RIP Ralph Baer
I really, really hate writing obits. I really do. But I take it as a personal honor to be able to say good things about the men and women I respect, whether in this industry or just in my life, and Ralph Baer is the reason all of this exists in the first...
Are you ready to feel old? On Wednesday, April 30, 2004, Mean Girls came out in theatres.
No, seriously. Mean Girls, as well as the last of Lindsay Lohan's sober career, is ten years old. Ten. I cannot even fathom that, but it's possibly because I quote it on a routine basis. (And also because I'm totally rich because my dad invented Toaster Strudel.)
So if there's a better time to take a look at some of video gaming's mean girls, the ladies who put the “fun” in “dysfunctional,” I'd like to know, because this coincidence, it's so totally fetch.
Put on your pink, grab a Kalteen Bar, and guess who will make number one. And if you get it right, give yourself a big “You go, Glen Coco!”
Clearly not the smartest lady on the list, Queen Brahne was never inherently evil but was manipulated into lusting for power by those who would not have her best interests in mind. Nor could they potentially be seen as allies either—Kuja refers to her by her size, calling her the “elephant woman.” Granted, she may have put on a few pounds after the death of her husband, the king, but it was the fact that she went after her own adopted daughter, Princess Garnet, to extract the power of the Eidelons.
By the time she finally gets what's going on through her greed-addled brain, it's too late. Not too late, however, to gasp a final apology in her daughter's arms; while touching, it ranks her lower than some other Final Fantasy icons such as Kefka or Sephiroth. But sometimes it's just nice to be invited to the party, as Queen Brahne picks up the opening slot on this list.
I guess it says something to your villainy when your villainous acts that appear in an anime based on a video game that you didn't originally appear in cause the game developers remake the game with your inclusion to be more like the anime based on the game. (Did you get all of that?)
Also, we still can't get over that hair. Many cosplayers have tried; many have failed.
While she may lack the body count other Queens of Mean may rack up, let no do-gooder doubt this dame’s deep dossier of dastardly deeds. It’s no small feat to defeat "she who de-feet-ed the feet of the Statue of Liberty," nor can one pooh-pooh "she who pilfered the original Pooh."
From literary works to geographic icons, from pocket purloining to planetary plights, Carmen Sandiego set the bar for video game espionage. Who else is so successful at crime that they get a cartoon and a game show showcasing her exploits?
Moment of honesty: Who even remembers this brazen wench? I have to confess, I had to be reminded of her when putting this list together. She’s made a few appearances in the Wario Land titles, but just in being the first female primary antagonist in any Mario game or spinoff, Captain Syrup and her Black Sugar Gang get a spot on the list. Who knows? We may see more of her if Wario can keep up his end of the bargain.
She's smart, sexy, and shameless, and she shows up at the most opportune—and inopportune—times. Ada isn't the most diabolical lady on this list, but the scariest part about this Resident Evil stalwart is that players never know if she's working for the Umbrella Corporation, for Wesker, for someone else altogether, or for her own motives. Ada proves that a person, man or woman, without loyalties is a person to be distrusted.
The former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who fell in love with her patient, Dr. Harleen Quinzel had a strange upbringing in the DC Universe—Harley Quinn was originally conceived for Batman: The Animated Series, and so well-received by fans she was penned into the comic lines.
Something similar has occurred since her roles in the Batman: Arkham games, where gamers have seen a new, even more twisted side to Quinn, and these crimes and affronts have also carried back to the comic lines. Her devious deeds in Arkham Asylum alone would have ranked her higher if she had been originally created for video games.
Kid Icarus, 1987
Medusa, the Goddess of Darkness, and Palutena, the Goddess of Light, ruled the world together in the backstory of the original Kid Icarus, making them gaming's first pair of frenemies. Palutena loved humans, but Medusa hated them, so Palutena turned her into a snake-haired monster and banished her to the underworld. Tit for tat, Medusa rallied the forces of the Underworld and whooped Palutena's butt, sealing her away from the rest of Angel Land.
Twenty-five years later she reappears in Kid Icarus: Uprising, where it turns out she's basically just a puppet for Hades, but in the meantime she serves Grecian cruelty in the form of some wickedly-hard NES platforming and the worst hair days conceivable. How can we prove she's as evil as can be? She has minions that turn you into an eggplant. Seriously, an eggplant. I mean, could she have picked a less disgusting vegetable?
As a character, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Mother Brain. She is a brain, in a jar, giving orders to the Space Pirates of Zebes. Ugly, maniacal, with no morality—textbook villainess. So when Super Metroid came along in 1994, and developers gave her a bipedal form, originally designer Toru Osawa wanted her to look more like an “old lady living in an apartment complex.”
I want to know what apartment complex this monstrosity is living in, because I want to live on the complete opposite end of town.
Do you remember your first encounter with The Witch? If it was anything like mine, it started with you going “What is that? It's not moving...” Then changed to “Where's that choir music coming from?” These were quickly followed by screams of “HOLY S*$&!!! GET IT OFF OF ME!!!” Followed by large amounts of death.
I quickly learned that I do not like large amounts of death, and that stealthy gameplay may be more suited to my style.
So, a funny thing happened with Sarah Kerrigan's entry. I asked my Facebook fans how they would describe how evil one of the key antagonists of the StarCraft series is in two paragraphs or less. But the responses I got were wholly empathetic, such as “She's not evil, she's misunderstood,” “She's a champion to the Zerg race,” and “Evil is relative.”
And I would be prone to agree. Kerrigan, a psychic child prodigy forced into militant training as a little girl and later infested by the Zerg to ultimately become the Queen of Blades, toes the line often between cruel villainess and misunderstood anti-hero.
