Written by: Andres Salazar

Religious Imagery in Video Games Written By Andres Salazar; Background is an xbox controller and a TV displaying a video game

Video games are an excellent way for us to escape our daily lives and travel to new worlds and explore the unfamiliar. Game series like the Elder Scrolls are famous for their vast open worlds, filled with lore, in-game literature, and their own culture. In many series, the in-game history and mythologies captivate us in the same way as when we read the incredible sagas of our history. Pokémon, Fallout, and The Legend of Zelda are examples of series with extensive histories that often reflect the patterns of development, war, politics, and even religion from our reality.

Video games tackle the concept of religion in a fascinating way. Although these games will often create their worlds and lore, we often see God-like figures and religious images that mirror ideas and figures that are common across our world’s vastly different religions. Pokémon has a creature that looks like something that could come from a religious creation story, Super Smash Bros. features a villain that resembles biblically accurate angels, and the Final Fantasy series takes inspiration from eastern religious beliefs.

The Pokémon series takes inspiration from various real-life sources. From the Kanto region being named after the actual Japanese Kanto province to the game’s Kalos region having its version of the Eiffel tower, the parallels to our world are clear. However, the Pokémon Arceus is known for being a god-like figure in the Pokémon universe. Able to represent any form of Pokémon typing, Arceus is seen as a mysteriously powerful creature. In its original appearance in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Arceus’ entry notes, “It is described in mythology as the Pokémon that shaped the universe with its 1,000 arms.”. This description, alongside the characters’ stories of Arceus being the one that kickstarted the universe, connects to the ideas in biblical books, such as Genesis, which describes the universe’s creation at the hands of God. Throughout the games, Arceus is seen as a protector and is even seen by the universe’s characters as a creature of mythological origins, bringing an element of religion into the series.

Super Smash Bros. is famous for putting the most famous Nintendo characters against each other. The most significant crossover in the gaming industry, fans can see their favorite gaming icons duke it out in various familiar fictional words. While the apparent crossovers are seen when Pikachu fights Yoshi, there is another pseudo-crossover inside the game’s latest entry, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, that not many people may initially identify. In the game’s Spirits story mode, the villain, known as Galeem, seems directly inspired by biblically accurate angels. Galeem’s fiery core and wing-covered design seem to refer to the Seraphim, a class of angels first described in Isaiah sixth chapter. In Isaiah 6:2. the Seraphim are described as “seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” This description aligns almost perfectly with Galeem’s wings collection, which ties in thematically with the character’s ability to manipulate life, light, and matter.

Although parallels to the Bible are standard, as seen with the above examples, the Final Fantasy series will also take inspiration from Asian religions. The clearest and direct example is in one of the main villains in Final Fantasy Legend. Ashura’s  name, appearance, and characteristics, is almost a direct representation of the Ashura, titans described in Buddhist and Hindu myths. These demigods are described as having multiple faces and four to six arms and often represent feelings of wrath, pride, and envy. In Final Fantasy Legend, Asura is one of the main antagonists, preventing the main characters from moving into a heavenly realm to fight the final boss. In this case, once again, the presence of the Ahsura also fits thematically, as, in both the game and in the mythology, the asura are protectors of their realms and titans representing immense power and determination.

Although you might not initially notice it, religious imagery is quite common in video games. Gaming lore and culture borrows and reflects what is fascinating, emotional, and captivating to us in our daily lives. The other-worldly presence of angels and all-powerful creators makes us wonder about our understanding of the reality around us. This sense of wonder and curiosity is ripe for video games, which aim to captivate you similarly. What is important to note is that these examples are not making parodies of religion but rather take their fascinating nature to provoke profound moments of wonder. When escaping to a world of fantasy and impossible realities, we are still fascinated by depictions of angels and beings like the figures that are so prominent in religions from around the world. However, although it may not always be easy to see the connections between faith and video games, they often make the game’s lore more enjoyable.  

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