Few things of the past have as much allure as mythology. Video games regularly draw inspiration from the legends of numerous cultures, some better known than others. The titles that inspire the most are those that combine the mysteries of ancient history with modern contexts, societal, literary and others. The mixture of amazement and familiarity immerses players into the stories like no typical video game plot can, no matter how impressive its graphics may be.
As a rich source of creatures and figures, Norse mythology is as popular as the Greek, if not more so, especially when dealing with video games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The fact that Nintendo Switch has just revived this special 2017 title is a testament to its worth in the gaming world. Senua is a Celtic warrior travelling to the depths of Helheim, the chilling Norse land of the dead, while plagued by voices that hound players too as they follow the heroine’s dark tale. Its developers, Ninja Theory, masterfully capture the horrors of mental illness by integrating conceptual metaphors into digital design.
The pantheon of Olympus has possibly been recycled more than any other lore. Figures like Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite and Hercules are instantly recognisable by those with the slightest knowledge of pop culture. A slot game series by the name of Age of the Gods and featuring grand portraits of these Grecian characters makes the online casino from Betfair providing it instantly appealing. While those five reels spin, Playtech’s classic design and progressive features come together to give players a sense of power over their destiny. Be warned, the Fates’ toes are not stepped on lightly.
Never Alone was released in 2014, but remains a truly touching production by Upper One Games. In partnership with Alaska natives, this puzzle platformer introduces you to the region’s traditional folklore in the company of a girl and her arctic fox. The unique and endearing design used to shed an evocative light on Iñupiaq culture and history has stood out among Metacritic’s moved reviewers, the critics giving it a score of 66 and users 6.7. Video games can do more than entertain. Their ability to educate is no different to that of fine art in a museum.
Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is a 14th-century long poem about a soul’s journey to God. In 2010, EA and Visceral Games turned it into a far more vivid and gruesome descent through the nine circles of Hell, complete with fires, terrors, judgement and the Devil. Noted for its similarities to God of War, Dante’s Inferno is not only another dive into the darkest parts of mythology and religion but also an example of how video games are narratives in their own right. While the action version of this poem may not have been exactly as its author visualised it, gamers still got a taste of great historical literature.
With so many new games hitting the scene, it’s always worth looking back at titles that deviate from the mainstream recipes of video game design. Old lore and stories can be the perfect skeleton for entertainment and messages of substance to be built upon and shared.