Blasphemers! Games with cautionary themes about religion

These games, ripe with cautionary themes against religion, are here to prove that games can tackle serious subjects.

In light of all the recent religious backlash towards gay marriage, I thought it might be appropriate to highlight some of the games that focus on the sometimes oppressive ways of religion. Whether they're laced with undertones or come straight out and say it, these titles prove that video games can tackle heavy, controversial subjects. Believers or not, it can't be denied these games have something important to say. 

[Warning: This article contains spoilers!]

Halo series

Some could just dismiss Halo as a dumb first-person shooter, but if you follow the story, you find that there is a cautionary tale about the misguided teachings of religion. The Covenant, a group of zealot alien species believes that the Halo Rings, when activated, will send them to salvation through an event called The Great Journey.

Truthfully, the Halo Rings will wipe out all sentient life in the universe, not save them, if they're ever able to fulfill their true purpose. All of this, and the notion that The Covenant see themselves as higher beings than mankind, brings to light the parallels in some of our own religions that have lead to war and death for people with opposing beliefs. 

Image source: Gaming Trend

Final Fantasy X 

In the world of Spira, its people are terrified of the omnipotent being, Sin. As punishment for their society's sins, their god, Yu Yevin sends this monster to Spira to wreak havoc on their lives. Despite this tyranny though, the people of Spira still accept their god with open arms, sacrificing young summoners in attempts to defeat Sin.

As in our own lives, religion sometimes drills the idea of sin into its followers, filling people with the fear of being sent to Hell, regardless of the pettiness of their sins. Despite all of its corniness, Final Fantasy X had a very important message about freeing ourselves from fear and living our lives without the fear of judgment from an oppressive god. 

Image source: Fantasy Sky

BioShock: Infinite

What if the forefathers of the United States of America were viewed as holy prophets? Well, on the floating city of Columbia, this is the case - all run by the self-proclaimed prophet, Comstock. In order to gain passage into the city of Columbia, one must be baptized. After that, they will then be greeted by a world of fascists and xenophobes, all ruled by the word of their tyrannical leader.

The complexities and undertones of BioShock: Infinite are too much to cover in one segment, but it tells the story of a man using his faith to oppress and control a city of fearful followers. Beneath all the layers, the plot can be viewed in many ways, but in the end, it paints a picture of cruelty towards others that is not unlike what we've seen historically, all of which pushed by an un-rightly prophet's instruction. 

Image source: Stack Exchange

Dead Space series

In the same vein as Halo, Dead Space tells of fanatical zealots who look to a mysterious alien artifact known as The Marker and believe it is an instrument of God. In the religion of Unitology, it is believed they will be granted eternal life through the marker, but instead the cultists bring forth horrible savagery in the form of Necromorphs.

In the end, the followers are granted the exact opposite of what they hoped for, and are torn limb from limb or transformed into terrible beasts due to their false idol's teachings. 

Image source: Blogspot

Do you think these games did a good job at raising thought provoking questions about religion? Were there any games that I left out? 

Feel free to start a discussion in the comments section below!

Published Sep. 14th 2015
View Comments
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Oh! Oh! I got another game! It's called Age of Empires! :D
    Oh wait...
  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    I think devoting two paragraphs to a difficult and deep subject is a disservice to the games mentioned.
    Now a full article about each one would allow for more exploration of the topic at hand.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Except you're taking one side of a full dialogue in the cases of both Dead Space and Halo. Halo also emphasized a number of the positives in having faith and brotherhood, and showed the kind of future might face it became over militarized. It was more of a story about blind faith and devotion to causes and how they could lead you to do wrong. Almost everyone in Halo who does something substantial has strong faith in what they're working towards and what they are doing, whether they're part of the Covenant or the UNSC. There's a lot more too it than "following false prophets is a bad idea".

    Dead Space is also a LOT deeper than you are giving it credit for on the religious front, and it hits a lot broader notes than simply "ooh, fanatical cultists are bad": http://www.gameskinny.com/t6qh4/finding-religion-in-dead-space

    And Bioshock Infinite is a straw man's argument. The original two Bioshock games had a much more even-handed perspective on religious themes and treated the subject matter a great deal more seriously. Comstock is what r/Athiesm thinks every preacher sounds like. The actual preachings Comstock gives are full of so many holes it's hard to believe anyone would take him seriously.

    The game wasn't even originally about religion (instead, luddites vs. technophiles), and it shows. Ken Levine went on record admitting he didn't even get that Christianity and specifically Jesus were about forgiveness and mercy. That's the core of the entire faith -- you can't critique something without understanding what it's about at its core. That's like trying to review a game without taking the genre into account. It's simply lazy and leads to a far less fulfilling product.
  • kate.farrow
    Community Manager
    What about Dragon Age? There's the whole Chantry/Templars vs Mages thing. Mages basically have few to no human rights in the world. Elves are second-class citizens.

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