Without a proper villain, there isn't that much of a yearning to see an extremely long RPG journey through to the end, which is why we're doing a list of the 10 Best Japanese RPG Villains. As stated previously in our list of 10 Changes Needed in JRPGs, one of the reasons why Japanese RPG storytelling has fallen off so badly over the years is due to its lack of memorable villains. As we tried to rally up the greatest antagonists of JRPGs, this gap became ever so noticeable by the fact that there is only ONE modern JRPG on this list (which only weighs in at #10). So have your hometown's fire department ready and be on the look out for an inevitable betrayal, because we're paying tribute to gaming's most vile in our list of the 10 Best JRPG Villains.
Cassiopea, the namesake villain of Ni No Kuni, kicks off our list of 10 Best JRPG villains because her backstory makes us understand why she was driven to do the horrible things that she did. Cassiopea was the daughter of the Wizard King who was brought into rule at a young age due to the death of her father. The ruling council ruined her country for their own personal gains and blamed it all on the princess' inexperience. She then tries to use a taboo and forbidden resurrection spell (à la Fullmetal Alchemist), in order to bring her father back, which inadvertently turns all of her countrymen into monsters. She adopted the White Witch persona to hide her sorrow behind a cool and sinister exterior, and used her magic to create illusions of her knights, her long-gone pet parrot and the council who damned her as a teenager. Ultimately, she orchestrated the deaths of countless folk through her actions, mainly through her creation and influence of the Dark Djinn, Shadar.
Indalecio was a scientist for the tyrannical planet Nede. Nede was at war against the United Galaxy and was going to lose the war when Indalecio created the Ten Wise Men, a group of biological super-weapons (and were the ORIGINAL Organization 13). These biological weapons were meant to win the war for Nede, until Indalecio's daughter was killed during a protest of the Ten Wise Men. Indalecio eventually found out and reprogrammed the Wise Men to eradicate all life in the universe, which they got very close to doing if it weren't for Claude, Rena and those meddlesome kids.
Throughout Breath of Fire 3-5, there is a sense of duality between series' protagonist, Ryu, and the pale-skinned villains of the series. In BoF 3, it was between the childhood friends of Ryu and Teepo, who both turned out to be dragon hatchlings. And in Breath of Fire 4, it was between Ryu, a boy with mythical powers and a bad case of amnesia (warning: JRPG cliché). and Fou-Lu, first emperor of the Fou Empire. Fou-Lu eventually went into hibernation but woke up 600 years later when the second half of his soul, Ryu, arrived in the world. During random parts of BoF 4, you could play as Fou-Lu as he single-handedly walked through his old country and re-established things back under his control, decimating anyone who disagreed or swore allegiance to the emperors that took Fou-Lu's place during his hibernation.
Delita was a poor boy from a poor family, who ascended through both nobility and military through his senses of honor and heroic duty. When his sister accidentally died through backstage manipulation and Games of Thrones-like plotting, Delita took it upon himself to never be duped again, and swore to break the hierarchy that inadvertently killed his sister. He did so by kidnapping the princess of Ivalice and forming alliances with religious factions opposing Ivalician rule. After receiving power and military forces from said churches, Delita murdered their leaders and married the princess, becoming the undisputed king of Ivalice, until the princess found out she was just a pawn in his ploy and murdered him. Easy come, easy go.
You know his look, you know his sword, you know who he killed and you'll never forget him for any of it. Sephiroth was SOLDIER's strongest fighter and was the primary reason why Shinra won in their fight against the Wutai (Yuffie's homeland). When he found out that he was the product of a Shinra experiment where they injected him (as a fetus), with the cells of an extraterrestrial (whom he refers to as his mother), he set his murder-dial to genocide. He burned down Cloud's hometown, killed many of Shinra's employees (including the president), impaled a giant Midgar Zolom snake onto a tree, killed Aerith and summoned a giant meteor to ravage the planet so he can merge with the Lifestream as it attempts to heal itself, gaining the Lifestream's celestial powers in the process. Thank goodness for chocobo-haired protagonists who have identity issues, are socially awkward, take credit for other soldier's accomplishments, and brags about them to the dead soldier's girlfriend... whom he lets die without lifting a finger.
