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.


  • CatrParrot - September 17, 2009 8:07 p.m.

    Nice article, both entertaining AND educational. GamesRadar edutainment at it's finest.
  • albinomonkey90 - September 17, 2009 8:08 p.m.

    "The Chosen One" thing happens in almost every pokemon game. but instead of your mom waking you up its a creepy old proffesor.....
  • Cyberninja - September 17, 2009 8:17 p.m.

    hey typo i havent typed first in months and your reported and i been going to gamesrader since 03 so i care more about this site then you and your friends
  • Typo - September 17, 2009 8:28 p.m.

    You care about a website? Haha. You must've joined this site when you were 4 judging by your persona.
  • Jordo141 - September 17, 2009 8:46 p.m.

    Yes, children. Fight with your meaningless rhetoric.
  • waynski1457 - September 17, 2009 9:08 p.m.

    Great article! I always like a new way to look at things. And more meat means MORE GUTS! RIP AND TEAR! RIP AND TEAR!
  • GAYMER - September 17, 2009 10:24 p.m.

    "I have no idea who you are, but I thank you for arousing me" I LOLed
  • V13Dragongal - September 17, 2009 10:53 p.m.

    Good article. im suprised no one made it sooner. also i LOLed when i saw that pikachu.XD
  • skyguy343 - September 17, 2009 11:20 p.m.

    who the hell is that in the last pic on page 2? havnt played any metal gears so i need someone to tell me
  • Undead - September 18, 2009 12:03 a.m.

    That first image shown was hilarious! xD
  • Caio - September 18, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    Great article. Just goes to prove you can recognize the Hero's Journey in pretty much every story ever told. Lots of fun, though.
  • Hinro - September 18, 2009 1:08 a.m.

    P.S: That was a really good article
  • GamerTagsSuck - September 18, 2009 2:33 a.m.

    Hinro... It was a quote from the article... Atlas is a character from Bioshock...
  • DarkPaladin - September 18, 2009 3:41 a.m.

    Despite what that first image depicts, Terranigma is truly fantastic game. If there was one SNES game they need to put on Virtual Console,it would that one, because so many people missed out on it as they didn't release it in North America, but did in Europe. Captcha - technology fracture
  • IAmInFactTomG - September 18, 2009 4:34 a.m.

    Hinro: You just made my freakin' day. DarkPaladin: Terranigma may just be my favourite narrative-based video game ever. Agreed re: VC potential. Though "Thank you for arousing me" is still funny as all get out.
  • wcatdoor - September 18, 2009 4:49 a.m.

    lol the good god from black and white...
  • oryandymackie - September 18, 2009 3:16 p.m.

    See, this "chosen one" thing is why I like "PROTAGONIST" from Fallout 3. Yes, we know he's the chosen one, but he's quiet, well dressed, gets the job done and then does some hillwalking/hunting at the weekend.
  • AA95mp - September 18, 2009 4:44 p.m.

    heres a few examples of the shadow you may forgoten about: kingdom hearts 2 at the beginning where you look into a waterfall and a shadow roxas will appear and in oblivion shivering isles an exact shadow copy of will appear and of course you'll have to kill it.
  • Hurricrane - September 18, 2009 9:12 p.m.

    I wish games would quit making me go INTO enemies, it just never sits well with me... the reason I've never beaten OoT, GoW2, and any other game that makes me go through that shit

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