Most games are based on some kind of antagonism: we’re fighting some people, a horde of monsters, or confronting an unwelcoming environment. The thing is, all this fighting is usually quite impersonal, with little to no emotional stake. That works frequently, but sometimes… sometimes things get personal.
This is where rivalries come in. Often, they are bitter, playing out over years as both parties unsuccessfully try to settle the score in a violent manner. Sometimes they are more like a friendly competition than a hostile feud. But both parties always have a personal relationship and an emotional stake in the competition.
Below you’ll find a few of such rivalries. We’ve settled for some of the most iconic. If you’re into cool cross-over versus battles like Sephiroth vs Ganondorf or Mario vs Batman, this list is probably not for you, but stick around anyway, cool characters and good games are being discussed.
Minor spoilers ahead!
|Game||Name of the rivalry||Discount|
|Castlevania Lords Of Shadow 2||Belmonts vs Dracula||85%|
|Devil May Cry 5 Standard Edition||Dante vs Vergil||87%|
|Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Nintendo||Mario vs Bowser||16%|
|Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy||Phoenix Wright vs Miles Edgeworth||68%|
|Street Fighter V||Ryu vs Ken||85%|
|Final Fantasy VII||Sephiroth vs Cloud Strife||43%|
|Guilty Gear Xrd Sign||Sol Badguy vs Ky Kiske||92%|
|Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate Edition||Sub-Zero vs Scorpion||92%|
|Portal 2||Chell vs GLaDOS|
|The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild||Link vs Ganon|
Belmonts vs Dracula – the Castlevania series
Dracula and the Belmont family have been a thorn in each other’s side for generations. That’s only to be expected, given that Dracula Is, well, Dracula, while Belmonts are a clan of monster slayers. Although the series has other protagonists too, most notably Dracula’s son Alucard, Belmonts are old Vlad Tepes’ iconic foe. Trevor Belmont was even the protagonist of the recent Castlevania anime.
Aside from the story, what are Castlevania games? They are half of the Metroidvania hybrid genre, for one. In most games you’ll be exploring dark fantasy locations (such as the eponymous Castlevania, Dracula’s castle), fighting very diverse monsters, and backtracking a lot to access areas locked off by your lack of relevant skills and items. For a great example: see Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Chell vs GLaDOS – Portal 1 & 2
The relationship between Chell and GLaDOS is complicated. The former consistently never speaks to anyone, the latter is a snarky, passive-aggressive AI running a testing facility. Over the course of two games, they establish something vaguely resembling a rapport, even though they keep having little to no concern for the other’s wellbeing, and GlaDOS keeps making rude comments even as a potato.
GLaDOS is also almost always present in the games, which not only makes it the antagonist to Chell, our playable character, but also to us, as players, because we have to clear the tests GlaDOS sets up. And these are some highly entertaining tests! Portal games are famed for their physics and portal engine, and solving each room is immensely satisfying, despite GLaDOS’ remarks.
Dante vs Vergil – the Devil May Cry series
One of the greatest rivalries in gaming indeed. Dante and Vergil are half-demon twin brothers, whose lives very differently due to an ill-timed demon attack. Dante and Vergil clashed repeatedly across the series, usually unable to reconcile their different motivations: Dante embraces and protects humans, while Vergil seeks power from his demon blood. It’s a conflict ready to happen.
There are several boss fights against Vergil, and they tend to be among the hardest fights in the series when you’re on the first playthrough. Thankfully with multiple fighting styles, fast weapons swapping, and many ways to diversify his combos Dante can hold his own pretty well and build up the style meter fast, because doing things IN STYLE is very important to any DMC game.
Link vs Ganon – the Legend of Zelda series
Link and Ganondorf (Ganon to his favorite enemies) have been at odds since the very first outing, in 1986, and even the latest entries in the series, such as Breath of the Wild keep Ganon in some form, because he’s Link’s iconic foe, in open-world RPGs and Super Smash Bros alike. Ganon usually wants to get the Triforce of Power, Link usually wants to whoop Ganon’s butt. A tale as old as time.
One of the greatest hits on Nintendo Switch, The Legend: Breath of the Wild puts Ganon in your sights as soon as you’re done with the tutorial. If you want to pursue your rivalry right away, you can, even without upgrades and good equipment you would find by exploring the world and interacting with its puzzles and inhabitants. It’s the best modern Legend of Zelda you could possibly hope for.
