Video game characters need to do stuff, or their games would be boring. More specifically, they need a reason to do stuff. The kinds of stuff they need to do to keep things interesting can include fighting, adventuring, and scaring the pants off you. In the real world, little inspires more fighting, adventuring, and scaring the pants off of you than religion, and the best video game religions do the same.
Video games occupy a weird space in artistic culture. In length and complexity they can put some of the greatest classic novels to shame, but in the entertainment pecking order, video games often are considered lowbrow. Yet many of the religions on this list are more than mere plot motivation; they are cosmological analyses of the planet and galaxy we inhabit, the nature of humanity, and why life exists at all (beyond the need to play video games). For sheer grandiosity and pensiveness, the best video game religions rival real religions in thoughtfulness and appeal.
- Photo: Xbox Game Studios
As Observed In: The Halo Series
The original Halo trilogy is steeped in Christian iconography, but The Covenant belief system is what drives the plot. The Covenant is a military alliance between six alien races who worship The Forerunners, an extinct race of ancient space explorers who built the Halo arrays.
The Covenant leaders, known as Prophets, are set on activating the arrays despite their bungled interpretation of what the arrays really do. The Prophets think the arrays are religious icons meant to send them on their "Great Journey," when in fact, the arrays were built to deprive an alien parasite called The Flood of sustenance... by eradicating all life.
The Halo installations are essentially galactic suicide nooses, and the fanatical Covenant hierarchy is hellbent on kicking everybody's chairs.
It's this religious mess that keeps Master Chief awake at night (or awake at all).10625Is this cool?
- Photo: Bethesda Softworks
As Praised In: Fallout 3
When nuclear war devastated the Capital Wasteland (previously known as Washington, DC), a single unexploded nuke came to rest amongst the rubble. A group of cuckoos decided to set up shop nearby and worship it as their new God.
They called themselves the Children of the Atom and considered each day without an explosion to be a gift from the bomb while simultaneously praying for the salvation its eventual detonation would bring.
If a member invites you over for dinner, try to convince them to come over to your house instead.7127Is this cool?
Pieces of EdenPhoto: Ubisoft
As Pursued In: The Assassin's Creed Series
The events of Assassin's Creed are set against a mish-mashed backdrop of historical and fictitious religions. The Knights Templar and the Assassin Order follow similar but opposing paths while infiltrating and leveraging existing religions as part of their conflict.
It all boils down to who will possess the Pieces of Eden, which are seen as religious artifacts, but are actually technological devices left behind by the nigh-extinct godlike holograms known as the First Civilization. Whoever controls the Pieces can control the minds of men and shape the destiny of the world.
With stakes that high, it's easy to understand how religions could be such potent weapons in the struggle between Assassins and Templars. In the first game alone, the Templars use the Crusades for cover while they seek their first Piece of Eden, while the Assassins operate out of base styled to pass as a Muslim mosque. The Assassin's Creed itself ("Nothing is true; everything is permitted") could be construed to mean that all the religions of man are fabrications to be manipulated towards world domination.3923Is this cool?
- Photo: Bethesda Softworks
As Mythologized In: The Elder Scrolls Series
Operating in secret, the Daedric cult known as The Mythic Dawn plotted to weaken the walls between the reality of every day Tamriel and the magical underworld known as Oblivion. Within Oblivion, the Daedric Prince, Mehrunes Dagon, spent millennia torturing the souls of his dead followers to harden them for his return to the mortal plane.
When the cult assassinates the entire Imperial line of succession in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it sparks the Oblivion Crisis, where the player must protect the physical world by making unholy excursions to fight the demonic hordes inside the tears in the fabric of reality and close the portals intended for Dagon's return.
It is very red and bloody when you go through those holes... and the trips really cut into the time you could be using to hit on comely barmaids.6153Is this cool?