Now we're touching upon a very serious and controversial issue, in our sixth list in the series. This topic, religion, polarizes people and tends to offend a lot of people. In this particular list, because of the argumentative nature of the subject, I have chosen to choose less issues and instead, choose two games for one issue. But these two games differ in the fact that one of them defends the religious point of view but the other is atheistic.

How do we choose if one game is religious or atheistic? We only look at the game itself and see under what light the subject of the game is represented. If the game seems to be critical and distrustful of religion, it's atheistic, if not, religious.

I'm sure you're surprised to see this game here on the list. I was inspired to put this game on this list because of a real life controversy which this game caused, but even if such controversy hadn't surfaced in the media, still you can bring this game as an example of a an issue which may not be religious, but treads on its toes. Religion and science have had shaky relationships throughout their long history. Although many believe that science and religion can get along, many on the both sides of the controversy dismiss the other side completely. And if science and religion can date, they're the kind of couples who fall in and out of love constantly. Geography and astronomy were once the main battlegrounds- and now biology.

Darwin changed the entire history when he published his Origin of Species. Evolution, in a nutshell, is the theory which holds that the animals which can adopt to their surroundings better survive and therefore reproduce, and by reproduction they pass on their specific genes to their descendants. When this process of adoption and reproduction goes on for centuries, the animals change drastically, even to other species. Therefore the nature is in a process of ever reforming its living organisms. Those who defend this theory point to the massive amount of fossils which support this claim, and also to the fact that we have witnessed it in some particular species happen, for example, insects becoming more resistant to our poisons is an example of evolution. But those who oppose it claim that it can't justify the complexity of living organism and they also object the Social Darwinism which may be inspired by this theory.

Spore is a game entirely based on the evolution. Created by the famous Will Wright, it's a game which encompasses many genres. The game is praised because of its open-ended gameplay. You take a species and begin from cell stage which you control a cell. Pass this level successfully and now you have your creature as a wild animal, which eventually becomes intelligent and gathers into a tribe, a tribe which will evolve into a civilization soon. The final stage is when you develop a spaceship and leave the earth to space.

So how are we to interpret this game, a defense of evolution or an attack on it? It depends how you consider the role of the gamer. If you look at the game itself with no regard of the gamer, the game portrays a universe with no god. But if you consider that an intelligent person is "playing" the whole game, you can see the hand of god behind it all. Will Wright himself says that the developers "put the player in the role of an intelligent designer." And the truth is, much like the religious doctrine, it seems that the intelligent stage is the "purpose" of the evolution, and all creatures are moving towards a predetermined goal rather than reacting to environmental pressures and adopting to them accordingly. I for my own two cents think the game sides with the creationists. However, the game embodies the debate.

The game has been under attack by both sides. Many have pointed that it tries to indoctrinate young players into believing evolution and the others question its scientific accuracy.

No one says violence is good- but if there are a particular group of people whom God really hates and wants dead, can we make an exception to this rule? Is there a divine license to use force? Can religion justify violence in particular cases? We give two answers to this question. The first one is "yes".

Catechumen is an FPS Christian video game which tries to strip video games of their unholy violence and replace it with a holy one. IN this game you're not a bloodthirsty gamer out to kill people for fun, you have a divine mission. Your enemies are Pagan Roman soldiers and demons. You don't use guns since those things are unholy, instead you use a scared sword. So the game is a full crusade, and it shows religious people might resort to violence, but their victims deserve their deaths and they won't use unholy methods of killing.

But Breath of Fire II tries to show that you can't justify holy violence, violence is violence whatever the motive, and also, evil people can misuse this concept to reach their own goals.

The game is a traditional RPG in which you explore the environments freely and chat to NPCs and let the story go forward. The hero is an orphan called Ryu whose parents were killed by demons and is raised by the village priest. He escapes with a friend in order to become a priest- and the story goes on, but then he returns to his village in the climax, and there the father who raised him up asks him to bring one of his companions. So far into the game we've been thinking that all we've done for the church was a pious good thing to do, and the game seems to justify holy killings. But right at this moment you realize that the church is actually a front for a demonic tribe which kidnaps and destroys people, and father Hulk (your guardian) is one of the demons. From this point onward, the church is your enemy.

