Well hey, it’s been a little while since I did a list rant, and also hey, I did a list of the Best Villains, so hey x3, why not make a list of the opposite?
Because it’s hard, that’s why! There are only so many truly great villains in RPGs, but lousy villains are a blue rupee a dozen. And how are they defined, really? It’s easy to tell what makes a great villain great, but there are just so many different ways for a villain to suck. Some are too ineffectual to really take seriously (such as that armored idiot in Grandia 3), some are pointless and thrown in at the very last second for no reason (remind me what Final Fantasy 9’s Necron’s deal was, again?), some make absolutely no goddamn sense in their role whatsoever (I’ve never seen a more painful stretch for a shocking twist than I have for The Last Story’s surprise traitor villain), some are just bland, unoriginal, and unexamined entirely (Snidely fucking Whiplash has more character depth than FF5’s Exdeath), some have moronic goals and/or methods (Dear Mass Effect 3’s Catalyst Star Child: if it is an elegantly simple task to reduce the entirety of your actions and motivations to a Yo Dawg meme, then everyone on the development team associated with you should feel profoundly ashamed of themselves), some are just spiteful, laughable little dicks (Kai Leng from ME3, for example), and so on. There’s all kinds of reasons, far more than I could really list here, or even accurately figure out. So this list is less about following any specific criteria, and more just about going with a gut impression of what villains have qualities that are just plain more pathetic than all the rest. So your list might be different, but I hope the losers below would at least be in consideration for it.
5. Ramsus (Xenogears)
Every villain loses eventually. For some, it’s only that fatal one loss, at the end of the game. Others fail at their task more than once. A few, like Ganondorf of The Legend of Zelda series, just keep failing over and over again (in fact, Ganondorf was a big contender for this spot). But Ramsus is just...sad. I mean, the dude just loses again, and again, and AGAIN. And unlike Ganondorf, who at least limits his failures to only 1 or 2 an installment, Ramsus manages to cram his dozens of losses all into the same game. His enemies outrun him. His enemies defeat him in combat, over and over again. His enemies outsmart him. His planned hostages immobilize him. He loses battles, he gets demoted, he gets manipulated, and the one time he manages to successfully beat his rival Fei, it’s only minutes before Fei beats him in a rematch. It’s just over and over and over again that you see this guy fail at everything he does. Honestly, Ramsus has got to be one of the most colossal fuck-ups in villain history.
4. Isamu (Shin Megami Tensei 3)*
I’ve seen a lot of villains’ plans for remaking all of reality so it will conform to their personal beliefs on what the world should be like. It’s really quite common in RPGs. Some want a chaotic world of constant struggle for supremacy. Some want to rule all of existence. Some want a world of complete equality. And so on--there are lots of different visions of a new world order that you come across in RPGs. However, Isamu’s is...pretty unique. Isamu basically wants to remake the world so that no one has any interaction with anyone else, and everybody exists as an island, no interference or assistance from any other human
So basically...Isamu wants to rework the nature of all existence so that he can sit in his room and listen to The Cure all day.
That’s pretty pathetic. Pretty damned pathetic, in fact. Seriously, Isamu, the coming birth of the new world demands that you determine a philosophy of the ideal world, and all you can come up with is to just have everyone be a hermit? Weak, Isamu, fuckin’ weak. But it’s not the only reason Isamu is a sad sack. First of all, there are the events that drive Isamu to this intelligent and totally not entirely idiotic idea. You know what was the clincher for him, that caused Isamu to isolate himself from others and led him to the place where his ideal was given shape? Well, he gets captured a couple times during the game’s course, and the protagonist rescues Isamu each time, but that’s not GOOD enough, because after the second time, Isamu throws a little hissy fit and complains that the protagonist is always too late for Isamu. Oh, I’m sorry, Your Highness, that my life-and-death struggle to free you from situations that you got yourself into wasn’t speedy enough for you! What a whiny ass.
To top Isamu’s whiny nature off, he is a tremendous hypocrite. If the game’s protagonist decides to follow any path beyond Isamu’s, Isamu insults him, saying that the protagonist is just wasting his time as a blind pawn of others. But if the protagonist DOES opt to assist Isamu, well, you better believe Isamu’s not gonna criticize the protagonist’s decision to be a pawn of another person then! And then there’s always the hypocrisy of Isamu’s wanting the protagonist’s help to achieve his goal when Isamu’s entire lame philosophy for the new world is to eschew others in all ways. Wanting and NEEDING it, I should say, because no matter what else happens, Isamu will always get killed by the other villains, so even if the protagonist were out of the picture entirely Isamu still wouldn’t be able to succeed in his goals. Yeah, way to stand true to your beliefs, jackass. What a whiny little git.
