Sometimes being bad is so much more satisfying. Occasionally in video games, we’ll find ourselves getting to indulge in all things terrible and villainous when the tables are turned and we’re placed in the shoes of a protagonist who doesn’t have the noblest of intentions.
We’re counting down some of our favorites where that’s exactly the case with our list of the 10 video games where you are the villain.
Wario, traditionally seen as an antagonist of Nintendo’s beloved Mario, has his own series of games that kicked off in 1994 where you can play as Wario, initially following his quest to get his own castle, which involves a whole plot to steal a statue and sell it to Mario in order to get enough coin to buy his very own castle.
As you can imagine, the plan encounters more than a few hiccups. The first game ended with Wario encountering a genie and based on how many coins and treasure you’ve collected, the kind of castle will vary, with the biggest reward being a whole planet with Wario’s face etched on its surface.
The Manhunt is a title that has been banned in a slew of different countries across the globe thanks to its controversial subject matter.
Initially released in 2003 by Rockstar games, it’s a stealth-based psychological horror in which you play a prisoner on death row who is ‘executed’ but then wakes up to a reveal that his lethal injection was only a sedative.
You are then forced to move throughout part of an abandoned section of city murdering a gang of corrupt cops known as The Hoods, all while being filmed by CCTV.
And that’s just the start of the story; it gets more intense from there on out. Reviewers called it a no-apologies assault on gaming standards at the time and a barren, a harsh, violent experience that was darkly comical.
Shadow of the Colossus
One of the most highly praised games to come out of 2005, and later remastered in 2018, Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful game in which you play as a young man named Wander who enters a forbidden land with the goal of defeat sixteen massive beings known as the Colossi.
This is all an attempt to restore a girl named Mono to life. With minimalist landscape designs, immersive gameplay and an emotional journey, the title has even been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and an example of video games as art.
We eventually learn by the end of the game that Wanders is believed to be a possessed man, and having killed the colossi was a crime.
Released in 2007, Overload is an action RPG where you assume the role of a resurrected warrior known only as of the Overload.
Overload can control hordes of gremlin-esque monsters called Minions, and your goal is to travel around and defeat seven corrupt ruling heroes in order to reclaim your rightful reign over all of their lands.
Here’s where it gets really fun though; the game has a mechanic referred to as a corruption feature, not dissimilar from the Fables titles, in which you can choose to be evil or REALLY evil based on the decisions you make in the game.
Party Hard is an action stealth title in which you play a murderer hitting up various different parties, with the goal of stealthy murdering as many people as possible at each event, infiltrating without getting caught.
You can use an array of different techniques to take out party-goers, like poisoning drinks, setting traps, and even making loudspeakers explode. If an NPC catches you in the act or finds a dead body, the police will be called, and they’re very difficult to outmaneuver.
If too many police officers are killed, special forces will show up. So all in all, the goal is to get in, get the job done, and have no one notice.
Going back in history to a retro title, in at this number, we have Rampage. You know, the old arcade game that was recently adapted into a film starring Dwyane the Rock Johnson? The film took some liberties, needless to say.
The arcade game first came out in 1986 and allowed gamers to play as one of three giant monsters destroying a city, trying to survive the incoming onslaught of military forces while doing so. Your goal is to reduce the city to rubble.
An isometric top-down shooter released in 1997, Postal follows a character called the postal dude, who has been evicted from his home, and believes that the US Air Force is releasing poison gas in his town that only he is unaffected by.
He ends up fighting his way to the Air Force Base, with the goal of each level being to stay alive and kill a percentage of armed NPCs in order to progress.
By the end of the game, after massacring those at the Air Force Base, he attempts to shoot up an elementary school, but his weapons have no effect, causing him to have a mental breakdown that then leads to the reveal that he’s inside a mental asylum.
Needless to say, Postal has gotten a lot of heat over the years, blamed for inspiring reckless and cruel behavior to those who have played it.
Grand Theft Auto Franchise
The entire Grand Theft Auto franchise is built upon gamers playing as protagonists that are morally questionable, and commit crimes. You’re playing as criminals.
So technically speaking, they are ‘bad. Sure, they’re dynamic characters, occasionally with more complex narratives than that, but they’re also ethically questionable.
Let’s take a look at the most recent installment, GTA V, which allowed you to take control of not just one protagonist, but three, Michael, Franklin, and Trevor.
Michael was ‘retired’, a part of the witness protection program, living a wealthy life in a mansion in Los Santos until Franklin and Trevor came along and brought him back into the game.
Franklin, already working as a small-time criminal, befriends Michael, who takes him under his wing. And Trevor? Well, he’s bat sh*t crazy, and has no moral compass whatsoever; something that made him an instant favorite amongst fans thanks to his eccentricities.
He also straight-up tortures a guy, who he then drops off at the airport once he’s done, which had a whole lot of uptight individuals upset when the game was initially released.
Hatred is considered to be one of the most controversial video games ever released, and to this day is often seen as taboo thanks to its reckless nature.
And Hatred puts you in the shoes of a genocidal protagonist, bent on taking as many lives as he possibly can before he himself is shot and killed.
In an era where mass shootings, especially in schools, is still a foreboding issue on the minds of families across North America, it’s a game that feels insensitive, one that some would argue even promotes that kind of senseless behavior.
Regardless of where you stand on that front, it’s obvious that the playable character, who is literally known as the Antagonist, is a villain, filled with hatred for humanity, and wants nothing more than to complete his genocide crusade, with his ultimate goal being to blow up a nuclear facility near New York City to cause as much damage as possible.
God of War Franchise
Kratos While one could argue that the most recent God of War title has redeemed Kratos’ villainous past (and straight-up made his character a three dimensional one, if we’re being honest), up until that 2018 release, the protagonist of the series was one acting out of vengeance, seeking to destroy the gods with no mercy whatsoever, all because they killed his family and ruined his life.
His quest seems almost ceaseless, and he never stops his hunt, pulling off some of the most violent and gory moments in video game history.
Perhaps that’s why the most recent God of War was so beloved, aside from exploring new game mechanics that made it a bit more of an RPG than a hack and slash title.
We have gotten to witness Kratos’ growth as a character, seen him as a father, and experienced a story that was largely informed by his past adventures and obsession with revenge and rage.