9 Gaming Villains Who Never Fight You Directly
Many villains are able to reach their villainous status by force, amassing armies or terrorizing the world with terrifying strength and abilities. Some villains, however, are more thinkers than doers. They may lead an antagonistic force, but only on presumed authority, with the villains themselves not having much in the way of fighting ability.
It’s these villains that always have legions of soldiers and machines to send out, but when directly confronted by protagonists, don’t have anything to offer besides the occasional monologue.
Updated on May 9, 2023 by Quinton O’Connor: We’ve given it some thought and added a handful more villains to our who’s-who list of noncombatant antagonists. Let us know if you recognize ’em!
Dr. Angus Bumby – Alice: Madness Returns
Dr. Bumby presents himself as a kindly and professional therapist trying to help Alice work past her delusions of Wonderland. He is, in actuality, a very bad person for reasons too gross to get into. In an effort to manipulate Alice’s mental state, Bumby creates a psychological construct in Alice’s mind (and by extension, Wonderland) known as The Dollmaker, who is systematically destroying and dismantling Wonderland.
While the construct of The Dollmaker menaces Alice on several occasions, though, Bumby himself is a completely ordinary man who never lifts a finger against her directly, which is probably why it was so easy for Alice to shove him in front of an oncoming train.
Zachary Hale Comstock – BioShock Infinite
The prophet and governing figure to all of Columbia, Comstock had been holding Elizabeth captive for her entire life, with the intent of raising her and her powers into tools of righteous fury that he would use to destroy the world below.
While he appears on multiple occasions to menace Booker and Elizabeth through BioShock Infinite, he never directly attacks them on his own, opting to deploy soldiers instead. When Booker and Elizabeth finally confront Comstock, Booker kills him in a fit of rage, with Comstock seemingly satisfied with the outcome he’s reached.
Krelian – Xenogears
To say that Xenogears has a complex story would be an exercise in understatement. As the Xenosaga and Xenoblade games continued to prove thereafter, Tetsuya Takashi is a creator with a lot of things on his mind who is not afraid to shove them all into a fantasy-RPG blender and see what happens. If you love a deep tale, you’ll vibe with it just fine. If you’d rather cut to the gameplay chase already, well, maybe not so much.
Regardless, Krelian is Xenogears’ chief antagonist. Or at least, he’s one of them. There are a lot of villains in Xenogears, you see, and protagonist Fei and Elhaym, alongside their suitably diverse group of allies, join forces to bludgeon many of them to oblivion. Not so with Krelian, centuries-old mastermind that he is; while the final battle of the game pits Fei against something that Krelian has willed into combat, the scientist himself never comes to fisticuffs with you.
In fact, Krelian’s own end is… almost peaceful, really. And yet, it works. It absolutely works.
Dr. Hugo Strange – Batman: Arkham City
In both the Arkham games and the Batman series at large, Dr. Hugo Strange has been one of Batman’s most persistent foes. He’s absolutely fascinated with Bruce Wayne’s vigilante behaviors and will do anything to lure him in, capture him, and dissect him to see what makes him tick.
In Arkham City, Strange regularly makes speaker announcements to taunt and lure Batman, whom he deliberately trapped in the city to keep him from getting in the way of his plan to completely wipe out everyone quarantined in Arkham City. When Batman confronts Strange, there’s no fight; Strange is merely shoved aside as Batman attempts to stop Protocol 10. The one who ultimately does Strange in is Ra’s Al Ghul.
King Logan – Fable 3
King Logan is the tyrannical ruler of Albion for the first half of Fable 3. While he was originally a fair and just ruler, Logan suddenly seemed to go mad with power, going out of his way to spur industrial development, conscript soldiers, and squeeze the populace for every coin they’ve got.
When the protagonist, Logan’s own younger sibling, storms the castle in an effort to depose him, however, he immediately surrenders and crowns them the new ruler of Albion. As it turns out, Logan was only trying to build the nation’s defenses in preparation for the existential horror of the Crawler. Whoops.
Dr. Mobius – Fallout: New Vegas
Dr. Mobius is the almost-comically cliché nemesis of Big MT’s Think Tank. He commands an army of robo-scorpions from the “Forbidden Zone,” and is the one that erected the radar fence that keeps all the Big MT’s denizens trapped. When the Courier confronts Mobius, though, he’s actually a pretty friendly guy, not even remembering the various threats he sent to you and the Think Tank since he was just high on Psycho and Mentats at the time.
It is true that he built the radar fence and its defenses, but only because he knew the members of the Think Tank would wreak scientific havoc on the Mojave if they ever got loose. He won’t fight you if you don’t give him a reason to, and if you do, he won’t put up much of a resistance.
Commander Tartar – Splatoon 2
Commander Tartar is a highly advanced AI construct created by a mysterious human scientist 12,000 years ago. Tartar was supposed to pass on the wisdom of humanity to whatever race dominated the Earth next, but found itself disillusioned by the flighty whims and warlike tendencies of the Inklings and Octarians.
Tartar opts instead to “refine” creatures into new biomass to create an ideal life form. At the end of the Octo Expansion, it attempts to do this through the use of NILS, a giant ink-blasting cannon, though whether it succeeds or not, Tartar doesn’t actually do much besides sit in NILS’s eye and jeer at Agent 8.
Emperor Gestahl – Final Fantasy 6
A man so pleased with himself that he names his own world-conquering organization ‘the Gestahlian Empire’, Emperor Gestahl is obsessed with the pursuit of absolute power. This is not a multilayered man, though in a neat little narrative trick, Final Fantasy 6 attempts to convince you otherwise at one point, with Gestahl humbling himself in apology before the heroes despite continually evil intentions.
To the untrained eye, Gestahl seems the lead antagonist of FF6 for much of its runtime, with the comical General Kefka as his unhinged lackey. Most folks know the truth of it by now, that Gestahl is betrayed and murdered by Kefka rather than ever teeing off against the Returners firsthand.
Dr. Wallace Breen – Half-Life 2
Originally the head of the Black Mesa research facility, Dr. Wallace Breen was installed as the token figurehead of Earth when the Combine were drawn in by their contact with Xen.
It’s difficult to determine whether Breen actually buys what the Combine is selling; he regularly makes propaganda speeches to the residents of City 17, as well as direct threats to Gordon, both talking about how superior the Combine is and how any resistance efforts are guaranteed to fail, though he could just be trying to save his own skin.
Either way, he’s just a regular guy, and can’t do anything but beg and whine when Gordon finally fights his way up to the top of his Citadel.
Grant Kendrell – Transistor
Grant is the head of the Camerata, a sort of mini-Illuminati that controls the most important aspects of the city of Cloudbank from behind the scenes. After growing frustrated with the fickle whims of Cloudbank’s populace, Grant used the power of the Transistor to unleash the Process in the hopes of forcing the city and its people into something at least a little more uniform and stable.
He’s presented as a major antagonistic force in Transistor’s front half, but when Red finally confronts him, she finds a surprise: Grant and his partner Asher dead on the ground, having committed suicide out of despair from what they inadvertently subjected Cloudbank to.
Gristol Malik – Psychonauts 2
As the son of the Gzar of Grulovia, Malik grew up with one heck of a silver spoon in his mouth. When the fall of Grulovia caused that metaphorical spoon to be reduced to only a slightly-luxurious one, he began scheming a multi-year plan to take revenge on the Psychonauts and regain the power he thinks he deserves.
Malik successfully orchestrates events of Psychonauts 2, even going as far as to transplant his own brain into Truman Zanotto’s head, but when he’s confronted by Raz and Lili, he just brags about how great he is before having his mental butt kicked. This is shortly before he has his real butt kicked by the unleashed Maligula.
The Illusive Man – Mass Effect 3
Martin Sheen’s brilliant performance as Cerberus’ enigmatic leader, the Illusive Man, arguably provides additional depth to the role that the writing alone never entirely supports. His ambitions are clearly humanity-first, and that speciesist outlook is hard to sugarcoat, but he still manages to come through in Mass Effect 2 as an overall force for good – Machiavellian, perhaps, but worth associating with.
It all falls like a house of cards in the third game, which presents a darker and more self-absorbed man whose ego overwhelms his convictions (with a little help from Reaper-branded indoctrination along the way). Although you battle his chief lieutenant, Kai Leng, you never actually come to blows with the Illusive Man in any real measure; his destined death plays out cinematically instead.
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