Why Final Fantasy VI's Kefka Is The Best Video Game Villain Of All Time

Warning: spoilers ahead. From Bowser and Dr Robotnik to M Bison and Dr Wiley, gaming has had many iconic villains. But as well known as those villains are, some of the best villains are found in the Final Fantasy series.

When you think of Final Fantasy villains, who immediately comes to mind? If you were playing games in the PlayStation 1 era, no doubt Sephiroth will be the first one you think of. But while he is doubtless the most famous villain of the series, he is far from the greatest villain Final Fantasy has to offer. That dubious honour instead falls to Kefka, the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VI.

Note: Heavy spoilers from here on out.

A quick note: In this article I am using Sephiroth as a comparison to Kefka not because I think Sephiroth is a bad villain — I think quite the opposite, actually. I am using Sephiroth as a comparison because he is the most well known of the Final Fantasy villains and because, as good of a villain as he is, Kefka blows him out of the water.

The first time you meet Sephiroth, he kills several floors of people in a skyscraper and then the president of a company. The first time you meet Kefka, however, he is little more than a joke — an ineffective ambassador that no one takes seriously. Yes, he sets a castle on fire. But after his plan fails, he is such a non-threat, you leave him stranded in the desert — paying little attention to his impotent threats of revenge as you ride away.

But this is all to lull you into a false sense of security. For the next time you see Kefka, he kills an entire kingdom by poisoning their water supply. He kills thousands — men, women, and children all killed. He leaves an entire country a graveyard simply because he is bored and wants to go home.

Over the course of the first half of the game, he burns cities, kills his own allies, and commits a second genocide (this time on the magical creatures known as Espers) — and uses you to unwittingly help in that plan.

And then he wins.

That's right, unlike pretty much every game ever made, the bad guy wins in Final Fantasy VI. Kefka becomes god, remakes the world by killing millions (if not billions), and leaves your party beaten, broken, and scattered to the four corners of the post-apocalyptic wasteland he has created. From then on, he just chills on the top of his enormous tower, killing randomly with his god powers whenever it strikes his fancy, just because he can.

Sephiroth? He killed a party member, burned down a town, and tried (and failed) to drop a meteor on a city. Evil? Sure. But it's like comparing a candle to a forest fire.

But what the most important thing is in all this is how you, the player, react to Kefka and all that he's done. You hate him. Just pure, unmitigated hatred. There is no other possible reaction you could have toward him.

You can feel sorry for a bad guy like Sephiroth — he is a fallen hero. He is a person who desperately searched for his place in the world and the meaning of his birth. Finding the answer to these questions, unfortunately, drove him insane and left him bent on destroying the entire world.

Kefka has no deep tragic backstory. Kefka is just a psychotic arsehole. While Sephiroth has good in him, or at least did in the past, Kefka has not a single solitary redeeming virtue. Like the Joker in The Dark Knight, Kefka is a man who just wants to see the world burn.

But when it all comes down to it, what makes Kefka such a great villain is more than just the hate he garners. He transcends from a villain you hate into a villain you love to hate. Every time you fight him or otherwise spoil his plans, your level of satisfaction — your elation at victory — is far beyond what you feel when defeating villains in other games. And it is the way he plays on your emotions that makes him the greatest video game villain of all time.


Comments

    I'd have to agree that Kefka is definitely the best villain of the final fantasy series, and possibly gaming period. I can't recall a foe that seemed so harmless initially but became such a powerful threat. Great arc.

    I'd also rate Magus from Chrono Trigger - he started a genocidal war against humanity too, though he has his reasons.

    I argue that if you're going to claim Kefka is the best video game villain of all time (Final Fantasy or all games), you need to compare him to more antagonists (even the ones people may know nothing about: Kam'lanaut, Promathia, Razfahd and Nael van Darnus for example).

    Before I start, let it be known I have never played FF6 (I'm waiting for the inevitably expensive iOS port), so Kefka may well be the best villain ever, but I'm going to disagree with your reasons for why he is.

    About Sephiroth you say:
    You can feel sorry for a bad guy like Sephiroth — he is a fallen hero. He is a person who desperately searched for his place in the world and the meaning of his birth. Finding the answer to these questions, unfortunately, drove him insane and left him bent on destroying the entire world.

    About Kefka you say:
    Kefka has no deep tragic backstory. Kefka is just a psychotic arsehole.

