Fantasy is a broad genre and it incorporates many different styles. There’s high and low fantasy, depending on the amount and intensity of magical and fantastical elements present. There’s steampunk blending magic and Victorian era-technology. There’s also dark fantasy, which seems to feel quite welcome in video games.

Dark fantasy cleaves quite close to the horror genre, closer than other fantasy genres do, and dark fantasy setting are often pessimistic, dying, or otherwise unpleasant for regular people to live in. Hope is often a luxury, the world is full of monsters, and the good times are a distant memory. It works really well in video games, especially when the player takes control of somebody who can actually do something about the state of the things, or at least take a brief stand against the tide of darkness trying to consume the world.

Below you’ll find a list of quite a few games taking place in dark fantasy settings, coming from several different genres.

Berserk And The Band Of The Hawk 2017-02-21 Action & Shooter Omega Force
Blasphemous 2019-09-10 Adventure The Game Kitchen
Castlevania Anniversary Collection 2019-05-16 Adventure Konami Digital Entertainment
Dark Souls Iii 2016-04-11 Adventure FromSoftware
Dark Souls Ii Scholar Of The First Sin 2015-04-01 RPG FromSoftware
Darkest Dungeon 2016-01-19 Indie Red Hook Studios
Diablo 2 2000-06-29 RPG Blizzard North
Dishonored Definitive Edition 2012-10-11 Action Arkane Studios
Dragons Dogma Dark Arisen 2016-01-15 Adventure
Grim Dawn 2016-02-25 Adventure Crate Entertainment
Legacy Of Kain Soul Reaver 2012-12-06 Adventure Crystal Dynamics
Legacy Of Kain Soul Reaver 2 2001-11-20 Adventure Crystal Dynamics
Path Of Exile Arctic Crown Cobra Pet Key - - -
The Witcher Enhanced Edition 2008-09-16 RPG CD PROJEKT RED
The Witcher 2 Assassins Of Kings Enhanced Edition 2017-11-05 Adventure CD PROJEKT RED
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Goty 2015-05-18 RPG CD PROJEKT RED
Thief 2014-02-27 Stealth Eidos Montréal
Total War Warhammer 2016-05-24 Strategy The Creative Assembly
Total War Warhammer Ii 2017-09-28 Strategy The Creative Assembly

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Release date:2017-02-21
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:Omega Force

Based on Kentaro Miura’s long-running manga, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk shares the absurdly unfriendly quasi-medieval world, horrifyingly disfigured demons, and more blood than you’d expect from human sized creatures. The game follows a good portion of the manga’s story, from the Golden Age up to the Hawk of the Millennium arc, so you’ll see some of Berserk’s greatest hits.

The game belongs to the musou subgenre of hack and slash games, a playstyle best exemplified by the Dynasty Warriors series. That means you’ll never want for enemy hordes to plow through, and killcounts can go into high hundreds and special attacks will clear everything in front of you. In addition to main man Guts there are also fan favourites like Judeau, Zodd or Casca to play as

Key features
  • You can play through several arcs from the manga
  • Swinging Guts’ massive swords is very satisfying
  • Brutal, violent world threatened by demonic Apostles and other vile creatures
  • Survival mode called “Endless Eclipse”


Release date:2019-09-10
Developer:The Game Kitchen

Blasphemous pulls no punches In the dark fantasy department. The protagonist is called “The Penitent One”, and wears a helmet that looks like a torture implement. The island he finds himself on, Cvstodia, is affected by a mysterious power called The Miracle, which is behind the monsters that roam the place. Oh, and the local variant of healing portions are Bile Flasks filled at blood fountains.

Gameplay0wise, Blasphemous is a really good metroidvania, complete with 2D environments done in a nice pixel-art style which works really well with environment and character designs. There’s an upgrade system which significantly improves your chances of making it to the end. And there are two ways the game can end, depending on what you choose to do during the playthrough.

Key features
  • Great metroidvania
  • Strong religious motifs
  • Interesting setting
  • Death isn’t permanent, but it does hurt

Castlevania (franchise)

Release date:1986 (first release) – 2019 (last release)
Developer:Konami (primary), Eighting, MercurySteam, Kojima Productions, M2

Castlevania is one of the most beloved video game series, and as luck would have it, it’s also undeniably a dark fantasy world. It has everything, powerful vampires, vicious demons, existential ennui, neo-Gothic architecture, and the grim futility of fighting immortal monsters. Not that either ever stopped the Belmonts from going against Dracula and his goons.

Castlevania games

The protagonists change from game to game, but what doesn’t change is the fact that killing monsters is fun, and exploring locations is great. Depending on the game there’s also a different degree of gathering loot and improving abilities, and exploration, because there’s a reason the “metroidvania” genre has “-vania” in its name. There aren’t many new ones, but the classics remain excellent.

Key features
  • It has a well-received anime, so you can easily check out if you like the themes this way
  • The series has both 2D and 3D games
  • Much of the series story revolves around a family of badass monster killers
  • Games range between metroidvania and hack’n’slash

Dark Souls

Release date:2011 (DS1), 2014 (DS2), 2016 (DS3)
Genre:Action role-playing

It has “dark” right there in the name! Obviously was going to end up on this list. In all seriousness, Dark Souls really is a full dish of dark fantasy. The setting is quite gloomy, slowly sliding towards apathy and darkness, while the undead of all sorts roam the ruins of ancient castles, protecting the undying demigods sheltered inside. And your characters have to reign in these waking horrors, somehow.

