Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)

Blocky as he might have appeared in 1997’s Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth certainly made an impression on legions of young gamers. Infamous for plunging his ludicrously long katana into the back of fan favorite character Aerith, Sephiroth remains one of the coldest and most unsettling characters in video game history (and he’s even more so in the recent remake).

Ganondorf (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

While Ganondorf has featured in virtually every Zelda instalment in one form or another, it’s in 2006’s Twilight Princess that he’s the most terrifying. Drenched in midnight-black armour and wielding the very sword intended for his execution, Ganondorf lurks in the realm of Twilight as a banished demon, twisting his peons into horrific monsters.

Mr House (Fallout: New Vegas)

Whether Mr House can strictly be considered a villain depends on the point of view of the player – after all, surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland would put a strain on anyone’s ethics. That said, manipulating the world from the confines of a creepy life support chamber as a semi-mummified husk would be a step too far for most. Indeed, the game technically categorises House as an abomination.

Odin (God of War: Ragnarok)

In a franchise filled with staggeringly buff characters, not least ‘God of War’ Kratos himself, Odin’s relatively diminution and frailty is surprising. What makes the All-father so terrifying, however, is how he manipulates Kratos’ son, Atreus, in furtherance of his own goals: the stifling of Ragnarok and a path to immortality. Cold, calculating, and self-obsessed, Odin proves more vicious than any other foe you’ll encounter.

Ghetsis (Pokémon Black & White)

Where most Pokémon villains are some combination of wild-eyed scientist and cutthroat mafioso, Ghetsis is instead an Illuminati-robed magician who uses his son (“a freak without a human heart”) as a tool for world domination. Perhaps more striking is when Ghetsis returns in sequels Black 2 and White 2; once defeated, he canonically suffers a psychotic break.

Mr X (Resident Evil 2)

Treading a fine line between villain and beast, Mr X is a hulking bioweapon who pursues Leon Kennedy throughout the Raccoon City Police Department. Adding to his menace is his unrushed gait and imperviousness to damage. In the 2019 remake, Mr X is given greater intelligence and stalks the player ever more diligently.

Andrew Ryan (BioShock)

BioShock, as well as being a terrifying depiction of drug abuse and genetic augmentation, is a political tale of free-market libertarianism run amok. At the head of Rapture City is Andrew Ryan, who remains a true believer in his disastrous underwater project until the very end. Indeed, so convinced is he of his principles that he orders the player to beat him to death with a golf club as a demonstration of free will.

Bowser (Super Mario World)

One of the contenders for video gaming’s original villain (alongside arcade dastard Donkey Kong), the self-styled ‘King of the Koopas’ has become a goofier and more inept bad guy in recent years. In SNES classic Super Mario World, however, Bowser appears as a vicious demon with a seemingly random and certainly unhealthy obsession with clowns.

Professor Pyg (Batman: Arkham Knight)

While Lazlo Valentin, aka Professor Pyg, first made an appearance in comics, there’s no doubt that his most memorable incarnation is in 2015 Batman bone-cruncher Arkham Knight. Pyg is a deeply disturbed scientist who creates agendered, brainwashed ‘Dollotrons’ from vulnerable human subjects while snorting and singing opera. Less camp than much of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, Pyg ranks among gaming’s most disturbed and disturbing antagonists.

M Bison (Street Fighter II)

Muy Thai enforcer Sagat serves as the final boss of the original Street Fighter, but it wasn’t until the second instalment that fighting game fans would meet Shadloo’s true head honcho. Depicted with white eyes and noticeably despot-inspired attire, Bison seeks to achieve immortality and world domination through his so-called ‘Psycho Power.’