Viking history has always had a place in the world. As a child, learning about Vikings was a fascinating time. They seemed like such an interesting group of strong and proud people with a deep background of mythology and secrets. While everyone who had any history classes in their life has probably come across the topic of Vikings, it wasn’t really touched in gaming too much. That is, until recently. While we had interesting medieval stories, and stories of quest and conquering, the rich and sometimes complex mythology that follows Viking history was too much for game publishers to want to try and take on.
In 2011 we got to see Skyrim come out. while this was not solely focused on Vikings, many of the quests and ideas were drawn from their history. I think this was almost the gateway into this now very popular genre of games. The Vikings TV show started shortly after in 2013. This show took off and was welcomed by all, but the gaming community especially found interest in it. It was something about how these ruthless, proud, and adventure-seeking warriors conducted business. What if that could be you conquering new lands and gathering riches. In the video game world, that was easy to create.
Recent Rise in Popularity
There have been a number of Viking-based games in recent years. In fact, 2017-2018 saw several games come out that were loved by some and hated by others. While none of them ever really took over the industry, there were a few that did stand out:
You may have played some of these, and the style of games while all having Viking options range from fighting to strategy. I do believe that these may have helped shape the future of the Viking and Norse games, but these were not the two big heavy hitters to the genre. Each of these did things well, but none included the full history. For Honor had beautiful combat, and the weapons and style were very on point to what we know about the Viking’s brutal combat. Yet it didn’t dive super deep into the true Norse legends. Niffelheim did get into some of the mythology aspects with the idea being that you need to return to Valhalla where you believe you belong. It taught us about the different lands and beliefs but lacked much of why these matter.
Then, in 2020 a franchise known for its betrayal of historic events and deeply researched topics decided to produce a game on Vikings. With this news, we knew we would finally get a game that got deep into history, lore, fighting, and the everyday life these people endured. Assassins Creed: Valhalla was released, and has been well received and enjoyed by many. It has done so well, that in less than a year it is already the second most profitable title in Ubisoft’s history. Ubisoft has made some insane games over the years, so this is big news! The game takes you through a journey of invading and taking over land while having to build a life for yourself, and it does it very well. All while telling the very complex history and stories of Vikings and Norse mythology.
Just a few months after the release of Assassins Creed: Valhalla a very unexpected game came out, Valheim. When I say this was a surprise… I’m not kidding. This indie game team of five people dropped this game out without too much advertising or hype. Many suspected it to be your typical indie game experience, but it was far from it. Within the first five weeks, the game had sold almost six million copies. People were hungry for Viking content and wanted as much of it as possible. While this game is different from Valhalla, it focuses on the afterlife and legends of the nine realms.
The Future of Viking Games
It’s no surprise that more companies are now going to try and jump on the train and see how far it can go. While I do believe that there are more stories that can be told, the Norse mythology that we have access to only goes so far. Sure, these stories can be interpreted in different ways, and we can imagine all types of different raid scenarios and grand battles that they may have faced, but the actual history does come to an end at a point. How far can these publishers stretch it before it starts to feel like a copy of the last game?
There are some promising titles coming out soon. God of War Ragnarök is a big one that has many eyes on it. Valheim is also working on many updates for their game as well. I’m sure that the future will hold some more we do not even know about yet. Personally, I really enjoy this time period of history and love the stories and legends. I am not opposed to seeing this genre take over for a while. It is a refreshing change from the zombies and slashing. I just hope it is not run into the ground by big companies just wanting to make a quick dollar.
Have you played any of these recent games? Do you think this is a new genre that is here to stay for a while?