Five Games Based on Nordic and Scandinavian Mythology
Classic mythology is the starting point for many of my favorite stories. Whether it’s Greek, Egyptian, or Roman gods, there’s something compelling about stories that allow legends to intrude on everyday life. While these three pantheons are perhaps the most widely-known, there is another which has slowly been gaining popularity over recent years, thanks in no small part to Marvel’s Thor series. Though most people can’t help but associate Norse and Scandinavian legends with comic book characters, there’s a lot more to it than magic hammers and frost giants.
Thankfully, this is something that video games seem to be picking up on. Scandinavian mythology contains a slew of interesting characters, creatures, and stories just begging for virtual adaptations, and these five games in particular have masterfully transformed these ancient myths into unforgettable interactive adventures.
Explore Forgotten Traditions in Simogo’s Year Walk
While Year Walk wasn’t the first game to tackle unique Scandinavian folklore, it did heighten interest in the Årsgång, a near-forgotten tradition in which a person would abstain from food and human interaction, then walk through town as a form of divination. Along the way, they’d meet and interact with an array of supernatural creatures who could give them information about the coming year.
The game itself plays the tradition fairly straight, though it’s wrapped in multiple narrative levels. As you journey on your own year walk, you encounter horrific visions, solve tricky puzzles, and unravel a complicated, dark story. By basing the game in real folklore, Simogo created an engrossing tale that both incited fear and inspired curiosity in a tradition which might otherwise have remained lost in the sands of time.
Burly Men at Sea Mixes Folklore With Original Storytelling
Burly Men at Sea’s connection to Scandinavian mythology might not be readily apparent, but it exists nonetheless. In this unique side-scrolling puzzle game, you play the burly Brothers Beard as they journey throughout the world in search of adventure and mystery.
The story itself takes place in early 20th century Scandinavia, but the folkloric references here are more inferred than direct. Take the lonely musician you find living behind a waterfall—he’s pretty similar to a fossegrimmen, a spirit who can teach the fiddle to those willing to pay the price. There’s also the mysterious figure that greets you at the end of each route, which quite resembles a lindworm, a Scandinavian take on the dragon or sea serpent. Though it might take a keen eye to spot it, Burly Men at Sea‘s roots in the myths and legends of Northern Europe run deep.
Troll and I Twists the Classic Troll Archetype
Troll and I’s connection to Scandinavian myth is right there in the title—the game follows the adventures of a troll and his human companion as they travel through the wilderness, playing off of the Scandinavian interpretation of trolls as fearsome, dangerous beings by making them reclusive and more sympathetic.
While other supernatural creatures do appear as enemies, the game emphasizes the compassion that’s possible between humans and nonhumans, while taking care that humans can be ugly and ferocious, too. By playing with mythological archetypes, Troll and I shows us familiar creatures in an interesting and unique new light.
The Banner Saga Tells an Original Viking-Inspired Tale
The Banner Saga adapts classic Viking stories for a new purpose, telling a challenging, dramatic story akin to something like A Song of Ice and Fire in video game form. Helmed by former BioWare developers, the game includes branching, character-driven narratives as well as tactical, turn-based combat.
But what’s really interesting is its historically-inspired setting, which was intentionally chosen to avoid the typical fantasy tropes of elves and orcs. While most of the story is original, the aesthetics —including characters like the Serpent—feel very Nordic, as does the language. (The game even features Icelandic voice talent.) It’s not a carbon-copy of classics, but rather a story told through that lens, capturing a feeling that’s both original and historic.
Journey Into the Afterlife in Jotun
In Jotun, you play as Thora, a Viking warrior who must prove her worth to the gods. She travels through the Norse version of Purgatory, battling the titular jotun—massive elementals straight from the Poetic Eddas.
Like The Banner Saga, Jotun also features an Icelandic voiceover to add to the immersion. While the story may not belong specifically to the canon of Norse lore, it draws heavily from mythological figures like the jotun, as well as the gods themselves, to tell a tale that can only be described in one word: epic.
Scandinavian Myth Adds Unique Texture to Popular Games
Though Scandinavian mythology may not be the most popular, that doesn’t make it any less compelling. In fact, because all five of these games use lore that’s less frequently seen, they feel quite different from the typical Greek/Roman/Egyptian fare. While they may not have much in common beyond their Nordic roots, games like Burly Men at Sea, Troll and I, Year Walk, The Banner Saga, and Jotun offer something unique in gaming, creating imaginative new stories connected to history through the power of myth.
Troll and I infuses classic Scandinavian myth with a compelling original story about compassion and friendship. Preorder your copy today!
Lead image source: IGN.