Many people don’t realize the many benefits video games can offer. Video games offer more than just entertainment. They can help you improve your hand-eye coordination and build meaningful social relationships in MMORPGs. Video games can also be used as educational tools, such as Kerbal Space Program and Minecraft. There are many games that can teach you a language. What about learning history? Is there a video game that can teach you the past?
The answer is, naturally, a resounding “yes”. There are many games that deal with historical periods from the Bronze Age to the present day. Some games even attempt to address prehistoric times. The problem is that the more backward you go, you will have less to work with when building games. This is why these titles are often inaccurate.
We won’t be discussing any of these in this article, but don’t be alarmed. This list is about historical-accurate video games that are based on written records or other tangible findings. These games are based on actual evidence and attempt to teach history. While these games tend to be accurate in certain areas, like architecture, clothing, and weaponry, they can take liberties with others. As we go along, we’ll explore these important distinctions. This will also be done in chronological order. That should make it more fun. Let’s get started.
Total War: Attila occurs between 395 AD and 447 AD in what’s now called Late Antiquity. This interesting period of history is rarely depicted in video games. This period was marked by great change in Europe, with the collapse and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire was partly due to the events known as the Barbarian Invasions or Migration Period, which is featured prominently in Total War: Attila.
Attila, like all Total War games has a mix of turn-based and real-time strategy. You’ll be spending most of your time conquering and managing regions. While the campaign is centered on Attila’s rise to the top of the Huns, you can also learn about other tribes and factions while playing the game. You will be able to play the game even if you have all of the DLC packs.
Total War: Attila doesn’t have the best historical accuracy because it is set so far back. It is however one of a few titles that took place in this time period. It is worth looking at just for that reason.
We’re moving straight to the Late Middle Ages, where Kingdom Come: Deliverance is our first project. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Warhorse Studios’ debut project, is an action RPG set in 1403 in the Kingdom Of Bohemia. It is found in present-day Czechia. The game features a number of historical figures, including Wenceslaus IV (House Luxembourg) and his half-brother Sigismund.
Despite being an antagonist, Sigismund was a pivotal figure in Medieval European history and had a remarkable political career. Sigismund, among other things, was the price-elector for Brandenburg, kings of Hungary, Croatia and Germany, Bohemia and Lombardy, and Holy Roman Emperor. Although not all of them were at once, there was overlap. Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s central narrative is focused on the conflict between two brothers from house Luxembourg. Both have a claim on the throne in Bohemia.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is often referred to as one of the most historically accurate videogames ever made. It truly takes you back to 15th-century Europe. The game features characters and locations as well as period-accurate clothing and weapons, armor, and architecture. Although the combat system may be a bit clumsy at times it is inspired by historic fencing techniques. The developers also put a lot into creating a user interface and menus that were inspired by medieval art.
Europa Universalis IV, a grand-strategy game that is both difficult and complex, is a must-play. Despite its name, the game gives you access to the entire world map and all the countries within it. While the main focus of the game is Europe, you can also choose to play as any other nation, regardless if it’s on a continent. There are many scenarios available, with the default starting in 1444 just a few years prior to the fall of Constantinople, and the collapse the Byzantine Empire.
Although the historical accuracy of the game’s beginning nations, provinces, and events is good, the player has the final say on how the rest of the story plays out. You can, for example, prevent the fall the Byzantine Empire and resurrect Western Roman Empire. Or decide who gets the New World. You can conquer new countries and change their names to match the original owners as the game progresses.
Europa Universalis IV is too complex to cover here, but you can still use it as an educational tool and to create alternate historical scenarios. It’s one of the most popular games for learning about the history of different nations, their rulers, and the alliances they had. Paradox Interactive also created the Crusader Kings series which teaches you a lot more about important families and their dynasties.
We couldn’t help but add to the Total War series so many great entries. We chose Shogun 2 because it is rare to find historically accurate video games set during feudal Japan. Shogun 2 is more focused on the different clans competing for control and the Daymio (feudal rulers) who are leading them, as opposed to other games that romanticize certain figures, such as samurai. You can also learn about Japan’s historical provinces, many of them corresponding to the current-day prefectures.
Shogun 2 takes you to the 16 th century. You can play as any of the clan leaders in feudal Japan. The gameplay is a mix of turn-based strategy and real-time strategy, just like the rest. Each clan has its own unit roster and unique advantages that make it stand out from others. Shogun is a simpler entry in the series than some previous entries. It features a redesigned siege system and naval battles.
Fall of the Samurai is another option if you enjoy Total War: Shogun 2. Fall of the Samurai started out as DLC for Shogun 2. However, it was later rebranded to be a standalone title. This move didn’t seem to go down well with many players according to mixed reviews. Despite this, Fall of the Samurai is a great addition to Shogun 2. It’s definitely worth checking out. The action takes place in the 19th century Bakumatsu era, and the focus is on the Meji Restoration. This event led to the end of the Shogunate and the establishment of imperial rule. It was a result Japan’s increasing contact with western powers.
