Winner: N (Xenoblade Chronicles 3)
In a game where many of the villains fall a little flat, N is a revelation. If Noah is who we aspire to be, N is who we’re afraid we’ll become. After everything he’s experienced, would we do anything differently? Would we make the right choice, or would we hold onto what we love, as N does? What would we do when we ultimately lose what we love, despite all our sacrifices? I think we all know the answer to those questions, and N is a remarkably relatable villain as a result. He acts as both a mirror for us and a reflection of what Noah can become if he makes what seem to be the right choices, crystallizing the central concerns of Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The fact that his design is amazing, boss fights against him are epic (and so is the music), and the voice work when he loses it are just impeccable are all a bonus.
by Zach Wilkerson
Runner-Up: Starscourge Radahn (Elden Ring)
Radahn’s presence in Elden Ring is weirdly pervasive for a character who’s only ever seen in a boss fight. You’re a newcomer to The Lands Between, and Radahn is basically a living myth whose name is in everyone’s mouth. You learn about his role in the game’s events, both past and current, long before you meet him. This makes the battle itself an incredibly memorable experience; you know what a deadly and imposing presence Starscourge Radahn is, you’ve learnt the background of his moniker, and now you witness his twisted truth first-hand on a scale rarely seen in boss battles. Radahn is an excellent example of how gameplay, lore, and environments can come together in perfect unison.
by Sam-James Gordon