Mitochrondria Eve can actually be any woman whose mitochondria spawned a consciousness and systematically took over every cell in her body. The resulting creature, as displayed by Eve in the first Parasite Eve game, is able to cause any surrounding eukaryote-based lifeform's ATP (the basic, molecular unit of energy), to overload. This ATP overload, which can affect all life except specific types of single-celled organisms, causes the lifeform to mutate or spontaneously combust. Eve caused all of Manhattan to be evacuated, and the military was unable to even lift a finger against her. She melted down thousands of bodies in an attempt to use the resultant, mutated cells of the dead to spawn a race of creatures without nuclei whose mitochondria were in charge of their cells. Despite the in-depth biology lessen, Eve turned all of Manhattan to the largest survival horror/RPG stage ever, which is why she's on our list of 10 Best JRPG villains.
Antagonists that were originally good guys who ultimately betray you are a staple of Japanese role-playing games. Sometimes it's the main character's best friend, or a party member that you start off with, but the chances are that there is always some major betrayal in a JRPG. Before Kratos in Tales of Phantasia or Jecht in FF10, there was Ghaleon. Ghaleon was a companion of Dragonmaster Dyne, who helped save the world prior to the events of the Silver Star Story. Ghaleon became the majestic leader of the magic city of Vale and appeared to help the main character, Alex, become the next Dragonmaster en route to save the world. This changed when Ghaleon kidnapped Luna so he could siphon her power all for the sake of controlling the world.
Who knew that Janus, the little kid with the cat in the floating continent of Zeal, could grow up to be such a badass? Magus swore revenge on the planet-devouring Lavos for driving his mother mad (who was seeking ways of tapping into Lavos' power), and for taking his beloved sister, Schala, away from him. Because of Lavos, Magus was transported to the middle ages as a little boy, where he was raised by monsters that feared his power. He then spent 30 years learning black magic and amassing an army of monsters, which mankind tried to unify against and fight. For the first half of Chrono Trigger, we thought that Magus was the creator of Lavos, until he revealed that he merely tried to summon him so that he could destroy it with the powers he gained. He also cursed Glenn by turning him into a frog and killing his best friend for trying to get in the way of his plan. Crono and Frog's fight with Magus will go down as one of the greatest battles in RPG history.
One of the most diabolical villains in gaming history, Luca Blight was a war criminal who rekindled a war that his father, the king, resigned from command just to ensure a ceasefire. Blight instantly undid his father's work by murdering an entire platoon of his country's youngest soldiers and framing it on the country of Jowston. Throughout Suikoden 2 we see Luca Blight as an unstoppable madman: forcing a woman of a razed village to beg for her life, making her get on all fours, have her oink like a pig, and stab her as he yelled, "Die, pig!" It took a dozens of arrows and one-tenth of your entire army just to finally put Luca Blight down.
For a guy who dressed like a clown, Kefka sure was a Joker. No, seriously, he is on par with Stephen King's Pennywise and Batman's archenemy for being one of the craziest killer clowns in history, acting as agents of chaos. For the first half of the game, Kefka acted merely as the comical lieutenant of Emperor Gestahl. But when his men fought to a stalemate with Cyan's hometown of Doma, Kefka unveiled his capacity for evil as he poisoned the castle's water supply, killing the entire populace (including Cyan's family), in the process. Kefka also murdered General Leo and the Emperor himself, all for the sake of eliminating any bystanders in his quest for power. But Kefka's tyranny peaked when he moved the statues of the Three Warring Gods, which let Kefka usurp the powers of the three gods, and scorched most of the planet in the process. The second half of Final Fantasy 6 involves rounding up your party members, who are all living in apathy and despair due to the state of the world, in order to remove Kefka from his godhood. And for these despicable acts, Kefka takes the gold medal in our list of 10 Best JRPG Villains.