The plot of my novella The Accidental Zombie is driven not only by the zombie, but by the need for secrecy. Its protagonists want to keep the zombie a secret so they won’t be branded as “mad scientists.”
I picked such a silly premise to take a lighthearted approach to the concept of mad scientists. After all, I love mad scientists (heck, one of my stories is published in The Mad Scientist Journal).
In honor of that, I thought I’d look at some of my favorites. There are far too many mad scientists to pick from, so I narrowed it down to one category. Here are my Top 5 Mad Scientists in Video Games.
(Note: I made this list before I played Kingdom Hearts or Steins;Gate.)
5. The Prophets (Wild Arms 3)
This team of villains earns its spot on the list mainly for being so unusual. Look at them! Is that when you expect when you hear “mad scientist”?
Wild Arms 3 is one of my favorite RPGs, partly because it does stuff like this. It doesn’t follow the rules. Leehalt, Melody, and Malik are a team of Wild Arms 3 villains known as The Prophets. Despite their name and attire, they are in fact scientists.
They also have an amazing battle theme. Of all the amazing video game villain themes out there, “Black as Sin, Red as Blood” is one of my favorites. It just radiates pure, awesome evil.
They want to restore the dying world at any cost, and each also has a personal goal to seek. Their plans involve, among other things, making plans with demons. Which are alien cyborgs, of course. Because this is Wild Arms 3.
4. Cave Johnson (Portal 2)
One of the most hilarious parts of Portal 2 is the addition of audio logs from Cave Johnson, the founder of Aperture Science.
While his lemon rant might be the most memorable, every quote from Cave Johnson is gold. I almost included a link to the lemon rant, but it and his other audio logs are best experienced in the game itself, so I won’t spoil them. Don’t worry, Valve also released a series of promo videos narrated by Cave Johnson.
“Perpetual Testing Initiative (PeTI)”
But it doesn’t end there. That last video introduced the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC, where players could build and share their own levels. Due to its nature, such content can’t really have a coherent story… but that didn’t stop Valve from including Cave Johnson! Every time you select a player-made test chamber to play, a short message from Aperture’s founder plays.
If you aren’t tired of Cave Johnson yet (and don’t plan to play enough player-made levels to hear all the dialogue), Youtube user Murdoink has compiled all of his PeTI quotes into a 26-minute video of increasing hilarity.
Cave Johnson: the funniest mad scientist on this list.
3. Shuu Iwamine (Hatoful Boyfriend)
If you like dark, morbid humor, you’ll love Shuu’s route, as you relentlessly pursue this obviously maniacal and dangerous bird. And I won’t spoil his role in the game’s true route (or name the other video game character I can’t help but draw comparisons to), but it’s great.
You all need to play this game.
Like the Prophets, Shuu’s theme also adds to his appeal, though you’ll never be able to watch certain Christmas features the same way again… hohoho!
When Hatoful Boyfriend is released on the PS4 and PS Vita, it will include another mad scientist as a new romance option. Will Tohri overtake Shuu as the best bird mad scientist?
2. Hojo (Final Fantasy VII)
Cave Johnson and Shuu were on the more lighthearted side of mad science, but let’s return to its darker depths with Professor Hojo from Final Fantasy VII. It’s hard to talk about him without spoilers (an especially good thing to avoid with a remake on the horizon), but this guy is evil.
How bad is he? Some fans consider him the true main villain of Final Fantasy VII.
Outside of the fandom, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Almost everyone knows who Sephiroth is, but how many people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII have even heard of Hojo?
Once you play the game, you’ll understand why he’s memorable enough to take the #2 spot on this list.
Hojo fits the mad scientist trope down to just about every detail. He only cares about science, he’s willing to do horrific things to further his research…
If you want to know what a mad scientist villain is, look at Hojo.
1. Albert Wesker and William Birkin (Resident Evil)
It’s difficult to top Hojo’s level of villainy, but the Umbrella Corporation manages. If Hojo is the archetypal mad scientist, Umbrella is the archetypal evil corporation. They’d hire someone like Hojo in a heartbeat, and he’d still have to compete with his colleagues to see who is the most amoral.
Wesker, of course, is infamous. William Birkin, not so much, but he took a great role in Resident Evil 2.
But you know, even though it’s not my favorite Resident Evil game, I love the portrayal of Wesker and Birkin in Resident Evil Zero. Maybe it’s because we actually see them together after supplementary materials describe them as a team. Maybe it’s because of the bizarre not-quite-involved role they take in the game.
Maybe it’s because I consider it to have one of the purest “mad science” scenes for both of them.
Of course, a case can be made for them series-wide, even if that’s my favorite portrayal. Both are ruthlessly dedicated to their research, both make compelling antagonists, and to me they perfectly embody the video game mad scientist as an extension of the Umbrella Corporation.
Albert Wesker and William Birkin undeniably take the #1 spot. (And yes, I know I’m counting multiple people as one again.) Of all the characters on my list, they probably had the biggest influence on my own science duo in The Accidental Zombie.
So there you have it, my Top 5 Video Game Mad Scientists. Of course, even doubling up on some slots didn’t let me name everyone…
Honorable Mentions: Shin (Fragile Dreams), Sasha Nein (Psychonauts), Rodyle (Tales of Symphonia), The Architect (Dragon Age: Awakening), Fawful (Mario & Luigi), and Professor E. Gadd (Luigi’s Mansion).
Who are your favorite mad scientists from video games?---
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