3. Thumb-Sucking, Irrational, Whiny Little Bitches (General RPGs)
You know what I’m so fucking sick of? I am so fucking sick of RPG villains who are oversensitive and have no fucking sense of proportion. They’re the ones who decide it’s okay to annihilate entire populations because they’ve had a bad experience in the past that they somehow think MUST represent ALL possible experiences, or decide to overreact to one bad thing in a villainous, world-threatening manner.
Shin from Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon could read the minds of those around him, and decided, somehow, that because the few dozen people whom he worked with didn’t think nice things, the same MUST be true for ALL of humanity, so he decided to wipe them all out. BOO HOO HOO PEOPLE WEREN’T AS NICE TO ME AS THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN! Shirley in Tales of Legendia** had a crush on protagonist Senel, but was told by him that he wasn’t interested a mere day after the woman he DID love (her sister Stella) died to save them, so she decided that humans like Senel and magical water people like her couldn’t exist together and began going along with a plan to wipe the humans out.*** BOO HOO HOO THE GUY I LIKE DOESN’T LIKE ME BACK! Emelious of Grandia 3 was born to an important destiny of communicating with the godlike Guardians, but he has to share that destiny with his younger sister because each was born with half the destined birthmark, and so he makes plans to summon a dark god to destroy the Guardians. BOO HOO HOO I’M NOT THE ONLY IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD!
Don’t get me wrong, there are ways you CAN make the concept work. I mean, look at The Master in Fallout 1, and Seymour in Final Fantasy 10. The Master believes that humanity is a hopeless species and wants to replace it with a world order of mutants under his command. Yeah, that’s an extreme stance, but he IS living in a time after a global nuclear war destroyed all human civilization utterly and left the whole world a hellish wasteland, and the current state of Fallout’s societies isn’t exactly a pleasant one. He has enough REASON for his villain motivation that he seems to be making a decision that we can understand to a certain degree. Seymour in Final Fantasy 10 had a shitty childhood, but that pain isn’t the entire reason for his villainy--it was simply a catalyst, that which was necessary for him to recognize the pain of all of Spira. Spira has for a thousand years or more (can’t remember the exact time frame) been under nearly constant attack by an unstoppable, mindless monster that destroys everything the people create and kills indiscriminately, leaving deadly beasts behind that only further cause misery. Spira’s not as visibly miserable as Fallout’s wasteland, but one can understand why Seymour would think that a quick death to all would be a preferable existence to a life of constant terror and destruction, where the greatest hope you have is a small reprieve of a few years. Give me real, believable motives for a campaign of evil--lust for power, philosophical ideals, ambition, outright hatred, that sort of thing. But failing that, at least give me some real, sensible evidence for the villainy.
Because I’m tired of clowns like Dragon Quest 9’s Corvus, who tried to destroy both humanity and gods because he thought that a single human’s betrayal (she didn’t even actually betray him) meant that all humans were evil, and that abhorrent little turd Mithos from Tales of Symphonia 1, and that whiny doofus Volsung from Wild Arms 5. These hordes of overreacting, childish fools with no sense of proportion or perspective are just tearful, immature lamers to me.
2. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy 7 and Kingdom Hearts Series)
Oh yeah, like you all didn’t know this much-glorified fucktard was going to be here. The only surprise here is that Sephiroth didn’t make it to the very top.
When it comes to lame villains, Sephiroth’s kind of the patron saint. This guy is toted by SquareEnix as the man with the strongest willpower on FF7’s planet, and yet he lost his mind from reading a book. What did that book tell him? That his superior power comes from having been implanted with alien cells while he was still in the womb. So you’re 1/3 space monster, big fucking deal. My dad’s Canadian; you don’t see me losing my shit and trying to enact Armageddon in some clumsy attempt to become a god over it. Shouldn’t the “strongest will on the planet” be a little better able to keep together under a little stress?