Part of the dark fantasy atmosphere comes through the famously demanding combat system of the series. Enemies hit like a ton of bricks, and while you are restored to your miserable state fairly quickly, you lose all souls (currency/XP) you hadn’t banked before dropping dead. Between horrific monsters, twisted heroes, and subtle story of a dying world, Dark Souls is a must-play dark fantasy game.

Key features
  • Three games, plus expansions, full of dense, dark fantasy atmosphere
  • Challenging combat system
  • Excellent map design
  • Interesting setting

Darkest Dungeon

Release date:2016-01-19
Developer:Red Hook Studios

Another game with “dark” right there in the title, and this time it’s in superlative, so you it’s a big deal. Darkest Dungeon is less about hard boss fights and more about trying to keep your mercenaries sane and healthy as they explore and clear the mansion you inherited from monsters. It turns out that fighting undead and mutants in dim dungeons is very hard on people’s psyche

Your inheritance consists of a large manor, sprawling grounds, and the dungeons running deep below it all. You need to watch your hirelings’ stress levels, or they’ll acquire mostly detrimental quirks, and could even have a heart attack if you aren’t careful. Low light, taking damage from traps and in turn-based battles, even some abilities, all of these contribute to accumulating unhealthy levels of stress.

Key features
  • An excellent dungeon-crawling game in its own right
  • There’s a sequel in the works
  • Interesting character classes
  • An optional PvP multiplayer mode

Diablo (franchise)

Release date:1997 (Diablo), 2000 (Diablo II), 2012 (Diablo III), TBD (Diablo IV)
Genre:Action role-playing, hack and slash
Developer:Blizzard North (Diablo 1 &2), Blizzard Entertainment (Diablo 3 & 4)

Sanctuary, the world where Diablo games take place on, is hardly a happy place. Humans of Sanctuary are playthings in the machinations of hell, with little to no aid from the heavens. Nobody is safe from demonic influence, the undead emerge from ancient crypts and dungeons, and nobody can do anything about it, except a handful of driven and powerful individuals acting as player characters.

Each game has a different set on champions who take a stand against the monstrous hordes of Diablo or other devils. There are barbarians, necromancers, druids, even bare-fisted monks. There are also untold tonnes of loot to collect, skill trees to climb, and class builds to plan and complete. Better yet, Diablo is excellent in co-op, especially when players find a way to synergise their abilities.

Key features
  • New classes/characters in each game
  • Humans are mere playthings of greater powers
  • Surprisingly interesting lore
  • Diablo IV is in the works with a new ominous villain

Dishonored (franchise)

Release date:2012 (Dishonored), 2016 (DH2), 2017 (Death of the Outsider)
Genre:Action-adventure, stealth
Developer:Arkane Studios

Weird prehistoric-looking whales are hunted for the highly energetic oil their produce. Religious authorities of the country terrorize the populace. A mysterious man, residing in an extradimensional void, whispers secrets and ideas into the ears of people, and ominous cults hoping to get his attention skulk in shadows, while witches plot how to extend their influence. The sequel even has murderous flies.

The dark fantasy themes don’t even stop at defining the general setting. The game assesses the way you play and adjusts the world accordingly. Leaving a trail of bodies in your wake is going to reflect negatively on the city and will affect the tone of your ending. But hey, at least you get cool eldritch powers from the void guy which let you, for example, turn into murderous smoke demon.

Key features
  • You improve your abilities with charms carved from bones of mostly animals
  • Immersive simulation of a supernaturally gifted assassin
  • Four player characters across three games
  • Distinctive art style and designs

Dragon’s Dogma

Release date:2016-01-15

The game begins with a dragon burning down your hometown and eating your heart. Then things get dark and weird. Monsters roam the land, the local ruler is unhelpful, and there are undead right outsice the capital’s walls, shambling out of the ground every night. Only the player character, the Arisen, seems able to do anything about it, aided by creepily emotionless Pawns.

There’s no lack of monsters, both small, like goblins, and big, and a whole freaking Hydra to kill, and you get to train in one (or more, if you want to) Vocations, each falling somewhere in the Warrior-Mage-Rogue triangle. Downing a swooping Griffin with a swing of a greatsword or summoning a meteor storm feel amazing, and make you stand out among regular inhabitants of this unfortunate land.

Key features
  • Interesting vocations changing the way you play the game, including the weapons you use
  • Detailed character creation for the protagonist and the Pawn
  • Spectacular magic
  • What other game would allow you to freely climb all over a giant monster?

Grim Dawn

Release date:2016-02-25
Developer:Crate Entertainment

True, it doesn’t have “dark” in the title, but it does have “grim”, which is just as good. The world of Grim Dawn is called Cairn, and it’s been a battleground for a war between two extradimensional powers which don’t care much about the well-being of humans and view them as a resource at best. Over time, however, humans learned to fight back, and some, like the player character, even have odd powers.

Outside of the world’s and characters’ backstory Grim Dawn is a pretty damned good hack’n’slash game in the vein of Diablo and its ilk. There are several classes, and you can mix them, there’s a lot of loot dropping. To break the mould GD also introduces some choices to be made for the story and world, and there are a few factions to deal with, and certain choices last between playthroughs.

Key features
  • Humans are little more than resources for extradimensional beings to use as they see fit
  • A few weighty choices to make
  • Modding support
  • Plenty of loot

Legacy of Kain (franchise)

Release date:1996 (first release) – 2003 (latest release)
Developer:