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Some of the greatest antagonists in video games aren’t singular enemies. They’re a cold-hearted, mysterious, corporation. Some lurk in the shadows, while others are so powerful that they can control the populace in broad daylight.
They’re the corporations that put profits and progress before people’s rights and lives. Taking them down can make you feel pretty good, especially in a world where toppling real-life corporations is nearly impossible.
These are the corporations that we love to hate–because, let’s be honest, it’s the villain that makes the story.
Fighting “The Man” is more common than you might think in video games. To help narrow down the field, we’re only selecting games that meet the following criteria.
- The corporations must have corporation-level power and not just be a large business.
- The corporations must play an integral role in the game’s plot.
- The corporations come from games with a Metacritic score of 70 or higher.
In-Game Corporations We Love to Hate
1. Umbrella Corp
- Game: The Resident Evil Series
- Type of Corporation: Pharmaceutical
- Game Metacritic Score: 93 (based on Resident Evil 4)
Of all the corporations in the video game universe, few are as well-known as Umbrella Corp. As the main antagonist directly and indirectly involved in the events of several Resident Evil games, it’s made its mark in video game history.
Umbrella Corporation started as a pharmaceutical company but quickly turned its attention to weaponizing disease instead. Feelings over Big Pharma aside, it’s one thing to make drugs more expensive and another to start making viruses and vaccines that turn people into weapons. Especially if those weapons then break out and start killing everyone.
There are few corporations as evil as Umbrella. Whenever some terrible disease is making the locals sate their bloodlust, they’re usually to blame. That said, their antics have also spawned a vast franchise that fans love. Each time a new RE game releases, you can’t help but wonder what Umbrella is up to this time.
2. Shinra Electric Power Company
- Game: Final Fantasy VII
- Type of Corporation: Power/Energy
- Game Metacritic Score: 87 (based on Final Fantasy VII’s Remake)
Although less widespread than Umbrella, Shinra Electric Power Company has a tight grip on power in Midgar. The corporation first started as a mere utility company. It used Mako to generate plentiful energy for the growing city. As the corporation expanded and involved itself in other industries, its power grew.
Soon, Shinra became involved in genetic engineering, space exploration, and military technology. The city, itself, lost its power. Shinra both covertly and overtly rules everything. Its board has power players that control every section of the city’s goverance.
Now, this might not seem like a big deal at first, but how does dropping an entire section of a city on top of another section sound? Shinra willingly killed thousands of people just to make the public turn against the rebel group, Avalanche.
That’s pretty dang evil. It also has no qualms about using torture and false imprisonment to get what it wants. Abuse of power is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Shinra, so join up with the heroes of Final Fantasy VII to take them down.
3. Aperture Science
- Game: Portal Series
- Type of Corporation: Scientific Research
- Game Metacritic Score: 95 (based on Portal 2)
Shinra may have no problem killing many people quickly, but Aperture Science is a bit more precise with its evil plans. Its origin story started simply enough. It was once a manufacturer of shower curtains and did well for itself.
Then its owner, Cave Johnson, got some ideas into his head. Before anyone knew it, Aperture Science had gotten involved with scientific research. Instead of following regulations set by the government, Aperture has always been very two-faced with how it conducts business.
On the one hand, it attracts high-profile people to perform tests and awards them for their time. On the other, it holds people hostage and subjects them to hazardous tests. It kills people in the name of science.
But the science it’s experimenting with is also a lot of fun. Even the experiments themselves are whacky. Aperture even made one of the most famous villains in game history–GLaDOS. Her dry humor and acute desire to kill you make the game replayable, so once you start playing Portal 2, good luck trying to quit it.
4. Joja Corporation
- Game: Stardew Valley
- Type of Corporation: Retail, Sales
- Game Metacritic Score: 89
Stardew Valley takes you away from a homicidal killer robot and puts you in a relaxing, small, town instead. Its pastoral way of life and friendly citizens may have you wondering what evil could possibly threaten it. Well, not too long after settling down in the valley, you witness a tense interaction between Morris, the face of the Joja Corporation in the valley, and Pierre, the local shopowner.
