Evolution and improvement in the gaming industry has always been dependent on two primary factors – creativity, and technology. While technological innovations such as MotionCap and advancement in graphics processing has led to improved visuals and overall aesthetics of video games, it is creativity which has led to the development of games with immersive and cinematic narrative experience.
Speaking of narrative, every video game that offers a good story needs to have a good protagonist and antagonist. Here, “good” does not mean characters with good moral values and ethical practices. By “good”, I mean characters that have an appealing backstory and an actual motive to carry out all the actions that are portrayed in the game. While the protagonist is the character through whom players get to experience a game, it’s the actions of the antagonist that sets the base of the overall plot.
Over the years, we’ve had numerous video game villains whose actions probably made players think, “I’m going to end this guy when I find him”. Let us talk about some of them and discuss what exactly made players lose their cool on these antagonists.
The Origami Killer – Heavy Rain
One of the less familiar, yet truly sadistic video game villains would be the Origami Killer from Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain was released in 2010 for PlayStation 3, and in 2016 for PlayStation 4. The game was a PlayStation exclusive but was later released for Microsoft Windows in 2019 as part of Quantic Dream’s initiative to bring several console exclusives to PC. That is one of the reasons why the Origami Killer is not as popular as other video game villains.
What makes him truly “sadistic”? Well, even though there are plenty of really bad characters when it comes to video games, the Origami Killer is one of the few that murders children. As portrayed in Heavy Rain, the Origami Killer is a serial killer who abducts children and drowns them in rainwater. After killing them, he places an orchid on the dead victim’s chest and leaves an origami figure nearby. Now that alone is a strong reason why players would naturally want to get him off the streets. At the end of the game, it comes as quite a surprise that the killer is actually a private investigator named Scott Shelby, who was a vital character in Heavy Rain. What’s ironic is that Scott took total advantage of his job and collected evidence from the victims’ families which he later destroyed.
The Origami Killer forces Ethan, one of the protagonists, to go through several trials in order to give him the location of his son whom the killer kidnapped. The trials are very risky and the way the killer calls Ethan and sadistically asks him to “prove” that Ethan loves his son, is enough for players to make up their mind about killing the villain once and for all.
Vaas Montenegro – Far Cry 3
Imagine you have a younger brother who just got his pilot’s license. You decide to celebrate his achievement by going on a trip with him, your older brother, your girlfriend, and some other friends. But while skydiving, you somehow end up landing on an unfamiliar island. You are immediately taken hostage by armed pirates and their leader tells you that he plans to sell you to slavery. That’s exactly what Vaas did to the player in Far Cry 3. Vaas is one of the most popular and widely praised video game villains, yet players would be very happy to kill him for good.
At the very beginning of the game, Vaas shoots the protagonist’s older brother, Grant, in the neck killing him. He also tried to kill the player but he manages to escape. But that’s not it. Vaas spends the entirety of Far Cry 3 trying to track down the player and kill him. Moreover, he still has the player’s remaining friends as hostages. As the player interacts with other characters in the game, they slowly find out that a lot of other people have suffered because of Vaas.
Over the course of the game, Vaas often taunts the player stating that there is no way for him other than death. In one of his attempts to kill the player, he throws him into a mass grave, an encounter which the player barely survives. Vaas is a headache for all Far Cry 3 players and anyone would be happy to get rid of him by whatever means possible. After all, he ruined the player’s vacation.
Raul Menendez – Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
The Call of Duty franchise is known for delivering a good narrative while giving players an immersive first-person shooter experience. When it comes to video game villains you truly want to kill, Raul Menendez would probably be on your list. He was the primary antagonist of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and has literally managed to piss off two generations of soldiers. Anyone who has played the game would know that the game’s plot is divided into two parts – 1986 to 1989, and 2025. The former part of the story let players control Alex Mason, the protagonist of the first game in the Black Ops series, and the latter part follows the story of David, Alex’s son.
