The bloodthirsty spectators beckoning for barbarity. The tainted war cry of a hell-bent gladiator pleading for survival. Two things that contribute towards the grandeur of the arena, a place where fury soars high and bloodshed runs thicker than water. It's also a place, of course, that shaped the likes of Rome and its sadistic prism of entertainment way back when. And, as expected, after it all became gauged by the media, the blood sport only continued to spread its brutality on the likes of video games and whatnot.
That brings us to the here and now, where gladiators and iconic settings such as the Colosseum are an integral part of the genre as a whole. And you can bet there are vast oceans of games that flow from that same gory vein, too. And while there certainly is an abundance of such games, however, it is worth pointing out that not all of them live up to the prestige of such a vicious time. These five, on the other hand, well, let's just say they're closer to the historical ballpark than the majority.
5. Spartan: Total Warrior
The Total War series hands down produced some of the greatest and most immersive combat games of all time, with its Spartan spin-off entry hoisting the colours for the Greek empire and its blood-laced and militarized regime. Although on slightly different grounds to the aforementioned Roman empire, its roots rifle the same flock of feathers when it comes to the battlefield, as well as its combat in general.
Spartan: Total Warrior puts you in the year of 300 BC, around the time the Roman army has overthrown Greece and only the city of Sparta remains. Led by the voice of Ares, “The Spartan”, an orphan raised with exceptional combat skills, is put on a last-ditch mission to turn the tide of war against its oppressors. With a settlement in ruin and a civilization on the brink of collapse, it is up to you to frontline the final effort and drive back the inevitable.
4. Ryse: Son of Rome
Let's traverse the seas and plant roots back into the depths of Rome for a moment. Speaking of which, Ryse: Son of Rome is a clean example of how such an era can bury itself in a compressed video game without losing its historical accuracy. Although relatively short, its tale is perhaps one of the most technical and jam-packed, with a lot of its story being devoted to gladiatorial combat.
After a Barbarian invision turns dark and forces the remaining Roman soldiers into a corner, general Marius Titus enters a fishing expedition via his memories, where his timeline connects the dots and assembles the final picture. Through a series of traumatic conflicts and events, the elite soldier paints the canvas and, in turn, builds a bridge to the downfall of Rome.
3. Ratchet: Gladiator
Known locally as Ratchet: Deadlocked, Gladiator serves its purpose as a toned-down spin-off that emulates the combat from that of Roman-based video games. Although more family-friendly compared to the bloodbaths that make up most entries in the genre, it is still a worthy accessory to the series, as well as a gracious homage to the era in general.
Ratchet: Gladiator hurls you back into the boots of Ratchet, who's been abducted out of the blue and forced to compete in a grizzly game show called “DreadZone.” With an explosive collar bolted to the neck and a set amount of time to defuse it, it's up to the hero to fend off the barbaric trials and put a stop to the evil scheme before the hourglass tips its final grain.
2. Shadow of Rome
Like the dark and dismal days torn from the Roman era, Shadow of Rome encompasses an unfortunate tale that combines both gladitorial combat and gore with rich storytelling and sombre environments. Think Gladiator (as in the movie), only with a few slight tweaks and name changes. That's Shadow of Rome, in a nutshell.
Based on the assassination of Julius Caesar, Shadow of Rome follows two individual tales, one being with Agrippa, a soldier who's father is framed for the murder and, as a result, forced to take part in the gladitorial arena, and the second revolving around Octavianus, an academic hell-bent on proving Agrippa's father's innocence from the outside. With both stealth and harsh combat making up the bulk of the gameplay, Shadow of Rome forms a fantastic package out of two worlds — both being as equally as compelling as the other.
When we clock LucasArts on the box art of any classic video game, we can't help but associate it with the prominence of the renowned studio, knowing full well the game itself is more than likely lined with nuggets of gold before even booting it up. And Gladius, of course, was just one of the many games in the portfolio that brought such wealth to the table.
Using the best-selling tactical role-playing formula that's won countless awards over the years, Gladius grants you the opportunity to claim fame and glory on a monopoly strewn with epic battles and fast-paced strategizing. Through a school of soldiers forged from your own design, you're able to pave the way to a new future, leaving both obstacles and oppressing forces buried in your wake.
So, what did we miss? Which gladiator games would you rank the highest? Do you agree with our list? Let us know over on our socials here.