When it comes to different cultures, some regions are home to highly distinct traditions and, as globalization takes its course, these traditions are coming into even starker focus. Those who live in Ireland or have visited are well aware that this island has some far-reaching cultural imagery, from pots of gold to fields of stunning green pastures.
But locals are just as aware that these symbols are only the tip of the iceberg. Behind easy-to-recognize icons like rainbows and shamrocks are more complex notions, such as the hawthorn or oak tree, along with the Celtic knot and Dara knot. Projects that explore the heritage of Ireland usually incorporate one or many of these symbols—but to varying degrees of success.
Recently, international filmmakers have started to take a closer look at their source material for these projects. Overwhelmingly, scripts are starting to be more inclusive of the diversity of Irish traditions, folklore, and heritage. But this trend seems to fizzle out when it comes to video games. Looking back, have there been any stand-out video game projects that have touched on the living culture of Ireland?
Before we dive into the world of established PC and console titles, let’s explore the world of short-form games, such as slots and casual mobile titles. For fans of casino games like slots, there are tons of options that include Celtic themes and myths.
For example, many real money slots touch on symbols like the pot of gold and the rainbow, both of which might be attractive to players who enjoy Irish mythology—and feel like they have luck on their side. Other times, slots might take another approach to Celtic themes by adding music that features the harp, fiddle, and even bodhrán. These include titles like Lucky Emeralds and Slots O Gold Megaways.
Other games take a more literal approach. For example, racing games are an incredibly popular category in the sports simulation world. Titles like Need for Speed: ProStreet are now available for mobile gamers. This iteration takes players straight onto the track at Mondello Park in County Kildare. They’ll race around the hyper-realistic course where the annual British Superbike Championship and Rallycross takes place each year.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020)
The latest installation of the Assassin’s Creed franchise took players back in time to the Viking invasions of England. As the story advances, they must further the protagonist’s presence in Britain. Eventually, this led to the action on the shores of Ireland. The game deals primarily with Norse traditions and history—but researchers also spent their time crafting a realistic look at Ireland in the 9th century.
The chapter ‘Wrath of the Druids’ includes clan dynamics that many will find familiar, along with plenty of Dublin-based action that sheds light on the city’s earliest years.
Clive Barker’s Undying (2001)
This video game is based on the horror story Undying by master writer, Clive Barker. While this PC game flew under the radar for many, it’s become a bit of a cult hit for horror fans. The storyline takes players straight to the coast of Ireland back in the 1920s. Players navigate as Patrick Galloway, a paranormal Irish investigator who must help uncover the reason behind a slew of supernatural horrors. In terms of storytelling, historical accuracy, and thrills, it’s a fantastic title that has stood the test of time.
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (1996)
Opinions on the accuracy of Broken Sword diverge greatly. This point-and-click game takes players into the shoes of a conspiracy theorist researcher who’s on the trail of a Knights Templar-sized mystery. Over the course of his adventure, he stops over in Lochmarne. During his time there, players will recognize quite a few stereotypes at play—along with a few particularly well-placed exchanges.
For example, players are educated on the inaccuracy of phrases like ‘top ‘o the morning’. Similarly, the game benefits from having an Irish illustrator on board, Eoghan Cahill, who was able to bring even more realism to the table.
This action role-playing game is regarded as the most developed video game that draws on Irish mythology. The game is set in Doolin, a small village that’s hiding a big secret. Players navigate with two protagonists, both of whom must wander to the Netherworld to find the answers they seek. Along the way, there are tons of folktales, cryptids, and other callbacks to the island’s longstanding traditions—plus a really well-played metaphysical twist.
Best of all, the game includes a highly dynamic and memorable visual design. This truly lets players immerse themselves in the game-play experience. Keep in mind that not all of the monsters and folk creatures in this tale are part of Celtic mythology, while its Netherworld also seems to bear a lot of inspiration from East Asia. However, this game is still a top choice thanks to its more nuanced look at life and mythology in Ireland.