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Historical games are in a class of their own regarding playability, entertainment and educational value. You can get so engrossed in the gameplay that you sometimes forget that actual events, characters and scenarios inspired these fantastic titles. If you’re a history buff, into mashing buttons and diving deep into immersive gameplay, this list is for you. Here are our picks for the best historical games in 2023.
1. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Year Released: 2019
Developer: Forgotten Empires
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
System: Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming
In terms of history lessons in the form of video games, very few titles come close to the status of Age of Empires II (AoE 2). This real-time strategy (RTS) game birthed a whole generation of gamers with its interactive gameplay and brilliant depiction of how different world civilizations came to be.
The kids who used to sneak in a couple of hours of game time on their home computers are all grown up and have gaming rigs, but they haven’t forgotten the allure of AoE 2. This led Xbox Game Studios to release the Definitive Edition in 2019.
The remaster of the RTS classic refreshed the graphics and added new dynamics to the gameplay while staying true to the original title. You get to develop your civilization and re-enact famous campaigns in world history. The game is highly educational, with a good walkthrough for new players who are experiencing the game for the first time.
Veteran players will be pleased with the game’s familiarity and surprised at the same time with its modern look and added playability. If you’re more into RTS games and fancy playing as different civilizations from history, this game is a must-have.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
Year Released: 2018
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
System: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Many players consider Rockstar’s 2018 release a gaming masterpiece of epic proportions. The game features a riveting storyline and in-depth mechanics to entertain you for hours. You’ll discover what it takes to live in the wild and expansive American frontier as you meet colorful characters and experience unique encounters.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) follows the story of Arthur Morgan, a trusted Van der Linde gang enforcer who gets his loyalty and personal values tested as core events transpire. As a gunslinger, players can choose from a wide selection of weapons ranging from the classic single-action Peacemaker revolvers to Winchester Model 1873-style repeater rifles — the gun that won the West.
You can be an honorable outlaw or a ruthless bandit, depending on your play style. Your actions will significantly impact how you write your story. RDR2 also lets you hunt, fish, collect bounties and free roam to your heart’s content between story quests. The game is also moddable if you’re into adding more customization features and functionality.
Rockstar put in incredible detailing work to make RDR2 a genuinely worthwhile experience. It’s easy to get lost in the game’s vast open-world system, character development and immersive gameplay. If you’d like to see how you fare as a gunslinger in the Old West, this game is definitely for you.
3. Battlefield 1
Year Released: 2016
Publisher: Electronic Arts
System: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
First-person shooting (FPS) games have had their fair share of historical titles. The allure of re-enacting battles from different conflicts in human history draws players and offers good quality video entertainment. Battlefield 1 does this and more with its gritty gameplay and stark depiction of trench warfare in The Great War.
Battlefield 1 takes you to various global campaigns during World War 1. Armed with weapons and equipment based on real-life armaments, you get an up-close and personal look at the warfare in the trenches, the desert and even the skies.
Swedish game developer DICE ensured they gave players an authentic experience by getting many details of the era as closely as possible. As a player, you also get to try fighting for different factions involved in the conflict. While the game is far from perfect in terms of historical accuracy, Battlefield 1 is a solid choice for FPS and history fans with its unique spin on realism and game detailing.
4. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Year Released: 2020
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, PC, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna
If you’ve played any of the Assassin’s Creed (AC) titles in the past, you already know how historically rich the series is. Much of the writing involves injecting fictional characters, events and organizations into the storyline. Still, the franchise also uses interesting historical choices to make the game appear more connected to reality.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla follows the arrival of Scandinavian tribes in England in the ninth century. The game shows the other side of the fearsome warriors when they’re in between raids and plundering campaigns. The Vikings were resourceful people, living off the lands by hunting, fishing and farming. They were also expert sailors, tradespeople and explorers.
AC Valhalla weaves Viking culture into the story. From depicting proper burial rituals and arrival by longships to realistic Viking weaponry and portraying fearless shieldmaidens, the game is an interactive history lesson with lots of fun gameplay. The historical nods are a great touch and complement the game’s overall feel.
5. Ghost of Tsushima
Year Released: 2020
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Historical games transport you to a world long gone — even fictional ones. In Ghost of Tsushima, you play Jin Sakai, a samurai who sets off to protect his native land from Mongol invaders. The game mixes historical weapons, engaging swordplay and mesmerizing visuals to give players a memorable gaming experience.
While the game is set in the fictional land of Tsushima, there’s no denying the in-depth research that went into its development. The armor and weapons alone look like the real deal and the moral code of the samurai is displayed in great effect throughout the story — with some dialogue going deeper into what it means to be an honorable warrior.
History buffs and fans of Japanese warrior culture will get a kick out of the award-winning 2020 game from developer Sucker Punch. If you’re into open-world games with many customization features, sharp and fluid combat and great cinematic photography, you’ll have loads of fun with this title.
Historical Games: A Fun and Educational Combo
Playing video games is an excellent way to decompress and spend leisure time between busy schedules. Historical games blend fun and education in a nifty package. There are plenty of games out there but if you’re looking for solid recommendations, you can’t go wrong with these tried and tested titles.