- 10 In-Game Evil Corporations We Love to Hate - January 6, 2024
- Best RPGs Where You Can Play As A Villain – Become the Big Bad - January 6, 2024
- Baldur’s Gate 3: How to Save Sazza – The Absolute’s Favorite Goblin Barbie - January 5, 2024
I think we all need to be honest with ourselves here. Sometimes, we really want to select the option to burn down the town. Or poison the very annoying nobleman. Or take over the country and remake it in our image.
But not every RPG allows us to indulge in our darker impulses. Some only allow us to be jerks. The following RPGs allow you to embrace your inner villain and become the Big Bad you’re meant to be.
There are lots of RPGs out there that allow you to be mean, but we’re not looking for mean here. We’re looking for RPGs that allow their players to cause some real pain and havoc for the people in the world. We’ll define these RPGs with the following criteria.
- Must be able to have “bad” or “villainous” options you can choose.
- “Bad” decisions must impact the story in some way.
- Only one game per franchise.
- Action RPGs are acceptable.
Let’s take a look at the RPGs that make the cut.
10. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Developer: BioWare
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, IOS, Android, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Starting the list is an RPG beloved by Star Wars and RPG fans alike. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic allows players to determine what path they want to take. They can choose to side with forces of Light or follow the Sith and embrace the Dark Side.
The game features several choices and decisions players must make regarding the fate of certain planets, cities, and characters. Those looking to become the villain will have a great time with this game. You can lean into your ambitions and make the Sith your own–literally.
The game’s final act has you taking on the Big Bad and gives you a final choice. You can end the Sith’s power . . . or take it for your own. You literally become the next Big Bad. Since your decisions can also influence the characters who make up your party, you can also make some of them turn to the Dark Side, too.
Only some have the villainous stamina needed to embrace the Dark Side fully. See just how terrible you can get before it becomes too much when playing Knights of the Old Republic.
9. Mass Effect 3
- Developer: BioWare
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
BioWare is behind two of the biggest RPGs on this list, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect 3. Both games have rich moral mechanics that can influence the game’s narrative. In Star Wars, it’s all about the Dark Side. In Mass Effect 3, it’s all about those Renegade options.
The game uses a Paragon/Renegade moral system with certain decisions or quick-time events, allowing you to choose “good” or “bad” decisions. The more Renegade options you choose, the more Shepard’s appearance changes. Your eyes will glow red, and the scars on your face will worsen rather than heal.
But let’s talk about the villainous deeds you can do in Mass Effect 3. How does killing an entire species sound? You can save the Geth, a robotic species, or completely destroy them. Your choices before the major decision influence your ability to save the species or destroy them. So, if you’ve been a villain the whole time, you could add the destruction of an entire species to your list, too.
Many consider Shepard a hero for saving the galaxy from the Reapers. But the devil is in the details, and if you play a Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect 3, you may find that you had others pay dearly for the price of victory.
- Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
- Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
BioWare isn’t the only game studio with a few villainous RPGs on the list. Obsidian Entertainment has quite a number, too, with the first being Tyranny. The game has you playing as a Fatebinder, an elite warrior charged with pacifying the colonies underneath a tyrant’s rule.
Yes, you actually play as the Big Bad’s henchman in this game. You’ll travel from town to town to ensure everyone behaves under the ruler’s new regime. While you have the option of changing the world for the better, you also have the option of being an absolute dick. You can get people killed, put organizations to the sword, and even end up as the new tyrant in charge.
Tyranny has a complex morality system that forces you to operate in a morally grey zone. It makes you face the question, ‘Is it bad or evil if done for the right decision?’ You’ll have to ponder that when you play Tyranny for the first time.
7. The Outer Worlds
- Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One
You know what’s really evil? Siding with mega-corporations over the working class. That’s exactly what the villain run through The Outer Worlds looks like. Also developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds has you potentially aligning yourself with mega-corporations instead of a single ruler like in Tyranny.
As you explore the different colonies in the planetary system, you’ll need to help the workers or give the corporations further power. It all culminates in a final decision to either take control of the colonies yourself or allow the Board to continue exploiting the working class.
Some of the worst villains don’t even realize they’re villains. They don’t understand that apathy and choosing not to become involved makes them part of the problem. Greed, ambition, and apathy are the driving forces behind a villainous run in The Outer Worlds.
The Board is waiting to see what kind of person you turn out to be when you pick up The Outer Worlds.
- Developer: Lionhead Studios
- Platforms: Xbox, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Much like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fable lets you see how your choices influence your character’s appearance. As you make more evil choices, your character becomes edgier, like some sort of metalhead. Dark hair, wicked eyes, and usually big, dark, armor result from a villainous run through Fable.
The game’s morality system is one of its focal points, too. At the very beginning of Fable, you’re tasked with helping villagers in your hometown. You can be good and help those in need, or take a more selfish route and use their pain for your gain. For example, you discover a man is having an affair. He attempts to bribe you to buy your silence. You can accept the bribe or inform his wife.
These small choices end up becoming bigger and bigger. At the end of the game, you’ll find yourself deciding to kill your sister for power or sparing her life. Few things are quite so villainous as slaying your own family.
Fable is one of the few RPGs that lets you become your story’s villain. Give it a try and see if you have what it takes to really become the world’s next Big Bad.
5. Divinity: Original Sin 2
- Developer: Larian Studios
- Platform: PC
Not every RPG goes deep on a villain playthrough. Divinity: Original Sin II makes this playthrough more immersive using tags. You’ll receive the villain tag if you make a certain number of “evil” decisions in the game. The tag unlocks new dialogue trees in some instances that you can’t access otherwise.
