As we begin to enter the season of Autumn by grabbing our jackets as we walk out the front door, it dawned on me that this is the final massive video game release window of the decade. The years 2010-2019 have seen the release of a new generation of consoles, games that moved us to tears just as much as they enraged us (because, and let’s be honest, it’s never because the other player is better than us, right?), and provided us with some of the greatest set pieces in entertainment across all platforms of media. With this weekly series, I’ll be diving deep into what made this decade so memorable.
Kicking things off this week, we have the guys you love to hate and, sometimes, hate that you love: these are 5 of the decade’s most iconic villains. I am classing the following ‘nasties’ as iconic because of the lasting impression made by their evil actions, menacing demeanours and spine-chilling lines.
There will be spoilers regarding these characters so * SPOILER WARNING*.
I must also place a disclaimer here. There are reasons these villains made this list, so if you are squeamish or offended by shocking acts of violence, please tread carefully.
Vaas Montenegro, Far Cry 3
He defined insanity for us. He demonstrated the brutality of Rook Island’s inhabitants. He was killed too soon… The duality between Vaas and Jason, the protagonist, is at the centre of the game’s story about how the jungle changes an ordinary man into a killer. After his untimely death, you start becoming Vaas, living only for the thrill of the hunt and the rush of being de facto king of Rook Island.
Frau Irene Engel, Wolfenstein: The New Order & The New Colossus
You would think a giant mech crushing any Nazi’s face would just about finish them off, no? Well, Irene Engel is no ordinary Nazi. Her passion for punishing anyone who isn’t a member of the so-called master race is unrivaled, a passion we become fully aware of when she is shown taking her ‘purity test’ in The New Order. After killing her boy-toy Bubi, her lust for vengeance is only quenched when she holds BJ Blazkowicz’s head in her very hands. We should have known she had a thing for heads after decapitating (and not to mention, mutilating) Caroline’s at the beginning of the game. The sensation from splitting her head open can only be derived from what a fantastic villain she was.
Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2, The PreSequel & Tales From The Borderlands
The would-be saviour of Pandora, or in his perception at least. It wasn’t the killing of Roland or the imprisonment of Angel that made Jack iconic, sure they made him a true narcissistic villain, but it was his numerous ECHO calls that made him ICONIC. Naming his pony made of diamonds ‘Butt Stallion’, timing a sarcastic violin solo very poorly, laughing whilst he recounts the events of scooping a civilian’s eyes out with the very spoon he charged at him with and last but definitely not last, asking you to rescue his abusive grandmother as part of an elaborate plan to have you confirm his mercenaries killed her! These are but few of the reasons Handsome Jack is so unforgettable.
Joker, Batman Arkham Asylum, City & Knight
I don’t feel I need to explain why the Clown Prince of Crime is present on this list. The Joker is an icon. PERIOD. Mark Hamill channels the character’s deep and complicated layers of insanity within his cackle alone. We know both Bats and Joker are on two different sides of the same coin, one cannot exist without the other. Asylum and City discussed themes we’ve all heard a thousand times over, the Joker and the Batman behind on different sides of the same coin, but Knight took it a step further: what if Batman was fighting the Joker within? The first-person sequence where you play as Joker, having taken control of Batman’s mind, is truly masterful, and puts most portrayals of this legend to shame (except you Heath, love you).
Wheatley, Portal 2
Yes, I know, I’ve placed Wheatly over GLaDOS. A sin you might say, but need I remind you of Stephen Merchant’s thigh-smackingly hilarious performance? I thought not. The bumbling Bristolian accent never fails to entertain, even when he’s trying to kill you via ridiculous tests designed for murder. The hilarious incompetence should make him a terrible villain by default, but it doesn’t! Think Neo Cortex from Crash Bandicoot, but 100 times more inept. Wheatley’s insecurity complex then adds to his villainous persona, transforming him into a Jordan Belfort level of megalomania. If only we had in our hearts to forgive our favourite ocular AI…
That just about wraps up our first nostalgic list! Stay tuned for weekly lists until the end of the year, providing you with looks into some of the most memorable moments of the decade.
Words by Jacob Fleming