Sometimes, all you need to do to make a story more interesting is add a cult into the mix. There’s an undeniable lure to them: you wonder about the cultists’ motives, what sorts of things the leaders hide, and whether or not the cult’s beliefs hold any water. Cults beg questions, and in many video games, the answer is violence.
Thanks to this compelling set of features, we’ve seen cults pop up within video games plenty of times over the decades. Sometimes they’re major plot points, sometimes central antagonists, and sometimes they can even be handy providers of information or amusement.
8 Happy Happyism – Earthbound
Encountered early on in Earthbound, meeting the cult of Happy Happyism is one of the game’s first stand-out ‘weird’ moments. It’s a religion of sorts headed by a man named Carpainter, someone obsessed with and devoted to painting the world blue. The floor is blue, the cows are blue, even the cultists are dressed head-to-toe in an unfortunate blue garb. Hey, at least it ain’t white, right?
While this would be, well, relatively harmless, you’re forced to take Carpainter down as he kidnaps Paula, possibly working hand-in-hand with Porky, your recurring rival and all-around awful person.
7 The Children Of Atom – Fallout 3
If there’s one thing you know to be powerful in an apocalyptic, irradiated wasteland, it’s going to be radiation. The Church of the Children of Atom finds its root in Megaton, a settlement built around an unexploded atomic bomb. They worshipped the bomb and built the settlement, drawing more adherents from far-off places and establishing the church as a significant element of post-war America.
The Children of Atom worship the molecule as some sort of deity, believing each and every atom to contain an entire universe and that death through nuclear destruction is a means of becoming one with the many universes contained within oneself. Weirdly enough, not the oddest belief on this list.
6 Robot Cult – Nier: Automata
One of Nier: Automata’s more striking moments is the encounter with a group of religious robots towards the end of the game. You return to the Abandoned Factory where you begin the game, and meet a whole congregation of robots who, disconnected from their network, found(ed) a religion, with ‘His Grace’ at the head.
His Grace is quickly revealed to be an empty husk, a broken robot. His congregation revels in the revelation, celebrating his ascension to godhood and attacking you with gusto – believing that their deaths will let them join their leader in godhood. You can’t help but feel unsettled by this sequence.
5 Los Iluminados – Resident Evil 4
Ruled by Osmund Saddler in the present day, Los Iluminados was actually a cult many centuries past in the lore of Resident Evil, that worshipped Plagas. Plagas are parasites that take over the host’s body, turning them into, you guessed it, zombie-like antagonists to mow down.
Saddler reformed Los Iluminados by implanting his followers with these parasites and gave himself the ability to control them with an altered form of the plagas. While day-to-day life resembles that of a typical monastic order, beneath the facade lies a paramilitary order hell-bent on biological terrorism.
4 Team Plasma – Pokemon Black & White
Pokemon isn’t the first place you’d think to look for cultist activity, but there’s no denying that Team Plasma resembles a cult. You have the devious, secretive leader in Ghetsis, who uses a charismatic, brainwashed mouthpiece in N to recruit followers. There are the seven sages, elites who take care of the cult’s running, and the rank and file who do the dirty work.
With all the trappings of a classic cult established, Team Plasma went to work encouraging the people of Unova to abandon their ‘ownership’ of Pokemon, releasing them to the wild. This was presented as a moral act but actually served to leave the populace defenseless against Ghetsis’ true plan – to rule Unova with an iron fist and no one to challenge him.
3 The Cult Of Anu-Anu – Discworld Noir
Discworld Noir is a cult classic game that has a classic cult. Anu-anu is one of the small gods of the Discworld, barely worshipped anymore apart from in the desert city of Al-Khali and the dark forests of Uberwald. He’s a werewolf god who works with some of his Ankh-Morpork-based followers to enact ritual killings to summon a horrific entity from the Dungeon Dimensions.
Discworld Noir is a point-and-click game centered around solving the mystery of these ritual murders and then, once you understand more about the cult, stopping their machinations in their tracks. Despite the grim subject matter, you can expect roaring laughs and wacky moments if you pick this classic up.
Responsible not only for the assassination of Uriel Septim VII but for the Oblivion Crisis in its entirety, the Order of the Mythic Dawn is a cult that worships Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of destruction and ambition. You’ll face them multiple times over the course of a playthrough, with one notable moment being witnessing one of their cultist meetings.
The cult’s influence can be felt throughout Cyrodiil. Once you reach a certain point in the main story, many previously-friendly NPCs will aggro on sight, summoning their distinctive armor and weaponry in an effort to snuff you, the one undoing all their plans, out.
1 Your Cult – Cult Of The Lamb
Cults usually serve as antagonistic forces or sometimes as the focus of interesting sidequests. It’s easy to see why – the cultist way of life doesn’t really make that much sense, and prophets and leaders and manipulators make for fantastic villains. But some games allow you, dear reader, to be the villain.
Cult of the Lamb puts you in the shoes (hooves?) of the lamb. It’s your responsibility to build up a cult worthy of your deity, The One Who Waits, and seek revenge against the heretics who imprisoned him, taking away his power. The game lets you thrive in stereotypical cult behavior, from putting on great feasts to sacrificing your followers to your god for more devotion. If you enjoy games with these sorts of themes, you can’t really pass it up.