Like Fable and Knights of the Old Republic, it makes replaying the game worth it. You can take many different paths and unlock new scenes just by trying new things. The villainous path in Divinity: Original Sin II is quite brutal, too.
You can kill any and all NPCs in the game. You’re even able to kill an entire city by unleashing a poisonous cloud on them. If that’s not enough, then you can align yourself with an evil god who will likely either enslave or kill the inhabitants of the world in a few years.
Playing a villain in Divinity has massive repercussions for the world. If those are the sort of stakes you enjoy, then play Divinity and see to the world’s ending. They won’t know what hit them.
4. Torment: Tides of Numenera
- Developer: inXile Entertainment
- Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Most morality systems in games like Divinity: Original Sin II and Fable use an either/or mechanic. Either the choice you’re making is good or bad. That isn’t the case with Torment: Tides of Numenera. It doesn’t even necessarily call your choices good or bad, either. You have several “Tides” instead representing reactions the NPCs have toward a particular decision you make.
It’s incredibly complex, which means morality in Torment is just as complex. That also means you can get away with doing some pretty horrific stuff in the game. Anyone can kill people or steal from them. In Torment, you can use your particular skills and abilities to a person’s detriment. For example, in one instance, you can actually convince someone they don’t exist. They poof out of existence as a result.
In other instances, you can encourage someone to kill themselves. You can kill an entire species just because they’re digging holes underneath some people’s homes. You’re even able to murder someone’s past self right before their eyes. It’s cosmic villainy at its best.
You can be a villain in Torment, but you may need to talk with yourself when you’re done playing the game.
3. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
- Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
- Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The very setting of Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire encourages you to become a villain. While the game is a sequel to Pillars of Eternity, it is its own separate game in many ways. You become a pirate of sorts, for example, and sail across the sea in the Deadfire Archipelago.
Few pirates tend to have good intentions, but it gets even worse when you realize there are several factions here looking to exploit the islands and their indigenous people. You can help those factions with their exploitations and drive the indigenous people out of their homes or worse.
If that’s not villainous enough for you, you also find yourself in a spat between the world’s gods. They need proof that everyone is worth saving by having you perform good deeds. Guess what happens if you decide to play as a villain? Yeah, you basically end the world.
The game culminates with a discussion with one of the gods pushing for the world’s collapse. You can convince him to help the people or go ahead with his plan, which could see the world’s end. Villainous players looking to destroy the world will have a field day with Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire.
2. Disco Elysium
- Developer: ZA/UM
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
I love an excellent cerebral RPG like Torment: Tides of Numenera. So, when Disco Elysium came out, I was immediately entranced. Players who love a good villainous playthrough will likely enjoy it, too. That’s because the “evil” decisions in Disco Elysium aren’t the cartoonish choices to have someone’s head blown off or even destroy the world.
They’re a reflection of the real, evil, choices we see in everyday life. As an example, you can decide to become racist in the game. You can be sexist. You can make your political affiliation something that, frankly, should probably have you jailed.
Then there’s the character, himself, right at the start of the game. Harry is a person with alcohol use disorder who already has some abusive tendencies toward himself and his past partners. There’s some evidence that he is corrupt, too. You’re not playing a heroic archetype in Disco Elysium.
Instead, you’re playing a troubled character stuck in several moral dilemmas. The game lets you decide. Are you going to be the best an average person can hope for? Or are you going to be the very worst of society? The decision is yours in Disco Elysium.
1. Baldur’s Gate 3
- Developer: Larian Studios
- Platforms: Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, PC, Mac
Larian Studios dabbled with morality and villainous playthroughs with Divinity: Original Sin II. In Baldur’s Gate 3, the experienced studio takes that to the next level. While some players complain that the villain playthrough doesn’t go dark enough, there’s plenty there for people looking to indulge their dark side.
All you need to do is play The Dark Urge character and not resist its temptations. The Dark Urge is a unique character that’s prone to violence. It craves blood and death. It’s literally the archetype villain. The game lets you resist those urges, but if you want to embrace evil, you can choose not to resist.
One early example is when the hapless and kind bard, Alfira, joins your camp. She wants to be an adventurer, too. Whether you accept her or not, you end up finding her bloodied corpse. You’re the one who killed her, even if you don’t remember how or why. She isn’t the last murder you’ll commit, either.
Even outside The Dark Urge playthrough, plenty of opportunities exist to do villainous things. You can slaughter an entire grove of innocent people, kill an Owlbear’s mother, kill an adorable dog named Scratch, and embrace the power of the Absolute to become the world’s next tyrant.
The game sheds little light on what happens after you take the Absolute’s power for your own. For those villainous at heart, let’s just say Baldur’s Gate 3 leaves the door open for your own interpretation of what happens next.
Related Baldur’s Gate 3 guides:
Question: What is the darkest RPG game?
Answer: Of those listed, Torment: Tides of Numenera and Tyranny delve deep into darker concepts. You can also do some pretty terrible things in both games.
Question: Is there a game where you can play as the villain?
Answer: Destroy All Humans!, Maneater, and Tyranny are all examples where you essentially play as the villain.
Question: Why don’t RPGs allow players to go full-villain?
Answer: Game studios likely fear that a game that is too dark and features a full-villainous playthrough would be unpublishable, and thus, unsellable. Censorship laws also likely make it difficult for game studios to become as dark as they might like the story or character to be.
Unleash Your Dark Urges
Playing a villain in an RPG can be cathartic. It allows you to do or say the things you normally wouldn’t do in real life. And, frankly, it can sometimes be a lot of fun. Before you start choosing those Lawful Good decisions in your next RPG playthrough, try the more problematic option. You may just enjoy tasting the fruits of evil more than you expected.