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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 Terrifying

Winner: Nazis (Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple II, Atari, Commodore 64)

As much as we love to personify the enemy, the award for most fearsome foe must go to the Nazis as a whole. Though they were most popularly demonized in 1992 by id's Wolfenstein 3-D game for Windows, it was the 1981 game for the Apple II that empowered them with their most intimidating quality.

I remember playing this game one Saturday morning, while everyone else was still asleep. I led my avatar quietly through the Nazi stronghold, knowing there was not a single comrade in this citadel of evil.

Wolfenstein  
Wolfenstein (Click image to see larger view.)

I nervously counted down the 76 seconds it'd take to pick the lock on one of the many strongboxes I'd found, hoping this would be the one to contain the enemy plans. The bloody carcasses of fallen Nazis littered the floor, keeping me grim, silent company.

Everything was still ... until an SS soldier barged into the room, wearing a bulletproof vest and barking German threats. In sharp contrast to the quiet weekend morning, that harsh, guttural language was so sudden and so nerve-wracking, my instinctive response was to reach not for a grenade, but the computer's power switch.

By giving voice to once-mute stalkers, Castle Wolfenstein has ensured that Nazis will always terrify me the most.

Runner-up: Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2 for Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox)

Pyramid Head  
Pyramid Head (Click image to see larger view.)

From the moment players step into the abandoned town of Silent Hill and hear the sound of rending flesh, they know to be afraid. And when emotionally unbalanced James Sunderland, hiding in a closet, watches this bloody goliath with a pyramid-shape helmet assault an equally unidentifiable monstrosity, players' fear is given form.

As gamers wander the ghost town, this masked abomination turns up in the most claustrophobic of places. When James is locked in an old prison, Pyramid Head's heavy breathing echoes through the concrete halls as he hunts his prey.

And when James tries to lead Maria to safety, fleeing from Pyramid Head down a long, narrow corridor, James makes it to the elevator -- just in time to see the doors close on a frantic Maria being skewered by Pyramid Head's vicious spear.

In the subconscious manifestations that plague visitors to Silent Hill, perhaps Pyramid Head represents James' anger and guilt. The red devil relentlessly pursues James and hurts those he loves. It's completely invulnerable to James' attacks. You can run -- but you'll only die tired.

The great and terrible quality of gaming guerillas is that they're never down for the count; a simple reboot will have them ready and rarin' to conquer the world again. Let's hear which virtual villains have you coming back for more!

Ken Gagne is Computerworld.com's associate editor of community content after having amassed 976 video games for 17 different consoles and handhelds writing a weekly gaming column titled Gamebits. He also runs the movie Web site Showbits.net and edits the vintage computing newsletter " Juiced.GS." 

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