There are many figures in Street Fighter who deserve mention as villains. There's the deadly and narcissistic Vega, the money grubbing Balrog, power-hungry Akuma, and the absolutely sadistic Juri. But for me, the head honcho and leader of the Thailand-based terrorist organization, Shadowloo, has many facets, thanks to Street Fighter's penetration of different media and styles.
M. Bison is known as Vega in Japan, but with respect to international rivalries in competitive Street Fighter, he is simply known as Dictator by many, to avoid confusion. For the sake of the classic American interpretation of America's favorite would-be dictator, I'll be referring to him as M. Bison.
Bison and Shadowloo have their hand in many conflicts around the world. In the first movie, it was a dangerous dictatorship that wanted to take over the world; in more recent adaptations, it is a worldwide crime syndicate. All of these goals however, are not just Shadowloo's goals as an organization but also Bison's personal goals, with an insatiable appetite for power and control. To make things worse, Bison seems to be in control of an inherently evil force of energy known as Psycho Power, powering moves like his Psycho Crusher and Psycho Shot.
The core Street Fighter series
When first introduced, M. Bison was one of the big four boss characters who were also considered the big four of Shadowloo: Vega, Balrog, Sagat, and M. Bison.
In his first appearance, he was depicted as a particularly menacing enemy who made sure you knew he was the leader of a terrorist organization. When you first begin a match with him, he's still wearing his uniform's cape, which he stylishly throws off before getting in his fighting stance. His win poses included him performing the cutthroat gesture or simply standing back and laughing at his fallen opponent, and this version is consistent with how M. Bison was re-imagined in Street Fighter IV.
His theme music started off rather dark. The opening to his theme song is as if an executioner is playing your last lullaby.
And of course there's his Head Stomp special attack, where he leaps through the air and smugly stomps on your head with perfect poise and posture. What a jerk!
Street Fighter Alpha
While the original Bison is a power-hungry mogul, the Bison seen in Alpha is downright evil and cartoonishly powerful.
M. Bison's Alpha iteration in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
In Alpha, Bison doesn't even bother taking off his cape in most cases and demonstrates the ability to fly. Still as condescending as ever, he tends to hover through the air with his legs together and his arms folded, as if making himself seem important and all powerful.
One of the more impressive things, besides having a female squad of personal warriors, is that his signature Psycho Crusher technique becomes a screen filling torpedo of doom that can defeat you if it hits. It even does a fair amount of chip damage.
The kid gloves are off when it comes to the Alpha version of Bison and he's not going to pull any punches in order to make sure you understand how devilishly powerful he is.
Street Fighter: the animated series
Taking everything evil about M. Bison and exaggerating them in all the wrong ways, the American animation version of M. Bison is like your typical Saturday morning cartoon show villain, doing devious deeds and making wise cracks at the expense of the heroes.
This version has been subject to many jokes on the internet due to how cheesy he is but he's still evil. He's just hamming it up while trying to conquer the world. When an angry Chun-li attacks him in an attempt to avenge her father, Bison just shrugs her off and says killing your father is a normal thing, so get over it. When witnessing Guile's agony in defeat, he states that watching it is, “delicious!” And becoming quite expressive, Bison is prone to simply exclaiming, “Yes! Yes!” when victorious.
"Goodbye! Meddlesome Street Fighters!"
Just keep in mind that this version of Bison is without a doubt, still evil. He's just glib and sarcastic about it. He'll still trap his victims in impossible death traps, revel in the anguish of his enemies, and generally mock his opponent.
Street Fighter, the 1994 feature full length film
Probably an amalgamation of Street Fighter and the Street Fighter cartoon, Raul Julia's depiction of an English M. Bison was of a man who thought himself so much better than his fellow man, he had no problem hurling lowbrow jokes to jab at his enemies. While Chun-li holds a vendetta against Bison for destroying her Chinese village, Bison has trouble remembering the specific event, remarking that it was merely “a Tuesday” for him.
Despite his needless but comedic posturing in the film, he still carried a certain amount of dignity and respect that is reminiscent of a much quieter Bison from Street Fighter II. He has different hats depending on whether he's on or off-duty, he appreciates good food and wine, and he affectionately dubs his floating chair 'the saddle of the world.'
Really, there's nothing I hate about M. Bison from the classic 1994 movie.
The new villains in the world of Street Fighter and fighting games in general seem flat out boring by comparison to America's favorite dictator. Bison has the advantage of not only of being one of the first, but being represented in many more forms of media, even beyond what I've listed. There are of course comics, manga, anime, and side stories. And in many of them, Bison has been the classic villain. Super Street Fighter IV introduced new villains like Seth and Juri while Akuma is also considered a villain in some respects.
Bison arguably deserves any credit he receives because he's not just some villain. He's a classic supervillain, a dictator, a man of culture, a man of arrogance, and a man of humor. Whereas Seth may talk to his defeated opponents about how inferior they are compared to him, Bison will dust off his uniform, fix his hat, and perhaps comment how they'll enjoy the view of Bison taking over the world from down on the ground.