Professor Hojo – Final Fantasy VII
In terms of sheer wickedness, Final Fantasy VII’s Professor Hojo certainly tops the list. He’s the instigator who sets off a chain of chaos that engulfs the Final Fantasy VII universe. As a unscrupulous scientist of the Shinra corporation, he’s in charge of all sorts of genetic tinkering and other weird science.
Hojo is so throughly diabolical, he injects DNA from the alien lifeform JENOVA into his unborn son: Sephiroth (and you thought your dad was bad for making cringeworthy puns). Not winning any father of the year awards, he has baby Sephiroth whisked off to a military training centre, never revealing. Hojo’s wife Lurcrecia is devestated by the alien DNA injected into her, and the trauma of having her son taken from her, wandering away into a cave to cocoon her tainted from in a giant crystal. Without Hojo’s experiments, Sephiroth would not have turned into such a bad egg, setting in action all the tragedies in FFVII.
Throughout Final Fantasy VII, Hojo is a thorn in the side of the party. First they have to break Aeris and Red XIII out of a holding cell where Hojo plans to breed the two together (which I’m sure has inspired many rule 34 following artists). The party later meet him relaxing on the beach, flanked by bikini clad babes while he’s laughing maniacally and dropping hints about Cloud’s mysterious past. In fact it’s the revelation that Cloud is actually a failed Sephiroth clone that drives the poor spikey-haired bastard into a catatonic state of shock! Finally, the party have to kill Hojo three seperate times after the barmy egghead injects himself with JENOVA cells, turning him into creatures just as grotesque as any of his experiements.
In Dirge of Cerberus, Hojo shows he’s also a brilliant forward thinker! Backing up his consciousness on a computer (never underestimate the usefulness of USB sticks), Hojo unleashes a secret undergound army of genetically engineered supersoliders to wreck havoc on the world. This is all so he can draw out the gargantuan Omega Weapon and merge his mind with it. Though his plans end up being foiled once again, one can’t help but wonder how many more backups of himself he’s made!
Throughout everything, Hojo is guided by a twisted scientific method. He sees everything as a grand experiment. He’s just not bound by any moral constraints. This is why he ends up injecting Jenova cells into Sephiroth, Cloud, the people of Nibelheim and even himself. This is why he puts Zack and Cloud into a laboratory rather than killing them (even though Cloud turns out to be Hojo’s undoing). Some villians just want to watch the world burn, but Hojo is twisted enough he actually wants to study the ashes. Hojo is the ultimate mad scientist in gaming and that’s what puts him to deservedly high on this list.
– Jonathan Trussler
Ardyn Izuna – Final Fantasy XV
With Final Fantasy XV’s goofy boyband party, and gameplay veering towards being more like a fun roadtrip than a daring adventure, the game’s story really needed a strong villain to keep things on track. Luckily, Ardyn is a simalcrum of the many great Final Fantasy Villains that have come before: combining colourful insanity, a tragic past and a pathological need to mess with the protagonist as much as possible. Ardyn also has a unique taste in fashion – rocking his fedora, overcoat with frilled cuffs and fanciful scarf. Like the best Final Fantasy villians, he’s flamboyantly dressed in a wearable collage of anachronistic nonsense.
Ardyn’s story is a sad one. As it’s revealed, Ardyn made a pact to seal demonic spirits inside of him to guard against the world-ending starscourge. However, he ended up being spurned by society for his sacrifice, with the Lucian royal family disowning him. For two more millenia hatred, resentment and daemonic energies churned inside him. This is what leads him to manipulate the Empire of Nilfheim into invading Lucis resulting in the death of prince Noctis (the plucky protagonist) being orphaned. He wants revenge on the Lucian royal line. This also neatly explains why he doesn’t just want to kill the heroes – he wants to completely screw with them too.
His reveal as a villian comes masterfully late in the game, having previously helped the heroes in the party on many occasions, even joining them on a roadtrip and helping them out of tricky situations. Ardyn murders Noctis’ beloved Lady Lunafreya, showing his true moustache-twirling (stubble-stroking?) villainy.