Although the game's religion is fictitious, it has clear allusions to Christianity in particular and other major real life religions in general. The shocking aspect of the game makes each gamer think "Am I really on the good side?" This is very important because you take the goodness of the church for granted until its evilness blew in your face. Are we wrong in just assuming that the religions are on the good side and therefore killing in their name is justified? The symbolism of the game is reinforced in the fact that the demons behind the church are the very creatures it tries to kill. The war is not between good and evil, but evil and evil.

Left Behind Series are a series games based on a series of books based on the Christian notion of apocalypse. In our time many sects of major religions eagerly await the end of the world as we know it. First the Antichrist, a ruthless ruler who serves Satan, conquers all the world. Then the Messiah will return to earth and defeat the Antichrist in the battle of Armageddon. Then a war Gog and Magog and holy forces for the city of Jerusalem will break out and the Messiah will free the world. This narration (more or less) is common to Christianity and Judaism, while Christians know who's the Messiah (Jesus) and also have strong guesses about the Antichrist (Obama). In Islam, some events are prophesied before the the day of the Judgment comes. Al Dajaal (the Antichrist) will fool people into believing that he or God and people will worship him. True Muslims will reject him but they can't defeat him. Allah will then send Jesus (yes, the same Jesus of Christians) to earth, and he will defeat Al Dajaal. The Shiite have a slightly different narration in which the main Messiah is Mahdi, a descendant of Muhammad and Jesus is his sidekick.

In these game series Antichrist has conquered the earth and the Armageddon has come. Good people are directly sent to heaven, but people who have been not so good and are in need of redemption must remain in the earth and fight the forces of evil. You fight those who follow Antichrist with the main objective of trying to convert them first and killing them if they didn't surrender. The soldiers of Antichrist include rock stars, politicians, and Secularists. In the multiplayer mode of the game you can control the forces of the Antichrist, and you have a similar goal: brainwashing believers into following the Antichrist. If you win, the game shows you roasting in Hell. The game is entirely built upon the Christian notion of apocalypse and it can provide a good example of how some particular people think about this subject.

In my "Top 10 Cool Religions in Video Games" which was a comic list (some people didn't get that) I dedicated an entry to Church of the Children of Atom in Fallout 3. Now I want to talk about it seriously, but before that, let me quote parts of that entry:

"When nuclear war broke between China and America, many parts of America turned into dust, and what was once a global superpower became a big apocalyptic Wasteland. Washington D.C. suffered this unfortunate fate too, and now is known as the Capital Wasteland. One particular bomb fell on earth but didn't explode, and some folks gathered and built a town around it- called Megaton. Some of these folks began worshiping this bomb which is about to detonate. They called their religion the Church of the Children of Atom. [...] The story is, each single atom contains a Universe. When each atom splits (AKA: nuclear explosion) many new universes are created (where?) and therefore atomic wars aren't destructive, but they create life, nuclear explosion should be blessed, and we must all look forward to nuclear bombs falling on our heads."

This is, as I'm sure you've noticed, a satire on the kind of thinking we've seen above on entry #7, by taking it to ridiculous extremes. The developers of Fallout 3 have shown how dangerous these ideas can be: we cherish the ending of the world, and this might be ridiculous and dangerous. It's dangerous, for these people welcome destruction and pain, and it's ridiculous, because it's completely insane.

So, there are many organizations within major religions. The Christian church, the Jewish synagogue, the Muslim clergy, the Buddhist monks. Ultimately, are these organizations good? Do they benefit people? Are they about charity, spirituality, and revelation or about power and influence? As with the previous entries, we're examining two different responses to this question.

Dragon Quest IV is a much remade RPG game in the acclaimed series. Each chapter has a different hero and there are five chapters. (A sixth one is added in the PS remake). The gameplay was highly innovative for its time and added many new features, and to me, it's the best of the series. You could provide strategies to your party members and the system is quite innovative and deep. Saving the game was made easier and also the story is really deeper than the other games in the series. What I mean is, you should try this game.

The game is also deeply religious. The game is full of religious symbolism which used with respect. You save your game in a church. You can also heal in a church. If you die, you're revived in one. The towns are full of priests and nuns, all of them good people. Many of your enemies are inspired by biblical demons. In short, when you see a church in distance you say to yourself, "Ah, great, a church!" Church is home, a good place, a place you want to be in.

