Myth in games

The Dark World

Here, different is everything!

You know things are serious when some sort of magical amulet, forbidden gateway or similar jiggery-pokery sends you to a land where everything is all topsy-turvy. Often, the Dark World isn’t even a “world,” so much as the future, the spirit realm, or some other excuse to paint the place a different colour and call it a new level.


- Buildings don’t have to be constructed of human flesh pulled over weeping wounds, floors oozing blood, flickering light occulting unearthly horrors... but it would be nice.
- Expect at least one puzzle involving flipping between worlds. Pat yourself on the back when you work it out!
- Whatever visual filters the developers have access to, this is where they’ll be.

Some Examples:

Silent Hill, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Silent Hill, Link to the Past, Silent Hill.

Above: You so crazy!

Where’s This Come From, Then?

The earliest Dark Worlds may be Shambhala and Agartha, the “hollow Earth” inside our own planet. The only people in the 20th Century who took such stories seriously were New Age nuts and Adolf Hitler, compared to whose imaginations James Sunderland’s adventure is probably a sensible tale about fairly mundane goings-on.

Above: But of course

How Do Games Do It?

Shadowman’s Dark World is where the hero goes whenever he’s killed, making death a necessary part of the game. The motif of underground shadow-worlds can be seen in Morrowind’s Dwemer Ruins, but a fuller exploration of the legend is vintage ARPG Terranigma. This game’s hero lives in the Shadow World and must travel to our own world to save it.


The Beast

Nothing a shave won’t fix.

This savage monster may well, due to an irony that never gets old, be one of the most civil fellows you’ll ever encounter. Some Beasts alternate between forms, while others are animals with human characteristics.


- Most likely to be named via a clever “lunar” pun.
- Female Beasts, be they cat, fish, donkey or ant, will be ridiculously sexualised.
- Belong to an ancient and noble lineage whose customs – this is weird! – precisely resemble those of tribal humans.

Some Examples:

Altered Beast, Brutal: Paws of Fury, and… look, sorry…

Above: Obligatory

Where’s This Come From, Then?

Pre-agricultural shamanic priests would ritually “transform” into animals to be hunted. Skip forward to Norse Berzerkers, whose animalistic frenzy on the battlefield had enemies thinking them savage animal-men. The fascination caused by these practices was fed by stories like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Jungle Book, and Abbot and Costello Meet the Wolf Man.

How Do Games Do It?

If videogames are going to employ the notion of the Noble Savage, this is where they’ll do it. Games like Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Shining Force 2 use tribal animism to suggest a romantic notion of natural harmony. Less wholesomely, the shrieking villagers of Resident Evil 5 also invoke the motif of the Beast and invite you to shoot it in the head before it gores you with a spear.


The Belly of the Beast

Have a Whale of a Time!

Before a hero is ready for the final battle, they must be ground in the very guts of hostility. This could mean a trip to the Underworld, or a spell alone and unarmed in enemy territory, but we gamers are a literal lot: when we say “Belly of the Beast,” often we mean, “the digestive tract of a sodding great monster.” Ew.


- Don’t worry, you’ll get those weapons back. Even the crap ones.
- Ever eat too much cheese before going to bed? You may have met some of the enemies exclusive to this realm.
- That door you just went through… did it look kind of like… NO, NO IT DID NOT.

Above: DOOR

Some Examples:

Infinite Devil Machine (Halo 3), The Living Cave (Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts), the non-Blue-Öyster-Cult segments of Prey.

Where’s This Come From, Then?

The best-known example is the Biblical story of Jonah, a prophet who got his groove back after being eaten by a whale. The ickier overtones of the motif are illustrated by Cronus, the Titan who ate all his kids save Zeus, who in turn cut Cronus open to free them; whether Zeus had to contend with microsecond-precise swimming sequences is unclear.

Above: Yes, we’re surprised it took this long, too

How Do Games Do It?

Far be it from us to go pop-psychology here, but Freud would go nuts for these levels. The plethora of fleshy tunnels, moist doorways and oozing apertures make a player long for clever twists on the theme. These can be found in levels like Ocarina of Time’s Jabu-Jabu, a benevolent creature who wants only for you to cure him of the ills in his guts; or the final act of BioShock, in which the hero must wilfully immerse himself inside a Big Daddy to conquer Rapture.


  • Hinro - October 25, 2009 2:37 a.m.