Raul Menendez has tortured Frank Woods, Alex’s best friend, for months and has killed his entire team. Call of Duty: Black Ops players would understand how deep the friendship is between Woods and Mason and that they would do anything for each other. Apart from torturing Woods, Menendez later tricks him into shooting Mason. He then permanently cripples Woods with a shotgun by shooting his legs. This incident is more than enough for players to shoot Menendez on sight.
But Menendez’s atrocities aren’t just limited to Mason and his friend. Several years later, he manages to incite a war between the U.S and China, which results in Alex’s son David Mason and his team to begin a hunt for Menendez. During a mission, Menendez orders Farid, the protagonist of that particular mission, to kill Harper, who is David’s best friend. Menendez is an international terrorist, and both Alex and David has suffered because of him. He has killed a lot of innocent people. At the end of the game, the player has the choice of either killing him or apprehending him. Given his actions, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if players decide to kill him instead.
Skull Face – Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes & The Phantom Pain
Skull is a character with several qualities. He is a trained soldier, an expert spy, an intelligent scientist, and a charismatic leader. Skull Face is a hardened war veteran who knows first-hand what it’s like to be a victim in a war. His face was heavily disfigured in a bombing incident after which he was given parasite therapy by the Soviets to keep him alive. Unfortunately, he became the very thing he hated and started a project, the goal of which is ethnic cleansing.
During the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Skull Face has tortured Paz and Chico, who were basically teenagers. It was him who led the assault on Mother Base which resulted in the destruction of the MSF. During the beginning of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Skull Face sent Quiet to assassinate Big Boss while he was on his hospital bed. Skull Face’s experiments for developing vocal cord parasites has killed several people. During several missions, he sent the Skulls, an elite superhuman unit to kill Big Boss.
The Metal Gear franchise, over the course of nearly 3 decades has established a strong plot with heart touching characters. And Skull Face’s actions have affected them in one way or the other. Therefore, any player who has followed the Metal Gear franchise over all those years, or even newcomers who started off with The Phantom Pain, would probably feel better with Skull Face removed from the face of the Earth.
Vladimir Makarov – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 & 3
The Modern Warfare series, is considered by many as the best series in the Call of Duty franchise. While the first Modern Warfare game had Imran Zakhaev, an ultranationalist leader, as it’s main protagonist, the second and third game had his trusted lieutenant, Vladimir Makarov, as the big bad. Makarov has done way more damage to the world than Zakhaev ever could, as he starts a full fledged war against the Western countries.
Makarov led the assault on Zakhaev International Airport during the controversial “No Russian” mission. During the escape, he shot Joseph Allen, the protagonist in that mission, whom Makarov discovered to be a C.I.A agent. This led to a war between the U.S and Russia, which would drive the plot for Modern Warfare 2 and 3. Roach, one of Modern Warfare 2’s protagonists, and his friend Ghost was betrayed and killed by American General Shepherd, who was working with Makarov.
During the beginning of Modern Warfare 3, Makarov led an assault on Captain Price and an injured Soap, as they were recuperating. What came as a shock during the game is when Makarov ambushed Price and Soap which led to Soap’s death. It was then revealed that Makarov was the one responsible for the nuclear detonation in Modern Warfare. Makarov shot Yuri during the final mission of Modern Warfare 3 and was killed by Price soon after. I’m pretty sure everyone drew a breath of peace after the death of Makarov as the hunt for him continued for two entire games.
If we dig deep, we’ll find plenty more video game villains whose actions took a toll on the players and made them really hate those characters. But at the end of the day, it is these characters which lead players to replay the games again just so they can kill the antagonist and enjoy the overall plot.
I've been in love with video games ever since I developed consciousness and that love is what drives me. I enjoy playing games that have good narrative and gameplay, and occasionally join in for co-op sessions with friends. My goal is to become a QA Tester for any AAA game development company and I hope to make it there someday.