Also, after becoming fully infested by the Zerg, she grows a pair of skeletal wings, which she uses to grab on to foes and literally tear them apart in two pieces.
So evil is not as relative as one might think. Or then again, I may have just bought into the lies of Arcturus Mengsk.
One of the most recent entries onto the list, Brooke Augustine kicks things into high gear immediately, leading the government's Department of Unified Protection and imprisoning Conduits in Curdun Cay. Oh, and hey, guess what, she's a Conduit too.
Now concerned for her own self-preservation as the government eyes shutting down the DUP, Augustine concocts this elaborate scheme to stage an event “requiring” the DUP to step in and be all heroic and stuff. Too bad that when she started playing with Conduit's lives, she didn't know about Delsin Rowe. You would think she could have just taken a Golden Parachute package and found a nice desk job somewhere.
Side note: Can we get Brooke some more gay friends? I'm not saying she has to be drop-dead gorgeous to be relevant, but she is one of the more frumpy villainesses on this list. I mean, for God's sake, would a little color in her wardrobe kill her?
Wouldn't it figure that when you finally meet the woman of your dreams, it's when you're five years in with your current girlfriend who's prodding you into getting married? And that she's a succubus? And she's trying to kill you along with several other young men in the city?
Things like this are how sites like match.com get started. “SWM looking for non-demonic, non-homicidal mortal female.”
The most recent addition to this list, Bloody Mary hits the ground running by describing her relaxation technique as showing up in adolescent's mirrors and feeding their lungs to the family dog. That's relaxation. “Like golf,” she tells Bigby Wolf, right before she shoots him with silver bullets, then snaps his arm clean in two, bone protrusion and all. She probably would have no problem slicing him up with her axe, either, had a major character not stepped in.
It's the villainous equivalent of smacking out a multi-run homer on your first major league at-bat. I don't know whether to be terrified or impressed. Probably both.
Captain Syrup may be the first primary female antagonist in the Mario Universe, but very few people remember her. Ask people about female villains in the Mushroom Kingdom, though, and the name of the self-proclaimed “Princess of the Koopas” will surely come forth.
Wendy O. Koopa, the only female Koopa Kid, was first seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and quickly became one of the more identifiable Koopa Kids. Her wand produced candy rings that bounced around her airship chamber instead of the regular rings the other Kids had.
She also had one of the most developed personalities of the seven, which has carried on throughout other titles, as well as making her one of the more common antagonists in the cartoon tie-in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. Demonstrating everything bad about being a “daddy's girl,” she wasn't afraid to be evil, until she was caught, sending her running to “King Dad” in a fit of tears.
If you were to ask me who the scariest film characters were (in a horror sense, not in general) I would have to say that other than Pennywise, the other two in the top three would be Chucky and the girl from The Ring, and that's mainly because anything that's creepy from an adult is ten times creepier from a child.
So imagine how hard I peed my pants when I first saw Alma. Sometimes you don't even see her, just hear her giggle, but you know bad, bad things are right around the corner. All she would have to do is wear a clown suit and she'd have a permanent place at number 1.
I mean, holy crap. Just look at the picture. I need an adult already.
Though the Dark Queen is often noted for her sex appeal, she was one of the first antagonists to set the bar for villainesses in video games. She showcased she can be as cruel and calculating as the men, throwing a multitude of baddies at the Battletoads, as well as tormenting them through obstacle courses on land, sea, and hoverbike. She had no problem slinging insults, and wasn't afraid of doing things herself, being the final boss in many of the Battletoads games.
With all that being said, if I may indulge for one quick, fleeting moment: She got big ol' boobies.
But mainly she sets the standard for video game villainess.
One of the few antagonists to make it on our list of “Women Who Rock Modern Gaming,” Dr. Lamb was noted for being a certifiable whack-job. She has no problem sacrificing young girls for “the greater good,” turning orphans into Little Sisters, and Little Sisters into deadly Big Sisters, pumping them full of ADAM and even sacrificing her own daughter to become the “Self,” all while brandishing a sassy pair of cat-eye glasses that would make Lisa Loeb drool.
Lamb lets nothing stand in the way, not Andrew Ryan, not the law, not even the lack of sunlight in Rapture. The very worst of all—she's the type that's always convinced she's right. And as you know, dear readers, that in and of itself is highly dangerous.
The other villainess on our list of “Women Who Rock Modern Gaming,” the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System, also known by the acronym GLaDOS, never pretends to care about Chell's life, except when it pretends to care about Chell's life.
As a program, GLaDOS can make it seem like she's doing both, when in actuality, testing subjects with death-defying challenges gives her a rush, and she stands as a textbook villainess: calculating, terrifying, selfish, tormenting strictly for her own pleasure.
You read it right, my pick for Top Villainess in Gaming is none other than Bruce Springsteen!
Just kidding, it's not that boss. It's The Boss, previously known as The Joy, from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. What makes her top HBIC over all the others?
She kills without remorse, thanks to her extensive military background. Collateral damage to get what she wants? Bomb a Russian town, see what she cares. But in this case, her motives are what puts her above some really nasty ladies.
To break it down, essentially the entire United States of America hates The Boss, so she's going to mess some sh*t up.
I suppose anyone with that kind of power at her disposal would want to, after being the CIA's scapegoat for years, blaming The Boss for everything from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the US/USSR Cold War. When the finger for every major US botch-job is pointed at you, you may want a little (or a lot) of revenge too.
The most disturbing thing about The Boss is that when we, the players, learn all the facts, we have just a bit of sympathy for her. It's been reported that even The Boss' motion capture actress, having read the whole script, broke down in tears filming the final scene between The Boss and Snake. But allowing that sympathy to take you over for even one second will result in The Boss finishing Snake off, because if there's one thing she won't allow, it's sympathy or emotion.