    Hey there's nothing wrong with being a geek elilupe. Good catch on the fact that Cronus never ate Poseidon I actually didn't know that. I knew that the only reason Zeus wasn't eaten was because his mom wrapped a stone in a clothe and Cronus thought it was Zeus and ate that instead. And I knew that Zeus was sent to live in isolation on Crete until the day that he was strong enought to face Cronus but I didn't know that Poseidon was never eaten. I must do some reaserch to check how he managed to escape being eaten. P.S: and to IAmInFactTomG I am glad that I could make your day. I did know that the saying was from a game I just saw it as an opening to explain who Atlas was. You don't get too many opportunities to explain that in life.
  • IAmInFactTomG - September 22, 2009 11:34 p.m.

    @elilupe: Thanks, consider me schooled.
  • solsunforge - September 21, 2009 5:24 a.m.

    Cyberninja your annoying. I will follow you to the ends of every single damn article and tell you so. Your the epitomy of a spoiled only child who happens to be slightly retarded and uneducated.
  • noobeater - September 20, 2009 8:30 p.m.

    Knows all your moves, but faster. Has all your gear, but better. Remember in Twins, how Danny DeVito was like Arnie without the good bits? You’re Danny DeVito. hahahahahhahahahahhahaha LEGENDARY WORDS
  • Conman93 - September 18, 2009 3:43 p.m.

    Lol Dark Pikachu. That should totally be a costume for pikachu in the next smash bros
  • squishysquishy - September 18, 2009 6 a.m.

    Come on GR, the entry for "Shadow" was practically begging for a Persona 4 mention, and ye prevailed not. Ah well. Fantastic article anyway. I've always been a fan of pan-cultural archetypes, and its refreshing to see I'm not the only one who can spot them the grand gaming lexicon. Cheers!
  • Samael - September 18, 2009 4:10 a.m.

    "Above: Let’s see you tell Qui-Gon Jin/Aslan/Taken to piss off" I think you mean Qui-Gon Jinn/Aslan/Taken/RA'S AL GHUL! But the message is the same. Don't fuck with Liam Nesson. Also, kcuf ajninrebyC.
  • AMayer - September 18, 2009 2:28 a.m.

    Increadibly interesting article. And speaking of Dr. Dre... Captcha - Tex detox (detox is the name of Dre's new album.)
  • NelosAngelos - September 18, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    I love mythology and finding the hidden meanings in everything. A very good read, bravo gents.
  • Hinro - September 18, 2009 1:07 a.m.

    Atlas was one of the many Titans that came along before the Greek gods. When the Gods came there was an epic battle which the Gods won. For punishment all the Titans where sent to do something for eternity. Atlas's punishment was to hold up the Earth. He has only left that position once and that was when Hercules(Herakles) needed something from him. Atlas was planning on leaving Hercules there but, amazingly, Hercules outsmarted Atlas (I said amazingly because Hercules wasn't that smart and was seen yelling at the sun for being too hot and killing his music teacher because he couldn't play the lyre and, finally killing his family for no apparent reason) and made him rehold the earth. Atlas has been trapped there ever since. That is my Classical History lesson for the day. If ever anyone has a question about Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse Mythology feel free to ask
  • Koouunn - September 18, 2009 12:26 a.m.

    lol who is atlas? spoiler - we have no idea
  • Doomwaffle - September 18, 2009 12:25 a.m.

    See this google search: This is basically what this is.
  • Hobojedi - September 17, 2009 11:36 p.m.

    Great article. it's like English (history) class, but fun.
  • GamesRadarTylerNagata - September 17, 2009 10 p.m.

    Guys, let's all play nice in the comments. :)
  • norid - September 17, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    that pikachu was awesome
  • Terro - September 17, 2009 8:49 p.m.

    The boon... It exists in every RPG every made...
  • FalconMbuster - September 17, 2009 8:49 p.m.

    Aight, finished. I enjoyed it. Sounded a bit like TV Tropes, though. I didn't feel all that enlightened from the article, but I guess that is because I frequent said site.
  • FalconMbuster - September 17, 2009 8:42 p.m.

    Oy, shut it. Your distracting me from reading the article! Just got to page 4 :O
  • lovinmyps3 - September 19, 2009 11:22 p.m.

    I love when you guys do articles like this!!! I get to read about games and be able to say I learned something!!
  • oz997 - September 19, 2009 4:08 p.m.

    nice Lost reference

Showing 1-20 of 42 comments

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