Final Fantasy X is an RPG game which turned the tide of the series, and many dislike this, while I don't. It changes from the traditional pre-rendered backdrops to 3D graphics, features voice acting for the first time, and makes changes in the turned based system and upgrading mode. The story follows Tidus who wants to destroy a bad monster called Sin and they spend a lot of time in their adventures.

Like many other games on this list, the game first makes you trust the Yevon church. Yuna, your girlfriend, is deeply religious. She's on a pilgrimage and she's some kind of clergy. Nearly all people follow the teachings of Yevon. Those who do not are viewed as heretics. The temples give you a lot of energy and the summoners use them to people's benefit. So at the beginning of the game you think this is just your good ol' church and you should trust it. But as the game goes forward the evil nature of this church is revealed: they use real people as fuel to their summons, and they were the ones which created Sin. Just look at the symbolism behind this: church claims to fight a monster, called Sin, which is its own product. The church is not only guilty of indoctrination, prejudice, corruption and rigid hierarchy, but also sin: the very thing it pretends is its enemy. They use Sin to halt technological progress and keep people idiots. But Sin loses control and attacks everywhere, Sin is now only an instinctual beast.

This game is an open attack on church. However, it doesn't necessarily attack religion at its heart, its beliefs. So far the games we've mentioned on both sides refrain from discussing beliefs and talk about the deeds of religion, whether good or evil. But this is going to change in the final three entries.

Although the religion of Dragon Age: Origins is fictional, the game is deeply religious. A tactical RPG created by BioWare in the same vain of their Baldur's Gate, this game is a pure masterpiece everyone should play. The gameplay is good and deep but the game is one of the best written games of all times, with a great story and a lovely plot. This is going to be controversial, but I really believe this game is by miles the single best Western RPG ever created after Fallout. Baldur's Gate is half as good as this game, and Mass Effect is Tetris in comparison. I was reluctant to play this game but when I began it mesmerized me and I was playing it all the while. Buy this game.

Now, to religion. The game is definitely religious. I've seen some interpretations which argue that this game too is atheistic, but that's simply out of question. First of all, there are many evidences that the mythology of the game is true. For example, the ashes of the founder of the religion of the game can cure deadly diseases. Now that's some proof isn't it? I agree with those people who say the game is a criticism against atheism. Although I won't call it atheist-bashing, the criticism is fair.

The atheist characters in the game are not villainous, but they are desperate, and social Darwinists. I bring one example: Morrigan. To me, she's the single most interesting character of the game. She's very deep, and she's very charming. She's the main reason this game is so great. However, she's certainly an evil character. There's much discussion on this among the fans of the game as well, many say Morrigan is mot evil or she's a combination of both good and evil. This is because the creators are real artists and you can judge their characters by your own standards, but by the standards of the game she's definitely a villain, though I believe she's a villain much more interesting than the heroes, but that doesn't mean she's good.

And she represents all the bad things they claim about atheism. She's isolated and lonely. She's insecure. She's amoral. She claims to be practical while she always supports choices which are downright evil. She dissaproves all acts of kindness and approves the most horrific acts. The other atheist is Shale, openly misanthrope who also supports evil for evil's sake. In this game the atheist characters have no compass, no purpose. All of the atheists are evil, unkind and depressed while all of the theists are good. The problem with Morrigan is that she has no authority, no ultimate power to answer to, and this is the source of her problem.

In the above choices, with the exception of Dragon Age, all the actions were made by religious people but not because they were religious. You could say that Yevon priests are bad people, while Yuna believed in the same things and was a good person. The same goes for Breath of Fire II which is about the evil deeds. But Silent Hill series go deeper, and target the very heart of religions, just as Dragon Age targets the heart of Atheism.

In my cool religions list, I chose The Order as number one, and I stand by my choice: The Order is superior in its accuracy and depth to Ormus or Yevon. In the first game The Order made its first appearance and it was the motive behind the evil deeds of the villains, but it seemed like a wacky devil cult rather than an organized religion. The second game was mainly psychological. It was left to the third, fourth and the sixth game to bring this cult to its highest peak and evolve into a full religion.

