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The Best Games Where You Play as a Villain

A blue-skinned man in a white uniform sitting in a chair in a starship's command deck.

There are some games where you’re thrust into the role of a monster, driven by hunger, plague or some other force and so you unleash your fury upon the innocent. But what about those titles where you don’t have that excuse? As terrifying as undead monsters might be, there are plenty of games where you’re a villain just because it’s a choice you’ve made.

Sure, you’re only dispatching computer-generated enemies, but you’ve sought out that opportunity. And while you might be having the time of your life, it’s tempered by the knowledge that yes, you are the baddies. Take Tie Fighter, for example. It’s a fantastic game but… you’re literally the Empire. You know, the Alderaan-exploding force that has the galaxy in a stranglehold?

Which leads to the question.. can you really push that aside? Should you even try to? The correct answer is, of course, yes. Why? Because we we are just terrible. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best games where you play as a villain from Star Wars through to Warioland.

1. Tie Fighter

Tie Fighter
  • Available on PC, Mac

Tie Fighter does away with the Dark Side and puts you in the cockpit of one of several imperial craft, from Tie Fighters through Tie Defenders and more. It’s a hugely accomplished space flight sim which lets you tweak your vessel mid-flight, invaluable since the base Tie Fighters don’t come with shields.

But aside from being a superb flight sim, its story is almost worth the asking price. You find yourself pulled into the inner circle of the Empire and.. no, that’s not right. You earn your way into the Empire’s inner circle and become instrumental in crushing the Rebellion’s efforts. You know the Empire’s story is going to end but being a villain is worryingly fulfilling.

2. Saints Row 2

  • Available on PC, Xbox (via backwards compatibility)

Before Saints Row The Third made you a media superstar, your boss was a sociopath. And it was amazing. It’s not just the sheer volume of hyper-violent shenanigans that makes this GTA-alike fantastic, it’s that your boss doesn’t pretend to be doing it for anything other than power or revenge.

Forget GTA 4’s Nico Bellic, whose actions defy his alleged desire for piece, your boss is just the worse and it’s so, so refreshing. Sadly, with Volition closed after the disappointing reception of the Saints Row remake, a remaster of SR2 is unlikely.

3. Undertale

  • Available on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Mac

You don’t have to be the villain in Undertale but if you go in cold, expecting this to be a regular RPG, that’s what you’ll become. Once you’ve got the best ending you probably won’t be able to conceive of hurting the game’s ‘enemies’. But if you go in all the way, choosing to slaughter them even knowing what you know? You get to be one of the worst villains in video games.

4. Dungeon Keeper 2

  • Available on PC

Your on-screen hand suggests that your Dungeon Keeper 2 protagonist isn’t entirely human, but they’re wicked enough to run their own monster-filled dungeon. Building your dungeon and slaughtering all the ‘heroes’ who come to defeat you is such a joy. But what’s wonderfully, deliciously villainous is capturing those heroes, torturing them to your side and then sending them back to fight their former comrades.

5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

  • Available on PC, Xbox (via backwards compatibility)

There are a lot of villainous things you can do in the fourth Elder Scrolls game, but the Dark Brotherhood assassins guild is where the real villains go. Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood quest line is fun but Oblivion outdoes it, including a mission where you turn a whodunnit on its head, locked up with people you’re tasked with killing.

6. Grand Theft Auto V

  • Available on PC, Xbox, PlayStation

GTA V gives you a trio of villains to play as, not just the unhinged Trevor. And they are villains, not anti-heroes. Michael got his shot at going straight but he went back to his bad old ways, dragging Franklin into his world. Still, they may be bad ‘uns but from stealing cars to planning and executing heists, this is a brilliant open-world crime outing.

7. Warioland: Super Mario Land 3

  • Available on Game Boy

Of all these games, Warioland: Super Mario Land 3 is probably the hardest to get hold of. It was on the Nintendo Wii/WiiU/DS Eshop but when that shut down it went it and it’s not on Switch Online. But playing as Wario, the previous game’s antagonist, was a breath of fresh air at the time. And if you can track this down, it still is. Wario is driving by greed and that’s absolutely fine. Who wouldn’t want a planet with their own face on it?

Weekend Editor // Chris has been gaming since the days of the Acorn Electron, which was allegedly purchased to 'help him with his homework'. You can probably guess how well that went. He’ll tackle most genres – football titles aside – though he has a taste for games that that are post-apocalyptic, horror-oriented or thought provoking in nature.