What Makes A Good Villain

Hey, I’m one of those people that has read the forums, but only now created an account, and I wanted to do that thing where people introduce themselves by creating a (hopefully interesting) topic.

I’m a writer, or at least I try to be, and when I create characters, the ones that stick with me as really powerful personalities and unique individuals are the villains. Now I love my heroes to death, sometimes literally, but villains have this force of will to them that make them unforgettable, even to their creator.

My question to the forums is a common one, but what are the best qualities for a villain to have? What makes them stick out to you? I’d love to give some of mine, but I’m interested to see what other people say first. Maybe this can turn into a collaborative thing where we can help people create more interesting antagonists, that’d be neat, especially cause I was thinking villains in a lot of the games here seem to be more nebulous factions than individual characters in their own right. So uh, just list your favorite things in a villain, and let’s see what happens!


A good villain doesn’t tell their long drawn out master plan to their nemesis every time they capture them or plan long elaborate forms of killing them. If they do have some master plan they have a pair of advisors to go over it with them to eliminate kinks that a simple 5 year old could see.
If you catch your enemy end them quick and quiet, and always always cheat but maintain some moral code no matter how much of a Blue and orange morality it is.
And a good villain always wear nice stylish cloths even regular clothing is just that simple cut above.


A good villain threatens or destroys something the reader is emotionally invested in.

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Usually something important to be taken seriously and to hate them but not big enough to encure the wrath of a more powerful force than they could handle.

Impeccable reasoning (personal preference) and a good amount of screen time and exposition to make you see them not as just the villain of the story but as someone who has their own motives to be there, be it self-preservation, revenge, whatever. Most good villains are people who actually have a reason to be doing what they’re doing, not just the old ‘I want to destroy the city/country/world’ stereotype.


The laugh. Jk, jk. If you want the audience to take you seriously, no monologuing, like, at all. If there’s an investigation into the villain, hints being dropped during the investigation is more subtle.

What I like is the true identity is not easy to guess. Like it was really some close to the read yet forgettable.

Like the CoG Hero series the first villain revealed as one of the sidekick choices.

A lot of problems people run into with villains is making them real. Some villains just don’t feel real or memorable to the player/reader because they are pretty two dimensional. “I want to summon the soul eating monster!” or “I want to rule the world!” are boring. It’s villainous, sure, but it isn’t interesting.

We can go one step further to add a lot more complexity to them, but even so it isn’t all that interesting. “I’m destroying this country because my husband was murdered by your people in The War!” and “I want to bring my son back from the dead, and all it costs is the lives of this entire city.” Both are significantly more interesting, but still lack a lot of memorability.

What makes a villain more memorable and interesting is, as @Ylva said, make people with good reasons. They think they are doing what is right. They are desperate to save the world, so much so that they might actually be convincing enough to win over the player, despite what the cost of saving the world is. They might be blinded by faith or loyalty to someone or something, but still respect and acknowledge the player’s side of the argument.

A good villain is a villain we can understand, empathize with, and occasionally side with. It’s someone we regret killing or defeating.

((Note that the above is entirely my opinion. There are other factors that make good villains good, and some villains are good in spite of avoiding the above. This is just, in my opinion, one of the primary things that makes a villain good and easy to remember))


Most defiantly, they need to be 3 dimensional almost as well rounded as the protagonist if not more you need to be able to at least slightly relate or understand the villain to properly connect them as the main villain and not a cartoonish thug or cardboard push over.

Oh a good one to experience is the heard but not seen villain. All the action you experience and reports you hear of are vague second hand reports of their underlings with no definitive I’d on the actual villain and any caught minions either die or despite mountains of evidence are allowed to walk free in a day due to influance with the right people to the police or agencies displeasure not becuase of corruption from them

My favorite will be…
either a villain that at some points go “friendly” because they have a common enemies with the heroes (3rd party evil-organization), and turning back to “evil” once that job is done.


the good guy’s partner (companion, sidekick, whatever) that turns evil because they have a different perspective of the world from the good guy.

