylight and run away really fast.
The game culminates in a showdown with the leader of the Templars himself, a man bent on controlling all of humanity. That's badass ... except you're a trained killer in the prime of his life, and your opponent is an overweight 68-year-old man by the name of Rodrigo Borgia. Doesn't ring any bells? Maybe you know him by another name: Pope Alexander VI.
"The power of Christ compels you to go easy on me."
The first phase of the fight involves Borgia using a mystical artifact to summon magical clones of himself, but magic aside, they're still clones of a chubby senior citizen, and Ezio has little trouble dispatching them. At this point Borgia flees, and when you corner him you resort to good old-fashioned fisticuffs. Literally nothing about this fight makes a player feel heroic, right down to the fact that Ezio is garbed in jet black while the pope is wearing a glowing white gown.
And "The Rumble in the Vatican Basement" doesn't have much of a ring to it.
The duel amounts to little more than watching Ezio effortlessly land punch after punch while the pope stumbles pathetically backwards like your drunk grandfather on Christmas.
If you're feeling particularly anti-religious, you can even land a few cheap knees to the pope's holy trinity. Ezio starts the fight by taunting, "Let us see what you are made of, old man," fully aware that the answer is "mostly pie and frailty." Just be glad you don't have to land a fatal blow -- Ezio eventually takes mercy, although that's after he gets the pope in an aggressive choke-hold and slams his decrepit old body into the cold, hard ground.
"After I'm done you're going to need a prostate reformation."
That's the problem with making historical figures action-game villains -- Borgia may have been corrupt, but it's hard to beat a master assassin to death with papal decrees and a reputation as an arts patron.
For more on video game baddies, check out 5 Famous Video Game Villains (Who Are Actually the Victim). And then check out If Video Game Characters Found More Practical Solutions.