Ah, Vikings. The mention of the word probably generates a similar image for most people: big, bearded Scandinavian men and strong, fierce women wielding huge circular shields and battle axes, covered in fur, leather, and war paint.
Many of us have wondered what it would be like to be one of these warriors of yore, and because of this we have been walking in the virtual boots of Viking j?ru-fgir for nearly four decades, with 1984 seeing the release of Viking Raiders for the ZX Spectrum 48k. Fast forward 36 years, and we have the upcoming Ubisoft epic RPG Assassin?s Creed Valhalla. Establishing a reason pertaining to why we love embodying our Scandinavian ancestors is difficult. It could be the hundreds of years of exploration and expansion the many Viking tribes partook in. Perhaps it?s the animalistic nature of their reputation, the brutality of their warriors and their rituals being the thing of legends. From berserkers to blood eagles, the savagery of the Northmen proved severe enough to stand the test of history?s time. Maybe it?s the Viking god pantheon, the fabled sir and synjur spread out through the cosmos and the nine realms, keeping Frost Giants at bay and preparing for Ragnarok. Norse mythology is rife with elements of great storytelling: love, loss, betrayals, murder, justice, and action. Because of all of this, gaming has embraced the Vikings with open arms, with multiple titles seeing players swinging battle axes and dealing with Norse Gods. With so much to choose from, it?s easy to get overwhelmed when you want to dive into the icy lands of the Vikings. As such, here?s a list of the seven best Nordic inspired games to get your Viking fill.
2015 (PC, XBOX, PS4, SWITCH)
Jotun. Source: IndieDB.
Jotun is an action-exploration game set in the middle of Norse mythology. You play as Thora, a Viking warrior who died an inglorious death, thus denying her entrance into Valhalla. Thora must fight her way into the Gods? favor so she can forever feast in the halls of Valhalla. Created by Canadian studio Thunder Lotus Games, Jotun is a gorgeously hand animated action puzzler that tells an incredible story of one soul trying to prove her worth. The gameplay is slow and methodical, broken up with the fast paced engagements with the titular Jotuns. If you have any interest in Norse Mythology, this indie gem is worth your time.
6. THE BANNER SAGA TRILOGY
2014?2018 (MOBILE, PC, XBOX, PS4, SWITCH)
The Banner Saga Trilogy. Source: Destructoid.
The Banner Saga Trilogy is a set of three tactical RPGs. While not actually taking place in the real world, the names, places, plot, characters, and weapons are all based off of Viking legend. Your choices make all the difference in the Banner Saga, as who lives, who dies, and the bonds you make along the way are carried over from one game to the next. You must try to save the world from the Dredge, an ancient race who was previously considered extinct, and how you get there is up to you. The visuals, much like Jotun, are astoundingly hand drawn. The combat is as engaging as the story, and if you?re looking to dive into a Norse-adjacent adventure full of memorable characters and impactful storytelling, The Banner Saga Trilogy is for you. Developed by Stoic Studios, The Banner Saga Trilogy will more than satiate your Viking needs.
5. EXPEDITIONS: VIKINGS
Expeditions: Vikings is a top down strategy CRPG (Classic Role Playing Game) set in 790 AD. You are the newly appointed chieftain of your clan, and you are tasked with heading west ? towards Britain ? to plunder and pillage for glory and gold. There?s a ton of customization options in Logic Artists? Viking epic, with multiple classes to choose from and curtail your Viking to your preferences. Will you succeed in carving your name into history?s runestones, or does Valhalla await you? It depends on the way you take care of your camp, and how strategic you are in battle. Expeditions: Vikings has a solid story with lots of twists and turns as you navigate the diplomatic side of Norse factions and try to deduce who can be trusted and who will stab you in the back. If you enjoy classic RPGs and want one with a Norse twist, Expeditions: Vikings is highly recommended.
4. BAD NORTH
2018 (PC, XBOX, PS4, SWITCH)
Bad North. Source: StrategyGamer.
