Video game protagonists who can become villains

Video game protagonists who can become villains

Game protagonists are a difficult case because there are always aspects of their characters that are also present in the villains and antagonists. Each has so-called positive and negative personality traits; the difference is how a person uses these qualities in response to others and every day of life.

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We’ll focus on both character morale status that changes depending on your in-game choices, as well as the characters with some sort of villain potential that isn’t explored in-game. People can change over time and it would be interesting to see these main characters cast in a darker light.


10/10 Commander Shepard – Mass Effect Trilogy

Mass Effect 2 Commander Shepard and co in front of the ruins of a city in the game

Mass Effect’s morality system is all about whether you want to be the typical good guy or a total badass. A paragon race is to make good choices, save everyone, be polite and help where you can. A Renegade race is to excuse all of this and be overtly aggressive towards anyone and everyone you come across, which is the best way to play as it will get you the most laughs out of the game.

If you make that many Renegade choices, you’ll get to a point in Mass Effect 2 and 3 where Shepard’s face will start to change, and their scars and eyes will start to glow red, showing the reflection of those choices on their bodies.

9/10 Corvo – Dishonored

Dishonored Screenshot of Corvo In The Throne Room

Like Mass Effect, Dishonored has a system called The Chaos System, which tracks how many people you subdue and how many you kill. If you go through the game killing everyone you see, you will enjoy the strong supernatural abilities with a stronger endgame loadout. However, you also have to deal with the utter contempt enemies now have for you.

Enemies will react with disgust to your actions, and during the final mission, Samuel will betray you, firing a shot that alerts the guards of your presence on Kingsparrow Island. If you then play as Corvo in Dishonored 2, you can technically play as a villain, but nothing comes close to how this plays out in the original game.

8/10 Ellie Williams – The Last Of Us 2

Ellie threatens Nora in The Last of Us 2

The events of The Last of Us 2 have shown Ellie’s ability to hurt others by convincing herself that it is justified as a way to carry on without feeling overwhelming guilt. All of this catches up with her in the game’s final mission, and with Joel, Dina, Jessie, and even Abby gone, what’s to stop her from making even more destructive decisions?

With no people in her life she can trust and having to return to the world all alone, Ellie may have to go even deeper into villain territory in order to survive.

7/10 Cereza – Bayonetta

Bayonetta 3 - Bayonetta Idle Animation

Bayonetta or Cereza have always gone along the lines of an anti-hero or morally gray character, and there is no doubt that she will eventually step into a full-fledged villain. Her stories see her battle ethereal beings with hack-and-slash combos and witch tactics.

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Any archetype can spawn from this. While Bayonetta has been shown to care about people, especially Jeanne, she is not the type of person to shy away from particularly violent methods.

6/10 Ciri – The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 Ciri At Vesemir's Wake

In the last third of The Witcher 3, Vesemir dies protecting Ciri from The Wild Hunt. It is shortly after that Ciri vows to stand and fight rather than run away again, and from this moment forward she is determined and driven by revenge more than ever before to take on the villains.

But without people in her life to bring her back down through reassurance and a healthy support system to fall back on, Ciri can easily cross into villain territory, eventually lashing out at people out of resentment and bitterness.

5/10 Bigby Wolf – The Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us Bigby with his shirt off in Ichabod's office

Bigby constantly walks the fine line between going with his head and his heart. One side of him wants to take the easy way out, using violence and fear as a means of getting answers instead of the cautious demeanor Snow White would have him exercise instead. Although at the same time you can see that he wants to change and become a calmer person, especially when it comes to keeping those around him safe.

No matter which direction The Wolf Among Us sequel takes the character, there’s always a chance for the player to explore Bigby’s villainous traits. The Fables cartoon the game is based on is also known for showing its characters making questionable decisions.

4/10 Lara Croft – The Tomb Raider Reboot Trilogy

Lara Croft emerges from the water and flames in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

If you’ve played the prologue to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you know where this idea is going. In one of these opening missions, Lara accidentally kills almost an entire village of people due to her impulsiveness in securing a mythical dagger before Trinity can. A terrifying tsunami ensues as she picks up the weapon, undermining hundreds of villagers, killing many in the process.

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Many of Shadow’s missions see Lara’s selfish tendencies cause people to get hurt, making her a partial villain for most of the game, even though her intentions are not harmful. With how far Reboot Lara has fallen, something even worse could see her delve deeper into a villain character in the future.

Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes Screenshot of Big Boss With Rifle

Snake has done a lot in his time, some of which are often considered acts a villain would commit. For this, we say, what is to prevent him from making worse choices in the future? Morality is a big play in Metal Gear Solid, and nothing is ever black and white, so Snake can technically be both a hero and a villain, without having to commit to being a hero.

Take the time he recruited children and raised them to be soldiers, continuing the cycle of violence. Or, generally, some of his odd choices in hopes of an ongoing war. There is definite villain potential there.

2/10 Jesse Faden – Control

control courtney hope as jesse faden in promo art

As soon as the screening begins, Jesse is forced into a difficult position with the Bureau, where she mentions that she is only helping them find her brother. Jesse’s story begins in a place that only benefits her. While her motives change throughout the story where she chooses to continue helping, there is always a slight chance of an unintended villain storyline in a sequel.

The origins of Hiss and their motives are confusing; it is never explained why they have taken over The Oldest House or their interest in Polaris. We also don’t know if at some point they’ll find a way to inhabit Jesse (or if something else will), and therefore potentially turn her into a villain.

1/10 Agent 47 – Hitman

Hitman 3 Agent 47 pour drink waiter

Agent 47’s propensity to complete any task assigned to him leaves plenty of room for morality to come into play. Then you have the fact that you can kill employees in the way of getting to your goal, and suddenly 47 has already made its fair share of mistakes. Games like Hitman also like to play with the audience, like how in Spec Ops The Line you were actually the villain when you believed yourself to be the hero until the end. The same can be explored with Agent 47.

47 is another character in the middle of the line who is neither good nor bad, but that doesn’t mean he might not retire to the side in the future.

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