As a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s probably safe to say I was a gamer before that term was widely used. And much like the rest of the stuff on the planet, things are just not as cool now as they were when we were kids. Since my childhood took place during the decades of Reaganomics and grunge music, I figured it was only right to showcase some of my favorite classic video game bad guys. Pay attention kids, this will probably be on the test!
Coily - Q*bert
Q*bert was one of the first video games I became obsessed with when I was a kid. Maybe this is where my affinity for snakes also started? In the original Q*bert game, Coily started off as an egg that bounced down to the pyramid’s center where it hatched into the purple snake thingy you see above. It’s sole mission from that point forward was to catch Q*bert and the only way to stop this beast was to use a Transport Disk which would cause Coily to become suicidal and jump off the edge of the pyramid. Fun fact: in the short-lived Q*bert animated series, Coily here was the leader of a gang of greasers. Evil!
Mario - Donkey Kong Junior
I’m going a little controversial on this one, I know. Before Mario was the lovable video game character we all grew to love, he was a malicious bastard that partook in animal abuse. After defeating Donkey Kong in the first installment of the series, Mario now has Mr. Kong in captivity. It is the mission of Kong’s son, Donkey Kong Jr., to save his father. It’s Mario’s role now to do what the big gorilla did in the first game which is to basically to keep Jr. here from freeing his beloved daddy. Did I mention that Mario has a whip? Evil!
Grunt Waves - Robotron 2084
Robotron 2084 is one of those classic video games that hit arcades everywhere in 1982. (Remind me sometime to explain to you what arcades were.) The game’s story takes place in the year 2084, when the robots rose up and revolted against the humans. A simple shooter game, the object is simple: shoot all the robots. The robots in question come in waves and one of the worst is known as “The Grunt Wave.” Here, more enemies are on screen at one time than in any other wave. The Grunts here aren’t really difficult to kill as they don’t have the capability to shoot. However, the numbers on screen get worse as over time, they speed up and just chase you. Relentlessly. Oh and they also have been known to jump on you without warning.
Evil Otto - Berzerk
In 1980, Atari released the game Berzerk and the character of Evil Otto was delivered unto the world. Taking the form of a simple smiley face, Evil Otto’s purpose was to bounce around and chase the player. There are also robots in the game and if they remain in the maze, Otto moves slowly. However, if the robots are gone and you are the one moving slowly, Otto’s pace will quicken. What makes this worse is THERE IS NO WAY TO KILL HIM! The only way to defeat him is to evade him as he poisons the walls and tries his best to zap you. In the sequel, Evil Otto can be killed but once he goes, more Evil Ottos appear in his place. I honestly cannot think of which option is worse.
Singe - Dragon’s Lair
Dragon’s Lair was a video game that first premiered on laserdisc (ask your parents) back in 1983. The often times funny story follows our clumsy hero knight “Dirk the Daring” who is on a mission to rescue Princess Daphne from Mordroc’s castle. The biggest obstacle in his way is Mordroc’s dragon servant “Singe.” How difficult can this be? Quite difficult, in fact, because Singe has all sorts of abilities like: running, flying, kicking, head-butting and of course fire-beathing.
Death - Gauntlet
I truly have some fond memories of this game. Atari released this fantasy-themed hack-and-slash game in 1985. What made Gauntlet stand out at the time was that you could play it with up to four friends! This was helpful in that, players would run into a wide array of enemies including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers, thieves and the worst of them all: Death. Not only is Death (the art above has him look all Grim Reapery) very difficult to destroy, if you were unlucky enough to get near him in the game, he would drain you of your health. He’s Death, after all, and this is what one should expect. Right?
Satan - Satan’s Hollow
Satan’s Hollow was first introduced as a shooter in arcades in 1982. Two years later, the game was converted Atari and Commodore 64 platforms. The main object is to destroy the flying gargoyles in order to then assemble a bridge that must be built over a river of lava. That doesn’t sound dangerous at all! The further you get, these gargoyles start lobbing explosive eggs and rocks to destroy you and the bridge. If that’s not enough, you’re also faced with floating fire spitting devil heads! Once you finally finish building this bridge, you come face to face with Satan. Once you defeat him, the process of fighting the gargoyles and building a bigger bridge to face Satan begins again. So basically, you’re in Hell and repeating the same mission over and over to kill the devil. Yep, that sounds like Hell to me!
Mother Brain - Metroid
I can’t really think of much worse than the idea of a moody self aware spiked brain monster that wants to control and destroy things. It’s worth noting that in the original NES version, she had eyes and tusks like an evil brain elephant or something. Her mission in the Metroid games is pretty simple in which she wants full control of the universe where she would bring order by resetting everything back to zero. Mother Brain has been the main antagonist in the majority of the Metroid games in the series.
Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik - Sonic the Hedgehog
In Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik, aka Eggman, is the archenemy of our pointy hero Sonic. He is an egg-shaped mad scientist with an IQ of 300, which translates to him being a “certifiable genius.” Sure, why not? His ultimate goal within the game is to conquer the world and create hit ultimate utopia, called The Eggman Empire (aka Robotnik Empire, Eggmanland, Robotnikland or Robotropolis). He considers anyone who opposes his plans as a prime threat. So basically, that would be you.
Ganon - The Legend of Zelda
Ganon here is the final boss you fight in The Legend Of Zelda. He’s the dude who kidnapped Princess Zelda and he keeps her hostage in his Death Mountain lair. That doesn’t sound ominous at all! When Link finally enters Ganon’s chamber, he encounters statues that shoot fireballs while Ganon himself teleports around the room also shooting fireballs. Once you inflict damage upon this tusked beast, he changes color, which shows he’s weakening. At this point, you (as Link) have to fire a silver arrow at him to fully defeat the bastard. But, much like many of the enemies in this list, he returns in the number of subsequent Zelda games that follow.
Emperor Demon Gyaba - Contra
Contra is the side scrolling shooter that debuted in 1987 and took up too many hours of my time as a child. You’re pretty much an armed buff military dude, and you have an unlimited supply of ammunition to kill all the bad guys in your way. This is helpful, as the horrifying monster above is one of the bosses you will encounter. Known as The Red Falcon (or Emperor Demon Gyaba, depending on your source), he is the Earth’s worst enemy and shows up as the main alien antagonist in the majority of the Contra games. His character design is based on H.R Giger’s Necronom IV, which as all of you know is also the inspiration for the Xenomorphs in the Alien movie franchise.
Dracula - Castlevania
This one is pretty much a no-brainer, right? Dracula is a bad guy. That is, unless you’re a vampire sympathizer. He is also the main villain that pops up in every Castlevania sequel because, what would Castlevania be without Dracula? The story here takes place in 1691, where you are the whip-toting Simon Belmont. It is your duty, as a member of The Belmont family, to slay Dracula. But he doesn’t make it easy, as there are all sorts of enemies to defeat in his castle including Frankenstein, Igor, The Mummy, Queen Medusa and more. All these classic movie monsters in one video game franchise, and it’s a wonder Universal hasn’t bought the rights yet!
Mecha Hitler - Wolfenstein 3D
Nazis are rather common villains in video games. I am quite partial to the Nazi zombies in the Call Of Duty games. However, there wouldn’t be Nazi zombies without Nazis, and there wouldn’t be Nazis without Hitler. And what’s worse than Hitler? Mecha Hitler, that’s what! I mean, just look at him! It doesn’t make any difference to me that this game originated as a PC game (this means DOS in ‘90s speak)! He’s coming at you in a giant robot suit with four chain guns a-blazing! There may be the threat that Nazis are breeding mutant soldiers and you may need to desperately escape Castle Wolfenstein, but MECHA-HITLER TRUMPS ALL OF THAT!
Blinky - Pac-Man
This little red bastard right here was the bane of my existence in the ‘80s, and I’m sure if I sat down to play Pac-Man now, he’d continue where he left off. Along with his pals Pinky, Inky and Clyde, Blinky is one of the ghosts in the game. He was always the first ghost to exit the center chamber, and and he’d always make a direct path to Pac-Man when “chase mode” was triggered. In later games, I hear he became kind of an ally to our round yellow hero. But he will never be my ally! NEVER!
Bowser - Super Mario Bros.
The final enemy to round out my list is none other than King of the Koopa, Bowser from Super Mario Bros. As I just mentioned, Bowser is the leader of the Koopa race, which basically are evil turtle-like creatures. He’s also much bigger in size than the other turtles, has a spiked shell, horns, razer sharp teeth and is a ginger. If that wasn’t enough, the dude is also pretty strong and agile, he knows black magic and can breathe fire! His ultimate goals are pretty simple: marry Princess Peach, beat Mario (and Luigi), and take control of the Mushroom Kingdom. In the awful 1993 movie adaptation, King Koopa was played by Dennis Hopper. Hey, I just had an idea: a Super Mario Bros/Blue Velvet double feature! Who’s with me?
We have come to the end of the list, folks. I only showcased 15 of my favorite classic video game villains. What are yours? Inquiring minds want to know!