    I find the concept of a flawed hero who is driven to his fall from grace to be a much more compelling character than one who is "just a psychotic arsehole". When it comes down to it, I don't feel that a higher body count or a higher evil-meter rating makes a better villain - for me it is rather more about the character backstory, their progression and how compelling they are. Personally, I just don't see how killing a few continents worth of people and being a complete psycho with no backstory makes a great villain.

    But as I said, I've never played FF6, so when I do I hope I find a great villain with more to him than just pure evil.

      On this point it all hangs on your opinions on what makes a more compelling villain. The difference between the two can be simplified to: do you prefer Harvey Dent/Two Face or Joker?
      Two Face is the classic tragic hero turned villain, we yearn to save him but ultimately have to face the truth that the man we knew might not exist anymore. While any attempts to make the Joker sympathetic are doomed because the Joker works best when his exists only as an inhuman force, without meaning or purpose.
      Complete psychotics have their place. We don't always need to be reminded that the best of us are not above being completely destroyed. Sometimes we need to stand against unadulterated evil so that we can separate ourselves apart from the darkness.

    I've always found Kefka to be the one of greatest villains in gaming, purely based on the impact he has on your characters and on the player. The first time I played through FFVI I had a hard time believing some of the crap that happened...especially when he poisons Doma Castle :|

    Both villains are slightly 2-Dimensional. Last Story's 'D*****' is my favourite in terms of depth.

    How about Jon Irenicus of Baldur's Gate 2? He was much better than Kefka. A powerful mage who tried to become a god. Betrayed by his beloved and had his elven-ness stripped from him by his people. His actions in BGII are even hard to read, you can't exactly tell if he's doing what he's doing for power or vengeance.

    I'm reminded of those controversial 'best villain archetype' charts floated around the net. It's generally agreed that the villains without motive, psychotic, deranged etc. are the least interesting.
    Kefka may be the greatest villain, but your argument was 2 dimensional.
    Was cool when he destroyed the world though..

    Dat laugh

    Woootwoootwootwotwot

    Whenever Zoidberg makes that noise if reminds me of ol Keffy

    Gannon from Link to the Past is pretty evil. He warps the entire world in his dark image and steals your woman-to-be in the process!

    Kefka is certainly the most evil villain in the FInal Fantasy universe. Unlike many Final Fantasy villains, Kefka was the only villain whose goal was to become a god of destruction and simply destroy. He actually achieved this goal. The fact that you defeat Kefka in the final battle would be irrelevant since he'd already achieved his goal.

    Garland failed in maintaining his time loop; Emperor Palamecia failed in world domination; Xande (FF3) and Zemus (FF4) failed to bring darkness to the world; Exdeath failed to bring the world to the void; Sephiroth failed to bring Meteor to the earth; Ultimecia failed in creating time compression; Kuja failed in extinguishing life; Seymour (and to some extent, Yu Yevon) failed to continue the spiral of death; Vayne failed in gaining political power; and Orphan pretty much wanted help in committing suicide since it's "programmed" to have the inability of self -harm.

      * Final Fantasy universe

      Um... I'm pretty sure Vayne succeeded in gaining political power (and I think it was at the very beginning of the game, too).

        I should rephrase: Vayne failed in maintaining political power

          This is true, however, with the help of Dr. Cid and Venat, he succeeded in freeing the people of Ivalice from the Occuria's rule (who were manipulating Ashe until she realised the "spirit" of her dead lover was nothing more than an illusion they magicked up), as well as protecting his brother from the Imperials schemes.

    Kefka has a bit of a tragic backstory: He was an ambitious soldier and the first one to receive a transfusion of magic (in a test attempt of what would eventually be successful with Celes and the other high-ranked knights) but the experiment went awry and messed up his mind.

    Anyway, I agree he's the greatest villain of the FF series: he not only represented the evil that gives the heroes a quest, he also characterized it. I still remember right before the final battle, the heroes lay on Kafka the reasons of why are they fighting ("friendship", "justice", etc.) and you are feeling quite pumped up by their motivational speeches and then Kefka answers something along "Just shut up! You all sound like chapter titles in a self-help book!" This villain not only destroyed the world on a whim, he also mocks you and everything that you stand for delivering really sick burns. No other villain has provoked more hate in me.

    I think Sin from ffx was surprisingly good, especially the way the villain was integrated almost naturally into the plot and storyline. Never finished ffvi, but (and lets pretend yu yevon was not the final boss) the sequence where you fight your father's corrupted aeon? And then scream how you hate him? Jesus. What happened to this kind of writing? I know it was convoluted but it added so much more gravity and immersion by creating a link between the main protaganist and antagonist.
    Might go start a replay of ffvi to see how badass this kefka guy is for myself!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now