This is an unusual one, and you likely haven’t heard it before. Hellish Quart, an indie physics-based video game, aims to accurately portray historical sword dueling. Although the game is still in Early Access, it doesn’t have a lot of story. However, it does provide interesting historical context. Hellish Quart is set in the 17 th century Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It features period-accurate clothing and weapons as well as fencing techniques.
Hellish Quart, just like the real thing is, is all about precision and timing. The game features motion-captured fencing animations and realistic ragdolls to better illustrate this point. Hellish Quart is a unique fighting game that looks and plays like a side-scrolling fighter, while most medieval combat games use a first-person view.
Another thing that makes this a standout is the stunning recreation of period clothes. You can play as Polish Hussars or Turkish Janissaries or French Musketeers or Swedish Reiters. Each fighter has their own historical outfit, and can access a wide range of weapons that were common in 17th-century Europe. You can find sabers, rapiers and broadswords among others.
Because Assassin’s Creed is well-known for taking liberties with important figures and events, I was a little hesitant about including a Assassin’s Creed title in a list of historically accurate videogames. This is just one example. It’s evident that Ubisoft spends a lot of effort and time recreating landmarks and cities as they were in history. Although I was initially tempted by the AC, I ultimately chose Black Flag due to its unique setting.
Assassin’s Creed IV, Black Flag was set in the Caribbean between 1713-1722 at the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. The War of Spanish Succession was a significant event that took place in this time period. It occurred between 1701-1714. This war is often called the first world war because it spanned a large area and involved more than a dozen countries. The world’s major powers were: Great Britain, France and Spain. Prussia, Portugal, Spain, Portugal, Prussia, Portugal, Spain, Portugal, the Holy Roman Empire, and Portugal.
Although Black Flag’s events don’t directly relate to the Spanish War of Succession, there is an indirect link. The creation and eventual fall of a Nassau-based independent pirate republic (modern-day Bahamas) is one of the main plot points of Black Flag. This was actually a thing. Because the major world powers were focused on Europe’s conflict, the English privateers established the Republic of Pirates. The British Empire regained control of the area a few years later.
You can meet some real-life pirates in the game, including Charles Vance and Calico Jack, Mary Read and Edward ‘Blackbeard ‘Thatch. Some of these pirates are thought to have been part of the British Navy during the Spanish War of Succession.
By a wide margin, the Oregon Trail is the oldest of these games. The Oregon Trail was launched in 1971 by Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC). It was the first video game specifically designed for education. The Oregon Trail is a popular game that many Americans grew up with in the 80s and 1990s. However, it is worth noting that the original version was released in 1985. This was the first version to have graphics. All versions from 1971 to 1984 were text-based.
This game series has a long history. But what does it teach? The Oregon Trail is the historical context. It’s a huge 2, 170-mile (3.490 km) wagon route that spans a large portion of the US. It ran from the western Missouri to Oregon City, in the northwest region of the US. This game was played in 1848, just two decades after the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. It took four to six months for pioneers to complete the Oregon Trail. Many died along the way.
This game was created to show students the harsh conditions that pioneers faced while traveling the famous wagon route. Your party members can die in The Oregon Trail from many causes, long before they reach their destination. The most common causes include drowning, exhaustion and measles. Many people who were there when the game was played back can confirm that dysentery was the leading cause of death. However, cholera was the leading cause of death.
Battlefield1 has impressed many players with its portrayal of WW1. However, Verdun offers a more accurate view of the Great War. This multiplayer FPS is based on squads and offers incredibly accurate recreations of weapons, uniforms and battlefields.
You can play a variety of military campaigns from 1914 to 1918 on the western front. This includes the Battle of Verdun which took place in 1916, where the defending French forces faced a huge German offensive. The longest conflict in WW1 lasted almost 10 months. It saw over 700.000 casualties. This was actually the second battle of Verdun. The first took place in 1792 between French revolutionaries, and the Kingdom of Prussia.
Verdun was launched in 2003 and received an expansion called Tannenberg a few years later. Similar to its predecessor, the game takes place during the same period as the previous one but focuses on the Eastern front. A massive battle took place near Tannenberg, which is now Stebark in Poland. It was between Russia and Germany. The result was a crushing defeat for Germany. It took place in just four days during the first month WW1 and established Germany’s dominance at the beginning of the war. The Battle of Tannenberg saw the destruction of nearly all of the Russian 1 , 2 , and 3 nd armies. It is believed that only 12,000 German casualties were sustained by the German forces.
Blackmill Games is currently developing a sequel to Tannenberg and Verdun. It will launch in 2021. The title Isonzo will be the title and will be centered on the Italian front.
There are many historically accurate video games that depict WW2, so it was hard to choose just one. We chose the Brothers in Arms series as it attempts to accurately portray WW2 rather than glorifying it like so many other games. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 was the first tactical FPS game to launch in 2005 and ended in 2014. Brothers in Arms 3 is Sons of War is the third installment. Some entries are better than others, as is often the case in long-running series. Road to Hill 30, Earned In Blood, and Hell’s Highway will be the games you’ll want, but not necessarily in that order.
