There’s a little bit of evil in all of us. Some games give us free reign to show our inner cruelty. Other’s have us intentionally being bad. That’s the experience the games on this list offer: They let you take a break from playing the hero to see what life on the other side has to offer. And based on the quality of most of these games, it’s pretty good.
1. Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Sometimes a larger outside threat can turn enemies into friends. That’s the case in Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, a truly fantastic RPG for Nintendo DS. In it, the Mushroom Kingdom has been taken over by Fawful, a scheming wizard who’s up to no good, which makes Bowser just as unhappy as it makes the Mario brothers.
Once Bowser accidentally inhales the plumbing duo, it’s only a matter of time before they all team up to get Mario and Luigi out of Bowser’s body and kick Fawful out of the Mushroom Kingdom. Meanwhile, players get to stomp around as Bowser during numerous sections of the game. And guess what? It’s a lot of fun.
Manhunt is not like other games. Rather than featuring a likable character you can relate to, it stars one of the most despicable heroes in video game history. You play as a prisoner who’s supposed to be executed by lethal injection. But just when it seems time to take your eternal nap, you wake up.
You soon find out that your savior is a demented director who tasks you with carrying out a series of gruesome gang murders to create snuff films. It’s brutal and gross, and it’s all caught on film.
3. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Following Manhunt is hard, because what could be worse than a protagonist from death row? How about two protagonists from death row? At the start of the game, the pair of titular thugs bust out of prison only to get wrapped up in a criminal conspiracy that involves a brutal gang called The 7, a missing stash of money, and a bunch of helpless hostages, including Kane’s wife and daughter.
The action kicks off with you murdering a phalanx of police officers and then skips quickly to a bank, where you hope to find the money missing from the The 7. Things go downhill quickly when Lynch has a psychotic episode and kills every one of the hostages. From there on out, violence, betrayal, and villainy are the rules of the day.
4. Dungeon Keeper
The whole dungeon crawler genre is based on the simple premise of heroes battling their way into a dungeon and snatching up all the gold and loot they find. Dungeon Keeper turns this notion on its head. Instead of playing as the intrepid heroes, you play as the owner of the dungeon, a demon who would like very much to keep the treasures for himself, thank you very much.
The result is a game in which you build a dungeon of your very own and guard it with “enemies” and set up traps for the heroes to fall into. Go on, explore your dark side.
5. Every GTA game
People were shocked in 2001 when Grand Theft Auto III landed on the PlayStation 2 and put players in control of a criminal who could unleash all manner of sins on the unsuspecting citizenry of Liberty City. Five games into the series and we take it for granted now, but for years the franchise was notorious for letting players give into all manner of destructive impulses.
If you follow the main story line in any of the games, you’ll do plenty of awful things to the cast of criminals that make up the games. But lest we forget, the good guys are the cops, the ones who try to protect innocent civilians from coming to harm as you drive on sidewalks and get into gunfights in broad daylight. You might be the protagonist, but you’re not the good guy.
The island of Manhattan is under military quarantine because of a viral outbreak that turns people into grotesque mutants. You play as Alex Mercer, a man bent on revenge for contracting the virus. Luckily for him, his mutations manifest themselves in a slew of violent, murderous ways.
What you do from there is destroy everything in your path, including innocent civilians — especially innocent civilians, because their bodies feed your power — as part of your blood rage. It’s dark stuff.
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