There’s something about a video game in a distinct historical setting that’s always easy to enjoy. Games tend to be pretty immersive when we really get into them, whether they’re browser-based or mobile games, or they’re played on the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. But when there’s a historical setting involved also, the immersion tends to be that much deeper. It’s easy to lose yourself and dive right back in time, enjoying a game that takes you out of your ordinary reality in more ways than one.
With that in mind we want to look through 10 of the best games that fit this description, covering everything from mobile games and casino arcades to the very latest console adventures.
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
We aren’t ranking these games necessarily, but Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the first that comes to mind, simply because it’s the most recent. Among the best PS5 games available, it follows what’s become a classic Assassin’s Creed format — basically, diving into a specific part of history that’s rendered in mind-blowing detail. This time around, players are transported to the 9th century and a version of the Viking conquest of Great Britain. It’s a one-of-a-kind gaming experience and a stunning look back at the past — albeit a dramatized version of it.
- Assassin’s Creed III
We could really fill out this whole list with Assassin’s Creed titles. We could certainly include some of the more recent iterations such as Odyssey (ancient Greece) and Origins (ancient Egypt). But in the interest of diversifying the list we’re just going with one in addition to Valhalla, and there’s just something special about AC III. This game takes place during the time of the American Revolution, and brings colonial America to life in truly remarkable fashion. It’s a game you can really live in while you play it.
3. Predynastic Egypt
Since we gave Assassin’s Creed: Origins the slip, it’s only right to include Predynastic Egypt on our list. A simpler game designed for mobile and online play, it’s a terrific in-depth strategy experience that essentially challenges you to build the Egyptian civilization. Emphasizing a setting before the pyramids were constructed and Egypt as we imagine it came to be, the game puts you in charge of everything from resources, to conflicts, to the arrangement of tombs.
4. Crusader Kings II
Sticking with computer strategy games, Crusader Kings II is another one that deserves mention here. While its name of course involves a certain historic event, the game itself is really more about building a medieval dynasty, through anything from marriage alliances to assassination plots. What really stands out is the size of the game though. The options available to players, the historical figures involved, and the seemingly endless scenarios at hand all contribute to why a Kotaku “re-review” described the game as having “mind-boggling scope.”
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
To get back to console gaming, it’s hard to enjoy a historical setting a whole lot more than you can in Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar Games is known for a handful of hits over the years (as well as for generating a ton of anticipation for the Grand Theft Auto 6 release. But Red Dead Redemption 2 might just be the studio’s best work. It’s really an impeccable game, not just for its adventures, but for the rich take on the American West in which they take place.
- Flick Kick Football Legends
Here is what we suspect will be a more surprising choice. When you think about historical video games, chances are you leap to action, adventure, and war. But there is history in sports too, and this is the rare game that really captures a previous era within a given sport. Flick Kick Football Legends is all about soccer in the ‘70s, and oddly it’s a very easy vibe to accept and get into. It’s all done playfully — the game is almost a playable cartoon saga of a soccer team on the rise — but it’s a lot of fun, and a surprisingly engaging journey into the past. It’s one of the better mobile games out there.
- Slingo Centurion: Maximus Winnus
If you’re not familiar with Slingo, it is an online casino game that includes elements of both slots and bingo. It’s a game being popularized largely by a creative selection of games on Foxy Bingo which — like many traditional slot games on the internet — cover a wide range of themes. Among the most interesting of these themes though is the ancient Roman one brought about by Centurion: Maximus Winnus. While it is still a traditional casino video game in terms of the action involved, this particular title does an excellent job of establishing a setting. There’s just something about playing in ancient Roman surroundings that elevates the experience beyond that of the average casino game.
Another game you can play online in your browser, Achilles is about as simple as an arcade experience comes these days. With just a few keys, you control Achilles in a side-scrolling battle, going toe-to-toe with a never-ending stream of (presumably) Trojan enemies coming your way. There’s really not a lot to it, but the gameplay is oddly enjoyable and the visuals — simple as they may be — give you a perfect sense of sword-and-sandals adventure.
- Civilization V
As with Assassin’s Creed, we could really point to just about any game in this series. But there seems to be a growing consensus that Civ V is the best of the bunch. This was the key finding of a PC Gamer survey on the topic, and we’d tend to agree. Civ V straddles the line between the charm of the older titles (Civ III is particularly nostalgic for us) and the more modern quality of the later releases. It’s a robust, beautiful game one can play over and over again, guiding one ancient civilization after another to prestige. The main point in its favor though is that nothing beats a Civilization game for capturing all of history, rather than just a given era of focus.
- Battlefield 1
Arguably the best shooter released in the last five years, Battlefield 1 brings World War 1 to life in almost haunting detail. The story mode of the game touches on different theaters of war, and likewise the multiplayer mode touches on a variety of settings from the conflict. Altogether, playing this game leaves you with the sense that you’ve almost experienced this piece of history for yourself.