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2023's Best Video Game Villain Isn't Who You Think

Mech pilots have feelings, too. Armored Core VI is a game about blowing up everything in sight with a smorgasbord of overpowered weapons. But it’s also a game about vain, self-righteous men who think it’s their God-given right to take over a planet. While you only know them as codenames, characters like Snail and Handler Walter vie for power throughout the game’s story.

HD-2D, The Unique Retro-Inspired Art Style, Took Off In 2022

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But in a stroke of brilliance, the absolute final boss of Armored Core VI isn’t any of those big personalities, but rather the pettiest weasel you could imagine, someone whose very existence centers around spite for the player. It’s a subversive twist that cleverly reimagines a longstanding trope of the mecha genre, and creates the most unforgettable video-game villain of 2023.

Buy Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

You first meet G5 Iguazu just a few missions into AC6, when the player, known as “621,” helps the Redguns assault a dam complex. He makes a strong impression, bemoaning the fact that he now has to babysit a “freelancer.” Your first time through the game, Iguazu simply seems like a bottom-of-the-barrel grunt, the whiny character who’s inevitably one of the first to bite the bullet.

While that’s true on your first playthrough, things with Iguazu get really interesting on your second and third times through the game. This is where you start to learn more about him—and how much he despises your very existence.

More than a rival

Data logs reveal that Iguazu used to be a back-alley gambler who lost big, and became an augmented human to pay off his debts. This then led to him being recruited by the Redguns, and coming face to face with 621. At first he’s simply annoyed by you, but as he grows more aware of your piloting skills, the hate starts creeping in.

As you betray and dismantle the Redguns, Iguazu voices his open resentment of your skills and your freedom. You, the player, are everything Iguazu can never be. You’re a master of your own destiny, while Iguazu finds himself stuck in a war he cares little about, unable to free himself from its shackles. Every single interaction you have with Iguazu, you can see his resentment growing, bit by bit.

After the Redguns are officially dismantled, he takes a freelance contract and launches a surprise ambush on you. Ironically, he’s completely unaware of the AI named All-Mind, which has been pulling the strings all along. His revenge plot foiled, in absolute desperation he takes a “deal with the devil,” letting All-Mind augment him into the perfect killing machine. He believes his freedom with the singular goal of spiteing you the player, your death the only thing on his mind.

Inhuman nature

All this culminates in the defining moment that cements Iguazu as a villain for the ages. The end of your third playthrough of AC6 reveals all the machinations of All-Mind, and as you approach the final battle you see Iguazu has been warped beyond recognition, now piloting an experimental suit built from all of the simulation battles you completed. This means that Iguazu’s new form is quite literally built from all the people you killed and backstabbed to get to this point. He’s quite literally the avatar of everything and everyone that’s been thrown against you on Rubicon.

That collective will might seem like the final boss, but in another staggering twist, halfway through the battle Iguazu realizes that your partner, Ayre, has been affecting his mind this entire time. Through sheer force of will, he shuts All-Mind out and banishes Ayre from the fight. Iguauzu realizes he’s lost his freedom, but in a final act he levels the playing field, finally paving the way for the one-on-one duel he’s craved all along.

Time and again, the player overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds, eschewing the plans of corporations and powerful people in the name of true freedom. Iguazu is the other side of that coin. He is a man without free will who found purpose through a singular obsession of destroying you. You took different paths but arrived at the same place, the same answer. For a game that tells its story in such a minimalist manner, it’s unexpectedly introspective and philosophical.

It’s not often you see a villain truly represent the worst parts of us—not just desire for power but pettiness, spite, jealousy, and hate. Iguazu is the perfect reflection of the player themselves, and someone that suffers for all of our actions. Even despite all that, he finds a moment of respect in the final battle, a solidarity for the unwanted life that has been forced on the both of you.

If you lose to Iguazu in the final battle, his last line sums things up perfectly: “Leave a spot for me in Hell.”

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