From the International: Video Games from Different Cultures


Photo Courtesy of Joshua Eddy.

This article first appeared in the spring 2022 Mace & Crown magazine issue. 


Video games have become a revolutionary form of entertainment throughout the years. Players get to experience a story instead of just watching it or listening to it. They get sucked into the world that they’re playing in. Great games have a tendency to show you the beauties and horrors of our world, leaving an impact on your way of thinking. There are plenty of video games out there that deserve a bigger reputation or simply, a closer look into them.


 The Wagadu Chronicles (African mythology and culture)


“The Wagadu Chronicles” is an ambitious but enticing game that is still  in development but is on its way to fully release this year. This game is an MMORPG that aims to make roleplaying a central part of the genre. What makes it so mesmerizing is the team’s dedication to creating this African folklore and culture based fantasy world. It combines these fantastical African stories and adds the flair of magic to it. The lore, creatures, magic, and spirits of the world serve to encapsulate the essence and wonder of African legends. Not only is this an MMORPG, it can also be played like a tabletop game that’s compatible with the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. On top of that, the developers provide a 300-page pdf file full of all the lore you need to not only fall in love with the game’s world but be immersed in it. It’s even more astounding that the developers are now working on a seventh lorebook to add on to an already thorough and complex lore. The team went above and beyond by crafting stories, characters, and in-game history that reveres and celebrates the beauty in the diversity of Africa culture. Not only does it showcase how rich African culture is, but it also shows how beautifully artistic it is as well. As for the gameplay, it can be accessed the same way as the PDF file. When subscribed to Twin Drums’ newsletter, you can get access to the alpha. What makes this game so fresh is how it diverts from the constant grind other RPGs put you through and allows you to customize a character with your own skillset and steady progression system. Twin Drums kept to their word and would prefer players soak in the beauty of the world and the roleplaying aspects it offers. This is an attractive take on MMOs as opposed to a game where hours and money must be spent for noticeable progress and enjoyment.


Blasphemous (Europe – Spain)


This game came out three years ago but still carries a reputation for being criminally underrated. “Blasphemous” is a masterfully crafted game that would entice hardcore fans of Soulsborne and Metroidvania games. The environment is embossed with gothic architecture showing signs of decay and ruin. You play as the Penitent One, the last survivor of your congregation, trying to free the world from the evil it’s covered in. This game’s ambience is  a love letter to Spanish culture, folklore and history. Catholic Gothicism shrouds the environment and is visible from the world’s visual aesthetic all the way to its downright sacrilegious boss fights. Spain’s culture isn’t only influenced by its Roman history but also deeply impacted by its Visigothic and Islamic influences. Local folklore seeps through the game as well, creating a dark fantasy world that is reminiscent of real-world history but is so fresh that it’s surrealistically immersive.. It’s important to note that the story and environment serve as a spiritual ode to Spanish arts and literary works, a source of Spain’s pride. It’s apparent that mystic art, such as the works of Francisco Goya and stories written by Jorge Luis Borges, is part of the influence that makes this game so haunting. 


As for gameplay, you can expect a relentless game that will truly put you in the shoes of a penitent. The enemies you encounter don’t hesitate to take advantage of a simple slip up and will punish you sevenfold for it. While the game is frustrating and requires grit to play through, it does an excellent job of egging you on to keep pushing forward. The small victories in difficult sections or the triumphant feeling  evoked when you finally beat that boss reveals more about a world that is begging for a miracle. For an even more immersive experience, play through the game in its native Spanish tongue. From a fluent Spanish speaker’s perspective, the talented voice actors do an outstanding job of pulling you into the eerie and malignant nature of the game.


