After watching the trailer a bajillion more times, I am extremely excited for Assassin's Creed Valhalla. It's been around 48 hours since the announcement and I cannot possibly retain this state for much longer. By the time the Christmas-ish release date rolls around I will either have exploded like a poor little meat balloon, or gone full circle and lapsed into a coma. Like the engines of the Enterprise, she cannae hold - definitely not for around six more months, anyway.
Thank god that Vikings are an enduring and popular theme for games, then! I can inoculate myself against disaster by playing a few of these existing ones while I wait. Such is the versatility of Vikings that they pop up in almost every genre imaginable, too. So if, like me, you are already on the edge of your seat (and that seat is in a longship), here are some recommendations for varied and quality video games that will get you prepared for Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
The best viking games
- For Honor
- Bad North
- Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
- The Banner Saga
- Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia
- That Sony Exclusive Of Which We Speak Not
Here's our list of best Viking games at a glance, and you can either click on each game individually or just carry on scrolling to read the whole thing. Alternatively, if you're looking for a completely different kind of game, then check out our list of the best PC games to play right now. Onwards!
What is it? Less a traditional fighter and more a cool duel simulator, in For Honor's online battles you play as either a samurai, knight, or, you guessed it, a Viking.
Who made it? Ubisoft
Where can I buy it? Steam, Epic Games Store, Humble
Let's start with an Ubi game. In For Honor, each faction has a selection of different warriors to play as, from big chonky slow lads to whippy, quick spearwomen. The big burly axemen of the Viking side are sure to get you in the pillaging mood.
While you can engage in group battles, or attack and defend big castles, perhaps the best mode is the tense 1v1 duels. Stalking each other through a forest and testing your enemy's blocking skill with a quick jab, before working up the courage to properly throw down. It's great stuff.
For Honor had a bumpy start when it launched in 2017. There were grumbles about the precise nature of the in-game currencies, and it had a lot of connection problems, which is not ideal for an online multiplayer game. But since then it's come on a lot, with the addition of new modes, maps, and playable classes. Brendy (RPS in peace) in particular became a renewed fan. "This was always a good game," he said last year, "but now it's at its goodest." For Honor even made it onto our best fighting games and best multiplayer games lists.
What is it?Teeny tiny strategy game, where your miniature army is fleeing a constantly oncoming tide of bad men in boats.
Who made it? Plausible Concept, Raw Fury
Where can I buy it? Steam, GOG, Humble
Technically in Bad North the Viking raiders are the baddies, but we can fudge minor details like that. Your task is to defend each small island you hop to in your ongoing escape effort, carefully positioning your squads of archers, spearmen and defensive shield units, as boats come in waves. They disgorge their loads of 'orrible Vikings onto the sand, and miniature battle commences.
Bad north is at once pretty gruesome and unbelievably cute, and last year it had a free Jotunn Edition update that tweaked the game and made some decent QOL improvements. The push and pull of the RTS combat plays out really well, and the sound design is unbelievably satisfying. Though it won't be as up close as Valhalla, this'd be a good one for strategy fans who want to get in the invaders and defenders mindset. As a bonus, you can also read all about the work that went into making the little soldiers feel like people in our Mechanic column on the subject.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Yes, alright, the Vikings are the baddies in Hellblade as well, but if you want a third person action game with a Norse flavour then you can do much worse. Ninja Theory won a lot of awards for their story of Pict warrior Senua, who journeys into the Viking hell to save the soul of her murdered lover. Senua has psychosis, and the studio worked with mental health experts, as well as people with psychosis, to try and recreate the experience (their success varying depending on who you ask).
Hellblade is completely HUD free, which means you can focus on the dramatic landscapes - the desolate beaches and creepy forests - because it does look really very good. And the combat, like more recent Assassin's Creed games, asks you to pay attention and perfect your parrying. In his review, Sam Horti called Hellblade "an excellent eight-hour story about love and loss", and enough people agreed that Ninja Theory recently revealed a sequel.
The Banner Saga saga
What is it? Roleplaying Viking saga with beautiful art and strategic combat, where your choices affect the fate of your fragile party.
Who made it? Stoic, Versus Evil
Where can I buy it? Steam, GOG, Humble
The Banner Sagas 1, 2 and 3 form a bittersweet trilogy where you craft your own epic story. While the setting is fantastical, it's easy to see the Viking influence, from the beautiful art to the grim, unforgiving story and setting. Through the changing perspective of different characters, you lead a group of refugees struggling to survive while a cataclysmic world ending event rumbles on around them.
Battles in The Banner Saga are turn based and strategic, taking place on a grid map (and indeed, it has a place on our best strategy games list). But for many the focus is outside of battle. The story frequently calls on you to make weighty choices. Do you take in every waif and stray who needs help? What about your food stores? Your morale? By the final game, one half of your refugees are holed up in one of the last extant strongholds, while another team is making a last ditch attempt to save the world, and your decisions all come home to roost. The story is one element in particular that our Katharine heaped with praise in her review.
