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5 Best Games Based on Japanese Mythology

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Games based on Japanese Mythology

Mythology and folklore tend to double as great video games. One of the main reasons for this is that their larger-than-life characters and mythological creatures make for a gripping and visually appealing story when translated into a video game. At the same time, their art style, representation, and historical accuracy provide a pretty unique palette of themes that, when combined, is just too appealing to pass up. So, if you're looking for a game with that type of experience, these games based on Japanese mythology will do the trick.

5. Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima - Official Trailer | The Game Awards

Although Ghost of Tsushima is historically accurate and incorporates themes of Japanese mythology, it does not do so to the same extent as the other games on this list. Regardless, all of the mythos and folktales found in the other games in this list are present in Ghost of Tsushima; they are just not as deeply embedded as in the other titles. All of that being said, it's still a great introduction game to these mythologies.

As a result, Ghost of Tsushima is one of the first games we recommend if you're new to games based on Japanese mythology. That being said, the DLC Legends is chock-full of Japanese mythology and really is what we are recommending here. Nonetheless, playing the base game gives you great groundwork for its mythological themes. Then you can step into them more heavily in the Legends DLC.

4. Nioh (Series)

Nioh - Launch Trailer | PS4

Nioh is a two-part videogame series that offers players a dark and gritty story based during Edo period Japan. Set during the Sengoku Kidai War, in Nioh you play as an Irish sailor known as William Adams. Named after and inspired by the historic William Adams, an Englishman who became a samurai. He is on a vengeful mission to track down his adversary, the evil alchemist Edward Kelly.

Many of Nioh's enemies and creatures, such as Mujina, the Kappa, and the Umibozu, are based on true Japanese mythology. What's more, the second game serves as a prequel to the first, delving deeper into Japanese mythology, which is also represented by a far vibrant color palette. Regardless, both games are excellent choices for immersing yourself in the dark and thrilling stories of Japanese mythology. So, if you're looking for games based on Japanese mythology, the Nioh series is a great pick.

3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Official Trailer | E3 2018

Although Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not a direct retelling of a Japanese myth or legend, it does intertwine mythological aspects with real-world Japanese culture. The games' setting of Sengoku-era Japan, for example, and the use of the shinobi (ninja) are both based on historical facts. Furthermore, many of the game's characters and bosses are inspired by people from Japanese folklore. On top of that, the game's dragons, spirits, and creatures are heavily influenced by Japanese mythology.

Finally, the name and appearance of the main character are direct references to the legendary creatures known as Tengu. Which are creatures from Japanese folklore that take the form of birds of prey. However, as time passed, they began to develop more human-like characteristics, which is why your character appears in the game as he does.

As you can see, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice aims to blend Japanese mythology and folklore with historical accuracy to form its own plot. Nonetheless, it's still one of the best games based on Japanese mythology and we highly recommend you try it out.

2. Trek to Yomi

Trek to Yomi - Gameplay Trailer | PS5, PS4

Despite being set in Edo-period Japan, few players think of Trek to Yomi when evaluating the best games based on Japanese mythology. That's a shame because the game's developers went to great lengths to include accurate restaurants, dojos, cemeteries, and marketplaces. The developers literally spent hours in Tokyo's Edo Museum, working one-on-one with experts, to ensure the historical accuracy of their game. As a result, you can expect Trek to Yomi to be true to its flavor.

So it has historical accuracy, but what about mythological aspects? Trek to Yomi is steeped in Shinto mythology and beliefs. Shinto is a Japanese religion that was widely practiced during the Edo period. It is based on the belief and worship of Kami, which are small spirits who are said to embody everything in the natural world. Without giving too much away about the plot, the Shinto ideology, and mythologies are heavily present throughout the game.

1. Okami

Okami HD Launch Trailer

Okami is deeply rooted in Japanese mythology and is widely regarded as one of the best and most beautiful games based on it. The Japanese Kanji (Japanese script) for Okami reads as either “Wolf” or “great god”. Evidently, the videogame Okami does not stray far from the legend it's based on. Since, in the game, you literally play a wolf who is the reincarnation of the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu. According to Japanese mythology, all Japanese Emperors are her direct descendants. Records of this mythology date back to 712 A.D.

We can go on and on about Okami's mythological aspects, but we think you're already sold on the fact that it's one of the best games based on Japanese mythology. Nonetheless, Okami's art style distinguishes it from the other games on this list. In keeping with the character, Okami's art style depicts its mythos with accurately influenced illustrations and art style. As a result, it creates a stunningly captivating world that complements its mythological elements.

So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Are there other games based on Japanese mythology that we should know about? Let us know in the comments below or over on our socials here!

Riley Fonger is a freelance writer, music lover, and gamer since adolescence. He loves anything video game-related and grew up with a passion for story games such as Bioshock and The Last of Us.