The 15 Greatest Black Villains in video games

black villains in video games

Everyone loves to hate (or root for) an evil yet charismatic and powerful villain. These villainous characters come from different walks of life but usually share one common goal, and that's to beat to the sound of their own drum. Just like movies, video games throughout history have seen it's fair share of memorable villains.

In recent years there has been several acute examples of Black characters taking on impressive antagonistic roles. Nadine Ross' imposing presence in Uncharted 4, Isaac Dixon’s commanding leadership in The Last of Us 2, Phin Mason's strong stance in Spider-Man Miles Morales  — the list goes on. Thinking farther back, one might even mention Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!!, or Lance Vance from Grand Theft Auto Vice City. 

These characters are outstanding, provocative, and worthy of a certain degree of celebration  — not only for the violence and misery they inflict, but also for the space they take up as intelligent and creative characters.

Over several decades, gamers have gone up against some of the most sinister villains the world has ever known, and this list is a celebration of some those villains. Here are 15 of the greatest Black video game villains of all time.

15. Punch-Out!! - Mr Sandman 

best nintendo villains

There's a valid reason why Mr. Sandman is one of the highest ranked boxers in Nintendo's boxing video game series Punch-Out!!, and it's not only because he hits like a freight train. The Philadelphia native is a mastermind in the ring, who takes no prisoners and is hard as nails. His only loss in a result of facing the player controlled character Little Mac.

Out of all Mr. Sandman's video game appearances, his portrayal in the Nintendo Wii version of Punch-Out!! is undoubtedly the most calculated and supreme. Not only does he look in great shape, but for the first time in the series he is given a voice actor, which adds to his villainous status. As a quick yet powerful adversary, he'll taunt you, fake you and then send you off to dreamland. Night night.

14. Mortal Kombat 4 - Tanya

Originally introduced with a relatively innocent appearance in Mortal Kombat 4, Tanya's ending was a plot twist no one saw coming, well that's if you hadn't checked her in-game character profile. In her bio it states she is the devious, deceitful daughter of an Edenian ambassador, who lures a bunch of fleeing migrants into a trap set by the banished Elder God, Shinnok.

Her treacherous and sly nature is seen in greater depth during her cinematic ending when she walks through an underground passage with a none the wiser Liu Kang, as she casually leads him to his death. Eventually a trap door falls, and Tanya steps back as Shinnok and Quan Chi reveal themselves. Shinnok informs the Earthrealm that all of his friends are dead. The elder god then murders Liu Kang on the spot when he foolishly attempts to attack.

Although uncanon, this ending made Tanya a minor yet memorable antagonist in the series. Since then she has shown time and time again that she can can easily be bought for the right price and is willing to betray her current cause when a better opportunity presents itself.

13. Grand Theft Auto IV - Playboy X

snowfall manboy

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto IV's rendition of Liberty City is based on New York City, which is why the slimy b-stard quality that Trey Stewart brings to the table is bittersweet. He is Playboy X. He’s charismatic, ambitious, unpredictable, chaotic energy manifested. Playboy X is always performing, always moving, always scheming.

As the leader of crack cocaine distribution in Liberty City, Playboy X is a major player in the game. Formerly a small-time dealer, Stewart levels up and becomes a boss when Dwayne Forge, his drug dealing mentor, is imprisoned. During this period he takes his mentor's illicit business to new heights, even expanding into legitimate territory. 

Trey is admirable for the simple fact that he wants to give back to the people in his community and leave the criminal lifestyle behind him in hopes of becoming a legitimate real estate developer. Yet at the same time, his desire to kill a man who he once looked up to as a father figure is slimy and quite simply one of the all-time great heel turns.

12. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Fortune

best female villains in video games

A character with one of the most tragic villain backstories in video game history. Fortune, real name Helena Dolph Jackson, became leader of the US Navy special forces unit known as Dead Cell in Metal Gear Solid 2, after being dubbed "Lady Luck" by her comrades, due to her team's unnatural amount of luck on the battlefield, as well as her astounding abilities.

Prior to her leadership of Dead Cell, Helena (who was also pregnant at the time) lived a relatively normal life until the murder of her father, and the suicide of her husband and mother in less than a year. Not being able to handle the trauma of losing all her loved ones so abruptly, she ended up having a miscarriage.