The Banner Saga is one of those series that people really love, and it's not really hard to understand why. The intense mood, and the theme of holding your community together against some grim odds, should carry over nicely to your Valhalla playthrough.
In Jotun, Thora is a Viking warrior who died an inglorious death, which means she doesn't get to enter Valhalla. Fortunately, the gods have given her a second chance to impress them by journeying to the frozen land of Niflheim and defeating a series of large and terrifying bosses.
The fights here have such an impressive feeling of scale that you really have to marvel at them. Thora seems genuinely tiny next to the huge, menacing bosses that defeating one feels like a genuine act of giant slaying. And the animation and art is really lovely, such that you might actually spend too much time admiring your enemy instead of giving them a big wallop.
Thora has not only her big axe, which is nicely on message for the Eivor of the Assassin's Creed we've seen so far, but also some special god powers in her arsenal, including the ubiquitous Thor's Hammer as well as things like healing from Frigg and a shield buff from Heimdall. It's a good take on Norse mythology, and a definite recommend if you have a "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" attitude.
Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia
What is it? Spin-off of the famous strategy series where factions war over who gets to rule the British and Irish islands.
Who made it? Creative Assembly, Sega, Feral Interactive
Where can I buy it? Steam, Humble
This is probably not for you if you don't like complex UI, but Thrones Of Britannia is set pretty much straight after Assassin's Creed Valhalla (history spoilers: after Alfred defeated the Viking invaders) and continues the theme of invasion and competition for resources.
TOB combines real-time tactics in its big epic battles, with turn-based strategy coming into play as you move your units around the large factional map. There are ten of these factions to choose from, including four Viking ones split between regular land-based Vikings, and the more exciting sounding Sea Kings. While our reviewer Nic Rueben did find some problems with it, he found that the game was "all focused firmly towards evoking the period though, and here, Creative Assembly’s love for history absolutely bleeds through".
Yeah, you might not get to stab anyone in the face very personally in Thrones Of Britannia, but in terms of period appropriate content for history buffs, this is a great one to play in prep for Valhalla. Plus putting a Viking king on the throne would be some good poetic justice for Eivor.
What is it? Strategy game based on Norse myths, where you lead a clan of Vikings fighting for control of a new land
Who made it? Shiro Games
Where can I buy it? Steam
On paper Northgard sounds like it's basically just a strategy version of Valhalla, although it has less emphasis on war. Rather, this RTS game is about putting down roots, carefully managing your resources, and surviving more than anything else. Not that there's zero war involved, but sometimes wars are won with careful planning and decision making rather than big edged weapons .
In his review, Matt called Northgard "a superb RTS that’s easy to pick up but difficult to master". Although he wasn't sold on the story campaign, which is where you might run into most of the Norse mythology stuff, he was still really taken with Northgard, especially the cold, hard challenge presented by winter. Plus, Northgard is still regularly updated, including one that added the ability to befriend giant boars. It now becomes obvious why Northgard made it onto our best strategy games list.
[Edit: people had noticed that I forgot to include Northgard on the original version of this list, and also that there were only 7 games on it. I have come back to add this entry, thus neatly solving both issues.]
The Sony Exclusive Of Which We Speak Not
What is it? Sad Viking murder-dad simulator
Who made it? Sony Interactive Entertainment, SIE Santa Monica
Where can I buy it? Nowhere that we care about
Does it have a sensible name pursuant to the rest of its series? No. But, can we play it on PC? Also no. Still, it would seem churlish to not give passing mention to probably the most famous Norse-themed game of recent years. In God Of War (aka Dad Of War, God Of Dad, Dad Of Boi, etc.) extremely angry man Kratos, late of slaughtering all the Ancient Greek gods, has settled down in the land of Viking mythology. He's also a single parent, his partner having only recently passed away. Kratos and son Atreus travel to scatter her ashes off a specific mountain, whilst getting in slap fights with gods and monsters along the way.
The combat is what I think people call "visceral", and definitely hits that Viking axe sweet spot that we're looking for post-Valhalla reveal. It's also got a sober and thoughtful storyline (director Cory Balrog having grown up and had a child himself in the 15 years since he wrote on the first God Of War), and a really original, interesting interpretation of Viking gods and myths. Alas, it is not on PC, but we really want it to be - and have hope, now that Horizon Zero Dawn will be making its way to us.
Do you think we missed something? As always, consider writing an impassioned celebration of the game you love that isn’t here – you might convince others to give it a go. For more of our bestest best game lists, take your pick from:
- The best PC games to play right now
- The greatest PC games of all time
- The best free PC games to play right now
- Our games of the year 2019
Or try our genre-specific lists, if you want a particular kind of great game to play:
- The best strategy games on PC
- The 50 best RPG on PC
- The best coop games ever made
- The best VR games
- The best FPS games
- The best management games
- The best survival games
- The best space games on PC
- The best non-violent games
- The 14 best Metroidvanias
- The 10 best hacking games
- The best horror games on PC
- The 10 greatest games based on movies
- The 25 best stealth games on PC
- The 25 best action games on PC
- The 25 best adventure games ever made
- The 25 best puzzle games on PC