The series follows Sergeant Matthew “Matt” Baker, United States 502nd Infantry Regment, and his squads during various military operations prior, during, and following D-Day. Nearly every mission in the series is based on well documented operations that were part of the liberation of the Western Front from Nazi occupation during WW2. Notable examples include Mission Albany, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of Carentan. Game critics and historians alike praised the Brothers in Arms series, which many compared to Saving Private Ryan and the miniseries Band of Brothers.
Although Sergeant Matthew Baker is fictional, he is closely related to American war hero Harrison C. Summers. Sergeant Summers was promoted to 1 , st Lieutenant. He performed many of Matt Baker’s impressive feats during the American airborne landings on Normandy. With the assistance of just two privates, he was able to clear dozens of German soldiers out of a building complex. Summers fought in major battles such as the Battle of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. For his achievements, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and twice nominated for the Medal of Honor.
Rockstar’s L.A. Noire is best known for its mocap-powered facial animations. However, not enough people pay attention to its stunning depiction of 1940s Los Angeles. In the years after WW2, many major US cities saw rampant crime and corruption. But LA was perhaps more prevalent. The game attempts to recreate the mood of that time, but it doesn’t stop there. Many vehicles, clothing, buildings and other items are the same as those you would find in 1947, when L.A. Noire took place.
The developers recreated the city as best they could, but took some artistic liberties. They also used characters and crimes that were inspired by real-life counterparts. One of the most well-known characters is Mickey Cohen, a main antagonist in the game. He was inspired by a real-life gangster with the same name.
After starting his criminal career in Cleveland, the real Mickey Cohen moved to New York and Chicago where he was believed to have met Al Capone. Cohen eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1939, where he would be a prominent figure in the criminal underworld of the city for the next 20 years. Between 1951 and 1976, the gangster spent his last years in various prisons including Alcatraz.
Team Bondi, the developers of the game, spent much time looking at aerial photos of L.A. as well as newspaper articles from the 1940s to infuse the game with authenticity. After a number of controversies, Team Bondi disbanded soon after the game was released. L.A. Noire became their first and only title.
Some partially historical video games that we can’t fit on the main list are still worthy of being used as educational tools. These titles are all excellent in their own ways, so make sure you give them a chance.
You may be thinking “But isn’t it the most historically accurate game in all of the Assassin’s Creed series?” In reality, the answer is yes. Although the game has many fantasy elements and creatures it can be extremely educational if you are interested in learning about Ancient Greek religion and mythology. You can still enjoy the most accurate recreation of Ancient Greece and experience the atmosphere around the time of The Peloponnesian War between Athens & Sparta.
Ubisoft put a lot into these games to make the environment realistic. Many of the landmarks in the game have or had real counterparts. It’s a good idea to not pay too much attention the equipment of your characters, as there are many historical inaccuraciess there. There are many other areas as well.
This one was added to our list because of the announcement that Rome Total War will get a remaster in April. To prepare for the remaster, why not try the original? The first Rome: Total War is well-known for its many anachronisms, and other problems.
Although the sequel was not perfect, Creative Assembly began to put more effort into making these games historically accurate. The game’s storyline takes place against the backdrop of an important historical event in Rome’s past – the fall of the Roman Republic, and the birth the Roman Empire. It’s a fascinating period and one that is worth knowing more about.
Video games that are historically accurate focus on China are rare. Not in the west. We don’t have many games that focus on mythical characters like the Monkey King and fantasy martial arts. One game, however, attempts to portray a plausible depiction China’s Three Kingdoms period.
Total War, Three Kingdoms is a game that focuses on events that took place in the 3 rd centuries AD. These events have been romanticized for many years. You can expect some elements to be more fantasy-based than historical fact. The game will teach you a lot about the dynasties, states, and periods of China’s Imperial period.
Although the story takes place in a fictional world, the various kingdoms and factions of Bannerlord are based on their real-life counterparts from early medieval Europe. The game is a good representation of medieval politics, warfare, and clothing. It’s also very similar to its predecessor.
Mount & Blade II Bannerlord is influenced in one way or another by historical events. This can be confusing for those who aren’t history buffs. You might want to spend some time learning about the Early Middle Ages before jumping in. This will help you distinguish between the real-world factions and the in-game ones.
Red Dead Redemption 2, the legendary game, was also included in this list. The game is set in 1899 at the American Frontier era. Also known as the Old West or Wild West eras, it takes place across five fictional US states with very similar real-world counterparts. Saint Denis, for example, taking inspiration from New Orleans.
It’s basically the same formula Rockstar uses for the GTA series, but the game world in this instance is less parody than a fictionalized history that is grounded in real history. The game is free of any anachronisms. You’ll also find that many of RDR2’s main characters are based upon actual people who lived during this time. This is the best representation of the Wild West that you will find, unless another developer does something better.
If you liked our list historical-accurate video games, be sure to check out our 10 realistic medieval games that do not feature fantasy themes.
Articles hand curated and written by the FictionTalk team.