Oh, and also extra point for being this,

and this.


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As the Supreme Court once said about pornography: I know it when I see it.

In my experience, characters will often succeed or fail despite my best efforts and often characters I write will attract different readers for different reasons.

It is a really weird feeling when the same character evokes different and equally passionate feelings in different readers. One reader hates the character’s guts and another tells me they want to end up in a RO with the character. … I am addicted to writing such characters now after experiencing this.


I don’t know about “good” but one of the things that I really dislike about a villain is when their actions make no sense. For example, if a villain is both (supposedly) intelligent and ruthless, has every reason to want the protagonist dead, and isn’t occupied with more pressing matters, then why don’t they just kill the protagonist (or at least try to)? It’s often seen with twist villains, where the villain will be “good” for most of the film, and will often act in ways completely contrary to their later-revealed plans. If a villain is stupid-yet-powerful (or just insane), then sure, they can do stupid things, but if they’re smart, they should act like it! :angry:


I’ll kill you, Bond, so I can use my hyper-destruct-o-beam to vaporize U.S. U.K.

Now, let me create a spike-trap with a rope dangling above it for you to escape it from, instead of shooting you right in the head! :smiling_imp:


Definitely the sneaky schemers, playing in the background while everyone else is still just trying to catch up with things happening in the foreground.

Taking ASoIaF/GoT as an overused example, I like the Littlefingers and Varyses better than the Joffreys/Ramseys/Tywins/Mountains/Eurons. Not to say that they aren’t great villains as well, but I just like the guys who pop out every once in awhile to turn everything on its head.

Definitely agreeing with @Ylva and @LanaRose, I think stereotypical villains are very cliche, and when it seems that they are just hell-bent on watching the world burn, its easier for a player to just kill the villain without any sense of attachment to the character of the villain.

As much as it comes to memorable villains, I find two kinds of villains interesting. Firstly, those who have a purpose and are doing evil as a means of accomplishing a certain goal. For example, a draconian ruler putting the economy ahead of the welfare of his people might be doing so only to finance an army for the defence of the nation. Or a pirate might have been forced into it as his land and wealth was confiscated by the state. Being able to understand why a villain has turned to evil really builds the character and makes it really interesting.

Another kind of villain that I find very intriguing would be the kind that is in fact, the kind that is intelligent and capable of manipulating others to his/her will. There is just something very sinister about a villain who stays mysterious but is able to manage his/her subordinates through a ruthless and efficient system of threats, blackmail and fear. I believe that being able to slowly uncover the mind of such a villain would be really rewarding as the reader slowly progresses through the book.

Just personal preferences! There are definitely tons of other villain-types that would be exciting to read about!


Nowhere are villains better done than the world of comics, and I think two who are almost inarguably the most popular for their respective companies highlight different approaches and how they can excel:

Magneto-He’s not the best X-Men villain just because he was first, or because he’s so powerful. It’s because even when he does horrible things, he has good justifications for them. His tragic backstory, his often noble yet still irreparably damaged goals, his ability to attract like-minded followers. It’s the same reason they can’t quit him in the film series. His presence puts a little steel in the mutant community’s collective spine.

And then the flip side:

The Joker-Pure, unbridled chaos and insanity. The id unleashed, where at least half the fun is just seeing what he’ll do next. Unfettered by the slightest conscience, with a flair for the dramatic (actually, all good villains have that to some extent). The basic concept with a villain like this is that less isn’t more, more is more.

You can’t go wrong with the ‘dark mirror of the protagonist’ sort of villain, either. Janus in GoldenEye, that sort of thing.


The villain needs an equally good hero to oppose him/her :smile:

Honestly, the villain just needs to be entertaining and quite frankly if he’s moping about WHY he’s killing babies to bring about world domination instead of just getting on with the baby killing business then he’s not entertaining.