While it’s not too important, Sephiroth’s look doesn’t exactly help me take him seriously. I mean, he’s essentially a chick in bondage gear, wielding the only sword in history to make Cloud Strife’s look feasible by comparison. Putting aside the obvious fact that he should not, even with super soldier strength, be able to lift and control the stupid thing, even with full ability to manipulate it, it’s still a stupid, ineffectual weapon! Carrying a sword that long would be an incredibly awkward prospect, with it unavoidably poking walls, slicing and stabbing ceilings, and dragging along the floor all the time, and in an actual battle, its length, while admittedly handy for outreaching your opponent, would mean that once it’s been parried off to the side, it can’t be retracted enough that it could be used to make a different attack. You could just hold his blade off to the side with your own and calmly walk up to him; all he could do is try to slide his sword up or down your own, which would only work out if you for some reason forgot to slide it with him, or swing it again from the side. Easy enough to get close, where his ultra long sword suddenly has absolutely no use.
Small surprise that the only people he ever seems to be able to actually beat are unarmed, untrained, and/or taken completely by surprise. But you get anybody who actually knows what they’re doing and is ready to fight, and you get Sephiroth getting thrown down reactor pits, slashed to ribbons, demolished utterly, and fought to a standstill by a 12-year-old who hangs out with Saturday morning cartoon characters and fights with a stupid giant house key. The only time Sephiroth ever seems to accomplish anything is when it’s actually pieces of Jenova shaped like him.
Which brings me to the next point of why he’s fucking lame--he’s never actually DOING anything. The entirety of Final Fantasy 7, he’s just sitting in the fucking northern crater cave, letting Jenova do all the work of freeing itself, controlling former SOLDIERs, fighting Cloud and company, killing Aeris, and retrieving the Black Materia. Sephiroth’s another one of those lazy idiot RPG villains who just sit back and can’t be bothered to actually do his own work. Okay, yeah, fine, it’s not actually laziness, there IS a reason for it--in FF7, I believe he was too wounded by his encounter with Cloud 5 years prior to leave the healing mako energies of the crater, and in the FF7 Advent Children movie, his agents have to do all the work because he’s very busy being dead. But lemme ask you something--which is lamer, him not being able to be bothered to do his own work, or him having gotten so badly punked in the past that he has no choice but to have to rely on others to do his work for him? You’d think being put in magic traction would be enough to convince a guy maybe he’s not the best candidate for godhood, but I guess suppressing rational second thoughts is what that “strongest will on the planet” is doing to make up for being on vacation when he went nuts.
Dear sweet merciful heavens, this guy is just so fucking lame.
1. Dracula (Castlevania Series)
Well, this is honestly a surprise. When I first thought about this list, Dracula never even occurred to me as a possible candidate for it, let alone making the number 1 spot. I figured Sephiroth would be taking this part, or maybe those insufferable tools from FF9, Zorn and Thorn (who didn’t even end up making the list, shockingly). But the more I looked at it, the more this list began to take form...the more I realized that Dracula is the most pathetic RPG villain ever. And why is that? Because he is everyone else on this list put together.
Think about it. Dracula is a colossal fuck-up, just like Ramsus. I mean, the guy resurrects over and over and over again, and every damn time, he’s killed before he can cause much trouble, usually almost immediately after reawakening. When does he ever actually succeed at his goals? Only a couple times, one of which was in Castlevania Legends, does he even get partially there, and CL was an alternate reality and a different Dracula, so...it’s pretty rare for the real Castlevania Dracula to really get anything done. He can’t even seem to leave his room before some Belmont flays him to nothingness.
A lot of the opportunities that his incompetence squanders only come to Dracula because of the work of others, as with Isamu and Sephiroth. Many of Dracula’s resurrections are possible only through the ceaseless efforts of cultists, Dracula’s servant Death, and other vampires. And also like Sephiroth, the guy just sits around waiting to be killed; as I mentioned, most Castlevania games I’m aware of with Dracula never even have the guy leave his damn room. The majority of Dracula’s villainous history can be described by the following set of instructions:
1. Be Revived
2. Sit in Room for a Few Minutes, at Most a Few Hours
3. Fight a Hero
At least other recurring villains like Ganondorf have their shit together enough to actually DO some evil stuff before they’re put down again. Being murdered is by this point as mundane and traditional a part of Dracula’s morning experience as having a bowl of cereal.
