Horror games are great and all that, but what about games that make you the monster? Yeah. Chew on that for a second.
I'm not just talking about games that belong to the horror genre, either. In fact, spare those asymmetrical multiplayer games that are all the rage with their worryingly young audiences, there are few actual horror games that let you assume the role of the villain. But that doesn't mean there isn't a deluge of titles where you play as a creature so vile, so menacing, that the residents of their worlds undoubtly view the player as evil incarnate. Far from it. The games on this list may not all be spooky in tone, but your character is still the stuff of actual nightmares.
As it turns out, the real villain of these five games is you. Suprise. Happy Halloween. Etc.
Yes, in Doom Eternal the forces of hell have reduced Earth to a smouldering pile of gore covered rubble, but demons are not the only monster wreaking havoc on our ravaged planet. Doom Guy has always been a force to be reckoned with, chewing through nasties with shocking efficiency, but in Eternal he ascends to god-like levels of carnage. With humanity on the brink of extinction, with Hell on the cusp on success, you return to Earth in your (goddamned) bone cathedral ready to rip and tear until nothing remains. You are a silent terror, an arbiter of death so vicious you could even make the devil blush. Imps and zombies may spend their days eating children and ripping the arms off postal workers, but you know for a fact that when they go to bed at night they have nightmares about one day running into you. You kill angels in this game, for crying out loud. Angels! How is this lad anything but a monster?
I’ve used Factorio as the example here, but you could swap it out with any other automation game that takes place on an alien planet. In Factorio, you crash land on a lush world untouched by the corrupting hands of human kind. Then, you immediately begin tearing its resources out of the ground, pumping pollution into the air to serve your own selfish needs. You spend hundreds of hours decimating a paradise for the sake of saving one (1) life. It’s no wonder that pretty soon after you start, the planet's native bug population desperately tries to stop you. Imagine if someone landed in your back garden and set up an oil rig. You’d probably go out with a baseball bat after a couple of days, right? Well imagine if the intruder had set up a series of automated turrets that turned you into mince meat the second you stepped out your patio door. That’s basically what's happening in Factorio. In my head cannon, the upcoming Terra Nil is all about undoing the effects caused by the main characters of automation games, replenishing natural beauty to worlds stripped bare by greedy little space travellers hungry for more conveyer belts. Monsters!
Far Cry 3
The true monster of this list is secretly me, because I’m writing about how Jason Brody is the real villain of Far Cry 3 without a hint of self-awareness (other than this sentence, obvs). But it stands to be repeated. Jason Brody fucking sucks, and his rampage around Rook Island is an abhorrent display of narcissism unlike anything else in the series. Remember, in Far Cry 3 you are not liberating a country from a dictator, or taking down a cult leader, or facing off against Gus Fring from Breaking Bad (I haven’t played Far Cry 6, don’t give me any context about it please). You are a rich white guy who gets stranded on an island and decides - very quickly - to start killing the locals for shits and giggles. Oh sure your brother gets shot in the head. Do you know what I would do if my sibling got shot in the head? I’d probably throw up and cry a lot. I wouldn’t pick up a handgun and immediately skin 5 wild boards to make a new wallet. Jason Brody is a psychopath. Doom Guy has nightmares about Jason Brody paragliding towards his bone cathedral. It’s a point worth repeating. He’s a monster.
Any game circa 2007 that featured a morality system
There was a brief period of time, at the height of the Xbox 360 era, where most AAA games featured a binary morality system. Fallout 3. Bioshock. Fable 2. Black and White 2. These games didn’t so much offer the player nuanced moral quandaries as present them with two polar extremes before asking them to pick one or the other. Do you want to kill a child, or save their life? Hmm. Tricky one that. Do you want to disarm a nuclear warhead to save a settlement, or detonate it because a Trump-analogue who lives in a tower full of rich bastards thinks it's an eye sore? Goodness me, I’ll have to think about that one. Do I want to be the second coming of Christ, or uber-Hitler? The third option, of course, was to simply become both at the same time. An unhinged menace who had as much chance of giving a child a lollipop as they did running them over with their car. No in-betweens. Players who chose a full villain run would finish the game as a genuine war criminal. A menace to society. A monster.
Who are you in Dungeon Keeper? The game never explicitly says, although I like to imagine you’re a dribbly goblin-like figure who sits on a big throne made of goo and barks orders at your hordes of demonic subordinates. Dungeon Keeper was the first game I ever played that put me in the role of a baddie, tasking me with constructing and maintaining an evil underground lair. It felt good (hah!) to nurture a bunch of horrible monster children, feeding them chickens and sending them off to fight a bunch of do-gooders who were trying to stop us from taking over their idyllic homesteads. Dungeon Keeper offers a very humanising (demonising?) depiction of monsters, letting you watch them potter around the gloomy corridors of your dungeon, living their realtively peaceful lives. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason I empathised so much with the monsters in DOOM is because I knew, in my heart, that they had a home to go back to. Those imps you slice in half with your chainsaw? They’re paid a wage. They clearly believe in workers rights. And for that you deem them worthy of death? Shame on you. On that note, all of the invading heroes in Dungeon Keeper have big Tory energy, their dialogue reeking of an Eton education. Are you really the monster of the piece, if these are the good guys? Much to think about.