Immortals
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Greek Mythology in Video Games: Why is it so Prevalent?

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If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ve probably been exposed to Greek mythology quite a lot. Chances are good you’ve recently played Hades, the excellent roguelike from Supergiant Games, or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. As far back as the 1980s, games centered on Greek mythology have fascinated gamers and recontextualized ancient stories through a modern lens.

Why has Greek myth remained so enduringly popular in culture, and specifically in video games? Let’s take a closer look.

Recognizable Names and Stories

Since the majority of school kids learn about Greek myths in class, the names and stories found within are familiar to a wide audience. As a game designer, it can be easier to sell a story about established characters of legend than trying to make your own creation understandable to a wide audience.

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People know characters like Zeus, Ares, and Poseidon. When you hear the name “Aphrodite,” you know to expect the Goddess of Love. These sweeping archetypes can add a lot of flavor to a world in a few quick strokes, easing the heavy lifting of worldbuilding and allowing developers to focus on other elements of the game.

Worlds of Heroes and Monsters

The mythical world of Greek legend is the very foundation of the Western understanding of the heroic journey. Joseph Campbell wrote at length about the monomyth, the quintessential hero’s journey seen in epic tales from the Odyssey to Star Wars.

This translates wonderfully to video games, where adventuring across untamed lands to fight monsters and save the innocent is a core gameplay experience.

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By tapping into the deep well of classical heroes, games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey can present a fantasy that players are already familiar with. This allows the developers to quickly get players invested in the journey that their game will take them on without needing to spend too much time dumping exposition on them.

Modernizing Classics

One of the biggest draws for any modern retelling of ancient myths is seeing how the creators go about modernizing classical characters. Seeing a creator’s take on the God of War’s relationship with the Goddess of Love can give a new appreciation for and insight into the myths that we all learned in school.

This fuels an inherent curiosity that can often drive players to discover more of a virtual world so they can see what else has been updated, changed and modernized.

In the case of 2018’s reboot of God of War, where the Spartan Kratos is transported to the Norse pantheon to battle those gods, Kratos’ background in Greek myth is pivotal for understanding the “fish out of water” story.

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While Kratos’ origins as an anti-hero in the typically heroic Greek setting already set him apart, his foray into a world as unfamiliar to him as modern audiences made him even more of an outsider in God of War.

From Kid Icarus to Immortals: Fenyx Rising, there are countless examples of excellent video games inspired by classic Greek myths. If history is any indication, we’ll likely be telling stories about the gods of ancient Greece for centuries to come.