“Ah, so the plot thickens,” are the words we’d usually like to shudder when turning the final corner to unravel the villain’s heinous plans. Instead, we’re often left with something more along the lines of “ah, so the plot just doesn’t make a lick of sense.” And that’s unfortunately one of the things that tend to happen when it comes to video games. Villains lack depth, and more importantly, a genuine motive that upholds their character and pushes them to do what it is they’re doing.
Bad guys just have to exist. It’s in the very code that revolves around the media industry. Without them, there wouldn’t be a climax — let alone a story to tell in the first place. But it’s when said bad guys just sort of exist and nothing else, that they eventually become lost and paved over. Without a strong motive to guide them, they are, in all honesty, just another cliché waiting to happen. Just take these five, for example. Here are some characters that are seriously lacking in the purpose department.
5. Bowser (Super Mario)
Bowser has long been the driving force of the villainous world, with his attempts to capture the beloved Princess Peach being some of the most iconic, albeit predictable moments in the history of video games. But while we’ve all grown accustomed to the notion of Bowser being the little plumber’s archenemy over the years, we’ve never really taken a moment to question why. Why does Bowser crave Princess Peach — and why have we had to replay the same old tale a thousand times over?
At first, it just sort of made sense. Bad guy catches princess, princess gets saved by knight in shining armour, and so on and so forth. That part we all know, as we have already known from the endless children’s books we’ve read during our younger years. But Bowser, on the other hand, just relies on that same routine like a bad habit, wearing it down like a stale joke. Something about wanting to rule Mushroom Kingdom? I don’t know, it all just sort of moulds into one long script at this point.
4. Shelby (Heavy Rain)
It’s rare that you suspect one of your playable characters of being not only one of the villains — but also the puppeteer running the whole friggin’ show. And yet, Shelby did a pretty spectacular job of swindling the plot and keeping us distracted right up until the climax where, lo and behold, he announced his villainous schemes. However, as much of a surprise as it was, it was also around the time that we lost all interest in the plotline, annoyingly.
Admittedly, Shelby had a rather compelling origin story, though I wouldn’t say it exactly justified his exaggerated plot to basically kidnap and drown children, to be fair. His alcoholic father, of course, failed to save his brother way back when, so in a bid to find a capable father, Shelby insisted on putting unlucky kin through a series of death-defying obstacles to see who could do what his father couldn’t. If they failed, then he would drown their children in rain water, similar to how his brother passed decades prior. Slightly OTT if you ask me.
3. Rodrigo Borgia (Assassin’s Creed)
What better way to reign supreme over all of Italy than to become — wait for it — the Pope? As if being the head of the Templar Order wasn’t enough, but to pursue a role as the Pope, despite having zero faith in Catholicism — now that is something else. And yet, in Rodrigo Borgia’s case, it was the best course of action in order to keep both Italy and the Templar Order on a tight leash.
After failing to retrieve the elusive Apple of Eden which, quite frankly, is the centrepiece of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Borgia retreats to Vatican City, where he pursues the role of Pope. Once Ezio confronts him, however, we learn that the Papal Staff he wields is, in fact, another Piece of Eden. Where it sprung from was another question altogether, and sort of derailed the whole plotline surrounding the Apple of Eden. But in that final confrontation between Ezio and Borgia, it sort of made everything that happened before feel somewhat pointless, and opened up more questions than answers.
2. Luther (The Warriors)
Similar to the movie, The Warriors video game also lacks depth when it comes to the plotline. It is, essentially, a cluster of beat ’em up levels that could easily be jumbled up and not make a single difference to the overall story. But that isn’t to say it’s a bad game. On the contrary, it is actually one of Rockstar’s earliest masterpieces, and a game that has amassed a cult following since its release.
But let’s talk Luther, the leader of the enemy faction, The Rogues. Now there’s a pointless villain if ever I saw one. Without a single motive behind his plan to have The Warriors hurled into a cat and mouse chase across New York and pinned for the murder of the idolized Cyrus — you can basically see why he makes the list. And I don’t know about you, but “I just like doing stuff like that” isn’t exactly the greatest reason for wreaking havoc on a gang that, up until that moment, had no feud with Luther’s gang whatsoever.
1. Carlito (Dead Rising)
Now, Dead Rising has been known to bury some pretty unusual villains into its murderous arc over the years. But as far as genuine antagonists with a reason for being involved in the zombie drama goes — I guess you could say that there has only ever been one. Carlito Keyes, the stylish yet unbelievably sinister plotter behind the Willamette outbreak.
So, why did he do it? Why did he go through all of the effort to venture into the Colorado town and infect an entire shopping mall and surrounding areas with a zombie virus? Well, it all comes down to a distant memory, in which his own hometown oceans apart was destroyed. In retaliation, Carlito decided to target a town at random, and put the virus at large. What then, you’re asking? Well, who knows. Mission accomplished, I guess? Just seemed a bit melodramatic, to be honest.
So, do you agree with our five villains? If given the choice, which five villains would you put on here? Let us know over on our socials here.