The evil scientist is dedicated first and foremost to villainy — scientific advancement is more of a side gig. Often serving as the final boss for a game’s heroes to take down, evil scientists range from cartoonishly criminal to legitimately sinister. The greatest of these characters aim to reshape the entire world through their experiments, and are more than happy to make their ambitions clear with a well-timed monologue.
Although they haven’t quite returned to the heights they reached during the heyday of 3D platformers, evil scientists are still toiling away in their labs. Whenever a game developer needs an army of killer robots, a zombie plague, or a genetically-modified super soldier with a big sword and bigger anime hair, an evil scientist will be ready to put their plan into action.
8 Dr. Ned (Borderlands)
Dr. Zed’s evil twin brother, Dr. Ned is responsible for the events of Borderlands’ Zombie Island DLC. In addition to his well-maintained mustache, Dr. Ned is known for turning the residents of Jakobs Cove into his personal zombie army. He created Wereskags as well, when he attempted to cure (for business purposes) the reanimated Jakobs corporation employees using Skag DNA.
Dr. Ned looks suspiciously similar to the goodish Dr. Zed — the mustache over the surgical mask is a bit hard to explain. However, rest assured that Dr. Ned is no alter ego, since the twins have been confirmed by Gearbox to be separate characters. Also, only one of them ends up turning into a zombie.
7 Dr. Neo Cortex (Crash Bandicoot)
The creator of his own nemesis, Dr. Neo Cortex is Crash Bandicoot’s main foe. Born into a family of circus clowns, Cortex was bullied for his interest in science as a child. At one point, his tormentors forcibly tattooed his now-trademark “N” (for “nerd”) onto his forehead. With dreams of world domination, Cortex enrolled in Madame Amberley’s Academy of Evil, where he learned the tools of the evil genius trade.
No stranger to creating both mechanical and genetic monstrosities, Cortex sometimes ends up on the receiving end of his evil plans, forcing him to team up with Crash to correct his errors. In his spare time, he enjoys kart racing.
6 Professor Hojo (Final Fantasy VII)
Final Fantasy 7’s Professor Hojo is not only a genius, but also a terrible human being. Manipulating, mocking, and watching his subjects suffer brings Hojo joy. Being the head of Shinra’s Science Research Division, this twisted researcher is responsible for the SOLDIER program, which created many of the elite troops Cloud and his allies must take down.
If nothing else, Professor Hojo deserves some credit for being the evil mind behind the Jenova Project S. These were the experiments that resulted in the birth of Sephiroth, one of the most memorable antagonists in the Final Fantasy series — if not RPGs in general.
5 Dr. Nefarious (Ratchet and Clank)
Dr. Nefarious embraces the role of evil scientist. While he was accidentally transformed into a robot, don’t think that’s his tragic backstory. He was bad to the metallic bone well before that happened. Intergalactic war is Nefarious’ favorite pastime. If he had it his way, all organic life would’ve been roboticized decades ago. Nefarious has traveled through time, hopped between dimensions, and — like all supervillains with class — has a butler, Lawrence.
Since the PS2-era, Ratchet and Clank have had to foil Nefarious’ schemes at least once a console generation. Despite these frequent face-offs, they still found time to team up in 2011’s All 4 One, with Captain Qwark rounding out the squad.
4 GLaDOS (Portal)
Driven to further her scientific research no matter the harm done to the residents of the Aperture Science facility, GLaDOS started out as an attempt to create an artificial intelligence advanced enough to contain the mind of Cave Johnson, the company’s founder. As soon as she was activated, GLaDOS seized control of the Enrichment Center by releasing a deadly toxin.
In Portal and its sequel, GLaDOS torments protagonist Chell under the pretense of testing the Portal Gun. While GLaDOS excels at conducting experiments, she displays no concern for the well-being of test participants, attempting to eliminate Chell after she made her way through all the facility’s test chambers.
3 Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik (Sonic)
Between the goggles, the mustache, and that iconic egg-shaped figure, Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik is one of the most immediately recognizable video game antagonists. From his humble beginnings turning woodland animals into machines, Dr. Eggman has gone on to build doomsday devices, create a robotic version of his greatest adversary, and even participate in the Olympic Games.
Eggman is nothing if not crafty, always coming up with new plans to put Sonic and friends to the test. He’s also surprisingly slippery, escaping to scheme another day nearly every time his masterplan falls apart.
2 Albert Wesker (Resident Evil)
If the Terminator-style sunglasses and leather coat didn’t give you an idea, Wesker is calm, collected, and acts without remorse. Injected with a prototype version of the t-Virus, Albert Wesker used his superhuman abilities and knowledge as a virologist in an attempt to bring about the extinction of humanity as we know it in the Resident Evil series.
At times appearing to be invincible, Wesker served as the ultimate obstacle for players from his betrayal of S.T.A.R.S in 1996 to his demise in 2009. With his memorable design, inhuman strength, and willingness to coldly remove anything that gets in his way, Wesker is still the Resident Evil series’ most-unforgettable villain.
1 Dr. Wily (Mega Man)
Responsible for eleven games worth of robotic foes, Dr. Albert W. Wily can turn just about any machine into a force of destruction. Sure, Bomb Man, Tomahawk Man, and Magma Man sound dangerous enough, but should we really need to call in the Blue Bomber to deal with Bubble Man or Sheep Man? Apparently, yes.
What sets Dr. Wily apart from so many other evil scientists is how much of a legacy he has in his universe. Before his death, Wily created the Maverick Virus, as well as the future Maverick Hunter Zero, both of which play a crucial role in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series.