Fantasy MMORPGs are built around heroics. Players are taught at level one that they are destined to do great things. Heroes by the hundreds, if not thousands, travel the land, completing quests and saving the day.
A surplus of heroes demands an equal amount of villainy. When it comes to antagonists, MMOs offer some of the most world destroying, reality shattering, forces of evil ever created. Here are some of the greatest villains in fantasy MMOs of all time:
Bael'Zharon (Asheron’s Call)
Forget lore, Bael’Zharon is scary because of his in-game fear factor. While most MMOs rely on scripted NPCs and cutscenes, Bael’Zharon was the focus of a live event. He also was under the direct control of one of the game's developers.
If a raid boss controlled by a human isn't scary enough, then consider Bael’Zharon’s ability to afflict “the weight of thousands of years” in an area-of-effect on players or his ability to teleport others to a nearby city, a mile above it in the air.
Furthermore, Bael’Zharon also managed to kill Asheron by mistake in a live event that went a little too far. While Asheron isn’t the first major character to die accidentally in a live event (I am looking at you Lord British), he joins a very exclusive club.
Cloud of Darkness (Final Fantasy XI)
I know what you are thinking and I completely agree: why are we supposed to be afraid of a Cloud of Darkness? Let me fill you in on the why:
Cloud of Darkness exists as a primordial force between worlds. It eats both light and darkness, and leaves a lifeless void in its wake. Cloud of Darkness appeared first in Final Fantasy III as the game’s final boss. It also appears in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn as the main boss of the Crystal Tower raids.
Cloud of Darkness represents nothingness itself. Often, the Cloud’s primary motivation is returning the world to what she believes is its normal state, a state of nonexistence. In every incarnation, Cloud of Darkness is more force of nature than super villain with nuanced motivations. In Final Fantasy XI, Cloud of Darkness was only able to be defeated after exposure to the Terrestrial Avatar forced it into a physical form capable of being dispatched.
In other words, Cloud of Darkness is that creeping disconnect that sneaks up on every MMO player. Her ultimate goal is server downtime. Now you’re really scared.
The Sleeper (EverQuest)
Kerafyrm was imprisoned by his draconic peers for his forbidden parentage. The spawn of two separate elemental dragons, Kerafyrm is one of the most powerful beings Norrath has ever seen. Locked away in a magical slumber, launching any kind of assault on Kerafyrm required a coordinated attack against all of his dragon wardens.
Kerafyrm, better known as the Sleeper, is one of the most notorious bosses of the entire genre. Due to the lore behind him, Kerafyrm was not intended to be killed, but players found a way to take on the challenge. Despite having over 200 million HP and being immune to most spells, players got him three-fourths of the way to his death before he was “mysteriously” despawned.
The official party line was that the players had been exploiting the encounter, but two days later, the players managed to defeat Kerafyrm for good.
Reports of his death were exaggerated, as The Sleeper has continued to plague Norrath. Most recently, he has made several appearances in EverQuest II as The Awakened, a being with the power to take on the biggest gods of EverQuest’s lore. He is so powerful that his /pizza command still works.
Mondain (Ultima Online)
Villains are only as strong as the stories they inhabit, so Ultima Online having an entry on this list may seem like a stretch. The game lacked in-game lore, had no quests, and minimal in-game dialogue. Mondain deserves a spot for one reason alone: he is the reason MMORPGs have servers and why they are still sometimes called ‘shards.’
Mondain was an evil wizard that plagued the world of Sosaria and the land of Brittania throughout the Ultima single-player series. After murdering his own father for the Gem of Immortality, Mondain was defeated by Lord British before he was even a Lord.
Upon his defeat, Mondain’s Gem of Immortality was shattered. The entire world of Sosaria’s destiny was tied to the gem, so when it shattered, so did Sosaria. Each shard of the broken gem contained its own exact copy of Sosaria. Each world had its own fate.
They also had their own players, guilds, etc. since this was just a lore excuse to have servers in a MMO.
Molag Bal (The Elder Scrolls Online)
The Elder Scrolls series focuses on open-ended gameplay and lacks a centralized villain. Of all the creatures in The Elder Scrolls, the most fearsome are the Daedric Princes, god-like beings that play games with mortals.
Of all the Daedric Princes, few are as feared as Molag Bal, whose titles include Harvester of Souls, King of Rape, and the God of Schemes. Molag Bal lives to inflict pain on others and force his will upon the world of Nirn.
From the very beginning, Molag Bal plans to drag Tamriel back into his realm, Coldharbour. He attempts to accomplish this using literal hooks. There are a lot of dastardly things done by members of this list, but none of them are towing an entire world to hell.
The Lich King (World of Warcraft)
Of all the MMOs on this list, only World of Warcraft deserves multiple spots. Rather than have the entire list overrun with Azeroth’s greatest foes, instead we give all the credit to Warcraft’s greatest antagonist and would of gaming’s all time best villains.
Arthas began his career as a hero and Paladin. Facing the overwhelming odds of the Scourge, Arthas’s frustration led him further and further away from his humanity. That path took him to the sword Frostmourne and its keeper the Lich King. With Arthas’s willingness to do anything to stop the Scourge, Arthas tragically became their leader while under the Lich King’s complete control.
In World of Warcraft, the Lich King had an entire expansion devoted to him. His presence was missed in vanilla WoW, as well as its follow-up expansion The Burning Crusade, and it has been missed ever since. Wrath of the Lich King is often regarded as the single greatest expansion to one of the greatest MMOs of all time. A lot of that is due to Arthas.
These are just some of my personal favorites. Let us know your favorite villains in the comments below.