“How ridiculous… So many pathetic creatures, scattered across a handful of islands, drifting on this sea like fallen leaves on a forgotten pool… What they can possibly hope to achieve? Don’t you see? All of you… Your gods destroyed you!”
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.
19) Ganondorf (Legend of Zelda) – 4 votes/112 points
Chris: My colleagues are going to talk about the great versions of Ganondorf below. I’m going to spend a little time with the forgotten Ganondorf, the one from Twilight Princess.
To be clear, I didn’t love Twilight Princess. Those who clamored for a more gritty, realistic Zelda game forgot to include “colorless” and “drab” among their adjectives. Some of the items were pointless. But my biggest beef of all is the use of Zant as a villain.
You spend more than half the game tracking down Zant, looking for revenge for what he does to Midna. Eventually he nearly murders Midna with a harsh blast of sunlight and traps Link in his wolf form, even though he could have just killed them. This leads to one of the best moments of the game as you rush to save Midna.
And then…all of it is tossed aside. Zant’s character abruptly changes from a calm, ruthless dictator to a paranoid puppet who is working for — guess who? — Ganondorf.
I guess all of this is to say that Ganondorf is Link’s only true rival, because of all that he’s done over the years. Other characters like Zant and Vaati have tried and failed to have an impact. Even in his short time in Twilight Princess, Ganon possesses Zelda and forces you to fight her, brings back his classic monstrous beast form, and traps you in a cage for an epic one-on-one battle. He’s the villain that Hyrule deserves.
Shaun: Two villains back to back?! While I don’t agree that Ganondorf is a “better” villain than Kefka, I do agree that he’s more iconic, and offers the perfect foil for the goodness and courage to the series’ heroes of Zelda and Link. Ganondorf is cunning, ruthless, and fearsome, and creates an unsettling dichotomy that anchors the sense of danger in every title he is in.
Ganondorf’s persistence to his own dark ambitions is what is truly impressive. If we commend Link on his insistence on fighting for peace and goodness, then we must also acknowledge unwavering dedication to his path of darkness. Ganondorf has been defeated numerous times, and yet his hatred for Link curses him to an eternity of seeking revenge.
Like all great characters, as the years go on, Ganondorf grows and develops, eventually reaching a point where he’s no longer just pure evil – he simply has a twisted view of how the world should be, which happens to involve him being in control of it.
No game demonstrates this better than Wind Waker’s version, which features an older, wiser Ganondorf whose machinations simply stem from envy over the simple pleasures in life that were always kept from him. Calm, collected, and undeniably cool, this Ganondorf forever redefines the character that we’ve been fighting for generations, and by the game’s powerful conclusion, you almost sympathize with the guy. He just wanted a better life for him and his people, a life that was denied to him as a desert dweller. Can you really blame the guy?
Joseph: Whether you know him as Gannon or Ganondorf, he is a man worthy of this list. In all his iterations, Ganondorf is the embodiment of evil. His first appearance showed him as a giant pig, but as time has progressed he has become more and more human, transforming into a monster later like any respectable boss. But why does Ganondorf stand out from any other bad guy? It is sheer willpower that makes him formidable. Since the Hyrule Historia was published, a definitive timeline of the succession of Links now exists, one following the next whenever evil arises.
But what is that evil? Nine times out of 10, sources point to Ganondorf. Not just a man named Ganondorf. The Ganondorf. Whether you kill him, imprison him, petrify him or obliterate him, his intense hatred keeps some part of him alive to harass future Links. Sure, some Zelda games have strayed from the path of using him as a final boss, but few have been able to measure up to the King of the Gerudos. Vaati? Don’t waste my time. Give me the avatar of power and I will be satisfied. And the best part? Every time he shows up they add more to his character and background, but there is still so much potential for him to grow (which they may have alluded to with the finale of Skyward Sword). He is definitely in the running for being the greatest villain of video gaming, but a little more character work can make him the ultimate boss.
Jason: That laugh… You know the one. It’s playing in your head right now. Link would be nothing without his antagonist, and Ganondorf doesn’t disappoint. From time travel to multidimensional shenanigans… he’s the ultimate bad guy. And what style too! As the wielder of the Triforce of Power, his place in the Zelda Universe is forever sealed; and as one might expect from someone who literally holds power within his hand, he is no pushover. It always takes the combined efforts of both Courage and Wisdom in order to defeat him, and by “defeat” I mean lock him away until his power grows and he terrorizes the world once more. He’s an elemental part of the very universe, and cannot be stopped. A fitting villain and awesome character if I’ve ever heard of one.