Henchmen are the opponents a player must overcome on the way to the antagonist of a level or game. The term henchmen is a broad definition that can be used to describe various enemies. From the Koopas of the Mario franchise to the Nazis of any WW2 shooter, these minions are what make the game memorable. However, not all henchmen are created equal. As in any organization, these underlings are divided into ranks and classes. This list shows the most common form of henchmen ranks, and although all games differ slightly, this outline covers almost all to a certain degree.
The Boss Henchmen
The Boss Henchmen are the most dangerous of all the henchmen. They have power over lower ranks and are typically well adept in battle. The area bosses in Super Mario World are a perfect example of these class of servants. In some games they may even appear to be the main boss of the game until later on when the true leader is revealed, such as in the classic Dragon Warrior III. Don't underestimate these behemoths; they are the most trusted and most capable of the main antagonist's forces.
Mini Boss Henchmen
Don't be caught off guard by these foes. They are the most dangerous and most devoted servants of the Boss Henchmen. These guys will almost never be seen at the end of a level; they usually surprise the player in the most unlikely of places. For example, the Big Daddy in Bioshock is always a surprise when the player happens to come across one, and is important enough to have an influence on the story line. The elemental worms in Ninja Gaiden are a good example of a mini boss battle inside a level with a bigger boss at the end. They are often of the assassin type, and many times a Boss Henchmen will command his servant to go after the player in hopes of defeating him before he reaches his own chambers. Finally, these Mini Bosses are often separate from main forces and do not always fight alongside their allies, but go after the player by themselves.
These henchmen are the specialty soldiers of the big baddies, the ones that cause the player who sees them to go "Ahh @%#$ not this again!". As well as being more powerful and faster, these guys are often easily spotted by their larger stature than their less important allies. Good examples of these henchmen include those damn accurate beige suited captains in Star Wars games, the large dinosaurs in Ninja Gaiden, and the gold elites in Halo. Surprisingly, these can often be the source of the toughest situations in a game when some developers pit the player against a whole whack of these baddies at one time.
Main Fighting Force Henchmen
This is a rather broad range of enemies to cover as all games differ slightly in this category, so distinctions will be made in the form of sub-classes. In short, this henchmen is what makes or breaks a game. They are not cannon fodder, but neither are they important enough to be commanders. They offer the widest range of challenges, and are usually split into many variations and types to give the game variety. This category includes fighters such as Elites in Halo, Koopas in Super Mario Bros., Pink Shadow Fiends in Ninja Gaiden, and Storm Troopers in Star Wars. It also includes specialty fighters that are different, but not necessarily stronger, than their regular counterparts. These include enemies like snipers in every FPS ever, Flying Koopas in Super Mario Bros., and all those weird varieties in Storm Troopers such as Swamp Trooper. To recognize different types of henchmen, different colors, armors, and weapons are given to special classes on front-line troops so as to be recognizable from others. Here are the main fighting force henchmen listed:
- Captain - Usually wearing some fancy armor or sporting a special color (black Elites, armored Brutes in Halo). They don't command any forces, but are seen as leaders of groups of troops, and always have the most dangerous weapons such as rocket launchers and big assault rifles. These are not the same as commanders, as they are not any different from their counterparts other then equipment and arms.
- Specialty - Include such enemies like snipers or grenadiers. These are maybe a little stronger then regulars, if at all. Their strength comes from their unique abilities that complement the main force. They can be frustrating to deal with because they are the first the player will want to take down as they get pelted by the many regulars taking pot shots at them. They are also often attuned to whatever environment they are in, so the player will never be as used to fighting them as other foot soldiers and will have to be prepared to overcome their natural advantage.
- Regular - This is pretty self explanatory. They are the most often seen and most often killed by the player throughout the game, i.e. walking zombies in Resident Evil, and are what immediately jumps to the players mind when someone mentions a particular game.
- Cannon Fodder Henchmen - These are the target practice of any game, the volunteers for many a tutorial's combat introduction. The best example of these are the infection flood in Halo, (those little balloons that come in droves toward the player), and the headcrabs in Half-life. Don't ever break a sweat over these enemies, but don't ignore them either. They can come in great numbers to take down a distracted player by chipping away at their health when they aren't paying attention.