You don’t have to agree with my picks, but I will try and convince you none the less. You may notice that the list is slanted toward later games in the series somewhat. Let me answer that with a declaration; No, I am not biased towards the later games. It just seems to me that as the series progressed and as both the matter in which the stories were told and the stories themselves became more sophisticated the series produced deeper, darker, and more compelling villains.
(Note: We are talking about mostly end-bosses here, so spoilers may be abundant. Continue at your own risk.)
5. Ultimecia – Final Fantasy VIII
One of the more tragic of the Final Fantasy antagonists, Ultimecia is a powerful sorceress whose end goal is to compress all of time itself into a single moment and thus gain all of the knowledge and power in the history of the universe, however, ultimately destroying the world in the process. Ultimecia is actually from the distant future of the time period in which the game takes place. Using a device called the Junction Machine Ellone, Ultimecia is able to send her consciousness back through time where she possesses a sorceress named Edea. While inhabiting Edea, Ultimecia gains political power and influence which she intends to use to execute her plot. Ultimately, she is stuck in a time loop where her defeat is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy. She is aware that she will be defeated by a member of SeeD, referred to as the “Legendary SeeD”, and it is your job as Squall Leonhart, the SeeD in question, to make sure sure that the time loop continues by preventing Ultimecia from compressing time. Ultimecia’s actions are fueled by the fact that future generations know of Ultimecia’s possession of Edea, and therefore are aware of her ultimately unsuccessful attempt to destroy the world. The persecution and hatred she faces because of her past actions actually drive her to send her consciousness back through time, thus repeating the process in an infinite loop where she can never win and never back down. Yeah, I know. My brain hurts, too.
4. Warmech – Final Fantasy I
Warmech may not be the most legendary of all villains, but this hulking mechanoid killing machine is forever ingrained into the memory of anyone who has played the original Final Fantasy game and had the unfortunate luck of running into this bastard. I know for sure one of my readers, fellow Final Fantasy aficionado, cousin, and good friend Neil knows the diagram of pain the Warmech has caused. We grew up playing the original Final Fantasy game together, and we would both fall victim to Warmech more than once. Warmech has no discernible back story or motivation. Much like most enemies in classic RPGs, it’s just there. But, that’s just the thing… the Warmech isn’t always there. You run into this son of a bitch in the long, menacing hallway in the space node above the Mirage Tower, just before you face off against the final of the four Fiends, Tiamat. I have no scientific proof to back me up, but I would conservatively estimate that you only run into Warmech on a 15% chance encounter, maybe less. It seems that every time I attempt to seek it out I can never encounter it. But I remember every time I tried to go into that last tower a little to early, every time I held off on healing my party until just before the fight with Tiamat- BAM! Warmech would show up and ruin everything. Warmech is easily the hardest enemy in the game other than the final boss, Chaos. It dwarfs all four fiends in it’s ability to lay even a well prepared party led by an experienced player to waste. Think of Warmech as the Ruby, Emerald, or Omega weapon of the original game.
3. Sin – Final Fantasy X
Sin, the generations-old destroyer of Spira, is truly a larger than life villain. From it`s first attack on Zanarkand in the game’s opening (which is one of the best CG sequences in a PS2 game) to your journey inside of it’s shell for the final showdown, Sin is an awe-inspiring creation. For a 1000 years Sin periodically haunted Spira, causing massive destruction and death on a titanic scale. It is the predestined task of the Summoner to travel through Spira with a group of Guardians, visiting each of the world’s temples in order to gain the power of the fayth. These fayth sacrifice themselves to form power beings known as Aeons. Once sufficiently powered up with Aeons. the Summoner must enter into a final battle with Sin and sacrifice their life, their Aeons, and the life of their most trusted Guardian to invoke the Final Summon- thereby defeating Sin. However, even after the Final Summon is unleashed, Sin never truly dies. Instead he disappears for a varying length of time- these months or years Spira’s inhabitants refer to as The Calm. These calms never last, however, and the terrifying destruction of Sin is a constant threat to the world of Spira. The origin of Sin’s regenerative abilities are later revealed to be due, in part, to the Final Summon itself. Sin takes the energy expelled by the Summoners final sacrificial act and uses the summoners soul to power the next incarnation of Sin. The only way to break the cycle is to find a way to defeat Sin once and for all without the Final Summon, thereby preventing a future incarnation of the legendary destroyer.
2. Sephiroth – Final Fantasy VII
Probably the most popular and beloved villain in the long, storied history of the Final Fantasy series, Sephiroth had a lot to live up to. With the massive jump from 16-bits to Sony’s powerful PlayStation hardware, character designer Tetsuya Nomura and illustrator Yoshitaka Amano had a very important task when creating Sephiroth… long gone where the limited color pallets of the Super Nintendo and the PlayStation offered a vehicle to deliver a level of detail never before seen in console gaming. Much attention was paid to sculpting Sephiroth as the polar opposite to Final Fantasy VII’s antagonist Cloud Strife. Sephiroth’s backstory and motivation in VII was written as dark and brooding as his design. Created as the result of biological experiments with an alien life-form known as Jenova, Sephiroth was bred to be the ultimate killing machine. As a member of the elite army know as SOLDIER, Sephiroth’s past was hidden from him by the controlling corporate entity Shinra. During a routine mission to Nibelheim Sephiroth’s discovers the nature of his past and the experiments that birthed him. He burns down the entire village, blinded by anger and insanity and vows to take revenge on Shinra and humanity as a whole. He plans to do this by summoning a powerful spell called Meteor, which which he plans to literally crack open the planet and access the life stream within, so he can become all powerful while at the same time obliterating the world and it’s inhabitants.
1. Kefka – Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy 6 may not be the greatest game in the series, but 6’s main antagonist can be classified as perhaps the most vile villain in the series’ history, if not in the history of all video games. His actions alone do not merit his place atop this list, although plotting to destroy the world and actually succeeding in doing so definitely does not hurt. He belongs here more because of the sheer depth of his insanity and complete and total absence of anything resembling human emotion or empathy. While other entries on this list and every other antagonist the Final Fantasy series has a purpose for their wrath, Kefka Palazzo has none. No revenge vows, no rebellion, no motivation in the classical sense. When you first meet Kefka he is the court mage to Emperor Gestahl- a kind of laughable, goofy clown-like character in full Jester’s dress. However, behind the Emperor’s back Kefka is using his appointment to attack and invade towns, siphoning off power from the Espers he captures before they are sent to the Imperial’s research facilities. Once he is sufficiently powerful, Kefka triggers a sequence of events where he actually causes the Apocalypse. Using the Magicite farmed from Espers Kefka becomes the God of Magic. To my knowledge Kefka is the only villain in RPG history to actually succeed in destroying the world during the course of the game. In the wasteland that remains he constructs an enormous tower, the Tower of Kefka, and continues to unleash his profane cruelty upon the world’s survivors. The one defining trait of Kefka that seals his place on this list? You hear it many times through-out the game, but most telling of his madness is just after Kefka destroys a planet and kills millions upon millions of people, he lets out that chilling peel of clown-like laughter that I can still hear echo in my mind as I type.