Mortal Kombat Wiki
Mortal Kombat Wiki

The Diabolical Motivations of 11 Video Game Villains

Mortal Kombat Wiki
Mortal Kombat Wiki

We all know the drill: drop in a quarter or hit “start” on your controller and suddenly you’re the world’s only hope. For some reason, every violent gang and alien race in the known universe (this one and parallel) cannot stand human civilization, and when they’re not trying to enslave us, they’re trying to slaughter us. Have you ever wondered why, though? Here are the motivations of 11 video game villains.

1. The Red Falcon Organization

Contra Wiki

The villains of Contra had a pretty straightforward goal, which was to try and take over the world. You would be forgiven, then, for wondering if Pinky and the Brain were behind the entire affair. In fact, the original version of the game (released in Japan) involved a terrorist cell called the Red Falcon Organization, which was based on the Galuga archipelago of New Zealand. As no such archipelago actually exists, we should assume that a.) the game really happened and Mad Dog and Scorpion destroyed it; b.) the Red Falcon Organization actually created an artificial archipelago, not unlike Dubai created the Palm Islands; or c.) the game is a work of fiction and we should stop asking so many questions. For what it’s worth, in the American version of the game, you’re fighting space aliens in South America.

2. Mother Brain

Metroid Wiki

Let’s start by pretending that Captain N: The Game Master never happened. Concerning the video game Metroid, everyone gets so caught up in the revelation that Samus Aran is a woman that they forget about the game’s more impressive female: a one-eyed brain in a jar called Mother Brain. What does this hermetically sealed villain want? Biological weapons. To acquire them, she needs only to accumulate metroids, which are space jellyfish that can be weaponized through exposure to beta rays. Mother Brain uses an army of space pirates to build her jellyfish collection, and to repel our green-haired, yellow-armored adventurer.

3. Shang Tsung

Mortal Kombat Wiki

In the original Mortal Kombat, there is an elderly grandmaster that observes each fight and offers such commentary as “Excellent!” or “Flawless victory!”, as well as such instructions as “Finish him!” This villain is called Shang Tsung, and he is also the final boss in the game. So what’s with all the fighting, anyway? Turns out Shang Tsung was the first Mortal Kombat champion from centuries ago, and is cursed to consume the souls of his vanquished foes in order to maintain his power and youth. He ends up taking control of the tournament with the goal of destroying Earthrealm. Anyway, it’s no more outlandish than a giant WMD-collecting brain in a jar.

4. The Mad Gear Gang

Capcom Wiki

In Final Fight, Mike Haggar is a former professional wrestler who is elected mayor of Metro City. It seems the city has a crime problem, and who better to clean up the streets than a guy who knows the difference between an arm-bar leg-sweep and an axe handle elbow drop. The Mad Gear Gang, fearful of this, kidnaps Mike’s daughter in hopes that the mayor will bend to their will. They really should have guessed how this would all play out.

5. Shub-Niggurath

Quake Wiki

In the video game Quake, scientists experimenting with teleportation technology accidentally open a gateway to another dimension. Monsters begin to flood our military bases, and only a lone, gun-toting human stands between them and the annihilation of our species. (This is also the plot of the video game Doom.) The leader of—in the game’s words—the “hundreds of ugly changelings and monsters” is Shub-Niggurath. She (yes, Shub is a she) is probably better known from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, where she is also known as “The Black Ram of The Forest with a Thousand Ewes.” Derivatives of the original work describe her as either an outer god or a Great Old One. In any event, you don’t need to read the book to figure out that she’s trouble.

6. Mezmaron

Pac-Man Wiki

Why do the ghosts keep chasing Pac-Man? What do they want? As we eventually learn from the Pac-Man cartoon, which I watched religiously as a child, Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde are on a quest for Pac-Land’s power pellets. An evil villain named Mezmaron, who looks like a cross between Destro, Dracula, and Optimus Prime, leads them. This was an actual TV series.

7. Ganon

Zelda Wiki

In the original Legend of Zelda (the one with the gold cartridge!), an evil wizard named Ganon has stolen the Triforce of Power, which is a magical triangle in the land of Hyrule. He needs only the Triforce of Wisdom to consolidate his rule. Princess Zelda, in an attempt to slow Ganon, breaks the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and (somehow) hides them in really dangerous monster-infested dungeons. Ganon eventually finds and kidnaps her, presumably to torture the locations of the Triforce out of her. An elf boy named Link eventually rescues her. They really ought to make a sequel to this one.

8. The Master

Fallout Wiki

A century after total global thermonuclear war, a new order arises from the fallout of civilization. While the mighty, mighty men of vaults scattered around the country go on with their jolly days, human survivors, mutant hordes, robot armies, and giant scorpions fight it out in the wasteland. One man calling himself the Master goes so far as to create a super mutant army and launches a movement called “the Unity.” His goal is to bring peace to the world by removing the divisions between creatures. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to mutate all of humanity. His plan makes great headway, but alas, into each life some rain must fall, and a lone vault dweller talks the Master into suicide. Humanity’s troubles are not over, however. There will always be another war. Because war? War never changes.

9. The Nihilanth

Half-Life Wiki

At the Black Mesa Research Facility, scientists are experimenting with portals when they discover an alien dimension called Xen. I probably don’t need to say that things don’t go as planned, because the Xen soon launch a full-scale invasion of Earth. (And, in fact, conquer Earth, as we learn in Half-Life 2.) At any rate, the Nihilanth is the Xen mastermind leading the aliens. He (it?) is the creature responsible for holding open the portals through which the monsters travel. It is insinuated that Earth is targeted not because monsters explicitly hate humans, but because there’s an ongoing Xen civil war, and we’re just an unfortunate part of the conflict’s expansion.

10. The Kilrathi

WC News

Wing Commander took the best elements of every book, film, and television series ever made in the space war genre, synthesized them, and somehow created something even better. (Twenty-three years later, I still can’t watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars without thinking, “I remember doing that in Wing Commander. That was a great mission.”) In those games, the enemy comes in the form of the Kilrathi, a feline empire governed by an apparent monarchy. They’ve been locked in a devastating war with humanity for decades, with neither side giving an inch or offering an olive branch. (How bad does it get? At the end of Wing Commander III, humanity commits genocide, obliterating the entire Kilrathi homeworld.) The whys of the war are a bit unclear. Indeed, to the participants maybe they’re not that important. All that matters is the mission—to win one sector at a time, one sortie at a time.

11. Dragonlord


In Dragon Warrior, the kingdom of Alefgard lies in darkness and ruin under the dominion of an evil sorcerer called the Dragonlord. Where did he come from and how did he take over the world? Good question. During a self-imposed exile years before, a young wizard entered a cave and encountered a dragon. He expected the next few minutes to involve flame and the crunching of bones—the usual script for dragon encounters. To his astonishment, however, the dragon knelt before him and would soon carry out his will. So here’s a question: All the dragons in the world will obey your command. Do you smile and go about your business, or do you take out that list of people who’ve wronged you and strike down upon them with great vengeance and furious anger? AND YOU WILL KNOW HIS NAME IS THE DRAGONLORD—and so on.

15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers

People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.


There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)


It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.


Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.


American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.


The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.


This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.


The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.


These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.


A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.


The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.


This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.


Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.


Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.


You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.


Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
Cost Plus World Market
Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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astronaut tea infuser

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.


This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.


This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.


cracked egg tea infuser

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.


If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.


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