Yes, Warhammer Fantasy was home to many ridiculously badass heroes and villains. But Warhammer 40k, its sci-fi sister game set in a grim darkness where there is only war? Basically, the entire universe is made up almost solely of over-the-top buttkickers. Here’s just 15 of some of its most ludicrously badass characters.
Quick note going in: We’ve not included the Chaos Gods or the Emperor in this list, because they’re basically so ridiculous in utter magnitudes of grim-dark badassery that they are far beyond the top of this list anyway. But rest assured, like virtually everyone in 40k, they too are hilariously badass.
Following the Eldar Craftworld Malan’tai’s destruction of a Hive Fleet, a lone Zoanthrope (a lowly kind of psychic creature in the Tyranid hivemind) sneaked aboard the Malan’tai Craftworld—a humongous cross-generational ship of Eldar that housed the survivors of the Malan’tai sect after they fled their homeworld—and proceeded to snack on the ship’s infinity circuit, housing all the dead souls of the Malan’tai that powered it. It transformed into a nigh-on invulnerable psychic monstrosity that promptly wiped out the entirety of the Malan’tai and vanished into unknown space. That’ll teach them for ignoring the little guys.
If the Space Marines are the Mary Sues of Warhammer 40k, Kaldor Draigo is the Mary Sue-iest of them all. The Supreme Commander of an elite faction of heavily armored Space Marines called the Grey Knights, Draigo rose up the ranks after slaying a Chaos Daemon Prince single handed as his first act of combat ever. Draigo was banished to the Warp—the parallel dimension where both the psychic powers of the 40k universe and the biggest bads of Chaos hang out—for his entire life for killing the Daemon, and made chaotic lemonade out of the chaotic lemons dealt to him by spending the next couple of centuries ceaselessly battling and carving his way through horde of demons, undying through sheer strength of will and devotion to the Grey Knights.
An unknown Dark Eldar, Drazhar came to prominence in the order of the Incubi (the Dark Eldar sect of some of their deadliest swordmasters) by randomly waltzing into the Incubi’s Shrine, inviting the Incubi leader to a duel, and then slicing said leader into itty bitty pieces before taking his place. The Incubi are considered some of the fastest, most agile combatants in all of 40k—so fast that they’re a blur. Drazhar is somehow even faster, capable of basically pulling off that after-image technique from Dragonball Z where a character moves so fast he/she leaves behind an identical image of themselves. Drazhar is basically Goku but with ridiculously spiky armor, twin “disemboweller blades,” and a penchant for murdering everyone he comes across.
Chapter Master of the Blood Angels, Dante is an idol among his fellow Space Marines—and for good reason. He’s widely believed to be the oldest Space Marine in existence, with many sources pegging him as at least 1100 years old. Considering the fact that survival in the 40k Universe is not taken to be granted, the fact that Dante’s been rolling around for over a thousand years is pretty impressive. Even more impressive? The fact he’s doing it basically just because he was once told he might be a prophetic hero that saves the Emperor one day. That’s some dedication right there.
Asdrubeal Vect, leader of the Dark Eldar, is one of the oldest beings in existence. He’s spent 99% of said existence basically being the galaxy’s biggest asshole. With a penchant for killing Dark Eldar that displease him almost as much as he kills his opponents, Vect is the prime moustache-twirling villain of 40k. Once, in order to prevent Dark Eldar nobles from usurping power from him, he captured a Space Marine ship and tricked both the Imperium and his Nobles into a long, bitter war to ensure the nobles were wiped out. When it was over, Vect proceeded to take that ship and smash it into the houses of the surviving nobles, cackling maniacally.
Once a Space Marine of the Blood Angels, the soldier that came to be known as Mephiston succumbed to a maddening, bloodthirsty rage that afflicted certain Blood Angels called the Black Rage. Joining fellow Red Thirst victims in the suicidal legion called the Death Company, the soldier got trapped fighting orks—and denied the embrace of death like his fellow Death Company marines, basically got so angry at not dying that he mentally kicked the bejeezus out of the Red Thirst, becoming the first ever Blood Angel to be cured of the affliction. He was reborn as Mephiston, the Lord of Death (and one of the most powerful human psykers ever) and returned to the Blood Angels, asking for a promotion.
They didn’t say no, and he became their chief Battle Librarian. I mean, would you?
One of the deadliest and smartest commanders of the Tau Empire, Farsight—or, to give him is full name, Shas’O Vior’la Shovah Kais Mont’yr (try and say it three times fast)—is one of the Tau’s most powerful warriors. He’s so powerful, he’s pretty much the only thing the Space Orks, who live to conquer and fight, actually fear in battle.
On top of being super smart and the leader of a group of elite Tau mechsuit pilots called “The Eight,” Farsight’s personal mech is equipped with a legendary Tau sword called The Dawn Blade, which absorbs the life force of any being it kills and adds it to Farsight’s own life force—and considering Farsight has killed lots of people (especially orks), it means he’s basically immortal as long as he keeps murdering people.
