10 Biggest Video Game Villain Cliches (And Why We Love Them)

Not all cliches are created equal.

Shadow of the Colossus
Team Ico

So much goes into creating a memorable video game villain - a killer design and strong voice actor, a handful of memorable motivations, and of course, a final boss fight worthy of their stature.

But video game villains are so myriad that it's incredibly tough for developers and designers to make them truly unique, and so even the strongest video games tend to lean back on tried-and-tested cliches every now and then.

Now, many video game villain cliches have long since become tired - particularly the widespread idea that antagonists need to be grotesque or deformed in nature - but others are actually oddly comforting.

These 10 villain tropes, whether pertaining to their actions and motives or the gameplay design of their in-game encounters, continue to endure to this day despite arguably being overdone in the general gaming sphere.

When they're executed even half-way well, they tend to elevate a game and simply make it even more enjoyable.

The lesson here? Cliches and tropes aren't always inherently a bad thing, taking advantage of elemental concepts that just work for the vast majority of players...

10. "It Was Me All Along!"

Shadow of the Colossus

Is there any video game villain cliche more howlingly predictable than the primary antagonist turning out to be one of your own supposed pals?

Though it can certainly elicit a potent eye-roll in serious-minded games - you'd hate to see it in The Last of Us, for instance - it can nevertheless prove to be a ton of fun in games more keen to embrace their own sense of silliness.

Case in point, Resident Evil's reveal that badass S.T.A.R.S. captain Albert Wesker had been working with the Umbrella Corporation all along was a brilliantly shocking slice of kitsch ripped right out of a sci-fi horror B-movie.

In similarly ridiculous terms, Metal Gear Solid had villain Liquid Snake posing as Solid Snake's codec support character Master Miller for most of the game, and in perhaps its most ingenious instance, BioShock revealed that your ally Atlas was megalomaniacal baddie Frank Fontaine the whole time.

It's an undeniably played-out twist in 2020, yet when a game manages to pull it off with sufficient sneakiness or self-awareness, it can really help tie things together with a satisfying injection of WTF.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.