The Top 10 Video Game Bad Guys Who Turned Good

by Tim Turi on Jan 06, 2015 at 11:31 AM

Double crossing is a common practice in video games. Watching a trusted ally turn its coat and suddenly declare their mission to destroy the hero is a fun cliché that injects drama. Less commonly, some characters who formerly committed dark deeds have a change of heart and join up with the good guys. Here are some of our favorite enemies who had a change of heart.

Spoiler warning: We touch on plot twists in story focused games like Dragon Age: Origins, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Chrono Trigger, and Portal 2.

10. King Dedede - Kirby Series
The story of HAL Lab's Kirby series isn't deep. Essentially, Kirby is a pink creampuff thing that frequently battles King Dedede, the dopey faced, self-righteous king of Dreamland. For many of the early Kirby games, Dedede is the big kahuna, either facing off with the little guy in a wrestling ring or racing him to devour treats. Starting with Kirby 64: The Crystal Shard, King Dedede reluctantly offers his pudgy might and powerful hammer in Kirby's quest as a playable character. He's also one of four playable characters in Kirby's Return to Dreamland, swinging and tossing his hammer at the enemies. Unfortunately for this formerly feared nemesis, Dedede has fallen into the realm of comic relief.

9. Loghain Mac Tir - Dragon Age Series
Loghain is one of those bad guys who's willing to do anything - anything - if he thinks it's in the best interest of his realm. He abandoned the king mid-battle, allowed elves to be sold into slavery, and ordered the assassination of the Wardens. In Loghain's slimy mind he did it all because he didn't trust anyone but him to save Ferelden from the darkspawn. However, the commander's power is challenged during a duel with the player's party. If the player wins, they have options like whether to execute the traitor or allow him into the party. With his questionable leadership stint behind him, Loghain battles the Blight under the service of his once-enemy, the Grey Wardens. He can even sacrifice himself to deliver the killing blow against the Archdemon, helping to simultaneously save the world and redeem his tainted name.

8. Cecil Harvey - Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV (FF II in the U.S.) kicks off with an early travesty. Cecil is a Dark Knight and captain of the Red Wings of Baron, following orders from his king to firebomb the town of Mist. The flames consume the village, orphaning the summoner child Rydia in the process, who would go on to later join Cecil. Unlike other bad guys on the list, Cecil's evil streak is extremely short, and his sharp turn towards good afterwards makes it even more impactful. As Cecil begins questioning the King of Baron, he drops his Dark Knight role and becomes a holy paladin to help save the land.

7. Revan - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Unlike many of the other bad guys on this list, Revan didn't exactly make a conscious decision to switch sides. Formerly a Sith Lord, Revan (pictures to the left) was knocked out during battle with the Jedi and consequently lost his memory. When he comes to, he's nursed back to health by the good-willed Republic, joins its cause, and eventually becomes an adept Jedi. The truth of his dark past bubbles up over the course of the adventure, coming to a head when he confronts his former apprentice, Darth Malak. As a final test of his new life as a Jedi, Revan strikes down Malak and becomes the Prodigal Knight of the Jedi order.

6. Magus - Chrono Trigger
This cloaked, bad-ass sorcerer is initially believed to be the villain responsible for the destruction of the world. Crono and the gang travel through time to stop him from summoning the gigantic, world-eating demon turtle Lavos. After an intense battle, they defeat Magus but everyone is hurtled backwards in time. Magus and his former enemies eventually realize that they all share a common goal: destroying Lavos in order to save the world. The team is so united in their goal that Frog even finds it in himself to put aside the fact that Magus transformed him into his namesake amphibian years ago.

Coming up: Nintendo legends and a jewelry thief.

5. Knuckles - Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic destroys Dr. Robotnik's orbiting Death Egg at the end of Sonic 2 and is soaring above the waters of the planet below towards Angel Island. Despite glowing golden with Super Sonic power, Sonic flies head first into the spiked fist of a red Echidna. Knuckles clobbers Sonic and sends the hedgehog's hard-earned collection of chaos emeralds flying. Knuckles, who is being manipulated by Robotnik, taunts and sabotages Sonic throughout all of Sonic 3. Eventually Knuckles realizes he's being duped and teams up with Sonic and Tails to take down Robotnik. Of course, the trio's battle would just become the first of many sequels of varying quality to come.

4. GLaDOS - Portal 2
This nasty, sharp-witted A.I. spent the entirety of Portal cajoling and trying to kill the player. Her tune changes in Portal 2 when she's usurped by another wisecracking robot named Wheatley. GLaDOS suffers the humiliation of having her sentience crammed into a potato, and she and protagonist Chell have no choice but to team up to take out the new mechanical menace. The two come a long way - from GLaDOS attempting to murder Chell with deadly neuro toxin to jettisoning an evil robot into space together.

3. Cranky Kong - Donkey Kong Series
Even though The King of Swing was battling Mario and stealing his girlfriend long before Bowser, this ape eventually gave up his bad streak and gave his other relatives time in the spotlight. Years later, the aged-yet-limber Cranky Kong is pogo-jumping on the heads of anthropomorphic vikings that have attacked Donkey Kong Island. Cranky turned around his act just in time to become a solid role model for Dixie, Diddy, and Donkey Kong. [Editor's note: This entry originally focused on Donkey Kong instead of Cranky Kong, which has been fixed]

2. The Arbiter - Halo 2
Master Chief fires hundreds of bullets and plasma blasts at ugly Covenant Elites throughout Halo: Combat Evolved. That changes in Halo 2 after one Elite, who becomes The Arbiter, is sentenced to perform suicide missions after underperforming during the events of the first game. Players swap back and forth between Master Chief and The Arbiter throughout Halo 2, but the two eventually join forces when they come to realize they share a joint threat: the parasitic Flood. Already disillusioned with the Covenant's religious bloodshed, The Arbiter helps the UNSC halt the fire of one of the Halo rings.

1. Bowser - Mario Series
The bad guy formerly known as King Koopa is the undisputed king of video game bosses. He's been hounding Mario at every turn, kidnapping his favorite princess time after time for nearly 30 years and counting. Given his pedigree, the fact that Bowser could join up with Mario in any circumstance is astounding. Nevertheless, the spikey shelled-boss has teamed up with the overall-wearing plumber in games like Super Mario RPG, the Paper Mario series, and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Though he sometimes gives up his evil ways in favor of helping the greater good, the gigantic turtle never slacks on the abrasive jabs and over-compensatory bravado.