What if James Bond was both a) kind of insane and b) a religious zealot who went around cleansing the galaxy of anything he deemed heretical? Step forward, Gregor Eisenhorn. One of the most radical members of the Ordo Xenos (a group of devoted Inquisitors who rooted out any sign of chaos in the human Empire), Eisenhorn fell from grace as he chased a chaos daemon host across the galaxy, using increasingly heretical methods to eventually seal it away for good. Despite stomping on heretics across the way as he did so and saving the galaxy, Eisenhorn was cast out of the Ordo Xenos, and he disappeared into the galaxy, looking to purge heretics in his own way.
Once a lowly Space Ork on the planet Uruk who survived getting third of his head blown off by some Space Marines, Gazghkull had his head augmented with adamantium (no, not that adamantium) that accidentally gave him latent psychic powers. These psychic abilities gave Gazghkull visions telling him that he would lead a massive army of Orks to glory. Determined to fulfil the prophecies, Thraka rose to the rank of Warboss, took over a passing Space Marine warship, and promptly tore across the galaxy till his gigantic horde found the Imperial world of Armageddon, which Thraka decided to invade.
Each battle were the largest ever witnessed in the Imperium’s history, and despite being defeated twice, Thraka became one of the most legendary Orks in history.
A fallen Space Marine from the days of the Horus Heresy (where a fellow named Horus betrayed the Imperium and basically created the Chaos Space Marines), Abbadon succeeded Horus as the grand Warmaster of the Chaos armies, and then proceeded to invade human space on massive “Black Crusades” thirteen times. Each time, he was beaten—which was later retconned by Games Workshop writers as having each Crusade, despite their failures, be small parts of a much larger plan to defeat the Imperium, pretty much because players couldn’t decide if Abbadon, the supposed greatest threat to the entire galaxy, was either grossly incompetent or the biggest troll in the known universe.
Primarch of the Blood Angels, Sanguinius was literally an angel. As a child he mutated gigantic, feathered wings, and ultimately rose through the ranks of the Emperor’s Space Marines in their earliest days, beloved by all. In fact, it’s Sanguinius’ death, seen above, that makes him so ridiculously badass. During the Horus Heresy, he was cut off from his fellow Blood Angels and engaged in one-on-one combat with Horus himself (who, despite betraying all of humanity, still deeply cared for Sanguinius). Horus completely stomped over Sanguinius, a death so potent and tragic it instantly created the Black Rage, the disease that afflicted all future Blood Angels that could send them into a crazy, homicidal rampage at a moment’s notice. Poor guy.
Kharn is basically the poster child for ridiculousness in the Warhammer 40k world. A Space Marine—and later Chaos Space Marine—so masterful in close quarters combat and also so completely mad, when he fell to Chaos he pledged servitude to the Blood God Khorne. How did Kharn pay homage to his new god? By killing everything around him, friend and foe alike.
Seriously, Kharn has an actual kill count in 40k lore that’s in the millions, slicing his way through enemies and allies with his chain-axe (the typical chain sword would’ve been too gauche). In some novels he’s portrayed a smart and loyal ally among his fellow Chaos Space Marines, but the moment he hits a battlefield he’s hacking his way through anything that moves.
Like Asdrubeal Vect before him, Eldrad is one of the oldest beings in the galaxy, and has spent much of that time using his vast powers to be a dick to everyone who isn’t the Eldar. Perhaps the most powerful psyker to have ever existed, Eldrad used his powers of foresight—strong enough to see years and years into the future— to try and protect the Eldar after their homeworld was destroyed. He did this mainly by setting into motion horrendous wars involving other factions, just to avoid the Eldar getting into a scrap they might lose (his psychic influence is believed to have been what spurred Gazghkull Thraka on to Armageddon, otherwise he would’ve marched straight onto the Ulthwé Craftworld). On top of being sneaky as hell and responsible for monstrous amounts of violence, Eldrad also happened to be one of the best warriors in the galaxy, once easily defeating Abbadon in single combat.
Commissar Ciaphas Cain is one of the greatest heroes of the Imperial Guard, and one of the finest human combatants in all of history. Except, according to Cain himself, he’s not, which makes him even more of a badass. Star of the Ciaphas Cain novels, which are written as extracts from Cain’s journals sealed by the Imperium because of how they vastly differ from official retellings of his career, Cain was an incredible hero—but all he actually wanted was a quiet placement on a backwater world, and to retire and become a professor. Instead, through a series of increasingly alarming mishaps, Cain found himself on the front lines of some of the bloodiest battles in 40k, and lived to tell the tale. Not bad for the equivalent of a human grunt.
If Cain was the jokey badass of the Imperial Guard, Gaunt is the serious badass of the Guard. And he is seriously badass. Leader of the Tanith First (nicknamed “Gaunt’s Ghosts”), a legion of guardsmen who were the sole survivors of the destruction of the planet Tanith, Gaunt fights to protect his fellow Tanith and earn them a new world to call home, and does so by being one of the greatest and most honorable Commissars in existence. With a sword that could slice through tanks, a band of some of the most incredible Guardsmen in the Imperium, and often the first person leading a charge at the opponents, Gaunt has commanded the Imperial Guard to victory in some of the most hopeless scenarios the grimdark world of 40k could throw at him. All that, with no power armor, no psychic powers, no nothing. Jeez.
Of course, there’s a lot more than 15 ridiculous badasses out there in the universe of Warhammer 40,000. Want to champion a hero or villain not on this list? Let us know in the comments.