I got a request after writing “Five Villains We’re Glad Went Good” to write an article around characters who did the opposite—who went from good to bad. I was grateful because writing is easy; coming up with an idea is the difficult part. Oh, and, you know, writing well isn’t very easy either.
But after some research, I’ve decided to amend the premise (because rarely do major protagonists switch sides). Just a warning: There may be a few spoilers ahead.
5. Genie, Aladdin (1992)
Update: Fixed when Genie was bad.
Okay, you may want to say Genie doesn’t count, and that’s a legitimate opinion. See, Genie is a lot like Pokémon. We’re told time and time again that Pokémon are neither good nor bad, and that they only become so because of their trainers. If Genie has a good master, he does good, and if his master is evil, then he does evil.
For the entire time we see Genie, he is under Aladdin’s control, which makes him good by association. So, I’m going to group him in with the heroes.
But later, the lamp falls into the hands of the evil sorcerer Jafar, and Genie is forced to fulfill his every command, thus making him evil.
The amazing thing is that we still get to see Genie sympathizing with Aladdin while being forced to serve Jafar. As far as I’m concerned, Genie is pretty good at being bad.
4. InuYasha, InuYasha (2000-2010)
InuYasha is already a reluctant hero, not really eager to help anyone out but himself. While he eventually (kind of) gets over that, he still suffers from two fatal flaws. Since he’s a half-demon, once every so often he becomes fully human.
His second flaw makes him more of a danger to others than himself. If his life is in danger, and his sword, the Tessaiga, is out of reach, his demon blood will take over and transform him into a powerful demon. The longer he’s in this state, though, the more his human soul decays, and the more the mindless bloodlust of his demon self takes over.
It a pretty bad-ass fail-safe, but on more than one occasion InuYasha ends up almost hurting someone he cares for after saving himself.
3. Severus Snape, Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
For those of us who didn’t read the books, Snape was the perfect bad guy. He was always acting shady and trying to become the defense against the dark arts professor. And he was always thwarting Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We just knew he was bad. Just knew it!
And then, in the first movie, we discover it’s not even Snape behind all the evil shit that’s happening. Not only that, Snape’s trying to stop it!
And throughout the rest of the movies (or books, if you read them), the same kind of thing kept happening: Snape seemed strangely evil all the time, but he kept saving the day when certain things went wrong. Finally, we discover that he’s one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. But he’s also a member of the Order of the Phoenix, tasked with maintaining his undercover identity as a Death Eater.
The only problem was there were some (including me) who didn’t know whether he was good, pretending to be bad, or bad, pretending to be good. Then he kills Dumbledore, and everyone knows he’s evil. He takes over as headmaster and plays a key role in the defeat of Voldemort, sacrificing his own life, proving that he is the best actor in the wizarding world.
2. Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT (1989-2005)
I caught some flak for failing to include Vegeta in my article “Five Villains We’re Glad Went Good.” Instead, I chose Piccolo, mostly because he’s my favorite character. But I would also say the Piccolo—in the beginning—is more evil than Vegeta. Piccolo is the great demon king who wants to take control of the world and kill anyone who could possible seal him away again. Vegeta, on the other hand, is one of the last soldiers—and the prince—of the Saiyan race. And as we find out, when he comes to Earth, he’s coming to do Frieza’s bidding: wipe out all life on the planet in order to add it to Frieza’s galactic empire.
Vegeta doesn’t like working for Frieza, and later rebels with the help of Goku, Gohan, Krillin, and Bulma. It’s a shaky alliance, and it seems like Vegeta just wants to beat Frieza to the Namekian dragon balls, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I guess.
So, I wouldn’t dismiss Vegeta as purely evil. However, he is really great at being a bad guy even when he’s supposed to be a hero.
The best example is from the Majin Buu saga, when he allows Babidi to take control over him and increase his power. Vegeta kills a lot of people after doing this, and then hunts Goku down to prove once and for all which of the two is the strongest.
Even after all this, Vegeta takes control and ends up sacrificing himself to try to destroy Majin Buu.
1. Kratos, God of War Series (2005-2012)
Kratos is a servant of Ares whom Ares tricks into killing his family. Out of rage and sorrow, Kratos leads a quest for revenge that ends in the death of the god of war. And at this point, I am totally with Kratos.
But then, in the second game, Kratos turns his attention toward Zeus and tries to kill him for taking away his power and killing him. This doesn’t work, but Kratos kills a lot of other heroes and gods on his way. Then, in the third game, Kratos leads an all-out war against Olympus, resulting in the deaths of half a dozen gods, including Zeus.
In the second game, I saw Kratos becoming mad, but I was still on his side. By the third game, I had decided he had completely lost his mind, but that I was going to continue playing anyway.
Kratos does a lot of killing—some of it needless, and all of it brutal. He’s a good portrait of an antihero. Though, the two PSP games, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta help us understand Kratos more, and it actually almost justifies his rampage in the latter games.
Got any others?