The Top Ten Rivalries In Video Game History

By James Hawkins in Lists!
Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:00 am
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The greatest rivalries.
Most great video game franchises are driven by the drama that surrounds two colliding forces. Typically, those forces are Good and Evil. Good is represented by anything from a plump everyman to a highly trained assassin, while Evil is the personification of corruption, hatred, and unbridled power.

These forces, in their many iterations, have created many of the greatest heroes and villains in the whole of video gaming. And their back-and-forth struggles have produced unforgettable experiences for gamers. Here are our picks for the greatest rivalries of all time. Enjoy.

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10. Carl "CJ" Johnson vs. Officer Frank Tenpenny
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The tension between Carl "CJ" Johnson and Officer Frank Tenpenny stems from their respective societal positions. CJ is a rising gang member of the deflated Grove Street Families, while Officer Tenpenny is a corrupt cop working for the Los Santos Police Department. 

Though CJ is a criminal, he tacitly stays within a moral code, killing only those that deserve it, solving problems for people that need his help, and maintaining his integrity despite his conduct. Officer Tenpenny uses his authority to exploit those living around them. If he needs a person murdered, he extorts a young gang member to so with the threat of imprisonment or bodily harm. He keeps his hands clean by dirtying those of the powerless.

Through the narrative, the power struggle between these two characters is a main thread. Tenpenny's constant threats and attacks on CJ & Co. ramp up the tension until it peaks with a brutal, bloody battle. It is an inversion of the cops vs robbers mythos, where we see good in criminals and evil in police. Because in Los Santos, having a badge doesn't make you the good guy. Who you point your gun at does.


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9. Jennifer Simpson vs. Scissorman
Clock Tower I & II
This inexplicable rivalry is one of horror gaming's greatest. Jennifer Simpson, one of a few orphans adopted by a wealthy man named Burrows, finds herself alone in a giant mansion, being stalked by a deformed child with a giant set of shears. What ensues is a fatal game of hide-and-seek.

During the chase, Jennifer Simpson must uncover the mystery behind the disappearance and murder of the other adoptees. But Scissorman strike often and with little warning, so her quest is impeded constantly.

The battle between Jennifer and Scissorman goes beyond the physical realm. After her escape, the psychological damage that is inflicted on Jennifer causes her to lose her mind, and her struggle takes on a whole new life. And for literally no other reason than that Scissorman is just a fucked up, totally insane kid. 

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8. Mega Man vs. Doctor Wily
Mega Man Series
The scheming Doctor Wily has been defeated by Mega Man for years now, but he always manages to bounce back. He devises intricate plans for world domination, trying to outsmart Mega Man and the good Dr. Light. But it never works out -- our robotic boy in blue always comes through in the end.

Though we always know what the outcome will be, the ongoing checkers match between the two characters allows for gamers to experience the cleverly ridiculous strategies of Wily and the butt-kicking abilities of Mega Man.

Also, we give great credit to this rivalry for its open-endedness. One would think that after a while Mega Man would get fed up and just kill Wily. But he can't, because, as we all know, these robots cannot harm humans.

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7. Ness vs. Giygas
EarthBound/Mother
Giygas is a gaseous ball of pure evil. Ness is a psychic Chosen One. They quarrel over the future of all humanity. That is about as epic as a rivalry can get. And thanks to an amazing boss battle and some great characterizations, EarthBound provides an excellent ground for these two forces to meet.

Ness, along with his team of Chosen, must combine their psychic powers to stop Giygas and the large army of aliens that have invaded earth. Giygas is extremely angry with humanity and intends to destroy it wholly.

It is another excellent example of the test of good against evil. We side ourselves with a likable young boy, and we are pitted against a boss who is certainly one of the most disturbing in all of gaming.

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6. Sonic the Hedgehog vs. Doctor Robotnik/Doctor Eggman
Sonic The Hedgehog Series
Doctor Robotnik is a volatile mix of evil-genius and manchild. He wants to take over the world, but every time something goes wrong, he blathers and whines. Which is unfortunate for him, because a fleet-footed blue hedgehog always has his number. 

Robotnik and Sonic are a classic duo -- Robotnik's selfish plans for world domination have been, and always will, be crushed by Sonic's policing. Much like Mega Man and Wily, these two subsist off one another -- Robotnik's global plans are to oppress the free spirits of creatures like Sonic, and Sonic has the powers and abilities to stop the plans from succeeding.

And though these two have stumbled trying to get their footing on the current generation of consoles, their long history will remain at iconic status. Sega's answer to Mario and Bowser has probably run its course, but the battle was heated while it lasted.

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5. Ash (Red) vs. Gary Oak (Blue)
Pokemon Series 
Many of these rivalries are epic showdowns of the noblest good versus pure evil. The rivalry between Ash and Gary Oak is not one of these. It is all about competition and sportsmanship -- about being a nurturing humanitarian or a cutthroat bully.

In the early Pokemon games, the arrogant Gary Oak frequently one-upped Ash, constantly needing to be the best trainer with the best pokemon, no matter what the cost. He trained his pokemon ceaselessly, rising quickly to the top the of pokemon tournament on Johto. At the top, he lorded over the Elite Four pokemon trainers, basking in the glory of victory. Until Ash caught up and challenged him for the title.

Ash, by treating his pokemon with care, managed to produce a squad of highly-effective monsters that thwarted Oak's ego and KO'd his champion status. Oak has since dropped out of pokemon training, but the time we spent destroying him on the field of battle remains fresh in our minds.

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