Top 5 Medieval Games

March 26, 2014 in Favorites

We live in a world fascinated by the past.  Our films, novels, and games exemplify our obsession with the past.  Since I’m a gamer, I wanted to share my five favourite medieval games, sorted by the accuracy of their reflections of the medieval era.

Crusader Kings 21. Crusader Kings II

Manage entire dynasties in Crusader Kings II, and watch your family rise to power in medieval Europe.  Play politics, arrange marriages, and manipulate the Holy Roman Emperor for fun and profit.  The depth of detail to which Crusader Kings II aspires is staggering.  You’ll manage laws, practice religion, and experience historical events, like the invasion of the Mongols.  Europa Universalis, a similar strategy simulator, just released the fourth installment in their series, whose time frame stretches from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

2. Medieval II:  Total War

Medieval II is for the strategist who dreams of being a commander.  Medieval II offers in depth city management in the Middle Ages and urges the player to seize control of Europe.  What sets it apart is the combat, which is conducted in real-time, forcing players to make quick decisions on the battlefield.  Every time I move my infantry, I wind up with cavalry in my archers and everything goes badly.  It also includes options to reenact historical battles.  Would you have done a better job than Harold II in the Battle of Hastings?  Medieval II: Total War gives you the opportunity to find out.

3. Mount & Blade / Fire & Sword

Mount and Blade: WarbandThe Mount & Blade games are half an analogy of medieval life and half a masochism simulator.  Your character may rise to power, ruling towns and commanding armies…  Or they may be beaten by bandits in the first fifteen minutes and left for dead in the wilderness.  Twice.  A game whose brutal mechanics emphasize the hardships of making it in the Middle Ages, Mount & Blade also allows the player to act outside the law, becoming a bandit leader instead of a king, and ransacking caravans to make a living.  I know all of these things about the game, but I’ve never made it through the first half an hour.

4. Settlers

Most of the games on this list focus on combat and warfare because they’re what appeals to the target demographic.  The Settlers series is a touch different.  It puts the player in control of developing a town from the ground up, with each villager rendered in real time.  Watching a lone woodcutter carry his load to the storehouse can get boring, but it’s pretty interesting to place buildings and watch your village grow.  I spent more time than I care to admit making sure that the needs of my people were met and marveling at the fact that all of those tiny people were actually doing things rather than existing as abstractions of game mechanics (which they are as well, but you know what I mean).

Assassin's Creed5. Assassin’s Creed

The first Assassin’s Creed game is the only one that actually takes place in a medieval setting, and to say that it’s in any way representative of medieval life is … A stretch.  I assume that the average person in the Middle Ages didn’t get into a swordfight every five and a half minutes (also I am lousy at stealth games).  But where it shines from the medievalist’s perspective is in the architecture, which offers brilliant vistas of places like Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus.

Honorable mention: Neverwinter Nights

I wouldn’t normally include a game that has elves in a list of accurate medieval games, but Neverwinter Nights does an incredible job of illustrating what it was like to live in a city besieged by the plague.  Your character will burn pyres of plague victims, and find desperate people locked in their homes.  The city of Neverwinter is in anarchy as the plague ravages the poorer sections of the city, while the wealthier districts struggle to maintain a quarantine.  Smugglers and rogues take advantage of the economic turmoil, and there street corners are littered doomsayers prophesying the end times.  Then you smack up a bunch of monsters and fix it (more or less).  But the first bit is wonderfully human and eerily authentic.

Round Up

Five medieval games plus one runner up.  Of course, there are lots of other games that adopt medieval themes, like Prince of Persia, the Elder Scrolls series, and Dragon Age, and while they’re great games, they don’t shoot for the kind of authentic experience the above games do their level best to offer.  Hmm, I do sense a post on the most inauthentic games based on medieval themes coming in a few months, though Dante’s Inferno basically wins on that front, unless there’s some new translation that paints Dante as a double-jumping badass with an extending scythe and a shotgun of luminous crosses.  In which case, please leave a link to that translation in the comments.  If not, then let us know what you think of games based on the Middle Ages, and tell us which good ones I left out.


Jim Tigwell is a blogger, musician, medievalist at large, and thane of the eight holds of Skyrim.  Remind him that there’s a real world by contacting him on Twitter