Winner: Fandaniel (Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker)
It takes skill to turn an antagonist who at first seems incredibly one note into a much deeper and more intriguing villain. Final Fantasy XIV has a habit of doing this, but Fandaniel is a particularly noteworthy case. He is hardly compelling in the lead-up to Endwalker, and his flamboyant fatalism makes him feel overly clichéd. But midway through the expansion, he starts to make a lot more sense as a character. It’s of course hard to explain why without spoiling major parts of the story, but suffice it to say, you learn about his past in a way that makes him much more complex and interesting. There’s a poetic tragedy to his character, and the way the game plays with your sympathies for him before transforming them into his nihilistic motivations is delightfully twisted. He may not eclipse Shadowbringers’ Emet-Selch, but Fandaniel is still a fitting antagonist for an expansion all about hope versus despair.
by Caitlin Argyros
Runner-Up: Scarlet (Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode INTERmission)
The antagonist is one of the most important characters in RPGs. Not only is their job to spur the player into action, they also must urge the player along while standing in their way every chance they get. However, a truly great antagonist will also create an emotional connection with the player. Scarlet fulfills this role with a concerning degree of proficiency. While she was cocky and smug in the main game, she had more than enough firepower to back up her venomous words in the Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode INTERmission DLC. Scarlet is a snake in a red dress and she knows it, and that’s what makes her such a vile, yet great antagonist.
by Des Miller