Over the years and across countless games, Nintendo has created some of the most recognizable and celebrated fictional heroes in history. From Mario to Link, in many ways, the heroes of Nintendo’s games have become pop culture icons.
However, any great hero needs an equally great villain, and Nintendo has delivered its fair share of memorable antagonists as well. And when one thinks of Nintendo villains, these 10 baddies come immediately to mind.
10. Andross (Star Fox)
Without Andross, the Star Fox Team’s explosive space battles wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. Best remembered as a giant, floating, terrifying gorilla head, he has made a number of key appearances in various Star Fox titles over the years, perhaps most notably as the final boss in Star Fox 64. We’d love to experience another showdown between Andross and Fox McCloud in the upcoming Star Fox Zero for the Wii U, which would further cement his legacy as one of Nintendo’s premiere villains.
9. King K. Rool (Donkey Kong)
Even though King K. Rool was Donkey Kong’s chief villain in some of the ape’s most popular games, he has since fallen into obscurity. We’ve been waiting patiently for K. Rool to pop up in one of Retro’s Donkey Kong Country games, but at this point, we’d settle for a spot on the Super Smash Bros. roster instead. Hopefully enough fans voted for him in the Super Smash Bros. fighter ballot to help make that idea come to fruition, because it’s a shame that we haven’t seen more of Donkey Kong’s Bowser equivalent.
8. King Dedede (Kirby)
Don’t let King Dedede’s appearance as a cute, plump penguin dressed as Santa Claus fool you. Dedede is a force to be reckoned with, wielding his signature mallet in a number of tough boss fights with Kirby over the years. Even though he’s long been at odds with Nintendo’s resident pink puff ball, King Dedede is also notable for being one of the few villains on this list to also have a turn as a hero, playing a major heroic role during the events of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Despite his brief forays on the side of good, Dedede will always be known as Kirby’s archenemy.
7. Ridley (Metroid)
Ridley is a villain whose nastiness simply can’t be overstated. He’s a horrifying Space Pirate that is also known by the extremely intimidating nickname, “The Cunning God of Death.” Responsible for the murder of Samus Aran’s parents, Ridley has continued to plague the intergalactic bounty hunter in most of her adventures.
Ridley’s status as one of the most vicious Nintendo villains, and his key role in the unforgettable opening moments of Super Metroid, have helped him transcend Mother Brain as the most iconic baddie from the Metroid franchise.
6. Master Hand (Super Smash Bros.)
Super Smash Bros. just wouldn’t be the same without a climatic final showdown against Master Hand. Even though Master Hand goes out of his way to destroy the characters in Super Smash Bros., he’s also responsible for bringing them to life, and it is speculated that he may represent the hand of a child playing with the trophies seen in the game. There’s plenty of mystery surrounding Master Hand, but one thing’s for certain, he’s one enemy that players won’t soon forget.
5. Team Rocket (Pokemon)
With a singular goal of world domination, the gang of criminals known as Team Rocket terrorize the Kanto region by snatching all the Pokemon they can get their hands on. Also to blame for tragically killing Cubone’s mother, Team Rocket may find themselves “blasting off again” most of the time, but their penchant for evil shouldn’t be taken lightly. Their appearance in the Pokemon anime has helped solidify the group in the annals of popular culture, and while they’ve had many imitators over the years, there’s only one Team Rocket.
4. Skull Kid (The Legend of Zelda)
A weak and lonely creature, Skull Kid is tempted by the immense power of Majora’s Mask, and with it, manages to become a nearly unstoppable force. In The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Skull Kid’s diabolical plan is to rip the moon from the sky, demolishing the land of Termina and all of those unlucky enough to reside in it. Skull Kid’s demonic cackle still haunts us to this day, and that combined with his horrific plot definitely makes him one of Link’s most noteworthy foes.
3. Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong)
It may be hard to believe now, but in Mario’s first video game appearance, he received second billing to the game’s villain, Donkey Kong. In the Donkey Kong arcade game, Donkey Kong has captured the helpless Pauline, holding her captive at the top of tall structures, with Mario the only one who can save her. And even though players take the role of Mario in this scenario, the villainous Donkey Kong is clearly the star of the game.
Later years saw Donkey Kong have a change of heart and become one of Nintendo’s greatest heroes, but he’s still remembered by many as the angry, barrel-throwing ape whose game dominated arcades in the early ’80s.
2. Ganon (The Legend of Zelda)
When discussing video game villains, it’s virtually impossible not to mention Ganon from The Legend of Zelda. Essentially evil personified, Ganon has proved to be a fantastic foil to Link in their many encounters over the years, appearing in the vast majority of Zelda games in various forms.
With an insatiable lust for power and a desire for world domination, Ganon is one of Nintendo’s most dangerous and iconic villains of all time. He’s played host to some of gaming’s most intense boss battles, and hopefully the upcoming The Legend of Zelda for Wii U gives us another timeless bout between Ganon and Link.
1. Bowser (Super Mario)
Without question, Bowser is the most iconic Nintendo villain of all time. The Koopa king has been terrorizing Mario and the gang for the past 30 years, making his debut in Super Mario Bros. on the NES, and has been an integral element of nearly every game in the series since then.
Bowser’s epic career of villainy has spanned decades and numerous genres, with him making his mark in castles, tennis courts, race tracks, and even space. Bowser is not only the most iconic and prolific Nintendo villain in history, he is perhaps the most iconic villain in video gaming, period.
Without question, the brilliant minds at Nintendo have crafted some of the most iconic villains in video gaming. From Andross to Bowser, Nintendo’s roster of villains has intimidated and challenged gamers for over 30 years, and we have no doubt that they will continue to wreak havoc for 30 more.
Which villains come to mind when you think of the Big N? Who do you consider to be the most iconic video game villain of all time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.