When we think of iconic video game characters, ‘fashionable’ probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, their ability to fight, jump, navigate universes, build worlds and problem-solve all while cheating death at every turn is impressive, but it’s ‘the clothes that maketh’ the man.
Think about it: Mario has the overalls, Link has the green hat and Pyramid Head has, well, a pyramid for a head! Thousands upon thousands of hours go into a character’s design, and the end result is some pretty fashionable heroes and villains.
But today, I want to pay homage to and celebrate the best-dressed video game villains, specifically from the post-Y2K era.
Top 6 Best-Dressed Video Game Villains
If you’re currently trawling through eBay for your next cosplay idea or simply appreciate fashionable foes from the last 13 years, you’re in for a treat!
Here are 6 of the best dressed video game villains from the 2000’s to now:
You can’t talk about fighting genre games without mentioning Mortal Kombat, and you can’t talk about iconic fighting genre villains without mentioning Shao Kahn. This powerful tyrant of the Outworld throne is one of the few non-ninja characters whose appearance has stayed consistent across multiple games. And he doesn’t wear his trademark helmet just because he’s bald!
Its skull-like design and long crest pays homage to the helmets worn by Japanese Samurai warriors. His lethal-looking spiked shoulder pads, knee pads and gauntlets depict him as a fearsome foe. Plus, you know the guy who doesn’t bother to wear armour over his most vital organs means business. Shao Kahn is as fashionable as he is ferocious.
Last Order: Final Fantasy VII (2005)
If video game characters could be cast as models in Paris Fashion Week, Sephiroth would definitely make the cut. Depicting everything that an incredible JRPG game character should, while he may have consumed enough mako to sprout a black wing, this Final Fantasy antagonist is the definition of ethereal beauty and effortless style. His iconic long black leather trench coat with shoulder plates is both peak military fashion and a throwback to his time as a member of Shinra’s elite fighting force.
You’d think long flowing locks, a long coat and an elongated nodachi would be impractical in combat, but Sephiroth managed to kill Cloud Strife’s mother and Tifa’s father while still remaining committed to the drip. Villains are often depicted wearing dark colours to evoke connotations of evil, but Coco Chanel once said black never goes out of style. So, I think we can all agree Sephiroth is certified fashionable!
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
As action-adventure games go, it doesn’t get much better than Red Dead Redemption. Authenticity and attention to detail is everything to developer Rockstar Games, so it’s no surprise the main antagonist, Edgar Ross, is the pinnacle of American frontier fashion. Ross is the kind of villain you love to hate; he’s immoral, corrupt and dresses in a three-piece suit to remind us he’s the epitome of Federal Government corruption in the 1800’s.
Dressing like ‘the man’ is symbolic, but well-tailored pants, jacket and vest are just as stylish today as it was 200-something years ago. And then there’s his classic bowler hat. When you spend your day traversing the wilderness on horseback, a fancy hat might not seem practical, but bowler hats were designed specifically for that purpose.
Tired of high gamekeeper’s top hats getting dented while riding horses and driving carts, in 1846, Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester worked with Lock & Co.’s chief hatmaker, Thomas Bowler to develop a rounded, low-fitting protective hat.
The rest is history! 🕒
Borderlands 2 (2012)
He may be the head of the Hyperion corporation and dictator of Pandora, but Handsome Jack deserves to feature on this list of the best dressed villains. Layering and colour coordination is difficult to master, particularly when you’re battling savage wildlife and bandits, but this villain is a pioneer of survivalist-style.
A tailored dark coat and classic white shirt keeps his waist snatched and flatters his slender figure. The brown vest, sneakers and thigh holster are a reminder that matching accessories don’t have to be impractical. And let’s not forget about his natural beauty – an explosion may have left his face permanently branded with the Vault symbol, but this villain has cheekbones that could cut glass. I mean, his jawline has more structure than my life! Yes, Handsome Jack is best dressed certified.
Resident Evil Village (2021)
As Anita Sarkeesian pointed out in 2009, female character design (and including their outfits) are often overly sexualised. Both heroes and villains are often depicted wearing low cut crop tops, booty shorts and impractical armour. Resident Evil’s latest villain is proof you don’t need to show a lot of skin to be well dressed (and desirable).
For more than 60 years, Countess Alcina Dimitrescu ruled as one of the Four Lords, terrorising and feeding on local peasants. The 1950s is when she is believed to have become a test subject for Mother Miranda. She was transformed into a vampire-like monster, but her outfit stayed frozen in time; a long-sleeved, empire waist gown and giant black hat that reflects the old Holiday glamour style of the time. At almost 10 feet tall and sporting gigantic claws, she doesn’t need a skimpy outfit to hold men’s attention.
The response to this fashionable femme fatale was positive, to say the least. I mean, anyone who says they wouldn’t want their head crushed like a watermelon by this gorgeous villainess’s thighs is, well, a total liar.
The sixth and final place on the fashionable villains list goes to another blonde badass – Father Balder. Named after the Norse God of Light, the descendant of the Lumen Sage was rocking the sickly stringbean look before Timothy Chalamet and Pete Davidson made it cool. However, after trapping the soul of Aesir, his descent into evil triggers a glow up and his attire changes.
Now adorned with peacock-like spikes behind his back, he tops off his new ‘Daddy’ look with a monocle which appears similar to a mask and covers the left side of his face.
For footwear, he dons white leather gold-toed boots with heels. Aside from Liberace, Father Balder may be the only man who can pull off his entire ensemble. Queer-coded ‘sissy’ villains is a common (and problematic) trope, but Father Balder manages to project a strong, masculine energy throughout the entire gameplay. He may be evil, but he’s also a reminder that men can be both fashionable and formidable.
The Final Word
Cutting the shortlist of the best dressed video game villains down to just 6 fashionable characters naturally had me pulling my hair out a little. After all, the gaming universe is so vast with incredible character designs.
However, it’s safe to say that these 6 villains belong on the catwalk!
Whether you’re a JRPG fanatic or dabble a little in a variety of gaming genres, there’s much to appreciate and give kudos to the talents that are at our disposal.
Did your favourite fashionista make the cut?
Drop a comment with your take on the best dressed video game villains and let’s have a debate! Once you’re done, don’t forget to check out some of my other roundups, game reviews and technology deep dives: