Worldbuilding is a crucial part of any story. It's not an easy task to create a believable setting with its own set of rules, customs, traditions and political affiliations and then weave a story into the said setting. Luckily, storytellers and video game writers don't always need to create complex settings when we've got history books as thick as Big Chungus.
Historical eras make a fabulous setting for video games. They've already got the world-building nailed, complete with their own set of rules, customs, traditions and political affiliations. Honestly, I don't think I need to justify the fact that historical eras make an amazing setting for video games. If you don't believe me, just go ahead and play the Ghost of Tsushima or any of the Assassin's Creed games.
Historical video games are not a new concept, they've been around since the era of NES. However, the problem is that modern video games have only explored a handful of historical eras. In other words, stuck with the safer options of medieval Europe. A few daring ones have ventured as far as the Viking era and feudal Japan.
There are so many historical eras and cities that would make an absolutely jaw-dropping setting for video games. Here are our top picks for the historic eras that video games NEED to explore.
The Mongol Empire was the largest empire to rule the world in early modern history, covering just under 18% of the earth's total landmass. It's the claim of the largest human empire ever has so far been only challenged by the British Empire in the 20th century. The Mongol empire covered parts of central Europe in the west, the Sea of Japan in the East in the Indian subcontinent in the south.
Simply put, the Mongolian Empire housed so many exotic locations complete with their own cultures. The conflict of local cultures and the imperial cultures makes it a melting pot of stories to tell. While we saw the Mongols in Ghost of Tsushima, in the shoes of the antagonist as well as a few other strategy games, we'd love to see a modern AAA title from the eyes of the Mongolians. It could be the story of Gengis himself or maybe one of his generals riding all the way from Europe to China.
Classic Mayan Civilization
When it comes to talking about extinct cultures, the Mayan culture is probably the one that's most often overlooked. I believe that the Mayan culture, mythology and civilization is an untapped treasure cave for video games.
For starters, the Mayan civilization had the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas which aided the development of stories, myths and mythologies. On top of that, the Mayans were renowned for their achievements in art, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. Their architecture was unlike anything that was found in Eurasia at that time.
No video game ever dared to explore the Mayan Civilization and let's not speak about pop-culture. However, the Mayan culture is an untapped goldmine of exotic stories, locations and customs which make it such a favourable setting for a video game.
British Raj in India
The crown jewel of the greatest empire ever, the British Raj in India makes up for a fabulous setting in a video game. What makes the British Raj unique is its politics. Back then, the subcontinent was divided into hundreds of princely states that shook hands with the British, while there were radical masses who opposed the colonists. What followed was a series of uprisings, assassinations and unlikely bonds that, this age, are sung as fabulous stores.
As the backbone of the industrial revolution, the Raj in India was a unique mix of the British culture amalgamating with multiple subcontinental cultures. The British Raj in India has been touched upon by the Assassin's Creed series in the Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India as well as mentioned in Assassin's Creed Syndicate. There were rumours of an Assassin's Creed India, but they shunned away. We'd like to see a video game to explore the British Raj in India or perhaps just trace the story of a freedom fighter in India.
One may think I'm putting out a one-too-many India references here and, given my cultural background, that may not be far from the truth. The Delhi Sultanate was a medieval Islamic empire compared to 5 dynasties that ruled a majority of the subcontinent for over 300 years.
The sultans were brave Islamic tribes, mainly originating from Iran, who ventured east-ward and conquered and built the city of Delhi. The traces of the long-gone sultanate were visible in the British Raj as well as the modern-day Delhi.
The 'medieval India' of the sultanate has never been explored in the video game setting. Powerful rulers, wars with the Mongols, and conflicts within the subcontinent make the Delhi Sultanate a perfect setting for a high-stake AAA RPG.
Unlike a few other periods on this list, the Russian revolution was as recent as 1917, although the rising of the revolution started as early as 1905. Basically, the country was in shatters and the WWI made the matters worse. Instead of helping out the people, the monarchy completely ignored them and started to throw elaborate parties for themselves, you know, the basic monarchy behaviour pattern. The people got angry and threw a fit that ended in Lenin's socialist rule.
While that may sound like your average everyday revolution, I see an amazing premise for a detective game. Lavish parties, high stake chases, political unrests and everything else that happened during the Russian Revolution is shouts "adapt me into a video game!"
The First Crusade
There's no denying that Crusades are on the OG historical video game settings and, with history as my witness, I can say that they make an amazing video game setting. The original Assassin's Creed took place during the third crusade and the rumoured upcoming Assassin's Creed will feature Richard the Lionheart's journey to the third crusade. The conflict and blend of the western versus Islamic culture have many stories to tell and places to visit.
However, we're yet to experience the first crusade in a video game. The politics wrapped within the religious agenda of the first crusade was unmatched by any other. Plus, the first crusade was the first wide-scale interaction of the western forces and the Islamic forces on the battlefield, so both of them had several tricks up their sleeves. We'd like to see a multi-perspective game set during the first crusade, where half of the story is told from the eyes of a crusader while the other half is witnessed from the eyes of a Saracen so we can understand and relate with both sides of the story.
Just like the Delhi Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire was a huge and influential empire, full of exotic locations and exciting stories, that has been vastly overlooked by video game developers. Assassin's Creed Revelations did tell the story of Ezio in Ottoman Istanbul, but it wasn't a story of the Ottoman Empire.
If there was one particular tale that I could pin down to be adapted into a video game, I'd pick the life of Mehmed the Conqueror who was described as "The Sultan of Two Lands and the Khan of Two Seas". As soon as he ascended to the throne at the age of 22, he set his eyes on Constantinople, the unconquerable Byzantine city. Generations of Ottoman rulers had tried to take the city of Constantinople but all failed.
Mehmed the Conqueror did the impossible and took the city of Constantinople thanks to his wit. But that wasn't all, he went on to conquests in Serbia, Morea, Bosnia, Venice, Moldavia, Albania, and many more. Oh, and did I mention the fact that he went head-on with Vlad the Impaler, aka, Dracula?
This one's for all the period K-Drama fans in the house. The Joseon Dynasty was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in Korea that ruled from the late 14th Century well into the 19th Century. Korea as we know it today would not exist if it wasn't for the Joseon Dynasty.
I'm not going to be picky here, a game set in any Joseon period would-be masterpiece, given that it is done right. For an outsider, the Korean culture may seem like an amalgamation of Chinese and Japanese cultures, but it's so unique on its own. While medieval Korea has been explored on the silver screen, it's yet to make a debut in the gaming industry.