There’s a recurring theme in horror, action and adventure games that always keeps us coming back for more. That theme, which we have all gotten drawn into at some point or another, is the allure of a mysterious villain. There’s nothing quite as intriguing as a villain in a game that you don’t get to fully see and understand until the very end of the game, and sometimes, you never fully understand them, and they remain a great mystery to pick away at your brain in your nightmares. Is this terrifying? Yes, but it’s also so extremely addicting. Today, we’ll be peeking behind the curtain to see what we love so much about the mystique of the hidden villain.
The main reason we love the allure of a mysterious villain is the basic human instinct of running toward what we don’t understand. It’s actually one of the most beautiful things about humanity: our curiosity pushes us to understand everything, and when we discover a mystery, we want to know more about it. The best thing about having these types of villains in games is that you can explore every aspect of that terror without being in real danger. An excellent thing about video games in general is that they allow you to explore in ways that you can’t in reality, and this goes for chasing after the bad guy as much as anything else.
The mysterious villain is also much scarier than a monster that you can clearly see, because our imagination runs away with the possibility of what could be behind the mystery. In the same way that an unseen horror in a film is extremely unsettling, or a terrifying act being referenced as an off-stage action in a live play will curdle your blood, if you can’t clearly see the enemy in a video game, there is so much room in your mind for that evil to grow into something far more terrifying than could ever be realized visually.
A prime example of a villain hidden behind mystery is the Jailer from World of Warcraft. In Shadowlands, we’ve only been given a small amount of information about the Jailer, and let’s be honest, he’s one of the most intimidating foes from WoW. It’s been hinted that the Jailer will be revealed in many ways in the upcoming Chains of Domination, and as much as we’re looking forward to learning more about him, the mystery around him currently has created a villain that is almost unmatched by previous WoW villains.
There are some shadowed villains that are revealed at some point, and there are some that remain veiled throughout the entire game. Depending on the villain and the setting around them, sometimes it can be disappointing to meet the villain head on at the end of the game, because they were scarier as a hidden figure, but that is not always the case. Tying back to human psychology, there is something very cathartic about facing your fears, and being able to meet the villain that has been tormenting you can be an excellent way of facing them and defeating the evil completely.
Whether we meet them or not, and whatever the villain turns out to really be in the end, there’s no doubt there’s something amazing about a mysterious evil lurking in the shadows of a game. There’s nothing quite as scary and exhilarating as running toward a monster that you don’t fully understand, and even if you end up discovering the truth about them in the end, that mysterious chase is worth it every time.