ATB’s Top 25 Male Characters: (20) Kefka Palazzo

kefka

“Life…Dreams…Hope…Where do they come from? And where do they go? None of that junk is enough to fulfill your hearts! Destruction…Destruction is what makes life worth living! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!”

We’re now into the meat and potatoes as the top 25 continues. Tomorrow, our list continues the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time on Aug. 31.

20) Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy VI) – 3 votes/110 points

Shaun: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Kefka is easily my favorite villain in gaming. His Joker inspired, “chaos for the sake of chaos” mentality in Final Fantasy VI defines nearly that entire game, and he steals every scene he’s a part of. But what’s truly great is how every single person involved, including the player, completely underestimated him.

Halfway through the game, Kefka is captured, and the player assumes he’s this games Gilgamesh, or hell, even a second Ultros — basically, a villain of moderate threat who’s more there to annoy our characters than defeat them.

And then some things happen, and we realize it was Kefka’s game all along. Our crazy clown man seizes his opportunity when it’s presented, and instead of threatening to destroy the world, he actually succeeds, sending the story into a dark act III that still stands today as one of gaming’s best. When you finally reach the final showdown at the end of the game, all emotional cylinders are fighting because you’re fighting a defined nemesis whose evil is palpable, and who has actually demonstrated success in the past. If you win, you save the world that has fallen. If you lose…well, you’ve already seen what happens

For both what he was and what he accomplished, Kefka stands at the front of a very small, elite group of gaming’s best antagonists.

Chris: At first, Kefka seems like he’s going to be one of those amusing villains who spouts a few great lines, causes some havoc and then dies an ignoble death. He looks like a clown, after all, and he makes awful jokes like “Wait, he says. What do I look like, a waiter?” His first action is to set Figaro Castle on fire when he doesn’t believe their story, but the castle burrows underground and everything seems harmless.

Then….well, then Doma Castle happens.

General Leo wants to take Doma for the empire with minimal casualties. He’s an okay dude on the wrong team. Kefka is there as well, but he’s a subordinate. He doesn’t like that, so he plans to poison the water supply. He orders a lowly soldier to dump in the poison, but the soldier refuses. Sabin and Shadow show up, and you think, “Oh, that’s the end of that then.”

Nope. Kefka just dumps in the poison himself. Everyone in the castle dies except for Cyan, including the samurai’s wife and child.

From there, it’s a greatest hits list of atrocities from a villain who delights in others’ suffering and has no empathy for anyone whatsoever. He slaughters Leo. He ascends the Floating Continent and tells Celes that he hates her no fewer than 21 times when she stabs him with a knife. He murders Emperor Gestahl and tosses his corpse off the mountain. Oh yeah, and he SENDS THE WHOLE WORLD INTO RUIN AND BECOMES A GOD.

You don’t get much more evil than Kefka. Video games, especially more recently, like to present us with bad guys who were misunderstood, or who had a bad upbringing, or who just had a different set of ideals that clashed with your party’s ideology. No such problems with Kefka. You just hate him, and that’s perfect.

Joseph: The first true villain to make this list, and he is a good one. This harlequin henchman of Emperor Gestahl was, at first, unimpressive. But it didn’t take long for him to make his mark on video game history. Donkey Kong threw barrels. Bowser kidnapped seven Toads and one princess. Kefka poisoned an entire town. Then he enslaved Espers.

But it wasn’t enough for him. The whole world had to know his true madness, and it did. He unbalanced the very nature of the overworld map, casting my game into a pit and disbanding the party I had worked so hard to build. There are not many games where we see the bad guy actually win. After his global catastrophe, I then had to fight to rebuild a world that may have, in the end, no longer been worth fighting for. It was like I was winning at chess and Kefka grabbed the board, set it on fire and flipped it in my face. Good job, Kefka. It was a shame we got you so soon in our gaming lives.

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Honorable Mention

Introduction

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