Villain Overview
Had it not been for this man here with me, I should have been already hacked to pieces.
~ Cao Cao.
Better I betray the world than have the world betray me!
~ Cao Cao's most famous quote, after escaping an 'assassination attempt'.
My ambition cannot be stopped!
~ Cao Cao's victory quote.

Cao Cao (in Chinese: 曹操), also known as Emperor Wu of Wei (in Chinese: 魏武帝), is essentially the main antagonist in the 14th-century Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, and its multiple adaptations. He is the leader of the Wei empire, who seeks to become an emperor of China.


Cao Cao was born in Qiao (present-day Bozhou, Anhui). His political career began when he broke the Yellow Turban Rebellion which threatened the power of the Han Dynasty at the end of the dynasty's reign. After successfully breaking the rebellion, he was given a position and then took the opportunity to take control of the Qingzhou Prefecture. He then strengthened his position by persuading the former Yellow Turban rebel member to join his personal army. He received and provided protection to Emperor Xian of Han who at the time was threatened. But then instead replaced Emperor Xian and took this opportunity to defeat some warlords around the Xuchang region which was the center of his power.

In the Battle of Guandu, Cao Cao greatest victory is to conquer Yuan Shao, who at that time was the biggest warlord in northern China. After the conquest, he was officially appointed as prime minister and managed to unite northern China. After gaining a position as prime minister, Cao Cao then composed the power to conquer southern China, which was ruled by Liu Bei and Sun Quan. The battle of Chibi is a war between Cao Cao and Liu Bei and Sun Quan. However, Cao Cao received a defeat in the famous war in the history of China.

After Cao Cao's death, his son Cao Pi later described himself as emperor of Wei and set up Cao Wei country. Later, Cao Cao was then posthumously titled "Grand Ancestor Emperor Wu of Wei".

Other media

Cao Cao appears in the Dynasty Warriors video game series, where he can't be considered a villain, since in Wei's point of view, he is a hero. In the Warriors Orochi game series, he appears commanding resistance forces against Demon Armies. He also appears as one of the recurring boss characters in the Knights of Valour game series.


Cao Cao was seen as a cunning yet feared man. Relentless in his desire to end the land's chaos, he will use any means to achieve his plans, even if it makes him an enemy to the other kingdoms or to the Han Dynasty. Despite this Cao Cao was also noted to have treated his men like family, though he also has a fierce temper and will often scold his men's incompetence if the battle goes badly for him. In newer installments of Dynasty Warriors, Cao Cao is quite able to show more self restraint in terms of his emotions, being able to still act normally and rationally even when close aides such as Dian Wei or Xiahou Yuan die. In his eyes, as the lord of men, he must act to achieve his dreams lest his men simply die for no reason. Said newer installments also show Cao Cao to be much more just in his actions and more serious about ruling the land for the sake of stability, justice and order.


  • Cao Cao is initially treated as a villainous character, but later games began looking to his historical record, which portrayed him as a capable and wise ruler. While he's slowly gotten a better characterization as the series has gone along (especially after 6), outside of the Wei campaign, he's still mostly portrayed as ruthless and cruel. Historically, he was an excellent leader both as an administrator and a commander, and he treated his men as family (though this particular aspect of his personality is very much part of his character in the games).


           Three KingdomsVillains

Wei Empire
Cao Cao | Zhang Liao | Xu Chu | Xu Huang | Cao Ren | Zhang He | Xun You | Dian Wei | Lady Zhen | Jia Xu | Wang Yi | Cheng Yu | Sima Wang | Sima Lang | Niu Jin | Cao Fang | Cao Mao | Cao Shuang | Cao Chun | Zhu Ling | Yang Xiu | Tian Yu | Jia Kui | Gao Rou | Dian Man | Xu Yi | Han Zhao | Yang Qiu | Sima Fu | Chen Tai | Liu Yan | Qiao Hong | Zang Ba | Wen Ping

Wu Empire
Sun Chen | Sun Hao

Shu Empire
Mi Fang | Fu Shiren | Huang Hao

Jin Empire
Sima Yi | Zhang Chunhua | Jia Chong | Jiao Yi | Guanqiu Jian | Sima Fang | Sima Yan | Sima You | Cao Huan | Li Fu

Other Villains
Chen Gong | Diao Chan | Dong Zhuo | Lady Zhurong | Lu Bu | Meng Huo | Zhang Jiao | Zhang Bao | Zhang Liang | Yuan Shao | Yuan Shu | Dong Bai | Ding Yuan | Yan Liang | Wen Chou | Chen Deng | Cai Mao | Li Ru | Li Jue | Guo Si | Yuan Tan | Yuan Shang | Yuan Xi | Xu You | Feng Ji | Zhang Xiu | Han Xuan | Ma Yuanyi | Shen Pei | Ju Shou | Gao Shun | Gao Gan | Pei Yuanshao | Zhang Ren | Lu Gong | Huang Zu | Xu Gong | Liu Yao | Liu Zhang | Gongsun Yuan | Meng You | Yu Ji

Evil Organizations
Dong Zhuo's Army | Lu Bu's Army | Nanman Tribe | Yellow Turbans | Yuan Shao's Army | Yuan Shu's Army

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