The Top 7… Historical figures defamed by games

Some were good, some were bad, but none of them were this evil

You may know him as: A “mad monk” who seized control of Florence with the help of the stolen Apple of Eden in Assassin’s Creed II (specifically in its Bonfire of the Vanities DLC). Controlling the minds of its rulers to fit his own warped vision of morality, he declared himself a prophet and began an oppressive campaign to destroy all secular art and culture in the city, and to starve its people until they accepted him as their leader.

But in real life, he was: A notable opponent of Rodrigo Borgia, for starters, who you may also know as Pope Alexander VI… and ACII’s central villain. If anything, you’d think that’d have put Savonarola firmly in main character Ezio’s camp, but no – his fire-and-brimstone preaching about the evils of frivolity, excess and Church corruption (all of which Borgia was a prime example) made him a prime candidate for villainhood. And that’s to say nothing of his destruction of irreplaceable Renaissance artwork, or that he made sodomy punishable by death in Florence.

ACII gets some things right about Savonarola, like his drive to destroy luxury items on so-called “bonfires of the vanities,” and his eventual execution by burning. However, while ACII’s Savonarola usurped Florence’s ruling Medici family with the help of an ancient relic, the real one came to power after the Medicis surrendered to Charles VIII of France. And while game-Savonarola sought to exert absolute power over the city-state, the real one put reforms in motion that led to a more democratic Florentine government.

Finally, while game-Savonarola was seized by an angry mob, tied to a stake and stabbed to death by Ezio before the flames could kill him, the real Savonarola’s death was far more dramatic. After pissing off Borgia by publicly calling him corrupt in his sermons, Savonarola was banned from preaching (which he did anyway) and eventually excommunicated from the Church. About a year later, he was arrested for heresy, tortured into signing a confession and, finally, burned while being hanged from a giant iron cross.

Above: That’s Savonarola at the center, dangling just above the flames

So, kind of a dick – but not that much of a dick. And speaking of dicks…

5. General Custer

You may know him as: The jaunty fellow on the left there.

Above: And so, Custer’s Revenge worms its way onto yet another list article

But in real life: We’re pretty sure he never forced himself on a woman tied to a cactus.

Above: A little genocide, sure, but cactus rape? Nah


After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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