At some point, she discovered that Solid Snake was the person presumably responsible for her father's demise and in a blind rage she joined the armed forces to avenge his death. As a result of her traumatic experiences, the desire for death was strong in her mind, and she had nothing left to live for except the lust for revenge. Fortune also felt that no one could kill her and developed the nihilistic view that she might as well murder everyone in her path.

11. Overwatch - Doomfist

Blizzard's Overwatch has featured it's fair share of morally ambiguous characters, but Doomfist is without a doubt one of the first genuine villains fans are introduced to from the game's ever-expanding universe. As a high-ranking member of Talon, Doomfist strongly shares the evil organization's view that humanity will grow stronger through conflict.

Doomfist whose real name is Akande Ogundimu, is in fact the third individual to use the moniker on the Numbani map. His banner labels him as “the Successor,” and his backstory has no trouble in painting him as a truly vile villain. Originally the heir to a Nigerian prosthetic-technology company, Akande balanced expanding his family’s company and participating in competitive martial arts.

When he lost his right arm during the Omnic Crisis, his continued dedication to the company and his new prosthetic arm caught the attention of the second Doomfist, Akinjide Adeyemi. It wouldn't be long before Adeyemi took him under his wing as a member of Talon, although sooner or later, Akande ended up killing his mentor and taking the almighty gauntlet for himself. During that time he became one of the leaders of Talon.

10. Balrog - Street Fighter

mike Tyson

Who's the baddest man on the planet not named Mike Tyson, well that would probably be Balrog if he were a real person, considering he is loosely based on the legendary boxer, (he was even called Mike Bison until the game was localized in North America). First appearing in Street Fighter II as a boss character, Balrog aka Boxer quickly gained a reputation in the series for being a greedy, hot-headed and violent bully with a jaw-shattering uppercut.

Originally a great boxing champion who started from the bottom, Balrog's ruthless nature from his time on the streets sooner or later caught up with him and he was eventually banned from the sport after severely injuring several opponents and accidently killing one. 

Though he relished in his fame as a former professional boxer, especially in the city of Las Vegas where he resided, Balrog preferred money to the glory, and this led him to join the Shadaloo criminal organisation, where he eventually became M. Bison's chief enforcer. As the greedy man he is, Balrog would lie, steal and even kill for the right price.

9. Def Jam Vendetta - D-Mob

who is suge knight

Every good story needs a villain and Def Jam Vendetta's D-Mob, who is possibly inspired by the former music executive and CEO of Death Row Records, Suge Knight, is a crime lord who uses fear as power to keep his street soldiers in line and anyone else who would dare oppose him.

Initially a teenager hustling in the streets of Balitmore, by the time he arrived in New York, D-Mob was a notorious mafia boss who gained a loyal crew of followers and ran all the illegal fight club action in New York City. Naturally due to his status and size, D-Mob deluded himself in believing no one could ever beat him in a fight, yet he was wrong.

8. The Last of Us: Part II - Isaac Dixon

As the leader of Washington Liberation Front, an antagonistic paramilitary faction in The Last of Us Part II, Isaac is a seasoned veteran who is as unsympathetic and stubborn as you'd expect a man leading a group of trigger happy civilians in the middle of an apocalypse to be.

On one hand, Isaac is a respected leader whose actions proved to be beneficial to the survivors in his community, yet there's a much darker side to the WFL leader. As much as he is respected by his peers, Isaac is also feared, and that's due to his ruthless and uncompromising nature. His tendency to kill outsiders, regardless of their innocence is why he is a force to be reckoned with.

7. Def Jam Fight for NY - Crow

If there’s one thing Snoop Dogg is going to do, it’s play a villain, and his portrayal of the slick mouthed and defiant mobster "Crow" in Def Jam Fight for NY is simply phenomenal. You could even argue it's right up there with his movie roles on Mount Rushmore. 

As a certified gangster and club owner who believed fear and not respect was power, Crow yearned to take over all of his rival and former business associate's D-Mob's territory in New York City, after the pair failed to see eye to eye on business strategies.

6. Assassin's Creed III Liberation - Agaté

black panther villains

The iconic movie quote "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." perfectly sums up the voodoo practitioner Agaté , who is a mentor turned enemy to the protagonist and the daughter he never had, Aveline de Grandpré in Assassin's Creed's Liberation.

