Medieval games are digital recreations of Old World events. In other words, the best medieval games take you back to the Middle Ages, when warriors fought with swords, crossbows, catapults, and bows. Europe’s medieval period lasted from the 5th century to the 15th, so there are plenty of stories, events, and cultures for developers to focus on.
Indeed, when you scroll through a list of online medieval games, you’ll find all manner of titles that draw from important moments in the Middle Ages. In fact, this is one of the genre’s main draws. The rich and often violent history of the Middle Ages means there’s something to fascinate everyone. From pitchfork battles in the fields of England to warriors swinging broadswords in the mountains of Scandinavia, there are settings and events galore to immerse yourself in.
Medieval games also tap into a sense of regal nostalgia. Cries of “for king and country” are common in these games and create a truly immersive experience among those with a competitive disposition. This, in turn, feeds into the storytelling aspect of medieval games. All of the top titles in the genre have an overarching narrative goal. However, as you follow the main thread, smaller strands are woven together throughout the game to create a rich tapestry of lore.
Such multilayered lore is a defining feature of the genre and makes it possible to offer a variety of dynamics. Medieval online games reflect that variety - you can find single player, multiplayer, MMO, and arcade options. That means you can battle with enemies in numerous ways. You can do it as a lone ranger taking on all comers or you can join an MMO and cooperate with others to get ahead!
The medieval game genre is also known for its ability to fuse reality with fantasy. In fact, the medieval fantasy subgenre is as popular, if not more so, than its more realistic parent. Cinematic offerings in particular have fueled the recent rise of medieval fantasy games. The fusion of old-school weaponry and noble quests with otherworldly creatures opens up new possibilities. Indeed, many medieval cultures focused on spirits, magic, and ethereal forces. This means the fantasy subgenre is perfect for exploring extraordinary realms.
Medieval games remain true to history. This means warriors use tried and tested weapons such as swords, shields, and suits of armor. As such, your tactics have to align with what would have been possible back in the day. You can’t teleport from one spot to another. You can’t use magic spells to disarm your enemy. All you can do is work with the realistic skills and contemporary weaponry at your disposal.
Medieval fantasy games are, as the name suggests, less realistic. They draw not just from history, but also from the rich, fantastical universes created in literary and theatrical fantasy works spanning at least the past century. Indeed, part of the fun of making and enjoying medieval fantasy games is the absorbing alternate histories they often create.
They do have elements of realism, such as much of the weaponry and battle scenarios. However, there are secondary elements that make the medieval fantasy genre less realistic. Think of the medieval fantasy films, television shows, and books you’ve probably encountered in recent years: the heroes fight not only with swords and axes, but also spells; they don’t just fight human enemies, but orcs, dragons, and even the undead.
Herein lies the major difference between medieval games and their fantasy counterparts. Where one sees you engage in realistic, Old World combat against other humans, the other allows you to use magic in an effort to beat non-human enemies. Both allow you to test your mettle against a common enemy; however, the difference between the two approaches is where the battle takes place, the weapons at your disposal, the extent of your abilities, and the nature of your enemy.
The best medieval games tend to have a few things in common. Even though their storylines and characters may differ, there are fundamental elements that remain across all titles within the genre and its subgenres. Some of the core features you’ll find in medieval fantasy games and medieval games are:
Almost all medieval games require you to become part of a collective. You’ll either lead a group of warriors or become part of a team. This opens up the possibility of devising tactics and strategies based on the army’s resources, strengths, and weaknesses (and those of your enemies).
Medieval games wouldn’t function without weaponry and skills. The warriors you control need something they can fight with and skills they can develop. What’s great about the best medieval games is that you can add weapons and skills to your arsenal over time, and that even fantasy medieval games often draw from historical records. All of this enlivens the combat and even gives players an opportunity to learn fascinating historical facts.
You need someone to fight against and a reason for doing so. Medieval games often present us with fascinating enemies based on real rulers and warriors from the Middle Ages. Medieval fantasy games take standard enemies and imbue them with non-standard powers. That means you could be battling dragons, wizards, or monsters from another realm. However, when all is said and done, you’re still fighting against another army, fantasy or not.
Great medieval games often include some sort of progression element. Whether it’s acquiring new skills, meeting new characters, solving puzzles, or collecting items, the goal is to progress through various scenarios and improve your skills. When you combine this with everything else this genre has to offer, you get an entertaining experience where no two sessions are the same.
In conclusion, there is something for everybody in this genre. Medieval games are the closest you’ll get to traveling back in time and fighting with swords and axes (and are a much safer alternative to actually doing so). So, you’re surely in for a great time with these games!