This War of Mine (Europe – Poland)


Whenever a game is set in war or rooted in combat, you’re often the soldier or the heroic protagonist of the story. In the glory days of “Call of Duty”, you’d play as soldiers who played a pivotal role in historic battles or even fictional ones set in our modern world. Even in games like the “Fallout” series, you can still completely change the course of in-game history and make an ending completely different based on your actions. “This War of Mine” flips the script on what it means to be in wartime. It doesn’t relish you in glory, and it doesn’t make you a part of something bigger and more important. It’s the ugly truth of struggling for your life in a broken, war-torn city. This beautifully melancholic game was the product of inspiration from the Siege of Sarajevo, often known as the longest siege in modern history, where thousands of civilians lost their lives along with the soldiers fighting that war. The game’s narrative doesn’t dare shy away from the bitter-cold reality that average men, women, and children suffer through during this time. Food is scarce. Medicine is scarce. Safety itself is scarce. Not only do you have to worry about going against the elements, but you have to be wary of violent scavengers and militants while protecting your own group of fellow survivors. Treading through destroyed buildings, dim streets and abandoned houses is both tense and bleak. The game knows it’s difficult but that’s the point. You’re stuck with having to worry about these dire circumstances and still survive. However, what’s truly brutal about it isn’t just the difficulty of the game. It’s the story. You grow attached to different characters and feel sympathy for them. When tragedy strikes these  characters, it leaves an empty feeling in your chest and you suffer through that loss. The distress it puts you through lingers well after the game is put away. The grounded and realistic nature of it offers an important lesson about the reality of war. The story’s anti-war narrative is still relevant today as it would’ve been all those years ago. So much so that the game creators even made a fundraiser to help Ukrainian fugitives during their current troubling times.


Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (Asia – Japan)


“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” has been infamously known for giving players inexperienced with the souls genre a beatdown. However, this game is something utterly fresh compared to Miyazaki’s other works. As opposed to the “Berserk” inspired series, “Dark Souls,” Miyazaki uses rich Japanese folklore and history in “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”. The architecture of feudal Japan shrouds the game, and it provides a stunning view of the world around you. Every enemy you encounter has a direct link to Japanese history or Japanese legends that can be found in statues or paintings. “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” reveres the mythological history behind every character and bossfight. In addition to the beautiful aesthetic, Buddhist themes are present in the story and the architecture that make you ponder fate and the cycle of reincarnation. Yes, this game is brutal, but it’s complemented by a fascinating story that makes every hair-pulling encounter worth the progression. The game studio’s decision to focus the game on a set protagonist differentiates “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” from other Soulsborne games. You get to see Sekiro, the main character, go through personal development and interact with the world around him. Over time, the story reveals what type of person he truly is, and it makes the story both engaging and heartfelt. Depending on how you fight your way through the story, the environment of the world around you can change drastically. Over time, the progression system allows you to evolve into a more experienced fighter as it forces a quick-witted playthrough but not a reckless one.


Mulaka (Latin America – Mexico)


For lovers of adventure games, “Mulaka” takes a fresh spin on the genre by using Tarahuamaran culture to shape the world you play in. You play as a shaman named Sukurúame tasked with warding off evil from your world, maintaining peace. Armed with a spear, the ability to see both the living and spirit world, and the ability to shapeshift, “Mulaka” offers an adventure that is nothing short of a fun ride. You will notice the landscape is based on Mexico’s northern region and the art style is based on native imagery. The story itself is narrated in Raramuri, Tarahumara’s native language, which adds to the wonder the world offers. Add on the beautiful soundtrack made with instruments from that region, and you achieve an immersive experience in Tarahuamara’s mythology. The creators of the game did an excellent job at making sure the game was authentic. They didn’t want a game that is only “fun.” They wanted a game that could offer a unique experience into legends that still haven’t had a chance to come to life the way they do in “Mulaka”. Every level, whether it’s fast-paced or mellow, really drives home that the world you’re playing in feels real and grounded. Playing as the shaman in this world emphasizes the surreal magic that is embedded into native folklore. The combat isn’t repetitive and doesn’t lend itself as a button-mashing game, but it requires unique approaches for different enemies and locations. You have several abilities and can play through the entire game experimenting with how enemies can be defeated. The gameplay is action-packed and pairs excellently with its story. As a whole, it was thoughtfully put together with pride and love. If you’re ready to be enthralled by the grandiose legends from a humble tribe, then look no further. “Mulaka” offers a beautiful experience.


These stories have an incredible story to tell and present a whole new world for you to explore. What sets video games apart from other forms of entertainment is that you’re placed in the shoes of the characters you play as. To look through a perspective that might be completely foreign to you is an experience that should be cherished. With that being said, be sure to relish in the tales that creators have poured their heart into creating.