Conan the Barbarian learned early in life the riddle of steel. You can trust no one in life; not men, or women, or beasts - but steel…steel you can trust. Let’s be honest, the reason that there are so many barbarian games is because it’s fun to be a barbarian.
In terms of escapism in video games, the barbarian game is king. You are placed in a role where you don’t have to worry about rent, or car payments, or getting to work on time. Societal contracts don’t apply to you, because you live apart from civilization. You only have to worry about the laws of nature as you carve out your destiny with the blade in your hand. Let’s take a look at the best barbarian games available; and as always, if a game that you think is deserving of being in this list was left out then leave a comment below.
10 Enslaved: Odyssey To The West
Enslaved, which was originally intended to be an animated movie, is loosely based on the Chinese epic Journey to the West written in the 16th century. In the Chinese story the protagonist is the Monkey King, and it follows him as he escorts a pilgrim to the West.
In Enslaved the player controls Monkey, a man who is compelled to help a woman named Trip due to a mind control band on his head. The game takes place in the 22nd century after humanity’s fall, and the land is filled with mechanical monsters that Monkey must fight to keep Trip safe. Unlike most modern adventure games that have a color palette of dull browns and greens, Enslaved has a vibrant and colorful world to explore.
9 Viking: Battle For Asgard
Viking: Battle for Asgard was an ambitious title. The game has three large islands to freely explore, and at times there are so many enemies on-screen to battle that the Dynasty Warriors franchise gets jealous. The game is basically an action/adventure game, but there are also times when strategy must be employed to be successful.
In Viking, the player controls the champion of the goddess Freya on a quest to prevent Ragnarok and earn a place in Valhalla. The game looks great, with impressive lighting effects and smooth animation. At times the fighting can get a little tedious, but overall Viking: Battle for Asgard delivers a fun gaming experience.
8 Conan (2007)
In a list about great barbarian games it is an eventuality that a game featuring Conan the Barbarian will make an appearance. In Conan you control the title character as he journeys across the land in search of his stolen armor. The game's graphics are alright – not the best, but alright.
The battle system, however, is fun and engaging with gory finishing moves. Conan features some great voice acting, with Ron Perlman lending his talents to voice Conan. The game-world was heavily inspired by the artwork of Frank Frazetta. Frazetta’s depiction of the Conan universe set the standard that future artists would imitate.
7 The Mark Of Kri
The Mark of Kri was a PlayStation 2 game that was praised at the time for its fighting system and story. The remaster, released in 2016, presents the game in 1080p resolution and is the version you should play if you are playing for the first time. The graphics were great for the time, but now look a little dated and simple. Fortunately, the developers used a more cartoonish style that tends to hold up a little better than a more realistic look.
The Mark of Kri and its sequel, The Rise of Kasai, both are influenced by the mythos of the Māori culture. The use of this mythos actually caused a bit of controversy at the time. The fighting system was innovative for the time and has been borrowed from heavily. Anyone who enjoyed the fighting system in the Batman Arkham series will enjoy this game.
6 Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim was a landmark game when it was released. It allowed the player to explore a huge game world full of monsters and interesting NPCs. One of the more popular character classes to play in Skyrim was the barbarian. It felt natural to run a barbarian considering the game take place in Skyrim - the land of the Nords. Other character classes and races were merely guests in Skyrim, but to the barbarian character it was home.
For those rare few who haven’t played Skyrim, the player’s character is a Dragonborn with the power to absorb the souls of defeated dragons. Being a Dragonborn thrusts your character into the world of politics as opposing forces each seek to win your favor in hopes of tipping the scales to their side. The game’s graphics are beautiful, but also a bit boring in terms of color and variety. Skyrim was also given a remastered version for the PlayStation VR; which is about as close as gamers may ever get to walking through a fantasy world in the hide boots of a barbarian.
5 Far Cry Primal
This entry in the Far Cry franchise strays a bit from the other titles by putting the player in control of a primitive warrior in the Mesolithic Era. The developers of Primal did an excellent job creating a lush world for the player to explore. The single-player campaign, where the player tries to prove himself worthy of being the chief of two tribes, is honestly a bit lacking.
Primal has an animal taming system that lets the player make companions out of the wild beasts found in the game world. This is an extremely fun addition that gives the game the feel of being an actual living world. Using an owl to scout the nearby terrain and attack enemies, done from the owl’s perspective, is very fun. Plus, taming and riding a saber-tooth cat into battle is about as cool as it gets.
4 Warrior’s Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III
The original Rastan was an arcade side-scrolling action game. It was insanely difficult but also had very impressive graphics for its time. This was a game every kid wished could have been given an arcade-perfect port on home consoles. Warrior's Blade was the third in the series and was a beat ‘em up with three playable characters.
The game still looks great today thanks to the developer’s use of a widescreen format. Warrior’s Blade doesn’t suffer from what a lot of beat ‘em ups suffer from – being too repetitive. There is a lot of variety in the enemies in Warrior’s Blade; which helps keep the game fresh as you play through. The game was never ported to home systems, but you can play it using MAME if you want to give it a try.
3 Conan Exiles
Conan Exiles puts the player in control of a condemned barbarian freed by Conan at the beginning of the game. This game does some things very well, but misses the mark on others. Graphically the game is gorgeous, but the camera sometimes gets in the way of the action. The controls are also a little stiff, and the fighting can get repetitive due to the grinding and farming the game forces the player to slog through.
Conan Exiles does have a very robust building mechanic that allows the player to build his/her own fortress, complete with the Wheel of Pain for your “servants” to push. This game was obviously rushed to meet a deadline, and because of that there is a definite feeling the game is not complete. Even with its flaws, Conan Exile is still a great game that fans of barbarian games will enjoy.
2 Horizon: Zero Dawn
In Horizon: Zero Dawn the player control Aloy, a young woman who has been cast out of her tribe and seeks to earn their acceptance by winning a competition called the Proving. The game is set in a 31st-century world where humanity has been reduced to a tribal existence and giant mechanical beasts resembling dinosaurs roam the land.
This is probably the best looking game in this list and will cause players to occasionally put the controller down to admire the view. The fights in Horizon are a blast to play through due to the game running at a steady frame-rate. Seriously, the fighting in this game gets intense enough at times to give any player an adrenalin rush.
1 Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hellblade has a female protagonist. Also like Horizon, this game is one of the best you might ever play. In Hellblade you control Senua as she seeks to rescue her beloved from the goddess Hela. Senua suffers from visions that can take the form of frightening hallucinations, but these visions will also help guide the player throughout the game.
This is a really interesting game mechanic, as the player is sometimes just as unsure of what is real and what is a hallucination as Senua. Hellblade is also a lot more challenging than most modern games, and will even erase your save game if you die too much. This can be frustrating for some, but it also serves to draw the player into the game. The game is impressive graphically, and the controls are almost never to blame for dying. This is one of the best games for the current generation of consoles and is definitely a must-play for any fan of adventure games.