An Oxford Historian
Top 10 'Viking' Videogames
What are the best Viking videogames for PC, XBox and Playstation? What can they teach us about the history and myth of the Vikings?
Learning about history comes in all forms of media, and that includes videogames. It shouldn't all be reading books (although, if that's your thing, I've got a good reading list for you here!). Videogames provide a much more casual way to explore historical contexts, along with mythology, and are becoming increasingly easily accessible.
The list here varies a lot - across platforms, budgets, countries, and degrees of historical accuracy. Whether you're looking for a super in-depth accurate game, or something loosely based on Saga narratives, there should be something here for you. So, in no particular order, here we go:
A new release of 2021, Valhiem takes the well-known survival game format and applies it to a 'Viking' context. Still in Early Access, Valheim mixes all the aspects we've come to expect from this kind of game - crafting things, building bases, exploring a large world and killing bad things. It's early days so it's unclear exactly where the project will go, but it looks like a promising choice.
2. Assasin's Creed - Valhalla
The obvious choice for this list, Valhalla has caught some flack recently for its historical inaccuracy. Quite rightly so, as there's lots of leather and fur to be found throughout, but it's still an impressive game. Unlike most games on this list, it's a big-budget Triple-A production - staggering graphics and huge open worlds will let you get lost in properly exploring and roleplaying in an immersive world. Unfortunately, of course, with that comes the price tag...
3. Civilization VI
A rogue choice, but the classic empire-building game lets you play as the Norwegians under Harald Hadrada. If you've never taken the plunge into the Civilization series it's well worth your time (although it will be a lot of time) - an in-depth mix of exploration, research and combat awaits you. As the Norwegians specifically, get ready to dominate the seas with your ships, and build an empire even more expansive than in history.
4. Total War Series : Thrones of Britannia and Atilla - Age of Charlemagne DLC
An oldie but a classic, the Total War series sits alongside Civilization as long-running successful turn-based strategies. Total War varies slightly in that its combat is real-time, and you get to command great units of thousands of men across the battlefield. While the base game for Total War Atilla does not include any 'Vikings', the later Age of Charlemagne DLC includes the Danes as a playable kingdom.
The later Thrones of Britannia game in the same series is well worth checking out too, and its newer release date makes it a more polished product. Here, set at a later date, the focus is on settled Scandinavians rather than 'Viking' raiders, and you can command and defend a kingdom within the British Isles against Saxon counter-attacks.
5. For Honour
For Honour really isn't going for historical accuracy but hey, that's ok sometimes. It's essentially asking the greatest hypothetical question of history - who would win if a bunch of different warriors from different time periods had a big old fight. European Knights vs Samurai vs Ancient Chinese warriors vs Vikings. It's big, it's violent, it's dumb, and it's great fun.
The game itself is a third-person online combat arena-style - you run around waving sharp things at the baddies until they all fall over.
Based in mythology rather than exact history, Northgard is a strategy/civilization-building game that blends elements of fantasy. Managing settlers and resources, the base idea is nothing new, but it's nice to see familiar game types adopted to new areas. Perhaps not the ideal game for anyone invested in historical accuracy, it's good fun none-the-less.
7. The Banner Saga
The Banner Saga leans heavily into story-telling, as the name might suggest. Mixing historical saga-tropes with all-out fantasy, the game blends an interactive story-telling with turn-based combat. Very well received critically, and with some beautiful artwork, it's a great choice for those really looking for narrative complexity.
8. Bad North
A relatively unknown entry at number 8, Bad North is simplistic but beautiful. It's your job to defend a little island against hordes of 'Viking' raiders, in a pleasantly simplistic format. The art style is really charming and weirdly relaxing despite its morbid theme.
9. God of War (2018)
Another installment in a hugely successful huge Triple-A franchise, this game is slightly cheating for this list because it predates the 'Vikings' themselves. However, set in early Scandinavian, it still focuses on the ever-popular Norse Mythology and the Gods we know from the Eddas. Again beautiful and immersive in design, it's a particularly sold choice for anyone whose major interest in the 'Vikings' is a mythological focus.
10. Expeditions: Vikings
Set in the late 8th century, this roleplay-heavy game places you in the role of chieftain of a clan of 'Vikings' arriving in England. Another good choice for those willing to sink their teeth into some real immersive, in-depth story-telling.
And that's all 10! If you're interested in 'Viking' history more generally why not check out my blog, where I have a large range of free resources for early medieval history. There are articles on 'Viking' nicknames, archaeology and history, along with much more.
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