By: Andrew Lister
Welcome to the next installment of a new article series, Tuesday Top Five! From time to time I'll be coming up with a Top 5 spanning a number of geeky topics. This week I'm passing the time isolated inside during this bleak Midwestern winter with a final Final Fantasy article counting down my favorite Final Fantasy villains.
What's a story without good antagonists? Final Fantasy is known for its epic storytelling. It's a world of magic and monsters, of epic heroes and vile evil-doers. This tried and true formula has always made for some memorable moments in gaming.
For this article, I want to focus on the key villains from the series' history. I'm not picking smaller bosses or monsters and instead focusing on key antagonists. Those on this list may not always be the end baddie, but they stand in the way of the party in some substantial way throughout the story.
As always, I want to know your own favorite villains, so be sure to leave yours in the comments section below!
Check out this week's Top Five by clicking below!
#5 - Wiegraf Folles [Final Fantasy Tactics]
I honestly struggled choosing my #5. There are so many amazing villains in the Final Fantasy universe that could have made the list but just didn't quite cut it. Kefka seems to top most people's list of favorite villains, and while I adore his amazingly foppish laughter, I just never got into FF VI. There's the colorful Kuja or the intriguing Sorceress Adel, yet there's an underdog that just had to make my list.
That underdog is Wiegraf Folles, leader of the Corpse Brigade. Final Fantasy Tactics often gets a bad rap from some gamers due to its heavily political and somewhat confusing narrative. If you keep up with all of the threads, what you'll find is a really in-depth story that adds an element of realism to a world of fantasy.
Wiegraf stands out from the corrupt political system that takes over much of Ivalice. He wants the Corpse Brigade to uphold a standard of conduct that refuses to take prisoners or hold others for ransom. This "do what's right" attitude is what draws me to his character. Bad guys that are justified aren't always found in works of fantasy, and unlike large, motivationless monsters that we see throughout the series, Wiegraf just wants to do what is best for those he cares for.
Aside from the narrative, Wiegraf is a formidable foe on the 3D field of battle. As a white knight, he can utilize the hard-hiting moves of Holy Knights like Agrias. This means that he can not only deal hard blows face-to-face, but he can utilize powerful attacks at a range and even inflict massive damage to multiple targets at once.
Near the end of the game, he saves himself from demise by giving himself up to the power of one of the Zodiac Stones, becoming a demonic creature known as Belias. The fights with him near the game's end are anything but easy, and these conflicts help make him a fascinating foe for Ramza and company.
#4 - Golbez [Final Fantasy IV]
Although his backstory and motivation aren't as complex as Wiegraf, Golbez will always be one of the my favorite Final Fantasy villains for a number of reasons. Before we get into those reasons, here's a bit about Golbez for those that may not be familiar with the earlier Final Fantasy games.
The one thing that motivates Golbez to continue his evil ways is his pursuit of the four crystals of elemental power. You know, that concept that Final Fantasy milked to death in those early games. Using the four powerful elemental fiends to do most of his dirty work, he set out to conquer the world and collect those crystals for himself.
In the story, he is the one behind all of the early events, including setting up an imposter king in Baron and using the Red Wings and their flying ships to attempt and collect the crystals. Unfortunately for Golbez, our protagonist, the dark knight Cecil, was one of the members of the Red Wings, and over the course of the game Cecil overcomes his evil past in order to rise as a holy paladin and thwart Golbez's extensive evil plans.
The biggest reason that Golbez makes this list over other signature villains is my absolute love for Final Fantasy IV. It was one of the first RPGs that I really sunk my teeth into, and it was also one of the first ones that I beat on my own without the help of a strategy guide. Bad localization aside ("You spoony bard!"), FF IV is easily one of the most engaging and action-packed RPGs of the 1990s.
Golbez himself was always this looming figure, one that always had back up plans in place just in case something went awry (and they usually did). FF IV was interesting because we got to see and hear the bad guys doing their thing rather than just pondering their motivations. We got to see numerous scenes with Golbez interacting not just with our heroes, but with his underlings.
Finally, I always dug his design. Even during the era of SNES 16-bit graphics, they were able to make Golbez really stand out as someone imposing and truly badass. His heavy dark armor and encircling cloak scream evil fantasy overlord.
#3 - Sin [Final Fantasy X]
Again, some of you might find this to be a strange choice, but hear me out.
Sin is a massive creature that remains a constant threat to Spira. Even when Sin is defeated by a summoner, he will return years later to restart the cycle of destruction. Sure, that really over-simplifies his role in the series, but that's the gist of things. He's a massive entity that manipulates space and time, and defeating him only brings a momentary span of peace, known as the Calm.
It's not Sin's physical appearance that interests me most. It's also not his personality because he's a monstrous force without one. What really stands out about Sin is his integration into the complex plot of Final Fantasy X.