During the course of the game, Agaté's relationship with his impulsive disciple turns sour due to his unwavering thirst for revenge and secretive behaviour. Naturally Aveline's reluctance to follow orders and ask one to many questions made Agaté eventually doubt her loyalty to the cause. 

5. Uncharted 4: A Thief's end - Nadine Ross

Nadine Ross vs Nathan Drake

In the Uncharted franchise, Nathan Drake has gone up against some strong adversaries, but the treasure hunter bit of more then he could chew when he fought Shoreline leader Nadine Ross in hand to hand combat, only to end up receiving a beating of a lifetime.

As the leader of a South African private military whose life was shaped by war and conflict, Nadine is a military figure who is tough, merciless and darn good at her job. Her beatdown of Nathan Drake naturally made her public enemy number one in the eyes of Uncharted fans who immediately wanted her head on a platter, and it's for this reason why Nadine is one of the most memorable villains the series has conceived.

4. Spiderman Miles Morales - Phin Mason

It's always the ones you least expect and this perfectly sums up Phin Mason, Miles Morales' sister from another mister who ends up becoming the Tinkerer and leader of the infamous Underground. Prior to her evil persona, Phin was an intelligent and kind-hearted person who wished to make the world a better place.

Though following the death of her brother at the hands of the negligent Roxxon corporation, Phin became a completely different person. She was driven by heartache and rage, as well as a desire for revenge against Roxxon that consumed her. As the Tinkerer, Phin was merciless, moody, and cold blooded. 

3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - Big Smoke

gta san andreas big smoke

“When I’m gone, everyone gonna remember my name… Big Smoke!” is a quote from the big man himself which rings true to this day, because even after 15 years since the game's release, the character "Big Smoke" hasn't been forgotten by fans.

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is home to numerous villains that players love to hate, but in Big Smoke's case, he's the villain that players love to love. His memorable lines, somewhat comedic relief and betrayal of Grove Street have made him extremely popular among the GTA fandom, including casuals who love him for the memes.

Besides his evildoing and traitorous ways, Big Smoke is an unintentionally funny character and that's one of the main reasons he stands out as a major antagonist. Although there's a balance, because he isn't a complete joke. He has destroyed many people's lives in Los Santos with his lucrative drug trade and betrayed his Grove Street brothers in the name of legacy and wealth.

2. Spiderman Miles Morales - Aaron Davis

It's not hard to see why Miles considered Aaron Davis to be the "cool uncle" growing up, because he is a charismatic and well written character, who you can't help but pay attention to. He is first introduced to players as a subway worker and the uncle of Miles Morales, but as the story unfolds and it's revealed that he is the notorious Prowler, this is where his true colors shine.

Multiple times in the game, Aaron Davis, equipped with advanced Roxxon-appointed gear as The Prowler, inserts himself into Miles' Spider-Man affairs. It's often done to protect Miles, get him out of harms way or reminisce about the past, but there's a dark side to all the family bonding. Because it's also a ploy to manipulate his nephew and get what he needs out of him, ultimately leading to the classic shakespearean betrayal angle.

1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - Officer Tenpenny

police corruption in video games

Arguably one of Samuel L. Jackson's greatest roles in his acting career is his villainous portrayal of the controlling sociopath and corrupt officer Frank Tenpenny. In the first few minutes of the game, Tenpenny immediately shows us what type of person he is, when he pressures a younger rookie cop working under him to murder a colleague.

Hiding behind his police badge, Tenpenny enjoys tormenting CJ on a daily basis and reminding him who's in charge as he forces the GSF gangbanger to do his dirty work. Though CJ is not the only victim to endure Tenpenny's power trip, as he also uses the gangs of Los Santos like tools.

Although Tenpenny claims to be pitting the Los Santos gangs against one another to eradicate them all, he is actually associated with the Ballas, who (unlike the GSF) have no objection to dealing crack cocaine in the community. To summarize, Tenpenny is rotten to the core, and the worst part is that he knows and loves it. He sees his infamy as a badge of honor and is willing to trample over anyone who gets in his way of achieving more power within the city. He also has a catchy theme song.


Your thoughts?

  1. After playing Spider man miles morales, I came to the conclusion that Prowler is one of the dopest black supervillains of all time.

  2. Snoop Dogg in def jam fight for ny was a goon til the very end.

  3. Mr sandman punch out deserves a roster spot in super smash bros ultimate or a complete new new super smash bros game.

  4. Those big smoke meme are getting outta hand

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