And of course, he is also a Thumb-Sucking, Irrational, Whiny Little Bitch, as evidenced by Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, which shows the origin of Dracula. I mean, look, I get it that losing the woman you love is a truly horrible thing and one of the worst kinds of pain imaginable, I do. And I don’t blame a guy for getting pissed off at God for letting it happen (don’t AGREE, mind, but don’t blame), and turning his back upon God in that rage. People do actually DO that.
But you know what people DON’T do when they blame God for their unfortunate circumstances, no matter how angry they may be? They don’t try to make a pact with the forces of darkness to become lord of all vampires just so they can stick it to God by being immortal like Him. I mean, what about that even makes SENSE? You’re pissed off with God about not keeping your girlfriend alive, so to defy Him, you...show Him that He’s not the only one who can be immortal? What exactly does the one thing have to do with the other? Hell, your plan involves you choosing to adopt a characteristic of the individual that you hate so much, a characteristic which most prominently separates Him from your late beloved, so, y’know, good thinking there, champ. Then later on apparently Dracula is sweet on some other chick named Lisa, and SHE gets burned for supposedly being a witch or something to that tune, and it’s at that point that he decides to declare war on all of humanity. And, like, yeah, I GET why he’s pissed at humanity for it, and obviously the society where such a thing could happen needs serious overhaul, but rather than go after the people who did the act, or even going after them AND the ones who control and guide the societal evils that led to Lisa’s death, Dracula instead decides that ALL humanity must be destroyed. That’s grossly overreacting; he’s gonna go around killing people who are completely innocent, including people who are good like Lisa and his first girlfriend--he can’t seriously pretend such people don’t exist, he’s shacked up with 2 of them now. So yeah--thumb-sucking, irrational, whiny little bitch? Check.
Oh, yeah, and getting back to his Lament of Innocence debut, the guy’s got another characteristic of lameness in common with Isamu--he’s a hypocrite. Only he’s a much bigger jerk of a hypocrite than Isamu. See, Dracula’s plans to give God the finger by becoming an immortal vampire include the manipulation of his friend Leon Belmont into killing the current master vampire dude, a process which results in the death of Leon’s beloved. And then, once Dracula shows up for his villainous reveal, he’s actually surprised that Leon doesn’t want to join him in vampiring it up. Just...DUDE. You are going to ridiculous extremes out of a hate for God because you blame God for not preventing your girlfriend’s death. You just ACTIVELY created the events that led to Leon’s girlfriend’s death. You actually don’t expect him to be equally righteously pissed off at YOU for ACTUALLY causing her death as you are at God for neglecting to prevent your girl’s passing? Are you SERIOUS? What a fucking idiot!
Anyway...I’ve wasted enough time on this twit. Dracula is the culmination of all the other lamers on this list, and so do I dub him Most Pathetic RPG Villain of All.
Dishonorable Mention: Stupid Organizations (General RPGs)
What’s the only thing worse than a lame villain? A whole organized group of lame villains! What IS it with RPGs and stupid, pathetic villain organizations? You get the trite, gimmicky fuckwits in Organization 13 from the Kingdom Hearts series, who basically have substantially lowered the quality of the games by taking a huge amount of the focus away from the Disney characters with actual depth and personality. You get those lazy, useless doofuses in the Turks from Final Fantasy 7, whose talent at running away is matched only by their talent at losing. And don’t even get me started on Team Magma and especially Team Aqua from Pokemon’s Third Generation. Dear sweet God what a bunch of incompetent numbskulls.
Well THAT was a lot more words than I’d anticipated. As usual.
* One might argue that Isamu (and Chiaki and Hikawa, for that matter) is not truly a villain since one of the 4 major paths of the game can have you ally with him, but I’d point out that following any other path WILL make Isamu one of your major opponents, so that’s still him being an enemy thrice as often as an ally. And he IS out to forcibly remake the world according to his personal beliefs with no regard for anyone else’s opinion on the matter even though his actions will directly affect them--and if that doesn’t just scream “JRPG Villain,” then I don’t know what possibly could.
** Yeah, I realize Shirley’s also one of the good guys in ToL, but there’s a point where she’s ready to go all in on the second villain’s plans of genocide.
*** Okay, fine, there WERE extenuating circumstances, but the core cause of the problem was pretty indisputably Senel’s rejection, since it’s Senel’s romantic 180 later that snaps her out of it.