What Makes a Memorable Villain?

RPGs often have memorable main characters that the player feels a real connection with, but what about the villains? Sometimes the bad guys take the spotlight, and this is an important ingredient in providing an engaging story. With most RPGs dealing with saving the world from a greater evil, a memorable villain really enhances the experience, as the player has more of urge to defeat them. Some of the most iconic villains in the Final Fantasy series come from the sixth and seventh instalments and they both have several traits that make them memorable.

Kefka was a nihilistic and insane antagonist that not only threatened to destroy the world, but actually achieved it. Kefka’s list of evil includes poisoning the water to create a mass murder, killing his own allies and causing destruction to the world. While most antagonists seem to have a plan that they never quite put into action, Kefka wasn’t about to wait around for you to interfere, he was unpredictable and impulsive and it made him extremely dangerous.

Kefka was so memorable because he was a worthy adversary, you felt like he would stop at nothing to achieve his goal of destruction and you couldn’t reason with him.

Kefka: “Why do people insist on creating things that will inevitably be destroyed? Why do people cling to life, knowing that they must someday die? …Knowing that none of it will have meant anything once they do?”

Kefka was compelling not only because he performed unimaginable evil, but because his way of life and thought processes was intriguing. He was different to us, he was different to the main characters and you needed to stop him.

Sephiroth was another story, we first hear about him as a hero, the greatest SOLDIER of them all. Until you get further into the game you are not sure why you are against him, until his true past is revealed. Sephiroth is then portrayed to the player as a tragic character, as once he found out about the horrifying experiments that were used to create him, he goes insane. This makes Sephiroth seem more human and relatable, compared to the superhuman he is initially shown to be.

Despite this, the real reason Sephiroth is such a successful villain is his relationship to the main character Cloud. He was Cloud’s childhood hero, but after he went insane he set fire to Cloud’s hometown and murdered many of the people there. Cloud seeks revenge and the personal vendetta is what keeps the motivation high to settle the score. Once Sephiroth’s true plan is revealed and he kills Aeris in cold blood the player is so invested with the characters mindset that there is nothing more important than bringing his reign of terror to an end.

Cloud: “…Shut up. The cycle of nature and your stupid plan don’t mean a thing. Aeris is gone. Aeris will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry… or get angry…. What about us… what are WE supposed to do?”

Having Sephiroth tied to Cloud’s past and portraying him as a fallen hero made him an intriguing character and a memorable villain.

As the final battle with the main antagonist is usually the last thing for the player to do in most RPGs, its villains such as these that make the victory more rewarding and satisfying.

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2 Comments

Filed under Editorial, Final Fantasy Series

2 responses to “What Makes a Memorable Villain?

  1. Yes, it really helps when a video game has an interesting villain. I thought Sephiroth was a good villain once I found out why he was doing the things he was doing. Some villains are bad just for the sake of being bad, and that’s not very interesting. Bad people don’t really think they are bad. Sephiroth is interesting because I’m sure he felt justified for everything he did. And it’s also interesting when a villain started out good. I’ve never played Final Fantasy VI, but I have heard of Kefka. I need to play it sometime.

    • I also think that interesting villains are the ones that think they are justified in thier actions. Not sure if you have played Final Fantasy VIII, but it makes me think of a quote by Squall: “Right and wrong are not what separate us and our enemies. It’s our different standpoints, our perspectives that separate us. Both sides blame one another. There’s no good or bad side. Just two sides holding different views.” Be sure to check out that game as well as Final Fantasy VI. Thanks!

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