Generally speaking, when people think of fairy tales, they think of a very specific set of fairy tales. However, it is important to note that fairy tales have been told by a wide range of cultures in a wide range of times. For example, the Greek historian Strabo from the late first century BC and early first century AD recorded a story in which a girl named Rhodopis was sought out by the King of Egypt for marriage based on her sandal, which is believed to be the earliest version of the Cinderella story. Likewise, certain Chinese Daoist philosophers were fond of using similar stories to illustrate their philosophical points. Combined, these fairy tales have served and continue to serve as a rich source of inspiration for video games. Here are some examples of the best video games based on fairy tales:
Alice: Madness Returns
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alice: Madness Returns is based on the famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, it is a much, much darker story than its source of inspiration. For those who are curious, Alice: Madness Returns is centered on a teenaged Alice Liddell who has been traumatized by the death of her entire family in a fire, with the result that she escapes into a twisted version of Wonderland. In the preceding game, Alice managed to conquer her doubts, thus enabling her to be released from the asylum where she was held. In Alice: Madness Returns, the story is much more focused on exactly what happened on the night when her family perished in the flames. Nowadays, the title isn’t particularly well-known because there has been too much passage of time, but it nonetheless offers interested individuals a very playable action-adventure game with psychological horror as well as hack and slash elements mixed in.
Kingdom Hearts has what can seem like a ridiculous premise on initial consideration. However, its success speaks for itself. In short, the now long-running Kingdom Hearts series is the product of a collaboration between Disney and Square Enix before it was Square Enix, meaning that it is a JRPG series featuring crossovers with a wide range of Disney and Disney-owned properties. Unsurprisingly, this means that it draws a huge amount of influence from fairy tales, seeing as how many of those properties were based on either fairy tales or fairy tale-adjacent stories. One excellent example would be Sleeping Beauty, while another excellent example would be Beauty and the Beast, which are just two of the many, many properties featured in the series.
Odin Sphere was a Japanese action RPG with side-scrolling beat ’em up style combat, meaning that it was very unique to say the least. Content-wise, it was a mishmash of influences, as shown by the various names featured throughout the story. For example, since Gwendolyn is a valkyrie, the easiest comparison would be the Ring Cycle. However, there are clear elements of Sleeping Beauty there as well. Likewise, Oswald’s story echoes that of Swan Lake, though it is amusing to note that his metaphorical Odette isn’t the literal character named Odette in Odin Sphere. On the whole, Odin Sphere is well-remembered because of the huge impact that it had on its studio Vanillaware. Its initial release was delayed, which brought the studio to the brink of financial ruin. Something that was prevented by a 20 million yen loan. The success of Odin Sphere didn’t just clear that loan but also enabled Vanillaware to make further projects, meaning that the studio couldn’t have survived into the present time without it.
As mentioned earlier, fairy tales aren’t limited to a single part of the world but have instead popped up in a wide range of cultures in a wide range of times. For instance, Okami has a lot of influence from Japanese folklore as well as Japanese fairy tales. Its protagonist is a very recognizable name for those who are familiar with the first, seeing as how she is Amaterasu-omikami, the Japanese goddess of the sun who serves as the head of the Japanese pantheon. However, Okami features said figure as a very adorable white wolf with red markings as well as tuffs of fur that resemble nothing so much as clouds, thus making for a very memorable presentation. Other characters draw enormous inspiration from Japanese fairy tales as well as other parts of Japanese culture. For instance, Waka’s costume is based on that of a tengu wearing the costume of a yamabushi, which makes sense because said character is based on a historical individual who was said to have been taught by tengu in his childhood. Meanwhile, Isshun is based on a literal fairy tale protagonist named Isshun-boshi, meaning “One-Sun Boy,” which can be considered a sort of Japanese counterpart to the English Tom Thumb.
The Wolf Among Us
Nowadays, fairy tales have a reputation for being saccharine sweet. However, this is rather misleading because there are plenty of fairy tales with some very dark content, with monsters being particularly common. Sometimes, the monsters are very human in nature. Other times, well, suffice to say that folklore loves its monsters. The Wolf Among Us is a graphic adventure game centered on a character named Bigby Wolf from the comic book series Fables. Said character is supposed to be a reformed version of the Big Bad Wolf, which has been featured in many, many fairy tales. Most people can point to either Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs. However, it is interesting to note that prototypical versions of the character can be traced to ancient Greek times as well as other ancient cultures, which is wholly unsurprising. In the present time, we tend to see wolves as well as other symbols of the wilderness as being positive in nature. For proof, look no further than the sheer range of products that come with wolf imagery, which says much about the animal’s perception in our culture. However, the ancients lived in a much less tamed world than ours, meaning that wolf attacks against humans as well as livestock was a much more realistic concern for them than it is for us. Of course, said perception was by no means universal among the ancients because there were also some ancient cultures who saw the animal in a more positive light that that.