In true corporate style, Morris basically tells Pierre that he can undercut his prices and put him out of business. It’s the classic Big Corpo versus small business dilemma. Players can choose whether to support Pierre or Morris, determining the community center’s status.
The Joja Corporation is a classic Big Corpo bully; players can have fun shutting them down. In real life, Big Business is massive in scale, so the hope of shutting it down alone is near impossible. In Stardew Valley, you can rid the town of the corporation’s influences and return to an idyllic, pastoral, lifestyle based on local businesses and produce.
The game offers a satisfying way to stick it to Big Business while safely tucked away at home.
5. Abstergo Industries
- Game: Assassin’s Creed Series
- Type of Corporation: Technology and Research
- Game Metacritic Score: 81 (based on Assassin’s Creed)
Abstergo Industries is a corporation that acts as the face of the Templar Order in the Assassin’s Creed series. It isn’t interested in running local businesses out of the area. It has much grander schemes in mind.
At least on the surface, its primary industries are technology and research. You quickly discover that it uses people’s histories to locate artifacts of power to control society. And by use, I mean they have no problem holding people prisoner and forcing them into their machines called The Animus.
The Templar Order is a fascinating organization in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As the direct enemy of the Assassins, each game typically pits you against the Order in some capacity. The goal is to stop them from obtaining some legendary item they use to control the general public.
They wish to bring order to civilization with the artifacts, which basically means a lack of free choice or free will. Now, that sounds like an evil corporation worth taking down. Get to it, Assassin!
6. Pufferfish Drilling Corporation
- Game: Coral Island
- Type of Corporation: Oil/Energy
- Game Metacritic Score: 82
Cozy games have their share of drama when it comes to corporations. Stardew has Joja, but you’re up against Pufferfish Drilling Corporation in Coral Island. While a corporation trying to push out local businesses is terrible, a corporation that causes an oil spill and then wants to drill for more oil where everyone lives is even worse, in my opinion.
The Pufferfish Drilling Corporation is an oil company looking to make it big in the energy industry. Coral Island just so happens to have oil reserves, so the company has set up an office on the island to entice local villagers into selling their properties to the corporation. It’s the same scheming you see in real life that makes it far too easy to hate Pufferfish.
Coral Island allows you to embrace your inner eco-warrior to stop their climate-destroying plans.
- Game: Fallout Series
- Type of Corporation: Heavy Construction and Personal Defense
- Game Metacritic Score: 93 (based on Fallout 3)
Like most of the corporations on this list, on the surface, Vault-Tec looks clean. It’s a corporation involved in both heavy construction and personal defense. Most famously, at least in the Fallout universe, it built Vaults. When the bombs fell on America, a select few were able to escape into these Vaults and survive the nuclear fallout.
But did they really survive? Was it really better than complete, immediate, obliteration from the nuclear strikes? Because, as you explore the different Vaults in Fallout, you realize that many of them were used for experimentation. Some were even downright brutal, like Vault 75, which separated parents and children to create genetically-brilliant individuals.
Then there’s the theory that Vault-Tec actually manufactured the nuclear attack in the first place. Was Vault-Tec so desperate to start its experiments that it intentionally ended the world? That’s pretty darn evil. It’ll take a super-sleuth to determine just what Vault-Tec was up to, so put on your detective hat and start exploring the Fallout series to find out the truth.
8. Halcyon Holdings Corporation
- Game: The Outer Worlds
- Type of Corporation: Defense, Pharmaceuticals, Manufacture
- Game Metacritic Score: 85
If Vault-Tec is a lesson in regulating the power of a single corporation, then The Outer Worlds demonstrates what happens when you don’t restrict corporations as a whole. In The Outer Worlds, you discover that the settled planets are all controlled by corporations. The biggest of them all is Halcyon Holdings Corporation, or HHC.
