The Origins of Mythological RPG Fantasy Game Characters

PLARIUM STAFF
1/6/2020
7 minutes read

One of the reasons why fantasy RPG games are so appealing and immersive is the deep lore that is often infused in the world, storylines, and character bios. In fact, arguably, many of the best video game characters are found in this genre.

There are some truly astounding game characters created from the minds of the developers and artists. However, many of the best derive from various mythologies and folklore that have existed for centuries in civilizations all over the world.

Fantasy RPG games like the Elder Scrolls series, Witcher, Raid: Shadow Legends, and God of War are steeped in mythological lore. There are, of course, many other games that utilize the fantasy genre by incorporating iconic characters and creatures of myth.

Here, we’ll be exploring some of the most popular mythological fantasy RPG game characters, their origins, and the best video game characters of their races.

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Orcs

Orcs have been prevalent creatures within many mythologies throughout human history. Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, described orcs as an enormous mass of flesh armed with teeth.

The fantasy orc often wears misshapen metal armor, dons crude weaponry, and is almost always an enemy. This is the case in the Warhammer 40k game, Space Marine, which is very much about gunning down and cutting through hordes of orcs.

Some games alter this slightly, however, with the Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War games based in Middle Earth encouraging you to utilize the orcs – you even come to like a few of them. Then there’s Big ‘Un in Raid: Shadow League; the big ol' orc is a formidable fantasy ally and is a much sought-after, legendary class hero.

Elves

It’s strange to think for fantasy RPG players, but many people associate elves with the fabled creatures that make presents at the North Pole. For gamers, elves often represent the exact opposite of the fantasy orc, often being tall, beautiful beings that are both highly intelligent and in-touch with magic and nature.

Throughout history, elves have taken many different forms, with their most notable feature in the modern-day being pointed ears. In Anglo-Saxon tales, elves fell under two categories: dark elves and light elves.

Fantasy RPG games with elven game characters often adopt the tall, beautiful, and superior being approach – with the most recent exception being God of War. Very few fantasy RPG games herald elves as anything less than intelligent, magical, and powerful.

In Morrowind, Fargoth is a smarmy piece of work who demands that you help him find his magic ring. In Raid: Shadow Legends, however, many of the top-tier legendary class heroes are elven, with Arbiter and Lyssandra of the high elves and Rae, Vizier Ovelis, and Zavia of the dark elves.

Giants

As noted by Atreus in God of War -  which is steeped in Norse mythology – giants aren’t always giant in size. However, they are almost always depicted in mythology as being much larger than humans and possessing the power to shape the earth.

Across the world of mythologies, giants range from destructive to wise, aggressive to calm. They take so many forms and are involved in so many stories that a fantasy RPG can do almost whatever they want with the creature.

Destructive, oafish, mammoth-herding giants are littered across the map in Skyrim. But one of the most notorious, titan-esque of all giant video game characters is Malus, the final colossus of Shadow of the Colossus.

Dwarves

While almost always diminutive and mountain-dwelling, dwarves also take multiple forms throughout mythology. Probably the most recognized depiction is from Germanic mythology, where they are expert miners, smithies, crafters, and boast tremendous wisdom.

In fantasy RPGs, dwarves are often shown as fierce, alas slightly ugly, video game characters – something along the lines of humanoid fantasy orcs. Many of the best video game characters of this race are companions or NPCs within the game, with the likes of Brok and Sindri in God of War helping the story and crafting gear.

Skin-Walkers

Skin-walker is a term given to humans who can shape-shift into, or possess, animals, the most famous of which being the werewolf. Skin-walkers are noted in folklore all over the world, from the werewolves of Europe to the werehyenas of Africa, but most notably, they are witches feared by the Navajo people in North America.

These creatures are often reserved for the horror genre, but some have made their way into becoming game characters of other genres. In Conan Exiles, you’ll stumble across the ravenous werehyena, and in Skyrim, joining the Companions will give you the power to become a werewolf yourself.

Necromancers

Necromancers are, traditionally, users of dark and evil magic who can summon and control the dead in spirit or by raising corpses. This form of black magic has been recognized since the ancient Greek Homer penned the epic poem, The Odyssey.

In fantasy RPG games, necromancers can be among the best video game characters to encounter due to their unnatural powers. Both Bad-el-Kazar and Crypt-King Graal are among the most powerful game characters of Raid: Shadow Legends. They command the Undead Hordes and boast tremendous stats.

The Undead

While necromancers raise the dead, the undead game characters of fantasy RPG titles are often the minions of these dark and powerful beings. However, some of the best video game characters that come under the undead category aren’t mindless minions, such as vampires.

For the most part, though, the undead refers to reanimated corpses or zombies. Zombies originate from the lore of African civilizations but mainly referred to anyone who was under the spell of a sorcerer.

The modern perception of zombies is greatly credited to the vodoun religion of Haiti. This comes from voodoo priests practicing on people with a pufferfish nerve poison, tetrodotoxin, which would make people appear dead for up to two days.

Very few of the best video game characters are of the undead variety, as walking corpses are often relatively weak opponents to overcome. One of the more touching undead video game characters is the mother in Dragon Age II, who is brought back by a serial killer necromancer.

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Witches

Featuring heavily in folklore across Europe, and therefore, North America. The average witches are creatures who can be as enticing as they are dangerous with their dark magic abilities. Often depicted as female, they are generally evil beings or those that have been cast out by society for being deemed as unnaturally powerful.

As you would assume, The Witcher fantasy RPG series features some of the best video game characters to come under this category. Both Yennefer and Triss of The Witcher 3 are both very powerful in the ways of sorcery.

Dragons

Dragons take many different forms in mythology and are common across European and Asian mythos. While Asian dragons tend to be more serpentine in body than most European depictions, they all spawn from humanity’s innate fear of snakes and similar dangerous reptiles.

The most common form the dragon takes in fantasy RPGs is the more westernized version. This modern view of the beast is said to come from a combination of the ancient Greek myths of the wyrm and the draco.

In the middle-ages, the dragon became more distinct from serpents, gaining tough scales, powerful wings, and a muzzle to house deadly rows of teeth. This is the type of dragon often battled by the mightiest knights in European lore.

Dragons are a fantasy RPG favorite, often presented as menacing foes or wise guides. In Skyrim, you must take on the almighty Alduin as he turns dragons against humanity, whilst also seeking help from the wise dragon, Paarthurnax.

Noble humans

Creatures of myth often go hand-in-hand with a noble human who is tasked with killing them. Through ancient Greek mythology to the tales of the middle-ages, great beasts of myth almost always meet their demise at the hands of a noble, often male, hero.

In fantasy RPG games, you regularly take on the role of this gallant and powerful hero. Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3 and Kratos from God of War are quite possibly the best video game characters that you play as in this genre. Then there is also the mighty Martyr and Sir Nicholas who are steadfast heroes of The Sacred Order - here to put an end to fabled creatures.

Fantasy RPG games give players a grand opportunity to immerse themselves in the creatures of mythologies from all over the world, many of which stand among the very best video game characters ever conceived.

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