Many of the best games of 2021 have strong storylines, and those stories are anchored by villains who have either a bombastic stage presence or a deeper pathos.
Many video games live and die for their antagonists, who act as contrasts for the main characters or do most of the heavy lifting when faced with silent protagonists. Villains like Bowser, GLaDOS or Sephiroth stand the test of time, appearing at times outside the limitations of their own games.
The industry has been in a state of flux with 2021 still feeling the COVID-19 pandemic as titles are released for PS5 and Xbox Series X / S. The next year promises to have big releases like Elden Ring, West horizon forbidden, Y Breath of the Wild 2, which should offer strong villains. However, 2021 also has a good harvest. Major spoilers ahead for all included games, with the list sorted alphabetically by title.
Ardo – Cris Tales
Crystals It is a JRPG made in Colombia that attracted attention for its artistic style. Follow Crisbell and her friends as they travel the world to seek power and stop the Empress of Time from destroying everything. Although she is an intimidating foe, all her efforts are aimed at stopping Ardo: a member of the ancient Rena who seeks revenge on humanity for annihilating her people. Ardo spends the game in disguise as the lovable sidekick Matías the talking frog, something savvy fans can pick up on given he’s based on the Colombian golden poison frog.
Julianna Blake – Deathloop
Despite being one of the most nominated titles in The Game Awards 2021, Deathloop has a long way to go before it stays as positively as a series like Deshonrado. Still, many would agree that Julianna Blake is a highlight. She shows up quite frequently, using her role as head of security protecting Blackreef’s time cycle to kill Colt as often as possible. Players also discover that Colt is her father, and the two have great chemistry as she antagonizes him with hilarious dialogue throughout.
At the same time, Julianna can be controlled by other players, making her an interesting feat of game design. People can choose to “protect the loop” rather than break it, at which point they invade other players’ worlds to stop Colt. Brings an idea popularized by the Dark souls franchise in a more complex living world to great effect.
Anton Castillo – Far Cry 6
When a studio hires Giancarlo Esposito to play their villain, everyone knows what they’re getting into. Esposito’s experience is evident through roles like Moff Gideon in The mandalorian and Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. It brings a seriousness similar to Far Cry 6The dictator Antón Castillo, and was widely used to promote the game. His relationship with Diego and his somewhat gray presence as a brutal ruler who has some nice “side effects” – trying to cure cancer – offer a good amount of depth in any game but uplifting. Far Cry 6 to the next level. The franchise has always been known for its great villains, and while Anton is a bit more distant than the villains of the past, he continues that tradition well.
Escharum – Halo Infinite
Infinite HaloThe open multiplayer beta got fans excited who waited another year after its delay, but the story campaign in which Master Chief explores the open world Zeta Halo really did. Infinity special. Warchief Escharum, leader of the Outcasts, has been built since his organization was introduced in Halo Wars 2.
While Infinite Halo Establishes him as an archetypal gruff and xenophobic warrior leader, one whose terminal illness has him excited to have one last match with a legend like Master Chief, the execution is well done. It’s clear at the end of Infinite Halo that both the Chief and Escharum have a strong respect for each other, despite being caught up in other extremes of a conflict.
Toshi – Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits follow its titular protagonist as she travels to a sacred mountain shrine that will help her become a spirit guide, following in her father’s footsteps. The village at its base fell into famine long ago, and its leader Toshi lashed out at the God of Putrefaction to try to restore his homeland, splitting it into the putrefaction found by Kena and spreading the corruption blocking the sanctuary. Kena’s journey is as much about finding Toshi’s anchors in the human world and helping him find peace as it is about learning how to overcome the death of his father. Toshi’s story is a tragic downfall, as he only wanted to help his people, and overcoming these obstacles is what truly helps Kena become a better spirit guide.
Grand Unifier Raker – Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Although MCU fans may not recognize him, Grand Unifier Raker leaves a strong impression on Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy. His devotion to a faith that prides himself on assimilating other cultures makes him an easily obnoxious villain, especially when he joins forces with Adam Warlock’s corrupt alter-ego Magus to spread The Promise, brainwashing people for the Universal Church of Truth. There is a decent amount of pathos, however, as it becomes clear that one of Raker’s motivators is the desire to bring his son back to life. He is not evil or manipulative for the sake of evil, but rather acts out of simple human despair and a sense of incredible loss, just like the Guardians, Nikki, and others.
Raven’s Beak – Metroid Dread
The Metroid The franchise has a tradition to dive into, but few entries are based on narrative. Raven Beak, the main antagonist in MercurySteam’s Game of the Year contender Metroid Dread, stands out for offering Samus a difficult multi-part boss fight while tying up the loose threads sparked across the five 2D mainline Metroid games. That a third-party developer was able to give this 35-year-old franchise such closure is impressive, and Samus tearing Raven Beak apart with her newly awakened Metroid powers is probably something fans won’t soon forget.
Maligula – Psychonauts 2
Double fine Psychonauts The franchise is recognized for its management of mental health, and Psychonauts 2 The antagonist Maligula is an example whose story recontextualizes everything the player has experienced thus far. Maligula is the alter ego of Lucrecia Mux, one of the original Psychic Seven who started the Psychonauts organization. Born when Lucrezia explodes after accidentally killing her sister while stopping protests in her homeland, her psyche is already weakened from experiments on psychonauts.
The character is a bloodthirsty incarnation of Lucrecia’s instincts, locked away by the founder of Psychonauts, Ford Cruller, who reprograms her to become the adoptive grandmother of the protagonist Raz, Nona. She avoids the water because it would wake Maligula, although she is conditioned to believe that her family is cursed, and it is revealed that she covertly sent Raz on his journey as a kind of subconscious cry for help. However, ultimately, after Maligula wakes up and stops, Psychonauts 2 acknowledges Lucrecia’s traumatic experiences, creating an opportunity for everyone to recover.
Emperor Nefarious – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Dr. Nefarious has been a staple of the Ratchet & Clank rogues gallery from Upload your arsenal in 2004, even appearing in the 2016 film adaptation. His squeaky Armin Shimerman voice and ridiculous flaws are immediately recognizable, and his egotistical plans are always thwarted. That’s what makes Emperor Nefarious such a great change of tone. When Dr. Nefarious drags Ratchet and Clank into an alternate dimension where he always wins, he discovers that his counterpart is a near-perfect ruler of the entire universe; one with a stately design, an English accent and a truly intimidating presence for a Ratchet & Clank villain. It is a threat that needs two Lombax to defeat.
Madre Miranda – Resident Evil Village
Mother Miranda is not Resident Evil VillageShooting Star; That title undoubtedly goes to the vampire Lady Dimitrescu, whose mere presence captivated audiences. However, while Dimitrescu will likely live alongside characters like Nemesis in pop culture infamy, he only appears in the first quarter of Puebloexecution time.
Rather, Mother Miranda’s presence is felt throughout the game after she kidnaps Ethan Winters’ daughter in the opening. All the bosses work under her, and mother Miranda is a great player in Demonic resident science. She discovered the mold that has characterized Resident Evil 7 Y 8general narrative, while also inspiring Umbrella Corporation founder Oswell E. Spencer, inadvertently setting most of the other Demonic resident games in motion.