Video game villains can sometimes be more interesting and engaging than the protagonists. They are often cool, edgy, darker, and more sinister than the heroes. But being villains means that at the end of the game, they often lose.
In some video game series, though, those villains return in new, protagonist roles. The one-time villains turn a new leaf, discover their goals, ally with the heroes, or they realize they were the villains all along and dislike that revelation. There are many ways in which one-time video game villains become protagonists, and there are many games and series in which this happens.
This article includes spoilers for the games mentioned.
9 Nadine Ross – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Nadine is the leader of her own private militia, and she joins forces with the villains of that game to stop you from finding the hidden treasure first. You, as Nathan Drake, even do battle with Nadine on a couple of occasions throughout the game.
Eventually, she decides to end her alliance with the villains and makes her departure. She then shows up as an unplayable protagonist in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, teaming with Chloe to find a new hidden treasure, having lost her one-time allies and everything else.
8 Kain – Legacy Of Kain Series
Kain was once a noble person turned vampire in the events of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. He started as a revenge seeking protagonist. Then, in the sequel, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, he became the antagonist to Raziel’s protagonist.
Raziel is executed by Kain, and then seeks vengeance of his own. Kain returns as the protagonist of his own game in Blood Omen 2, a prequel to Soul Reaver. Kain is a villainous character who constantly shifts between the role of antagonist and protagonist.
7 Revan – Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
In Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, you play as a created character who cannot remember anything about their past. As the game progresses, you hear about recent events concerning the Sith Lord Revan. One of the worst of the worst.
The big twist of the game is that all along, you were Revan. The morality system of the game allows you to carry on Revan’s villainous ways or turn them into a hero. While technically the villainous Revan’s actions occur prior to the game’s narrative, they still became the protagonist.
6 Knuckles – Sonic The Hedgehog Series
Throughout the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Knuckles taunts and attacks Sonic. He keeps butting in and tries his best to prevent you from succeeding. At the same time, he is being manipulated by the more villainous, Dr. Robotnik.
Naturally, Knuckles finds out that Robotnik is using and manipulating him and then switches sides. He helps Sonic and friends take down the evil doctor and save the day, while still maintaining that cool, edgy, almost villainous attitude and demeanor.
5 Bowser – Super Mario Series
Bowser is Mario’s arch nemesis, constantly wanting to end the one-time plumber and marry Princess Peach. He’s a villain. But there are occasions where Bowser and Mario team up to take down even more villainous characters. For example, Super Mario RPG and Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.
While Bowser has shown a willingness to put aside his villainous ways, when necessary, he never fully commits to being a protagonist. He still offers jibes and comments attacking his new, temporary allies, and he still acts and behaves in an eviler manner.
4 The Arbiter – Halo Series
The Arbiter in Halo 2 is a disgraced Covenant commander who is sent on suicide missions for his superiors as a means of atonement. In Halo 2, you switch between Master Chief and The Arbiter, learn that he was a villain in the first game and that he and Master Chief’s goals are aligned.
The Arbiter becomes a protagonist. To save all life in the galaxy, he and Master Chief team up to save the galaxy. In the process, Arbiter turns on his people. He then returns in Halo 3 as a playable character, and again in Halo 5.
3 Shadow The Hedgehog – Sonic The Hedgehog Series
Sonic the Hedgehog has many villains he must contend with. One of the most sinister and iconic is that of Shadow the Hedgehog. He is essentially, a darker, cooler version of Sonic, and was introduced in Sonic Adventure 2.
In Shadow the Hedgehog, the video game, you take on the role of the one-time villain. The game has a morality system that allows you to veer into that villainous territory or make Shadow more of a hero. Unlike Sonic, though, Shadow uses guns and motorcycles in combat and platforming, giving him an edgier vibe.
2 Donkey Kong – Donkey Kong Series
In the original Donkey Kong, the tiular ape is at the top of the screen tossing barrels at you, Mario. Your goal is to hop over the barrels, jump gaps, climb ladders, and take him down. It’s not the most elaborate of villainous schemes, but he is an ape.
Donkey Kong then returned as the hero of his own video game series. Although the Donkey Kong you play as in the Donkey Kong games is the grandson of the villainous Donkey Kong, who in his older years is known as Cranky Kong.
Big Boss was first introduced in Metal Gear as the villain of the game, the leader of a terrorist group, and the father of the protagonist, Solid Snake. For a long time, he was presumed dead after the events of the game and its sequel, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
The character makes a return under the name of Naked Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, in which he is the protagonist. He then continues to be the protagonist in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes.
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