All too often it's the courageous heroes of video games that dominate the limelight, but every protagonist needs an appropriately devilish wrongdoer to right.
2014 has been an outstanding year for virtual villainy, with developers creating some of the most terrifyingly memorable evil arch-nemeses for players to contend with. Gamers faced up against a huge variety of dastardly scoundrels in the last 12 months, from sociopathic Himalayan warlords to zombified celebrity abortions!
Here's my year-end roundup of the best video game villains that were so bad they're good.
1. The Alien - Alien: Isolation
One of the most petrifying experiences of my year was trying desperately to survive the wrath of this formidable extraterrestrial beast.
Just like in the movies, the Alien is a mercilessly persistent predator, relentlessly stalking you aboard the dimly lit Sevastopol space station - and I couldn't wait to escape from it. I actually had to take recovery breaks from playing the game, just so I could catch my breath and let my pulse slow back to normal!
Not since Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 has a video game villain affected me so much, and that's no small achievement.
2. The Player - This War is Mine
It's not often in games that your greatest foe turns out to be yourself, but This War of Mine did a fantastic job of vilifying the player.
11 bit studios' deeply moving war-torn survival game tasked you with keeping ordinary civilians alive during the tragic Siege of Sarajevo. Unfortunately, surviving often meant making morally tough choices, like stealing from innocent bystanders or even deciding who to feed when supplies were dangerously scarce.
As you second guess your own questionable course of action, you're forced to consider the drastic lengths you'd go to in order to save your own skin. After regretting my decision to rob a family's house to keep my own characters alive, I realized the game's biggest enemy had turned out to be me.
3. Jonathan Irons - Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Kevin Spacey is no stranger to breaking bad, having recently portrayed the devilish politician Frank Underwood in House of Cards. It's no surprise then that the Hollywood legend stepped into the role of Jonathan Irons with ease, giving a terrific performance as the diabolical PMC general.
His taunting villainy gave me good reason to mow down the hordes of Atlas soldiers just to serve up the fate that was coming to him. And my oh my was that ending satisfying.
4. The Spiny Blue Shell - Mario Kart 8
Every Mario Kart racer's nightmare, the dreaded blue shell has been tormenting players for decades! This indiscriminate harbinger of death only signals one thing for the race leader: imminent disaster.
I don't know how many times I've been cruising comfortably ahead of the pack on the final lap, only to be foiled at the last minute by this evil shell! It deserves a place on this list purely based on the amount of broken controllers it's left in its infuriating wake.
5. Pagan Min - Far Cry 4
The Far Cry series has become well known for supplying players with a steady flow of sociopathic eccentrics to murder, but Pagan Min just might be my favorite!
The highly unstable ruler of Kyrat only appears a handful of times throughout the game, but his presence is ever-felt. Anyone who uses a fork and a fountain pen to kill his enemies isn't someone you want to mess with.
6. Khloe Kardashian's Giant Nazi Zombie Fetus - South Park: The Stick of Truth
I've saved the best (or perhaps worst?) for last. Matt Stone and Trey Parker's explicit cartoon show has always had a rather controversial sense of humor, and its video game adaptation was no different.
After fighting your way through an abortion clinic, your gang of pre-teens are confronted with this monstrous undead Nazi boss. It was about at this point that I succumbed to guilt-ridden hysteric laughter, shaking my head in disbelief at what I was seeing.
Just when I thought South Park couldn't get any more offensive, they proved me wrong yet again.