Ardyn even mind-warps Noctis into seeing Prompto as him. This results in a hilarious scene where Noctis is trying to kill Prompto thinking he’s Ardyn. The whole time Noctis is hearing Ardyn’s Shakespearian-actor-on-pot voice saying stuff like “Dude, are you seriously trying to kill me?”. Ardyn even tricks Noctis into throwing Prompto off a moving train! Brilliant! While Noctis is navigating through Nilfheim, he teases and toys with Noctis. Being a terribly sporting chap, Ardyn wants Noctis to be entombed in a crystal for 10 years till he’s strong enough to face him in what he considers to be a fair fight!
Ardyn is a great villian because he’s mysterious, but slowly unravelling; flamboyant, yet not irritatingly so, making him the perfect man to thoroughly ruin the goofy bromantic road trip of FFXV!
– Jonathan Trussler
Sephiroth – Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth is one of the greatest Final Fantasy villains because we get to see an insight into his building madness from very early on. He’s evil, but you can understand the pain that drives him. He also serves as a great mirror for the protagonist, Cloud,
Sephiroth is a sympathetic villain. Being raised by Shinra to be the perfect solider, he becomes a hero in the war against Wutai, highly regarded among the people and his comrades. In the FFVII prequel game: Crisis Core, it’s clear he has a strong friendship with Angeal and Genesis, two other genetically enchanced supersoldiers. Sephiroth and Genesis have a totally radical fight in the SOLDIER training room, where they end up chopping an immense virtual Junon cannon to pieces while trying to get at eachother. However, Sephiorth is relatively unruffled by it all, seeming a well-adjusted, cool, calm customer.
What ultimately ends up sending Sephiroth utterly crackers is the revelation of his true parentage: that he’s a ill-begotten child infused with cells from the alien Jenova. Sephiroth’s feelings of anger and betrayal at how he’s been lied to his entire life, coupled with the realization that he’s not really “human” as such, drive him completely off the deep end. He decides to liberate his imprisoned “mother” Jenova and take her to the “promised land”. To this end, he decides to burn Cloud’s hometown of Nibelheim to the ground, chop off Jenova’s head and merge with her in the lifestream (the perfect mother’s day gift).
Throughout Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth builds his power to nearly godlike proportions, all the while pursued by Cloud and his allies. Cloud is also tainted by Jenova cells because Professor Hojo injected him with them. Because of this, Sephiroth is able to periodically control Cloud like a puppet. He even forces Cloud, marionette-like, to raise his sword over Aeris and almost kill her. Even though Cloud manages to will himself to stop, Sephiroth murders Aeris in one of gaming’s all-time most tragic scenes. The image of Sephiroth gracefully falling towards Aeris, his beautifully silvery hair fluttering in the breeze, impaling Aeris with his iconic Masamune sword will be forever burned into the psyches of countless 30+ gamers around the world. In this one moment, Sephiroth created enough adolescent tears to fill an ocean, elliciting a chorus of “noooo!” heard round the world that would give William Shatner in Wrath of Khan a run for his money.
Sephiroth is such a great villain because he brings out the best in the hero. He reflects Cloud’s own feeling of lack of belonging, of never being able to be close to people because of his past and how different he is – unlike Sephiroth though, Cloud doesn’t let these feelings to drive him to evil and madness. Though early on, Cloud idolizes the hero Sephiroth for his strength, he becomes a hero himself because he overcomes the weakness that consumed Sephiroth. Cloud finally breaking any vestige of Sephiroth’s control of him is perfectly visualized as the two are having a metaphysical battle within the planet’s lifestream. With a furious execution of his final Limit Break – Omnislash – Cloud drives Sephiroth from his consciousness and rejects his myopic insanity once and for all.
Sephiroth was briefly resurrected in the film Final Fantasy: Advent Children for a quick cameo high-budget CG fight with Cloud. After being defeated, he fades away with the refrain “I won’t be just a memory…” He’ll certainly never be forgotten!
– Jonathan Trussler