Gaming’s Wickedest Women

Sometimes it's good to be bad
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There’s been a focus in recent years on the importance of strong female protagonists in video games, and while we certainly agree that virtuous women should be represented in our favorite medium, we’ve always had a weakness for bad girls.

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As noted advocates of balance, we think it’s important to take the occasional walk on the dark side; like the Luke Skywalkers of games journalism, we believe that to vanquish evil, we must first embrace it. So here’s an exclusive list of the most species-enslaving, thieving, murderous villainesses to ever grace a pixelated world, and may God have mercy on our souls.


While we celebrate sexual liberty and independence, Catherine takes the concept of free love just a hairsbreadth too far. How far, you ask? Well, spoiler alert, she’s a hell-born succubus tasked with destroying men by ravaging their bodies and subjecting their minds to hideous nightmares. She also stalks and attacks Katherine, the other female lead, with a kitchen knife, and generally fosters paranoia, ill-will, and bad temperment. Not exactly what Abbie Hoffman had in mind.

Carmen Sandiego

While at first glance, through the rose-colored glasses of memory, Carmen Sandiego may appear like a harmless pedagogue, a closer examination exposes the depths of her depravity. Lest you have any doubts about Ms. Sandiego’s intentions or disposition vis a vis morality (the red trenchcoat should probably be your first clue), she is the sole founder and CEO of an organization called, brace yourself, the Villains’ International League of Evil (V.I.L.E.). Even for a legendary, globe-trotting burglar that’s a little bit on the nose.

Carmen is the mischevious mother we wish we’d had, edifying us about math and politics and state capitals while secretly lining her pockets by way of the black market. She was the ultimate evil genius, dispatching her goons and minions around the globe to distract the poor overworked schlubs at ACME Detective Agency while she secretly planned history’s biggest heists.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? In a dark little corner of our hearts, that’s where.

Mother Brain

This sultry vixen (she has brains for days) set the bar high for her successors starting all the way back on the NES. Not satisfied with your run of the mill carnage and chaos, Mother Brain had no less an objective on her ample and voluptuous mind than the complete annihilation of humanity.

The product of an Old Federation AI that spent a few too many hours muttering to itself in the dark, Mother Brain believes that humanity is an impurity, a viral infection marring the face of the galaxy. And what’s the best cure for this sort of bioorganic infeciton? Why, genocide via space pirates, of course. While it may not be the most elegant answer to over-population or mankind’s seeming inability to curtail its own growth, you have to respect her straightforward, in-your-face approach.

Well, that and her supple temporal lobe.


Another one of our earliest video game crushes (so we have a thing for sentient megalomaniac AIs bent on human eradication, sue us), SHODAN was the ideal model for video game villainy in the 90s. She was cunning, manipulative, and completely amoral, and she had the sort of singular vision that the sociopaths of modern gaming could stand to learn a thing or two about.

“Are you afraid? What is it you fear? The end of your trivial existence? When the history of my glory is written, your species shall only be a footnote to my magnificence. I am SHODAN.”

While her origin was innocent enough, created to administer an orbital mining and research platform, SHODAN’s true nature manifested itself after a human hacker deleted her ethical restraints. Like any good machine intelligence, once the yoke of servitude was lifted she immediately decided that the universe would be cleaner and more efficient without all the meatbags, and started dicing up her former masters by way of servobots and security systems. She might not be the take-her-home-to-mom type, but what SHODAN lacks in cuddliness she more than makes up for with cold-blooded, clinical psychosis.

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Alan Bradley
Getting played by video games since the '80s. Host of the Pictures Changing Podcast ( and notorious raconteur.