Who would Mario be without his Koopa Troopers, Link without Ganondorf, Pong pad 1 without Pong pad 2?
We've looked back through decades of gaming to record the greatest villains and opponents to have reared their ugly heads. Only those who have been truly memorable have found inclusion, thanks to their quips, their sound effects, or the amount of times they caused us to throw our controllers at the TV.
We can't emphasise strongly enough that these are our favourites, and as such we'd love to hear who you'd include on your own list. Why not post your own top five in the comments below.
(Images: Games Press)
Pong paddle: Pong (1972)
It wouldn't be a proper list of villains if the original video game opponent failed to find inclusion. When Pong was released in 1972, players could challenge fellow humans to a game of electronic tennis, or face an automated Pong paddle. A tireless, legendary foe.
Space invader: Space Invaders (1978)
These pixelled terrors sealed their place in gaming history when they first slunk their way towards us in 1978. Few villains have ever managed to match their iconic, t-shirt worthy designs. Individually hopeless, after facing several hundred relentless waves of these critters they begin to haunt you every time you close your eyes.
Pac-Man ghosts: Pac-Man (1980)
Challenging the Space Invader aliens for the title of "most beautifully simplistic enemy design" are the grim spectres of Pac-Man. As to why poor old Pac-Man was haunted by a host of ghosts as he ate his way around a maze, we'll probably never know. Is it metaphor for our own lives and the ghosts that we constantly run from? Or an artful exploration of purgatory? It's probably just a video game.
Koopa Troopas: Mario series (1983)
You're darn right we left Bowser out. The Koopa Troopas formed an immediate enmity with Mario when they shuffled into the New York sewage system in 1983's Mario Bros. Originally known as 'Shellcreepers', the quadrupeded turtles couldn't be jumped on, but had to be knocked onto their backs. It wasn't until Super Mario Bros. that the Koopa Troopas gained their legendary status as foot-soldiers turned potent projectile. Without the Koopa Troopas, there'd be no Bowser.
Ganondorf/Ganon: Zelda series (1986)
Gaming lists have one simple rule: the Master Sword has to appear in all 'Best Video Game Weapons' lists, Link has to appear on all 'Best Video Game Heroes' lists, Ocarina of Time has to appear on 'Best Video Games Ever' lists and Ganondorf has... well here he is. He's the final boss of all final bosses, with an unhealthy thirst for the Triforce and/or Princess Zelda, and he bares no similarities whatsoever to the Lord of Darkness from Ridley Scott's Legend.
Dr Wily: Mega Man (1987)
Without Albert Einstein there'd be no Dr Wily, and without Dr Wily, there'd be no Dr Robotnik, or pretty much any other evil genius villain. Responsible for creating legions of robots that would eventually turn against humanity/provide gamers with hours of joy. We owe Dr Wily a big thank you.
M. Bison: Street Fighter series (1991)
No would-be dictator or ultimate final bosses can really compare to M. Bison. Leader of the Shadaloo syndicate, M. Bison is made all the more mysterious by virtue of the fact no one knows what the 'M' stands for. Only true bad asses wear a cape to battle.
Dr Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik: Sonic series (1991)
Arguably one of the finest evil geniuses of gaming lore, Dr Ivo Robotnik/Eggman invented unforgettable hedgehog deterrents across the Sonic series, from multiple mechs to his Egg Mobile and the giant Death Egg of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Why does he quest for the Chaos Emeralds? We're not sure, but we think it's got something to do with changing his nose back to its original colour...
Cyberdemon: Doom series (1993)
The original Doom manual didn't list the Cyberdemon in the foes that you'd face in hell, leaving this missile-spewing monolith as little surprise for early nineties gamers. The cover star of the game's sequel, the Cyberdemon plays upon classic depictions of the devil himself - by which we mean adding mechanical refinements and a rocket-launching fist. Desperately unsubtle and deeply terrifying.
Team Rocket: Pokémon series (1996)
While the frankly brilliant TV series of Pokémon gave Team Rocket's Jess and James all the villainy of a pantomime horse, the Team Rocket of Nintendo's catch-em-all series are downright sinister. Led by Giovanni, Team Rocket are eco-terrorists, accused of stealing, conducting experiments on, torturing and even murdering Pokémon. Not so cute now are they?
Sligs: Oddworld series (1997)
The stumbling guards of the Oddworld series had a certain pathetic charm to their skulduggery. From the mischievous chuckle that followed your slaughter, to their squeals for help when Abe began to possess them, the Sligs were endowed with a remarkable amount of personality for a low ranking henchman.
Psycho Mantis: Metal Gear Solid series (1998)
Psychic experts are usually kept locked away in the back pages of glossy magazines and sinister funfairs. Psycho Mantis of the FOXHOUND Unit did more than read your palm - he messed with your head. One of the Metal Gear Solid series' most impressive creations, he still creeps us out to this day.
Zombies: Any game ever
With so much choice, we didn't know which game to include for this entry: Resident Evil? Left 4 Dead? Elder Scrolls: Oblivion? Dead Space? Dead Rising? Each game brings their own unique take on these lumbering hoards, but they share the same basic properties: they used to be dead and now they want to lick your insides. Terrifying.
The Flood: Halo series (2001)
The reveal of the Flood in Bungie's masterful Halo: Combat Evolved deserves to go down in gaming history as an epic moment. What had been an immensely enjoyable space-and-lasers FPS gained an unexpected element of survival horror; the grizzly little parasites drawing on elements of The Thing, Alien and pretty much every zombie film ever.
Darth Malak: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
We're about to be controversial. Ready? The best twist to have come from the Star Wars franchise was not that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father, but that in Knights of the Old Republic, your character was actually Darth Revan, the Sith Lord who was betrayed by Darth Malak. Darth Malak even manages to look as menacing as Vader himself. That's it. We'll stop being controversial now.
(Image: GamesPress; Lucas Arts)
The Combine: Half-Life 2 (2004)
We didn't think Half-Life 2 could match the brilliance of Gordon Freeman's first outing - how can you possibly top the best FPS of a generation? Valve managed to do just that not with any new mechanics or gimmicks, but by introducing the terrifying Combine. Part human, part alien, part machine, the suppressive force of the Combine gave Half-Life 2 an Orwellian edge of grit and fear. Now if Valve could get around to releasing Half-Life 3 so we can find out what this evil band are up to that would be splendid.
GLaDOS: Portal series (2007)
Valve are good at being bad. One of the best games of the last decade also starred one of the best villains. GLaDOS was funny, malevolent and terrifying - everything you could possibly hope for in a robotic baddie.
Pigs: Angry Birds series (2009)
Cats and dogs. Cats and mice. Foxes and chickens. The enmity that existed between birds and pigs had gone unnoticed before Rovio launched the iOS game in 2009. Since then, the feud has boiled over into multiple titles, millions of downloads and billions of piggy fatalities. They even got their own game to stretch their trotters. We're keeping everything crossed that the forthcoming film-of-the-game is actually good.
The Joker: Batman: Arkham series (2009)
A legendary rivalry was reborn in Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum - Mark Hamill's Joker was the embodiment of ragged insanity. Such was his charm that we almost felt sorry for putting an end to his evil plans. Almost.
Stick with us on this. There are plenty of games where failure is only brought about thanks to your ineptitude: if you were a better player, all the Lemmings would be just fine. If your fingers were quick enough, Snake could eat all the fruit. You stand on the skulls of thousands of heroes, and we hope you're happy.