The citizens of Spira regard Sin as a sort of punishment sent from their Gods to punish them for abandoning their old ways and trying to incorporate advanced technology into their society. Even as a purely fictional story, you can see the ways in which Sin and the world's god Yevon act as a direct parallel to many modern religious beliefs. Even as someone that doesn't put a lot of stock into religion, I can appreciate the depth of the comparisons being made and the social commentary present throughout the game.
It isn't until Yuna's own pilgrimage that we start to see the flaws in the dominant religious groups' structure. Completely abandoning the old ways, Yuna, Tidus, and the other guardians come up with a new way to face Sin and destroy him forever. The breaking of the cycle and all that Sin represents makes him one of the most interesting villains in Final Fantasy history.
I mean, that and the fact that he's a massive, reincarnating space whale. That counts for something, too.
#2 - Chaos/Garland [Final Fantasy I]
At first glance, Chaos is one of the most generic baddies around. He's a big ol' demon akin to the Balrog from Lord of the Rings. There's not a lot of narrative to really build up who he is aside from a few random NPCs and a room full of humans transformed into bats. Despite all of this, Chaos will always be one of my favorite Final Fantasy bad guys of all time.
Unknown to the players until the final battle, you actually face Chaos in the game's very first dungeon. After assembling your party of four Warriors of Light, you set out to Chaos Shrine to face a thief named Garland and save the kidnapped Princess Sarah. The battle, though a bit challenging, is over after a few hard-fought rounds of swords, punching, and spell slinging, and you go on to completely forget about Garland and his goofy name.
So you go on to the real plot of the game, which involves defeating the four elemental fiends and returning the light to the four magical orbs. Yeah, I feel like we've heard this story before, but this is the one that started the whole thing. At the time, the concept, though simple, really helped this game to endure and safe the uncertain fate of Square.
Back to the story, the Warriors of Light end up traveling 2000 years into the past in order to put a stop to whatever force sent the fiends to the present day. This leads to a gauntlet of fighting each of the fiends one more time and ends with entering a room with none other than Garland.
We come to find out at the very end that Garland was spared by being sent to the past, and once there, he sent forward the four fiends that rescued him. Ultimately, this creates a complex time loop, in which the Heroes of Light are forced to defeat Garland in his new ultimate form, Chaos, and then be sent back to the present time without any memory of what had occurred.
What really blows by mind is that at the very end the game states that you'll come face to face with Garland once again in the present time, and it's unclear whether or not the Warriors of Light are condemned to an endless cycle of fighting the fiends, restoring light to the orbs, and traveling into the past to defeat Chaos.
What stands out most about Chaos is the shock of seeing Garland once again. He was such a weak, throw-away character, but if you paid close attention, there were small hints dropped that wove a narrative thread from one aspect of the story to the next.
Final Fantasy I was my very first RPG, and it was the game that started my love for tabletop games. For that I'll forever remember my first epic show down as a kid with Chaos and the feeling of exhilaration when I was able to best him and see the final credits roll.
#1 - Rufus Shinra [Final Fantasy VII]
Snobbish, arrogant, and insufferable. These traits define the political mastermind and leader of the Turks, Rufus Shinra.
While I'm sure many of you were expecting Sephiroth, I just couldn't bring myself to glorify the katana-wielding poster boy for Final Fantasy VII. Instead, I'm going out on a limb and choosing a character that far fewer would ever include on their personal Top 5, notwithstanding making it to the very top.
Rufus is the son of the President of Shinra, an electric company with goals that extend far beyond providing lights throughout the homes of Midgar. Instead, we find that Shinra has been using the power of the planet itself, the Lifestream, to gain access to their monopoly on technological power and electricity.
When President Shinra is killed by Sephiroth, his son Rufus quickly takes over. Digging into the side games, it is revealed that Rufus actually plotted out the demise of his own father from the start by funding the environmental group Avalanche, which directly opposed Shinra. Now in power, Rufus not only uses the unlimited funds left to him by his father and his company, but also by manipulating his close associates The Turks, to get what he most desires: rule of the entire planet.
From a personality standpoint, Rufus is everything a person should despise. He's a cocky little bastard who hides behind his wealth. You only ever fight Rufus once, and it's early in the game before he comes to realize how formidable Cloud would become. He also looks the part of a real jerk with his immaculate white coat and clean cut blonde hair punctuating his arrogance. The fact that he uses a freaking shotgun in combat, however, must also be noted.
You're not supposed to like Rufus, and it's that dedication to the character and his involvement in the overall story that makes this smug asshole the greatest Final Fantasy villain ever.
We'll be back sometime soon for another Tuesday Top 5 article! Are you a Final Fantasy fan? Who are YOUR favorite antagonists? Let us know in the comments below or join our Discord and keep the conversation going there!
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