Gaming god? These Filipino mythology-inspired games can make you one
A high-technology society has its own set of pros and cons. But if we were to pick the best thing that has come out of it, it’s probably the plethora of easy ways we could stay connected—or reconnect—with our cultural roots despite being away from our homeland.
Most Filipinos (re)discover their heritage through native cuisine while some through nostalgic local films. There are also those who keep the connection by being updated on the trendiest Filipino slang and memes. But what if we told you that there is a relatively untapped realm of cultural exploration that deserves more attention?
Thanks to the ever-increasing visibility of Philippine mythology in the game development industry, we can now rekindle our ties to ancient folklore via table tops, phone screens, and PCs.
We’re also finally past our side character moments in the gaming scene, and these Filipino lore-inspired games are solid proof. (P.S. This lineup will kickstart your Main Character™ era as a Bicolana mythical being, an ethnic warrior, or even a queer person transported to pre-colonial Philippines.)
POV: You’re the rainbow goddess of Bicolano mythology. Prior to becoming one, though, you were a simple weaver in the village of Iraya. Your life was a melody of joy until the chirp of a cricket called “Korokoy” echoed through the village—a sound that is believed to bring ill omen.
Your father passed away just a week after your mother had heard that ominous chirp, followed by a storm that wrecked your village for days. Determined to unravel the mystery behind the misfortune, you took matters into your own hands and embarked on a journey that would change your destiny.
That’s exactly how things go in “Hablon Dawani.” It’s a 3D exploration video game that took cues from Bicolano mythology, traditions, and superstitions. While the game is still under development, a playable prototype is available for those who want to live as a Bicolano goddess pronto.
Whether you’re a Filipino mythos enthusiast or just a short-tempered gamer who uninstalls a game after three seconds of not figuring out how it works, “Sinag Fighting Game” is that noob-friendly 2D 1v1 mobile game that offers a culturally rich narrative.
It also promises well-thought-out game mechanics, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) can vouch for this. In fact, “Sinag” was one of the recipients of CCP’s game development grant in 2022. It’s the brainchild of Ranida Games—a.k.a. the game dev company that worked on “Bayani” and “PBA Basketball Slam!”
To date, “Sinag” is available for pre-registration on Google Play Store only.
Pick a struggle: You have yet to discover a Filipino horror game that doesn’t rely on tawdry jump scares, you’re officially done with playing as monotonic binary characters, or you own the attention span of a goldfish.
If you resonate with one of these—or all (because same)—“Tanggal” is it. In this free-to-play horror PC game, you take on the role of a queer woman of color who navigates the eerie confines of a dark mine to rescue her wife.
According to its developer Isip Games, “Tanggal” focuses on giving players “a sense of unease” through a sinister atmosphere. Plus, it has an average playtime of 15 minutes. It’s the perfect bite-sized experience for those who can’t commit to longer gameplays.
Ever wonder what it feels to be Lapu-Lapu? Malakas at Maganda? Or how things would end up should Maria Makiling fight head-to-head with Serpent Bakunawa?
While these sound like random high-on-caffeine 3 a.m. thoughts, a tabletop game can make them come true… uh, sort of.
Set in pre-colonial Samar, “Engkanto” casts you as the hero who has to find the lost city of Biringan. You have to gain treasure to offer to deities, collect items for survival, and acquire weapons to defeat engkantos along the way.
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A love letter to Filipino culture and a cathartic outlet in one—that’s basically what “Good Knight” is. It’s an intense “butt-clenching one-button bullet-hell” video game that incorporates Filipino (and other Asian) supernatural beings into its general gameplay.
But besides its mythological aspect, “Good Knight” also has elements that make for an excellent stress-relief tool: an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack, a steampunk gothic aesthetic, and a button-smashing nature. So, in case you consider yourself an emotionally constipated gamer who has a lot of pent-up frustration, this game might just be your gateway to liberation.
Right now, “Good Knight” is still in its development phase. (But you have an option to buy an early access pass if you couldn’t wait any longer to check it out.)