In this game the main villain is Claudia Woolf. She thinks that reviving their gods will bring paradise to the world and will make everyone happy, and since this end is holy and justified, every means is also justified. She is selfless, and she knows she won't make it to heaven because of her evil deeds, she only wishes for the happiness of others. If you look at her, she embodies the religious ideals: she's humble, selfless, charitable, and chaste. And yet she's a horrifying monster. She does every crime imaginable, and she's scary, depressed and deprived of real humanity. Steven Weinberg once said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” This is the main argument which Silent Hill 3 also brings up.

We realize that both Claudia of the third game and Walter of the fourth game are the victims of a religion: they're both indoctrinated, tortured and finally deprived of their sanity because of the religiosity of their environment. Think about it this way: If Claudia wasn't religious, would she be a bad person? No. Claudia is not evil in spite of her faith or she doesn't happen to be religious and evil at the same time, she's evil because of her religion.

And this is scary because in no other Silent Hill the order is so similar to the world's today religions. This game is the single most antitheistic game of all times.

Someone, somewhere in Gamefaqs forums said "Religion is to Xenosaga what politics was to Metal Gears. Xenosag is a religious allegory". You're right, and if you're reading this, please drop in the discussion on this list and tell me "I said that" because I couldn't find you again. Originally I planned on making Silent Hill 3 number one, but let's face it, that game is mainly about a teenage girl coming to age and it happens to be critical of religion too. Although I think Silent Hill's portrayal of religion is definitely better than Xenosaga, I choose this game because religion is the main theme of it.

Ormus is the religion of this game. Let me quote my previous list again: "Xenosaga is a futuristic game and it ponders upon the future of everything, including Christianity. Apparently, in the future, Christianity will evolve into Ormus, which is a brand of medicine today. In the future Christianity will share a lot with oriental religions such as Zoroastrianism. There's something called Zohar- which in Persian means Venus- which serves as a source of power, and they believe that to be divine. They really try their best to achieve the original Zohar, and they would even do bad things. Furthermore, their leaders have long boring names with numbers- such as Patriarch Sergius XVII, and they wear funny clothes. What I really like about the depiction of religion in Xenosaga is the fact that it's accurate. They've worked out a complete theology, the tenets are believable, the followers aren't merely devil worshipers trying to resurrect anti-Christ, and religions really do evolve into each other historically."

As you can see in what I wrote earlier, with the exception of Silent Hill, no other religion in a video game has been so accurate (yes, even Yevon). There's rituals, symbolism, hierarchy and evolution in Ormus. It's a complete organized faith. And it's a faith which all the game is centered upon.

Zohar, (religious allusion #1) mentioned above, is discovered in Earth which is called Lost Jerusalem (religious allusion #2). They want to harness its power but they believe it can take them to Lost Jerusalem (religious allusion #3) but it also produces something called Gnosis (religious allusion #4) which are evil creatures, and Ormus society and galactic federation go to war for this thing (religious allusion #5).

As you can see, there are five religious allusions in a simple overview of the game. The game is a powerful critic of the whole history of religious faith, focusing on crusades.

I have to confess; finding atheistic games is much easier than finding religious games. Christian games are mostly poorly done, and don't deserve a spot on this list. Most, and by most I mean more than 70%, of the games I know of that contain religious allegory use it for either criticism or satire. Dragon Age is an exception; and unfortunately Catechumen and Left Behind games, although good, are not of the same value of the other games on the list.

The other problem of this list is the fact that I think many moderate religious people would feel unsatisfied and underrepresented. I'm sure most Christians disagree with the inherent fundamentalism we can see in Catechumen and Left Behind. Well, dear friends, it's not me who underrepresents you, it's the video games industry. Sorry folks.

I have to also once again thank MotherKojiro for bringing Breath of Fire series to my attention.

Coming up!
6 done, 4 to go! Next up we gonna get mushy, for it's Top 10 Games Which Deal with Important Emotional Issues! Don't go anywhere, we'll be back after the break!

List by Nazifpour (03/01/2011)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.


Would you recommend this Top 10? Yes No You must register to leave a comment.
Submit Recommendation