How to create a great build up to the main villain

I’m back for opinions. Can I please have what ya’ll’s thoughts on what are the best ways to build up the main villain and kill him with the utmost satisfaction and not be a boring boss

There’s a lot of ways to handle your main villain, but in general, they have to have a presence across most of the game. Having it be someone that rarely appears, or doesn’t get introduced until the last third of the game or something, is pretty lame. A main villain should be someone who drives the plot, and thus the protagonists have a vested stake in fighting against them. If the main villain doesn’t drive the plot and/or doesn’t have much of a presence overall, then they’re just like any other random one-chapter boss by the time you actually fight them.

The way you give them presence can obviously vary a lot, though. They could constantly harass the protagonists, or maybe help them only to later betray them, or not interact with the protagonists and instead have lots of scenes that cut away to the villain’s base, etc. Depends on your villain.


One game that I think does an amazing job at boss buildup is the original Paper Mario (coincidently an IS game). A lot of the chapter bosses are seen before reaching their respective boss rooms and NPCs will often give you more information or express fear of them. The best is easily Tubba Blubba and fleeing his castle during my first playthrough is probably one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had with any video game. But even the more mundane bosses like the Koopa Bros. or Lava Piranha are first heard about when playing as Peach and then relayed to Mario through Twink, so it almost always feels like there’s a big obstacle to overcome, and it made beating each Chapter Boss feel like a big accomplishment. And that structure keeps the game from feeling like it has a stale middle section, something that plagues a lot of RPGs.

What also made beating each chapter boss feel like a big deal is the way Bowser is handled. He wipes the floor with Mario at the start of the game, and then at the end of the prologue, the Star Spirits give Mario the plan to make Bowser vulnerable using the Star Beam, but it requires saving all the Star Spirits. So saving each of them feels like taking a step closer to beating Bowser. Not only that, but the Stars aren’t just macguffin quest items along the lines of the Sage Medallions in Ocarina of Time (I know there was more planned for these; no one needs to comment about that). Mario actually gets new abilities and more Star Power with each Spirit rescued.

And so, in the true final battle, when the Star Beam fails, it feels like such a hopeless moment because the ace the player spent the entire game forging isn’t enough, and it makes what happens next all the more memorable.

The first Paper Mario may just be a Mario saves Peach from Bowser story at its core, but the way each main event is built up to really made it something special.


Krash is right on the money, to build on his point a great example from the series is The Black Knight in Path of Radiance. He shows up at many points in the story, even appearing as an unbeatable enemy in a couple chapters. He’s mysterious, when he shows up and defeats Greil, the player is left to wonder why he wanted to fight him, and why he killed him. Finally he shows up right at the end of the game, and it culminates in a duel between Ike and him, that is a very cool moment. It also helps that he has an amazing theme to his battles. While he doesnt necessarily drive back the plot as an antagonist does (Ashnard fills that role) hes a pretty great villian.

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Obviously, the scope of the project is going to matter a lot in deciding this. If you’re going for something shorter, you may opt to not have an overarching villain and instead may want to make each individual boss their own focus and flesh them out in the build up to each map and even on said map before clashing with them.

Whatever option, it should take into consideration the direction that you want the plot to go as well as the themes and genres of the project. If you’ve got a very comedic story, you probably don’t want the villain being over the top serious (unless to riff on them being like that). Vice versa, unless your villain is someone like Kefka and very sociopathic, them hamming it up constantly during a more serious story is probably not the best route to go unless they are going full-on anarchy.

The best suggestion is to write them like an actual person - don’t lean too heavy into tropes, don’t have them do nonsensical things, etc. If they’ve got the heroes at their mercy, them running off for no reason and not finishing the job isn’t something that someone would rationally do. If they’re manipulating the group or need them to do something else later, then reconsider having them show up at all at that point, at least in front of the heroes.


The final boss doesn’t have to physically appear until it’s time to slay or otherwise defeat them them, but they should have their existence proven within the first third of the game, and either cause strife through their direct actions or be heavily involved in the setting. Oftentimes JRPGs have both types; the former being the “decoy final boss”/villain, and the latter being the “true final boss” who is not necessarily a villain but whose defeat is necessary to wrap up the story.

In addition, the protagonist, depending on the type of central conflict the story hinges on, should either have a personal stake in the villain’s defeat or an ideological reason to stop them. Usually the latter is used in stories that don’t have an open and shut, happy ending without something screwed up happening, because it’s generally not as satisfying, so the author is obligated to add some kind of visceral feeling to the ending.

My favorite final battles actually usually involve a resolving conflict where the main villain is relatively irrelevant. Hargon in DQB2 just kinda has designs on the world but the main conflict resolved by defeating him is between the protagonist and their partner, although Hargon does set the conflict up. The player is left feeling a bit empty after beating the final boss of many Tales games due to the fact that the final boss’s existence isn’t actually the main driver of misfortune in the setting and said final boss lampshades this fact. However, the final boss in Tales is always heavily tied to the protagonist’s suffering in particular. There’s always a balancing act to be had

A “triumphant hero” narrative will have the villain proven absolutely powerless in the end, both in terms of reasoning and physical ability to affect the world. Higurashi Sotsu sucked but it got this down very, very well. But at the same time there’s a narrative running parallel to this that isn’t so clean.

Perhaps what I’m getting at is that a villain is the representation of a conflict, and a conflict has a minimum of two sides - having more than one facet to the resolution and the reason the villain exists and is defeated is EXTREMELY effective in evoking emotion.


It’s case by case, but personally when it comes to FE I feel like the most effective villains are the ones who have clear connections with other characters throughout the story. These connections could be past relationships, positive or negative, established beforehand (Eldigan, Lyon, Caellach) or they could be a result of the villain’s actions in the midst of the story directly affecting other characters (Orson in ch. 8, BK killing Greil as mentioned earlier, Roswell in OCA getting foiled multiple times) or even the player (Arvis in ch. 5).

Without intertwining the villain with other characters in the story, the big confrontation often feels like it lacks substance. As an easy example, JRPGs in general love to do that thing where some inhuman space entity ends up being the overarching evil behind the primary villain, but thanks to the nature of those characters they often aren’t closely tied with the rest of the cast and essentially end up being nothing more than huge faceless monsters to slay. Compare this to fighting someone like Lyon as a boss, which comes off as more meaningful since he has an established relationship with several of the playable cast members.

imo, DLATMOL’s Medeus archetype (the Unspoken One) is a stellar example of how to make a compelling major villain in all aspects. DLATMOL’s villains can sometimes be hit or miss but I think the handling of the Unspoken One is one of its most praiseworthy elements as an overall product.


To this day I believe a tragic main villain is the best. It’s also one of the hardest to do right. The easiest is the ‘evil to be evil’ but even they have gems among them (Caellach, Ashnard, Gheb ((sorry not sorry)), etc.)

I also love the super rare villain where the climatic battle is also the villain’s climatic fight. Rather than underestimate you, or something, it’s far more interesting when it’s an arms race of sorts that finally boils into a great clash. Haven’t seem that much in any media, let alone FE games/hacks.

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It is a common story that former comrades-in-arms become our greatest enemies.
Humans are creatures that unite when there is a common enemy, and when there is no enemy outside, they start fighting among themselves.
This kind of example has been repeated many times in the past and could be used as a basis for your story.