10 Great Video Game Villains Who Only Show Up Once

Highlights

  • One-on-one encounters with villains can create engaging adversaries and leave a lasting impression on gamers.
  • Memorable boss fights like Starscourge Radahn in Elden Ring and Mike Tyson in Punch-Out! showcase the impact of a single direct interaction.
  • Confrontations with powerful villains like the Nihilanth in Half-Life and the Icon of Sin in Doom Eternal mark dramatic conclusions to compelling stories.

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The world of video games has been blessed with many great antagonists. From Far Cry 3’s Vaas to Mass Effect’s Illusive Man and Borderland’s Handsome Jack, some of gaming’s most unforgettable villains make their mark through a consistent presence throughout the playthrough, making their eventual defeat all the more satisfying.

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Yet sometimes, all it takes is a single face-to-face to create an engaging adversary. While these villains might communicate over the radio or be lingering in the background, these antagonists make all the impression they need on any gamer in only one direct interaction.

10 Starscourge Radahn – Elden Ring

Starscourge Radahn in Elden Ring

FromSoftware is one of the most respected developers in the entire industry. While primarily known for their challenging gameplay and imaginative nightmare worlds, they are also famous for creating some genuinely memorable bosses. FromSoftware’s collaborative effort with George RR Martin, Elden Ring is full of ruthless, towering antagonists.

One of the big standouts is Starscourge Radahn. Despite being optional, any self-respecting FromSoftware fan would be truly missing out on one of the game’s most memorable boss fights in a visually stunning arena.

9 Mike Tyson – Punch-Out!

Mike Tyson In Punch-Out!

Video games have evolved enormously since the 1980s. While today’s gaming industry is plagued with crippling ethical problems, there’s no denying how much game design has advanced. Yet, there’s something beautifully simple in how old games were presented, especially regarding the hero and villain.

1987’s Punch-Out! is well known for two things: Little Mac and the final match against real-life boxing legend Mike Tyson. This incredibly challenging final bout established Tyson as a powerhouse in both the real and digital worlds.

8 Nihilanth – Half-Life

Nihilanth in Half-life

With each passing day, it’s easier to forget how Valve, at one point, was the master of immersive storytelling. For many of their longtime fans, Valve’s magnum opus remains 1998’s Half-Life, a game that completely recontextualized what having a plot in a video game meant.

Related: Gaming Villains Who Never Fight You Directly

One of Half-Life’s most memorable elements is the Nihilanth, a giant alien-baby hybrid leading the central invasion. When Half-Life’s heroic silent protagonist Gordon Freeman confronts the Nihilanth in Xen, it marks the dramatic conclusion to one of gaming’s best stories.

7 Jega ‘Rdomnai – Halo Infinite

Jega 'Rdomnai from Halo Infinite

To say 343 Industries has disappointed with Xbox’s flagship franchise is an understatement. Nevertheless, Halo Infinite was a significant improvement, especially regarding making Halo feel like Halo again.

One of Halo Infinite’s highlight moments is Master Chief’s fight against the cyborg elite Jega ‘Rdomnai. Throughout the game, you come across several spartans slain by this warrior. So when you finally meet this menacing foe towards the end of the story, the build-up helps elevate the already striking boss encounter.

6 The Devourer – Divinity Original Sin 2

a green dragon known as The Devourer in Divinity Original Sin 2

Divinity Original Sin 2 remains one of the best-written RPGs of all time, even as Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 threatens to overshadow it. The game features several fantastic one-off encounters; one of the most extraordinary is with the undead dragon, the Devourer.

The quest to recover all five pieces of the Devourer armor set lasts throughout the entire game. It culminates with you coming face to face with this imposing beast who had, up to this point, only talked to the player through menacing visions.

5 Icon of Sin – Doom Eternal

Icon of Sin, a gigantic bull looking demon in Doom Eternal

ID Software’s iconic Doom franchise isn’t particularly known for its storytelling. Gameplay has always been front and center, with everything else being secondary. Still, that hasn’t stopped the developers from creating some truly terrifying demons, monsters, and ghouls to stand in your way.

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Doom Eternal’s final boss is the Icon of Sin, a titan of a beast mentioned throughout the game but only at the conclusion is revealed. In a brutal fight, you must utilize all your weapons and skills to topple this imposing monster.

4 Deathstroke – Batman: Arkham Origins

Deathstroke in Arkham Origins

There is arguably no comic book character with a more memorable rogue’s gallery than Batman. The Arkham video game series features numerous fantastic adversaries. But regarding one-and-done encounters, it’s Arkham Origins that features the cream of the crop.

One of the assassins Batman duels with is Deathstroke. While he’s primarily a Teen Titans villain, he has thrown down with the Bat on several occasions. The battle with Deathstroke in Arkham Origins is brutal, hard-hitting, and one of the best boss fights in the entire series.

3 Andrew Ryan – Bioshock

Andrew Ryan in Bioshock

In nearly every aspect, Bioshock is a masterpiece. From game design, world-building, writing, graphics, and immersion, there isn’t a single part of the game that falters. As such, it’s no surprise that the villains you can find in the underwater city of Rapture are just as memorable.

Throughout the story, you are contacted by Andrew Ryan, Rapture’s mysterious creator and overseer. The face-to-face meeting you have with Ryan halfway through the game is still remembered in the annals of gaming history so many years later.

2 Legate Lanius – Fallout New Vegas

Legate Lanius in Fallout New Vegas

Fallout New Vegas is a game where you could argue there aren’t any heroes or villains. There are simply those you side with and those you don’t. However, from a moral standpoint, Caesar’s Legion is, more or less, immoral.

For those who don’t side with the Legion, you’re destined to encounter Legate Lanius, a ruthless war general. Throughout your adventure, you hear tales of his brutality and many conquests. This is before even meeting him, and when you do, your conversation will undoubtedly leave an impression.

1 Sovereign – Mass Effect

a hologram of a reaper called Sovereign in Mass Effect

By the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy, Commander Shepard would have already faced and talked to a couple of Reapers, including the first Reaper, Harbinger. Yet it’s in Mass Effect 1 where the most momentous encounter happens.

In the trilogy’s first entry, there is only one Reaper, Sovereign, and players only have one chance to speak with it. Your conversation with Sovereign completely changes everything you know about this mysterious enemy. In one exchange, Sovereign makes it known that the Reapers are fear-incarnate.

Next: Best Villains In FPS Games

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