There isn’t a government that takes care of its people in The Outer Worlds. The corporations employ, feed, and take care of you. Honestly, it’s capitalistic hell. Perhaps the most evil aspect of the HHC is what happens when you retire.
The HHC makes a big deal out of when you retire. It tells you you’re going to a new quarter of the city where your every need will be taken care of and you’ll have plenty of food. In reality, the HHC kills you. It only wants people who are healthy enough to work. The scariest part is that this isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.
You’ll need to avoid the allure of greed and power when dealing with the HHC, so come ready to stand up for the average worker.
9. Rupture Farms
- Game: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
- Type of Corporation: Meat Production/Distribution
- Game Metacritic Score: 85
One of the most genuinely grotesque corporations on this list is Rupture Farms. Some of its working conditions put even the HHC to shame. When profits were starting to dwindle, and the primary source of meat was close to becoming extinct, RuptureFarms had to find a new food source.
It decided the enslaved people who worked at the factory would suffice, which is horrifying and disgusting even to consider. This premise launches the plot of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, however, to shut down the main factory forever and free its workers. As the main antagonist, putting RuptureFarms out of business feels incredibly good.
Playing Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, however, might make you look at your next meal twice.
10. Cord-Hislop Aerospace
- Game: The Mass Effect Series
- Type of Corporation: Starship Manufacture
- Game Metacritic Score: 91 (based on Mass Effect)
When you first hear the name “Cord-Hislop Aerospace,” it might not ring any bells. But if I say “Cerberus,” that might make you think of Mass Effect. The two are actually the same. Cord-Hislop Aerospace is a front for Cerberus that makes starships for its secret, terrorist, organization as well as private entities.
Only some people working at Cord-Hislop Aerospace even know they’re a front for Cerberus. That’s how intricately the deception goes. Cerberus is a pro-human terrorist organization. It isn’t against assassinating key targets to ensure humans advance beyond alien species.
And the man behind it all is The Illusive Man. As his name suggests, no one is entirely sure who he is or where he comes from, but his goals are pretty clear. He wants to ensure the human species always comes out on top–often to the detriment of others.
He uses various corporations, like Cord-Hislop Aerospace, to cover for his machinations. It’s not uncommon for Cerberus to fund a specific business so that it can use its technology for its own means. And those means are typically murderous and destructive.
In the Mass Effect series, you really start to tangle with Cerberus in Mass Effect 2 and 3. They’re an ongoing antagonist that sometimes turns into a frenemy. The Illusive Man is one of the most interesting characters in the Mass Effect world. Anytime you have to tangle with him, it becomes a riveting experience.
If you don’t remember who Cord-Hislop Aerospace is, take another trip into Mass Effect’s world and end Cerberus’ reign of terror.
Question: What’s the most famous evil corporation in video games?
Answer: Out of the corporations listed, Umbrella is the most the most famous evil corporation in a video game. Even if you’ve never played a Resident Evil game before, its logo is everywhere, and it’s the main antagonist in the Resident Evil films, too.
Question: Which corporation in a video game is the most evil?
Answer: Vault-Tec is the most evil corporation in video games. It willingly manufactured a war, so a nuclear strike could end almost all of humanity so that it could run its experiments.
Question: Why is GLaDOS evil in Portal 2?
Answer: One of the leading reasons GLaDOS is evil is because she once worked for Cave Johnson. He ended up turning her into an AI which became GLaDOS. There’s some resentment that GLaDOS turns on test subjects when they don’t complete tests how she wants them to.
Time to Destroy Some Evil Corporations
While some of these corporations are a bit too close to real life, there’s no question that they serve the antagonist role well. We love them simply because destroying them feels so good. Let’s just hope these corporations stay in video games instead of inspiring those in real life.