A game’s theme is often more important than gamers realize. For example, the Dark Souls series is famous for offering the most difficult but rewarding combat experience in the history of video games. However, the games would not be as immersive as they are today if FromSoftware failed to capture the dark, gloomy, and forsaken Kingdoms in all their ruinous, dark age glory.
Similarly, the Uncharted series would be without Naughty Dog’s masterful implementation of the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider theme. The importance of a theme or setting is paramount in video games. Keeping that in mind, let’s get to know some of the most popular themes used in video games with great success over the decades.
Treasure Hunting & Adventure
Numerous video games across multiple genres have used the theme of a treasure hunting adventure. Not every one of those games managed to succeed of course, because there’s more to a good game than just the setting. In slot games, Jungle Jim: El Dorado by Microgaming and Gonzo’s Quest by NetEnt are two of the most popular titles set in treasure hunting adventure themes of their own. These two are even listed among the best USA online slots of 2022.
Second in its popularity only to slots, the treasure hunting adventure theme has thrived over the years within the third-person action-adventure genre. Notable examples are the Tomb Raider Trilogy (2013 – 18 reboot) and the Uncharted series.
Dungeons & Dragons (DND)
Dungeons & Dragons is not just about the original tabletop RPG or even the digital versions which were both released first during the 1970s. Although that’s where the theme and genre originated, the core DND formula has been adopted and improved upon by countless RPG video games since.
If you are interested in games developed with the dungeons and dragons theme and core gameplay in mind, do check out D&D Lords of Waterdeep, Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, Dragon Age: Origins, Solasta: Crown of the Magister, Divinity: Original Sin II, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous.
Cyberpunk is an all-encompassing theme that largely centers around dystopian but highly advanced future worlds. This idea originated with the New Wave science-fiction short stories and comics strips, which were first published in the New Worlds Magazine (1960s). In the ensuing years, cyberpunk as a theme has touched all forms of pop culture, including video games.
There is absolutely no limitation to cyberpunk themes in gaming. If you like games themed in a cyberpunk universe of one sort or the other, do try Cyberpunk 2077, The Ascent, Cloudpunk, The Surge 2, Ghostrunner, Ruiner, Watchdogs: Legion, Katana Zero, Nier Automata, Ghostwire: Tokyo, Total War: Warhammer II, Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War, and Necromunda: Hired Gun.
Not to be confused with DND, High Fantasy is a theme that originated from William Morris’ novel, The Well at the World’s End (1896). However, it was truly brought to life by Tolkien’s timeless Lord of the Rings series. Ideally, games set in a true high fantasy theme should have a medieval setting. The semi-realistic setting will be complemented by fantastical elements such as magic and mythical creatures.
Orcs, elves, goblins, dwarves, dragons, wyverns, griffins, trolls, ogres, etc. are essential elements of any high fantasy game. Games that stay true to the theme will not have modern weapons and advanced science, which is why Warhammer games should not be considered as high fantasy.
Since it is a theme rather than a genre, high fantasy settings have been applied to nearly all gaming genres with varying levels of success. Even then, RPGs and MMORPGs are particularly suited for such settings.
Some of the most successful high fantasy games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Elden Ring, God of War (2018), Dragon Age: Age of Inquisition, and Final fantasy XV are evidence of the same. For fans of Tolkien’s massive universe, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King are two older games that still stand out.
Slicing enemies into literal pieces in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or putting imperial guards to your sword and sorcery in Skyrim are all par for the course in video games. After all, such trivial things matter very little in games!
However, there are several titles where the law does exist and you play an active role as either an enforcer, or a criminal. The Yakuza series, the GTA series, the Payday series, the Mafia series, L.A. Noire, and Disco Elysium are all excellent games set deep in the theme of crime.
These are some of the most popular themes we find in games across almost all genres. It’s true that some settings are more suited to one genre of gaming or the other, but you will find that RPGs, MMORPGs, and slots have a way of fitting into almost any gaming theme out there!