With a stable of lovable cartoon heroes, Nintendo is unquestionably the kid-friendly option in the games console market. But maybe this soft, doughy reputation of Nintendo’s is undeserved– after all, they can take credit for introducing the world to some of the most notorious video game villains in history. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of the vintage bad guy hall-of-famers that remind us you can’t spell “Kid Friendly” without “Fiend”… and “kidrly” I guess.First up: a heavy-hitter who’s “wildly” outclassed…
These days he’s a reformed character, but back in the day Donkey Kong was all about vengeance, kidnapping and dire monkey rage. In fact, he was the first bad guy to test the “Let’s see what happens when we kidnap Mario’s woman” gambit. Of course, he soon realized that Mario is a relentless killing machine, and wisely got out of the villain game before an average Italian plumber became a gargantuan fire-slinging force of nature. For this we give the barrel-slinging gorilla the “Joe Chill” award, because he’s right up there with the jerk who shot Bruce Wayne’s parents in accidentally creating evil’s worst nightmare.
Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran is one of the enduring badasses of video game badassery, and so it’s only fitting that she basically has to kill an entire planet’s worth of evil wildlife as well as a motley band of alien space pirates to earn her street-cred (space-cred? Probably space-cred.) So who do you send in to defeat this video game valkyrie? This one-woman army of the arcade? Why, a brain in a jar, of course!
Mother Brain may not look like much, but she manages to influence an entire network of dedicated followers without ever actually seeming to do anything. You are correct, dear reader, Mother Brain is very much the Kim Kardashian of the video game world. (Though to be honest, if any parts of Kim Kardashian were going to be preserved in a jar after her death, her brain would probably be at least third on the list.)
Adventurer, entrepreneur, bastard. Wario is a relatable villain in that he’s not out for grand schemes and bombastic evil philosophy– he’s just a greedy, self-interested jerk. If there’s treasure to be pilfered, money to be made, or fame to be had, Wario is on it like Donald Trump in heat. Best of all, Wario is not talented, clever or even remotely attractive, he’s just an extremely dedicated criminal fueled by crude ambition, innate bitterness, and farts. Come to think of it, that’s almost exactly like Donald Trump.
“Quick! We need a villain capable of taking out this irate plumber! What’s that you say? A giant fire-breathing turtle dragon? Who is also the king of evil mushrooms? Voices in my head, you’ve done it again!”
We can never be sure of the creative processes behind the invention of Bowser, but we can certainly be thankful for his lifelong contribution to villiany. Never dissuaded by almost guaranteed failure, Bowser has continually kidnapped the same princess no fewer than ten times throughout his career.
Why does he do this? What does he hope to achieve? Is he trying to gain political leverage? Is he ransoming Princess Peach for recognition of his sovereignty? Is he secretly boning her and the entire kidnap thing is just a ruse to cover up Peach’s secret dinosaur fetish shame? You probably think these are rhetorical questions, but actually the boning answer is most likely correct. Think on that for as long as you need. Yeesh.
Well done, Bowser– you may play it like the obvious and unimaginative paint-by-numbers bad guy, but you’ve actually been keeping up a sordid, sexy subterfuge this whole time.
Gamers of today may not raise an eyebrow at a towering Cronos or a creeping Necromorph, but some of us can remember when awe and terror could be felt at the behest of a tiny green pig-wizard. Ganon, or Ganondorf, is another enduring old-timer, and he’s been slinging dark magic in The Legend of Zelda series since before your mom and dad rolled up your character sheet.
He may have the ability to transform himself into a demonic hog monster, but Ganon is at his most comfortable when rocking a sweet beard and surrounding himself with an all-female group of ninja thieves. In short, he is hella pimp. But don’t let the badass armor and magical powers give you the wrong impression– as awesome as Ganon seems, he is repeatedly foiled by a twelve-year-old boy wearing a skirt.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! pitted diminutive brawler Little Mac against opponents of varying racial insensitivity in what remains one of the most enjoyable boxing games ever devised. Punch Out! started out jovially, pitting you against effete frenchman and man/hippo hybrids, but then suddenly expected you to fight the actual Mike Tyson. It is testament to the notorious fighter that, even in 8-bit pixel form, he was absolutely terrifying. Later versions of the game replaced the Tyson character, possibly for legal reasons, possibly because of the real Mike Tyson’s …ahem… turbulent personal life, or possibly because the children just wouldn’t stop crying.
Are you ready for the most hated Nintendo villain of all time…?
The Dog from Duck Hunt
Betrayal stings most when it comes from those you trust deeply, and nowhere is this lesson more keenly felt than in retro shoot ‘em up Duck Hunt. On your pixelated hunting trip you are allied with man’s best friend– a trusty hunting hound to retrieve your kills and bolster your spirits.
What he actually does, though, is laugh at you. Just endlessly tittering at your failures as you ineffectually empty your light-gun at him, screaming incoherently all the while. Sure, the dog may not technically be an actual villain, but I don’t think there’s a dog in history that more people have fantasized about killing. Even now, generations later, there are those who would see him done harm, and he hasn’t even appeared in a proper Nintendo game in over 25 years. It is this lasting contempt that earns the Duck Hunt Dog the top spot in Nintendo’s Badass Villains Hall of Fame.
Or if you can’t get enough of obsessing over old video games (and we know you can’t) why not check out Harsh Life Lessons learned from Classic Video Games or The Video Game to Fatherhood?