Bad North is another strategy game set in the Viking age, but with a twist. In Bad North, you?re defending against the Viking hoard instead of joining it. Described as ?brutally hard?, this procedurally generated world sees you strategically maneuver your troops across small islands in defense of the people of your nation. In Plausible Concept?s Roguelite, your tactical decisions matter. If you lose too many soldiers on one of your excursions, the next few battles will be nearly impossible. Challenging, engaging, but never unfair, Bad North is a great way to sink your teeth in a strategy game without a crazy hours long commitment.
3. HELLBLADE: SENUA?S SACRIFICE
2017 (PC, XBOX, PS4, SWITCH)
Hellblade: Senua?s Sacrifice. Source: VentureBeat.
Hellblade: Senua?s Sacrifice is a fantasy action-adventure game, set in the late 8th century. Hellblade sees you in the mind of Senua, a Pict warrior who has arrived at the border of Helheim in order to save the soul of her dead lover, Dilion. Touted for its incredible graphics, facial animations, and story, Hellblade will take you through a terrifying story of tragedy and love, all wrapped up in a glorious Norse package. It?s not for the faint of heart, however, as Hellblade also comments on mental illness and the struggles that go along with it. If a deep dive into the psyche of someone slowly losing their mind with grief, along with outstanding visuals and pretty captivating gameplay sounds like something you?d be into, give Ninja Theory?s Hellblade: Senua?s Sacrifice a look.
2. RUNE/RUNE CLASSIC
2000/2012 (PC, PS2)
Rune. Source: Steam.
Rune (Rune Classic is the incredible HD remaster) is an action-adventure game, and it doesn?t get much more Norse than this. You are Ragnar, a young Viking warrior sworn into the Odinsblade, an order of warriors bound to protect the runestones created by Odin to bind the evil deceiver of the gods, Loki. If the runestones are destroyed, Loki will be free to start Ragnarok, seeing to the end of reality as we know it. Despite being twenty years old, Rune holds up impressively well. The story is interesting, the combat system is still solid, with a variety of weapons and ? especially for the time ? a surprising medley of ways to advance in different areas. It looks a little rough around the edges by today?s standards, but if you?re a fan of Viking mythology, Human Head Studio?s cult classic is a must play.
1. GOD OF WAR
God of War. Source: OnlySP.
The God of War series has been releasing games since 2005. Eight games in total grace the franchise, with seven of them focusing mainly on the Greek pantheon. The eighth installment, however, finds Kratos in ancient Norway. Having grown tired of his destructive ways, Kratos decides to live a quiet life in the Norwegian wilderness in Midgard with is wife, Faye, and his son, Atreus. The game starts with the passing of Faye, and a visit from a curious stranger with god-like powers. From there you are set to explore six of the nine realms as you attempt to unravel the mystery of why the sir and synjur have taken notice of you and your family. God of War (2018) completely flips the God of War formula on its head. The button mashing has been replaced by souls-like combat, and the brash, aggressive nature of a story of vengeance has been turned into a heartfelt tale of a father and son learning to exist together and survive in a hostile world. It also inverts expectations of the gods themselves; as is tradition with God of War games, the gods are malevolent, hateful, greedy, vein individuals that stand as obstacles and a monument to what power can do to those who are unchallenged, as opposed to the noble and charitable beings represented in Norse Mythology. The combat is fantastic, the story grips you from the beginning, and the graphics are still some of the best the business has to offer. Santa Monica Studios are veterans in the industry, and they have outdone themselves with God of War (2018).
Viking games are a trend the industry has been following for years, with no sign of slowing down. As long as we love to spend time roaming the nine realms and exploring the endless well that is Norse Mythology and history, more games will dive into this subject matter to make interesting experiences for us to enjoy. We have yet to see if Assassin?s Creed Valhalla will be the next great addition to our Viking library, but until then, I?ll be scratching my berserker itch with the countless other games taking place in the wonderful world of the Northmen.
Thank you so much for reading everyone! I know there?s plenty of other Norse based video games out there to play, these are just the ones that I?ve enjoyed the most over the years! I?m really looking forward to trying Assassin?s Creed Valhalla and I hope it?s as good as the other games on this list. Thanks again for reading!