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You can run, but you'll only die tired: Gaming's 'baddest' villains

June 1, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Most Creative

Winner: Pious Augustus (Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem for Nintendo GameCube)

Across two millennia, the lives of 12 heroes become intertwined. The last hero's ultimate objective: slay the first.

When the Eternal Darkness begins with players assuming the role of Pious Augustus, a Roman Centurion in the year 26 B.C., they don't know that he will soon become the tool of the Cthulu-like ancient gods, setting in motion machinations that will take 2000 years to realize.

Pious Augustus  
Pious Augustus

The possession of Pious makes him an incontrovertible foe to generations of chosen defenders as they fight to prevent a new dark age from descending upon the Earth.

Throughout the eras, Pious the Lich uses magic, weaponry and deception. One chapter of the game comes to a sudden conclusion in the depths of a hallowed cathedral, when the unholy Pious orders a monstrous guardian to simply flatten the player underfoot. Pious later assaults heroine Alexandra's fragile emotional state by impersonating her deceased grandfather, perverting her memories of her only known family.

Throughout it all, gamers cannot deny their own complicity: They once were Pious and unknowingly set him down this dark path. It's now their responsibility to put right what they have put wrong.

Runner-up: Big Boss (Metal Gear for the Nintendo Entertainment System and MSX computer; Metal Gear Solid 3 for Sony PlayStation 2)

BigBoss (Click image to see larger view.)

The original eight-bit Nintendo wasn't capable of much in the way of plots or storylines; whatever context in which an adventure occurred was usually supplied by the instruction manual.

Metal Gear, a modern-day tactical espionage game, was different. Its protagonist, Solid Snake, was in constant radio communication with his headquarters. As he infiltrated the jungle fortress of Outer Heaven, he also received clues from rescued hostages and unidentified informants -- not all of which painted a consistent picture.

The nearer Snake got to his goal -- the prototypical Metal Gear, a nuclear assault weapon -- the less reliable his superiors became. When finally he penetrated the enemy defenses and descended into the stronghold's depths, he came face to face with the evil mastermind: his own superior.

Big Boss's betrayal of Snake is the quintessential double-cross, and one that is still being explored today. The franchise was relaunched in 1998 with Metal Gear Solid, in which Solid Snake learned he is a clone of Big Boss -- meaning that their confrontation 10 years earlier was an extreme family feud, ending with the son killing the father.

In 2004's prequel, Metal Gear Solid 3, players for the first time ever took control of Big Boss himself -- a.k.a. Naked Snake -- and learned why he turned his back on his country.

Traitor or hero? You decide.

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