Nintendo enters every new gamer’s heart and never lets go, creating a lifelong relationship between its customers and characters based on nostalgia and incredible experiences. The company has a roster of heroes recognized in countries around the world, from Mario’s red and blue plumbing overalls to Donkey Kong’s titular necktie. Villains, of course, play a role in defining a hero. Nintendo fans love the game company’s villains for their ruthless nature and sometimes hilarious commentary on their fantastical worlds. It’s time to look at the 22 best Nintendo villains of all time!
We won’t hold Bowser’s poor track record against Mario in this race. The King of the Koopas remains the villainous standard all other Nintendo by which to measure all other Nintendo baddies. Sometimes Bowser is pure evil (see Paper Mario) and other times, he’s a frenemy of the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser’s versatility shines on his villain resume, and his spiky aesthetic doesn’t hurt either!
2. Ganondorf Nintendo villains
The Legend of Zelda sees Link battle many different antagonists throughout the years, but Ganondorf represents the fiercest opposition. The King of Darkness never shows a glimmer of humanity, instead ruthlessly attempting to capture the Triforce. Ganondorf gives the series a mature tone and an immorality that the player must always fear and fight back against.
Wario often stars as a playable character nowadays, but he originated in the enemy camp. Mario first battled his shaded doppelganger in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Nintendo realized immediately how Wario brought an uncouth attitude to the proceedings that other characters in the company’s canon couldn’t replicate. Wario’s been stealing, tooting, and eating garlic ever since!
Ridley terrifies gamers more than any other villain in the Metroid universe. As a fan, seeing Ridley take flight is harrowing and breathtaking. So much power, intelligence, and speed is unfair for any hero, but Samus Aron never fails to tackle Ridely head-on and without fear. The dense backstory of Samus and Ridley helps make this complicated rivalry the backbone of the franchise.
5. King K. Rool
Games criminally underuse King K. Rool. As Nintendo neglects Donkey Kong, they also miss out on adding to K. Rool’s appearances. The king of the Kremlings, the crocodile embodies an oddly satisfying counter to the jungle inhabitants in the DK franchise. King K. Rool’s iteration in Donkey Kong 64 represents the best final boss fight on the console. What other game does the enemy use his smelly, green toes to smash you? That’s got to count for something!
Andross possesses one of the quintessential backstories of any Nintendo villain. A simian mad scientist who desires world control is richly campy and full of sci-fi fun. The way Nintendo connects Andross’s reign over the Lylat System throughout every game in the series helps create a common theme of villainy that fans of the series appreciate.
7. Gruntilda Winkybunion
Anyone can relate to Grunty’s villain claim to fame: vanity. This wicked witch from the Banjo-Kazooie series will do anything it takes to evolve into a gorgeous spectacle rather than a green monstrosity. As her attempts fail, she regresses until she’s nothing but a bag of bones by Banjo-Tooie. Grunty’s tail is most certainly a cautionary one: be careful how far you’ll go for superficial desires. Oh, and she definitely knows how to deliver a mean rhyme!
8. Mother Brain
Metroid’s secondary antagonist threatens Samus and the galaxy in much more realistic, even eerie ways than Ridley. Mother Brain controls her inhabitants with the power of intelligence, showing Samus and gamers that brains are always mightier than brawn. Mother Brain has unfortunately been sidelined in most recent Metroid outings.
9. King Dedede
King Dedede doesn’t pose the same threat to Kirby that he used to in the early days of the Super Tuff Pink Puff. In the same vein as the recent Mario and Bowser dynamic, King Dedede often has his heart in the right place when competing with Kirby. He’s also an underrated threat to kick some behindin Super Smash Bros. (at least according to this author . . .)
10. Sir Grodus
Even though he isn’t the final boss of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Sir Grodus represents a constant villainous presence getting in the way of Mario throughout the papery adventure. The boss of the mysterious X-Nauts, Grodus’ attempts to win the prizes behind the ancient titular door without even knowing their recalls classic 1980s Hollywood villains like Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
11. Count Bleck
Super Paper Mario’s narrative-driven gameplay wouldn’t have worked without the heart-aching backstory of the game’s big bad: Count Bleck. Originally known as Blumiere, the dark nobleman does everything he can to win back the love of Tippi, Mario’s sidekick. Much like the previous game in the series, Count Bleck is usurped by a different villain in the final act of the game, but he’s still the antagonist that comes to mind when remembering the Wii classic.
12. Bowser Jr.
The adorable Bowser Jr. unabashedly strives to be evil, something not every villain in gaming attempts to do. Bowser Jr. tries to make papa Bowser proud by painting Isle Delfino in toxic waste or pursuing Princess Peach, but he’s yet to learn that emulating his father won’t exactly lead to defeating Mario.
13. Master Hand
Name a more ambitious, symbolic enemy in the Nintendo collection than Master Hand. Why is he a hand? Where is the rest of the body? Some gamers feel like Master Hand controls the enemies in the single-player mode of Super Smash Bros., while others don’t overthink his origins. A hand is a hand, and this one’s power is mighty. Don’t underestimate his abilities!
14. Dark Samus
Dark Samus reflects all of Samus’ worst traits in her direction, forcing the bounty hunter to come to grips with the mistakes she’s made in her life. From a gameplay perspective, she’s a real handful because, well, she can do everything Samus can do.
15. Team Rocket
Team Rocket has many different versions in Pokémon lore, with Jesse and James in the anime serving as the most famous. The evil organization is a sublime spoof of real-life thugs like the Yakuza. Team Rocket ingrained itself in every millennial’s consciousness.
16. Wendy O. Koopa
Wendy O. Koopa stands out from the rest of the Koopalings. Her majestic, sassy, and magical qualities are quite a handful to defeat in certain situations. Wendy is also a great example of female villainy, something all video game companies should think about dabbling in a lot more.
17. King Boo
Just adding “king” to the title of a typical small minion would make for a bland villain, but King Boo is truly frightening, at least in the eyes of his rival, Luigi. We have to admit he does have a very scary, gargantuan tongue. What does he use that thing for, exactly? King Boo serves as a fun secondary antagonist when Bowser is busy doing Koopa things.
18. Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong has become so heroic these days that it’s hard to remember a time when he was playing for the dark side. Donkey Kong’s intense rivalry with Mario formed the backbone of Nintendo’s earliest arcade storytelling and characterizations, and the ape still has the ability to go bad in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong puzzle platformer series.
The idea of Giygas is more villainous than his manifestation. The character symbolizes children’s worst fears, and it takes all of Ness’ strength to overcome Giygas and save the world in Earthbound. The only thing that would have made the character move up the list is if it was in more games than two.
20. Star Wolf
The Star Wolf team starts out as just an immoral version of the Star Fox crew, but sharp writing and voice acting help define Wolf, Pigma, Panther, and Leon as more than meets the eye. Wolf’s crew will occasionally help out Fox’s, but they usually stick to selfish returns and endeavors throughout the Lylat System.
Are the bulborbs in Pikmin really evil, or do they just do what they have to do to survive? Either way, strategy game fans all know the feeling when they’ve led their Pikim too far into the bite grasp of these slub creatures. It’s not fun. At all.
Mewtwo is too intelligent for his own good. Nobody with his power can ever truly use it for good, and we can’t blame him. Ignorant scientists genetically altered Mewtwo, bringing about an interesting discussion on animal ethics and bioengineering. Too deep for a Nintendo series? We say that’s what makes these games so entrancing.