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The Top 7… Historical figures defamed by games

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History’s filled with exciting people and events, which has made it something of a goldmine for videogame premises over the years. However, not a lot of people actually pay close attention to history – and even if they did, sketchy records and opinionated historians have large chunks of it fairly murky. That means games, like other forms of history-exploiting media, can get away with bending the truth, leaving out key details or just creating wildly fictionalized versions of factual events.


Above: World War II, according to videogames 

Sometimes, though, they take it a little too far, and portray real people as slavering, irredeemable monsters for the sake of entertainment. So let’s take a look at a few of the most egregious examples and try to set the record straight.

(Oh, and you should know before going ahead that some of these entries contain spoilers for their corresponding games.)


7. Oda Nobunaga

You may know him as: Anything from a noble warlord intent on unifying Japan, to a demonic monster bent on conquest. He’s probably been portrayed in more games than any other Japanese historical figure, and his most notorious appearance comes in the Onimusha series, in which he makes a pact with demons to conquer Japan and eventually becomes their leader.

But in real life, he was: A warlord with a dream of bringing 16th-century Japan under the rule of a single militaristic ruler, thereby ending centuries of civil war between petty lords and samurai clans. Sure, he was remarkably ruthless and brutal, going so far as to assassinate his own brother and, later, massacre and burn down an entire Buddhist monastery when its warrior-monks refused to join his cause. But in an era when lethal treachery was politics as usual and wholesale slaughter was considered a really cool thing to participate in, his methods weren’t really out of the ordinary.

Above: Never mind that he was played by Cobra Commander in his first-ever NES game 

For all his awfulness, though, Nobunaga also took time to be a patron of the arts, encouraging the development and spread of Noh theater and the tea ceremony. He also built some of Japan’s greatest castles, took steps to limit the power of local lords over their fiefdoms and seemed to get on pretty well with foreigners, encouraging the spread of European culture and Christianity. He even went so far as to wear European clothes himself, and at one point appointed a missionary’s slave as one of his pages. (He was also a big fan of European guns, something that might have been the inspiration for his demon-aligned portrayals).

Above: Now that we think about it, there was something distinctly European about Nobunaga’s demon pals… 

For what it’s worth, Nobunaga never got to see his ambition fulfilled, as he was betrayed, captured and forced to commit seppuku by one of his own generals, Mitsuhide Akechi (whose name was borrowed for Onimusha’s hero, Samanosuke Akechi). His goal of unifying Japan was eventually completed by his successors, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa, giving way to a couple hundred years of relative peace and order. Not a bad legacy for someone remembered as one of Japan’s most evil rulers.

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61 comments

  • mothbanquet - November 2, 2013 5:19 a.m.

    'You French prick'... Still makes me chuckle to this day.
  • Forsvaine - September 18, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    Honestly, I can kind of see why Ford was demonized, because he was an anti-semite, right? As for Edison, I think it's only speculated.
  • Jamahl - March 19, 2011 3:33 a.m.

    Looking back at this, why was Jesus from AC2 not on this list? It basically says that he wore a peice of eden called the Shroud of Turin (as you may know from real life) and hypnotized his followers, and only when the templars took it from him was he killed.
  • psycho ninja 4 - September 16, 2011 7:16 p.m.

    Wait, Jesus was in the game? O_o
  • FFSamurai - August 20, 2010 6:31 a.m.

    Even though this has been commented on already I can't help but ask. Really, that's the version of Dante your going with? Not doing the whole "Super Metrosexual Trigger Happy Japanese" mercenary one instead? And then there's Virgil, the "Super Metrosexual, slash-happy Japanese" guy who represents the greek philosophy and guide to Dante in the divine comedy? These two are seriously less deserving of a spot than the "Master Chief"-i-fied version from a B-rated action slasher on your list? Aside from this, very nice list, especially of Nobunaga.
  • fattoler - August 19, 2010 12:13 a.m.

    Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb
  • RacoonHail - June 7, 2010 9:54 p.m.

    The history stuff is very well done. With all the mentions of people defamed by Assassin's Creed II (Spoiler's) I am surprised that there is no mention of Machiavelli being one of the good guys! I personally laughed my ass off when he first appeared as a member of the good guys. Read The Prince, and unless he is being sarcastic (which is actually possible) he is one bad dude.
  • SenatorPepper - June 7, 2010 2:37 p.m.

    This is a truly incredible piece of games journalology, and a perfect example of the sort of content GamesRadar offers that you can't find on those OTHER gaming website. Maybe it's just because I'm a history buff myself, but this article, for me, was a total RadarGasm. And happy belated birthday.
  • Darkwun - June 7, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    I love the fact Yasuke gets a mention, as I'm currently writing a book on him :D
  • Zeb364 - June 6, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    Great top seven. I like the touch of serious intelligent discussion, it provides a refreashing change of pace. A little variety never hurt anyone. The General Custer one was hilarious though. Never have to worry about the Gamesradar crew taking themselves too seriously.
  • BrushieTundra - June 4, 2010 4:31 a.m.

    Great article. I love history!
  • JohnnyBarnstorm - June 4, 2010 12:40 a.m.

    Oh man! Don't forget the Indian wrestler The Great Gama! He was immortalized in Shadow Hearts Covenant as a... uh... man who loved the company of other men. And to finish Joachim's side quest, you must... er... take him.
  • NightCrawler_358 - June 3, 2010 12:08 p.m.

    Dante wrote a stern poem? THE FIEND!
  • JenosIdanian - June 3, 2010 10:05 a.m.

    Wow, being burned while being hanged is not a pleasent way to go.
  • jhayen - June 2, 2010 11 p.m.

    For the people calling theemperor an idiot: Read your damn history, he didn', create the light bulb, the bulb was created long before. He just synthesized the first lasting filament. And AC is just incorporating the "what if" that has made so many religions before possible. Stop saying it's exetreme, it's fiction, like almost every other game out there.
  • Shrimpandwhitewine - June 2, 2010 7:03 a.m.

    I loved this top 7, I am quite fond of games and history. Great work Mikel.
  • InFeRnOg - June 1, 2010 4:25 p.m.

    What about Gregori Efivomich Rasputin? Does Shadow Hearts: Covenant, ring any bells? Or how about the film Hellboy?
  • JaptainAmerica - June 1, 2010 3:29 p.m.

    I've been Japanawikiparazed. Great stuff.
  • philipshaw - June 1, 2010 11:08 a.m.

    This was a very informative article

Showing 1-20 of 61 comments

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