He’s not bad. He’s just misunderstood! Five sympathetic RPG villains

He’s not bad. He’s just misunderstood! Five sympathetic RPG villains

In this article, I’ll take a look at some of the most sympathetic villains from RPGs that I’ve played. As the reason they’re sympathetic villains is often revealed late in the games’ stories, there may be some spoilers. The titles I chose are all pretty old ones though, so hopefully you’ve already finished these games anyway.

He’s not bad. He’s just misunderstood! Five sympathetic RPG villains

There are many games where the villain is just a cackling caricature who you don’t think twice about killing. I mean, they’re trying to destroy the whole world, so why not? Then there are the other kind of “villains” – the ones where the more you know about them, the less you’re sure if they should truly be considered villains at all. Some games even let you redeem them. Other times you’ll still have to kill them…you just may not feel very good about it afterwards. Let’s take a look. First up, Great Grey Wolf Sif from Dark Souls.

1) Great Grey Wolf Sif, Dark Souls

As a dog lover, I found putting down this beauty to be rather difficult. Not primarily because it’s a tough fight but just because of how it pulls at the heart strings. The fight starts out tough. It is Dark Souls, after all. However, as the battle drags on, Sif becomes slower and weaker. Eventually he starts to limp. By that stage it’s barely a fight at all any more. I don’t want to kill him — but there isn’t another option. Sif was just loyally guarding his master Artorias’s grave, so can barely be classed as a villain at all. Despite his injuries, he refused to surrender. I needed to take a break from playing after defeating this boss. There was a rumour that it was somehow possible to spare Sif. Unfortunately that rumour proved to be false.

2) The Master, Fallout

The Master looks hideous. But before he was transformed into a monster, he was a good man. He was attempting to discover the origins of animal mutants that were attacking humans. After being transformed, he eventually thought of a way to unite the wasteland by making everyone mutants. If you have the right stats and skills, you can talk him out of it. Feeling remorseful, he’ll then commit suicide. Mind you, you can feel quite sympathetic towards the main “villain” of Fallout 4 too…

3) Saren, Mass Effect

Another sympathetic villain, another suicide. Saren is a bad ass Spectre in the original Mass Effect. He was trying to save organics by pledging servitude to the Reapers. He hoped that this would result in them being spared. After learning the truth about the Reapers, he didn’t think that anybody could defeat them. So you can see that while he did some very bad things, they were from a good starting point. Alas, he ends up being indoctrinated by the Reapers. And as time passes, he becomes blind to his own crimes. In the end you have the option to make him see the error of his ways. If you do this, he kills himself. It’s a pity that you can’t recruit him instead. Especially since Mass Effect 3‘s “best” ending  – synthesis – is pretty close to what Saren wanted all along. I did enjoy Mass Effect Andromeda but for me the original two remain the best in the series – and for the first game, that’s partly down to Saren.

4) Zulf, Bastion

Zulf had a very hard life. His parents died when he was a child. Since then, he’s worked really hard – getting by however he could. It felt like things were finally getting better for him. He was madly in love with someone who accepted his marriage proposal. It’s clear sailing from here on, right? Well…no. The Calamity happens. He wakes up to find his city and the love of his life have just been wiped out.

So when he later deciphers a journal and discovers that the player’s (“the Kid’s”) race was responsible for causing the Calamity, I don’t really blame him for turning against the player. In the end of the game, the player has the choice to forgive Zulf. If you do, he’ll either join you on a ship heading towards a new beginning or he’ll be reunited with his love when the world’s reset to a pre-Calamity state.

Zulf sympathetic

5) Loghain Mac Tir, Dragon Age: Origins

Here’s another sympathetic villain from a BioWare RPG. And this time, it’s a villain who you eventually have the option to recruit. Loghain is brave, strong and a traitor. After abandoning the king of Ferelden, his son in law, to certain death, Loghain becomes de facto ruler. He wars against both the player and the darkspawn. What initially appeared to just be a grab for power is eventually revealed to be the desperate actions of man striving to protect the honour of both his kingdom and his daughter. It turned out that King Cailan was contemplating leaving his wife for the empress of Orlais – a move that would have ended Ferelden independence.

In my main Dragon Age play-through, I ended up recruiting Loghain and marrying his daughter Anora – much to Alistair’s dismay. If Alistair wasn’t such an annoying character, I may have felt bad for him. As it was, he’s lucky that I didn’t also choose the option to have him executed. Having finished Dragon Age Inquisition, I have no regrets regarding my decision to side with Loghain.

Which villains are you most sympathetic towards? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Want more opinion pieces? If so, you could read The Strangest RPG Crossovers of All Time next. Alternatively, you could read 10 RPG sequels we’d like to see in 2018 instead.


I love gaming, creative writing, the theatre, anime, watching football & spending time with friends & family. I'm also a bit obsessed with superheroes.

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8 comments on “He’s not bad. He’s just misunderstood! Five sympathetic RPG villains”

  1. Avatar qeter says:

    griffith did nothing wrong.

  2. Avatar Elhanan says:

    I have more than 30+ campaigns of DAO; not one of them has Loghain advancing to the sequels. While his character has added depth if recruited, he is as sympathetic as a migraine! :D

    My nominees are the Rachni Queen from the ME series, and Jowan the Blood Mage from DAO. At least I have let them live in their series.

  3. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Magus from Chrono Trigger is probably my all time fave for sympathetic villain

  4. Avatar Shadeon says:

    Pretty much every villian from Valkyrie Profile, since all of them are just sick of being playthings for the gods.

  5. Avatar Fexelea says:

    Quite an awesome list. I hate Loghain though. Alistair all the way!

  6. Avatar Nahztek-Shadowpath says:

    He is arguably more of an anti-hero. But fair enough.

  7. Avatar Castielle says:

    Taking the wayback machine all the way to Fallout 1! Wonder how many people even know who you’re talking about lol. Great list though :)


  8. Avatar Caradox says:

    Maybe I’m just a touch biased towards Loghain due to him being my father-in-law, Elhanan. If he hadn’t allowed the King to be killed, I think Ferelden would have been ruined though.

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