Actually sort of tired of seeing villains who we’re supposed to be sympathetic towards by attempting to “humanize” them. I don’t care. Just like I wouldn’t wonder about the deep seated psychological reasons of why the criminal in front of me is holding a gun.

Complex villains over the years have become overrated to me. I’d rather see someone just reveling in their villainy than them giving some long winded reason that they’re on this dark path because they didn’t get enough hugs as a child (or too many hugs).

A good example of a villain who got ruined by adding “complexity” is Darth Vader. Seriously, a perfectly good villain in the original trilogy. There was just enough “back story” that SOMETHING obviously went wrong, but we didn’t know what it was exactly and it was probably better that way.

Cue the prequels and now? Well can’t really look at ol’ Vader as anything more than a whiny emo teen that went to the dark side for pretty stupid reasons in the first place and just later on became a crippled man in mask that was still moping about. (And Kylo Ren is like the delusional fanboy that thinks Vader’s evil edginess is cool and so emulated him. Lol)

Palpatine was a better villain. Why? Because he wasn’t struggling with anything he was doing, he was just getting on with it. And that’s what I want to see with a good villain. One that’s just getting on with it.

This is why I like someone like Ramsay a lot better than say someone like Little Finger. Now granted, I like Little Finger, but his whole base motivation is sort of pathetic since it pretty much all amounts to “Well I liked this girl and I got beat up when I was a kid, so I’m going to be an asshole to everyone now.”

Ramsay didn’t bother with pretenses. The guy was just a dyed in the wool villain and that’s it. I mean yeah they could have gone into a whole backstory that his dad was a bastard and growing up around a house that has more sociopaths than average lead to some of the reasons of why he was the way he was, but why bother? It actually doesn’t add anything, and we can figure it all out on our own anyway.

And I actually thought he was more complex than most give him credit for. Obviously he did care about Miranda in his own twisted way and was desperately seeking his dad’s approval and those were brief moments that you saw and it was enough. It wasn’t beat over your head that “Hey this guy is human just like you!”

Yes, I know he’s human, I don’t need to empathize or sympathize with him. I’m here to see the villain eat babies and enslave nations. If he’s not doing that then he’s wasting my time.

The villain should also be threatening of course. For example I didn’t care for Joffrey since the guy just wasn’t threatening since he was an inept coward at heart. Though I suppose he still did his job on the villain front that I didn’t like him.

Now things change up a bit for a villain if they’re a protagonist since you pretty much have to add the complexity since you’re reading it all from their view point (Or in the case of a game playing it) in this case I don’t mind it.


I have a big fondness for sympathetic villains or villains with a proper personality and motivations behind their actions. I am also a sucker for those of the intellectual, manipulative, outsmarting the hero kind.
Some of my favorite villains has to come from Steven Universe, where one of them is trapped on her birthplace, which she despises, and is fighting for revenge of a lost and loved one while battling with self-hatred and pressure from (her) society. Or another one, a tyrant, who is positively ruthless and has no problem with slavery, but is a grieving soul who suffers from emotional instability, yet still someone who wants to figure out the truth and not jump to unreasonable conclusions.


To me a good villain will be the one that is the exact opposite of hero yet looking for the same thing , like for example in the movie the Dark Knight

Batman uses fear to scare his enemies and his counterpart Joker is not scared of batman he rather laughs when batman tries to intimidate him,

While Both of them want the spirit of Gotham, its a battle of ideal The joker believes and i quote him
“Their morals,their code,its a bad joke Dropped at the first sign of trouble.
Their only as good as the world allows them to be.When the chips are down,these civilised people,they’ll eat each other.”
while Batman is their cause he believes if people are given hope their can be order

Now don’t make something like if the hero is insanely powerful the villain should be insanely intelligent,these don’t make good villains they should have opposite ideals not opposite powers