Video games have evolved in so many ways—not just with respect to graphics and gameplay, but also with respect to their characters, stories, and cinematic qualities.
Many game developers go to great lengths to ground their characters, deepen their backstories, and expand their worlds. Sometimes, those worlds are rooted in real life and the annals of history.
Historical events can make for compelling settings in video games. Sadly, most of the time, you only see them in war games where players get involved in missions based on real-life skirmishes.
For whatever reason, non-war historical events are pretty rare in video games—but they aren't entirely non-existent.
Here are some of the best video games that incorporated historical events that actually happened in real life. They aren't just educational, but they're actually quite fun to play. A win-win!
10. Battlefield 1 (2016)
The tenth installment of the Battlefield franchise puts players in the shoes of troops during World War I.
Gameplay involves two modes: a campaign mode with missions across various environments and a multiplayer mode where players take on skirmishes with their squad.
While it's far from the best game in the franchise, Battlefield 1 is still packed with intense levels and gameplay that gets you into the shoes of a trench-dwelling soldier.
And what makes Battlefield 1 really stand out is that players can take on different roles and war stories. That alone makes this game an immersive look that honors the troops of WWI.
9. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018)
In this roleplaying game set during the early 1400s in the Kingdom of Bohemia, players are caught in the middle of war instigated by King Wenceslaus IV.
From the different roles you can choose, you'll need to acquire skills, take up a living in the Czech Kingdom, and prepare for inevitable battles.
There's a level of realism that Kingdom Come: Deliverance opens up. Every detail, from the Czech architecture to the fashion of the time, is ensured to be as accurate as possible. And the gameplay is great as players have liberty to choose and support their role as they wish.
8. Total War: Attila (2015)
The entire lineup of Total War games can stand in for hours of history classes. While the other entries have their epic moments, none came close to the grittiness and intensity of Total War: Attila.
Players start in the lower ranks. As they win one skirmish after another, they're able to gain leadership over the Huns and become Attila.
One cool advantage of Attila is that characters and figures are receptive to change. With the game's accurate take on the Roman Empire, Total War: Attila depicts civilizations and cultures reacting to the decisions made either by Attila or by other armies. Truly immersive.
7. Verdun (2015)
Here's another first-person shooter game set in World War I. Verdun revolves around the Battle of Verdun, which was one of the longest and deadliest battles in history.
Players are put front and center in battle, tasked with successfully completing missions on real-life battlefields.
After selecting a side in battle—either the Central Powers or the Triple Entente—players are made to join squads of four and then brought to trenches to conduct skirmishes.
Not only is the gameplay complex, the intense gunfire and tough warfare capture the grit of World War I.
6. Call of Duty: WWII (2017)
A list of history-inspired games wouldn't be complete without mention of at least one Call of Duty game. For me, it's Call of Duty: WWII that sticks out as the best, at least as far as theme.
Call of Duty: WWII gets it right when it comes to depicting the true horrors of war, from combat to recuperation. It's dripping with rich history, and there's just a lot of immersive goodness here.
Avid gamers might see strong similarities between Call of Duty: WWII and another Call of Duty game: World At War.
However, this entry goes back to the traditional "boots on the ground" gameplay for both campaign and multiplayer modes. And with its realistic depiction of war, the immersion is unbeatable.
5. Age of Empires IV (2021)
Here's a video game franchise whose legacy remains one of the most iconic in all of video gaming history. The Age of Empires series of real-time strategy games each focus on a specific period and civilization.
The latest entry, Age of Empires IV, takes place starting with the Early Middle Ages and leads up to the early Renaissance, spanning eight powerful civilizations and four campaigns between.
Those four campaigns cover different world events: the Norman conquests, the Hundred Years War between England and France, the Mongol Empire, and the Rise of Moscow.
They each add a level of authenticity to the battles that makes for engaging history lessons. The only difference between this and actual history is that players get to call the shots for their empires.
4. Europa Universalis IV (2013)
The Europa Universalis video games turn players into first-world leaders who have the power to control and influence European nations.
The latest release, Europa Universalis IV, adds to the depth of gameplay with a wider roster of dominions to manipulate.
The franchise is known for its interactive map format, which allows players to lead their nations of choice, boost their military strengths, gauge their economies, and conquer other territories.
Within all of that, players are forced to be strategic, tactical, and diplomatic. It's one of the coolest games with real historic details, and it packs a ton of replayability.
3. The Oregon Trail (1985)
The Oregon Trail had numerous versions throughout the years, starting with the very first version back in 1971 for Commodore computers. Even so, the one version everyone remembers is the 1985 classic.
Players get to choose between three occupations to start the game—banker, carpenter, or farmer—with each occupation going on their own trails, each more difficult than the last.
Whether it's battling sickness or crossing rivers or hunting for food, players need to make the right decisions (and pray for luck) in order to bring their wagons and parties safely to their destination.
It's a simple game that highlights the tough realities of what it took to actually make it across the real Oregon Trail.
2. Assassin's Creed (2007)
Assassin's Creed is one of the most successful gaming franchises, and for good reason! Every era of history has had their own assassins, and this series takes them and combines them with solid gameplay.
Every Assassin's Creed game has a certain richness to it, especially with the storyline surrounding the Order of the Assassins.
For those new to the franchise, the first game remains a great introduction as you take on the role of Desmond Miles, who relives the Third Crusade through the memories of his ancestor, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad.
With the freedom to take on various missions and explore the time period, Assassin's Creed lives up to the hype even to this day.
1. L.A. Noire (2011)
Most of the games on this list have been real-time strategy games, first-person shooter games, and third-person adventure games. Well, how about a murder-mystery detective game to cap things off?
L.A. Noire depicts a seedy Los Angeles in a post-World War II world. At the center of it is Detective Cole Phelps, who rises through the ranks of the LAPD with his successful run of solving cases.
In this third-person exploration game, players are assigned to different cases and must find items that are linked to their cases. All the while, they learn more about Phelps's life and the grimy city he calls home.
Rich with its late-1940s details and ideas, L.A. Noire is Alfred Hitchcock levels of suspense from Rockstar Games.