Mario vs Bowser – the Super Mario franchise
A rivalry older even than Link vs Ganon. Mario and Bowser have clashed when Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach, they’ve clashed when Mario won at racing go-karts, and they’ve menacingly waved rackets at each other while playing tennis. These two rivals would probably compete even to be first in the queue for fresh bread. They can always rely on the other to be there for unfriendly competition.
There’s no Mario without Bowser, and at this point the old lizard probably wouldn’t know what to do if the stocky plumber wasn’t there to stop him. The most recent (at the time of writing) big Super Mario release, Super Mario 3D Bowser’s Fury has Bowser right in the title, and the entire campaign revolves around defeating Mario’s fire-breathing rival who’s now Godzilla-size!
Phoenix Wright vs Miles Edgeworth – the Ace Attorney series
Unlike other rivalries on this list, Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth aren’t trying to kill each other and don’t even appear particularly interesting of actually beating the hell out of each other. In fact, they are childhood friends! However, in the games Miles is a prosecutor, while Phoenix is a defense attorney, so rivalry is baked into their jobs. A friendly, professional rivalry is a nice break from violence.
And since their job demands making arguments backed by evidence, the games find their loop of investigating each case and then trying to present it at court in a way that makes Phoenix sounds coherent and convincing. Since the Ace Attorney games lean strongly into the visual novel style, there are also personal issues to address, and many conversations with colleagues and witnesses alike.
Ryu vs Ken – the Street Fighter series
Ryu and Ken are best friends and have grown up together training martial arts under the same master, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a sparring session using the advanced techniques they’ve learned. They also have very different personalities: Ryu is quiet and disciplined, while Ken is much more energetic and rather arrogant. Still, both can rely on the other through thick and thin.
A more bitter rivalry is the one between Ryu and Akuma, which involves revenge and the temptation of using lethal techniques that Ryu pointedly tries to reject. Either way, in a true Street Fighter fashion, it concludes in a duel of spectacularly competent martial artists unleashing devastating combos when commanded by your controller. Crushing your enemy with a long combo always feels great.
Sephiroth vs Cloud Strife – Final Fantasy VII
Cloud and Sephiroth’s rivalry is greater than their original game could contain. Since their revenge-fuelled feud in Final Fantasy 7, through the movie sequel Advent Children, to Kingdom Hearts and even Super Smash Bros. Cloud felt the weight of Sephiroth’s face-heel turn in Nibelheim and has been on the receiving end of One-Winged Angel’s ambitions. It’s absolutely one of gaming’s classics.
There’s of course more to the story than can be summarised here, but for that you should just play the original or the remake of Final Fantasy VII. The game from 1997 is a much-beloved classic, with quasi-turn-based combat and charming aesthetic, while the Remake is bigger, more action-oriented, and borrows its style from FF7 spin-offs. It does tweak the story a though, and just Part 1 is out so far.
Sol Badguy vs Ky Kiske – the Guilty Gear series
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
|Developer:||Arc System Works|
What would the Guilty gear series be without the rivalry between the two poster boys, Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske? They’ve been at odds even before the first game’s events happened, and while they are good chums now, they still butt heads on occasion or have superpowered sparring. They each hold weapons forged from a magical superweapon and have their own tricks up their sleeves.
Both characters are also good first character picks when you’re just starting out with Guilty Gear. Especially Sol is strong enough to help you figure out the complex web of reactions, attacks, and special features which have characterized the Guilty gear series for years. Once you get the hang of the basics, the truly technical and fast characters come in. Guilty Gear games are a great test of skill.
Sub-Zero vs Scorpion – the Mortal Kombat series
Best for last. The long bitter rivalry between Sub Zero and Scorpion is so well-known that the two warriors have become more recognizable than Raiden, Liu Kang or Shao Khan. There have been two Sub-Zeroes, but only one Scorpion, seeking revenge and closure because of what Sub-Zero’s clan has done. Nothing beats a good revenge plot, and a fiery revenant ninja is a great vehicle for that.
Hanzo Hasashi (Scorpion) and Kuai Liang (second Sub-Zero) have settle their differences in Mortal Kombat 11, but thankfully, this new friendship doesn’t affect gameplay. They can still punch each other, break each other’s spines and flash freeze them all they want. The same goes for the entire roster. Mortal Kombat remains a brutal and satisfying fighting game series with truly sadistic finishers.
To the bitter end
This concludes our list of the coolest and most famous video game rivals. Each of these characters is memorable on their own, but it’s through the rivalry with their opposite number that they start to shine. Emotional stakes and personal relationships are better motivation than a full health bar and a one-line objective, after all.
Hopefully one of these rivalries inspired you to try some of the games which allowed these feuds to exist.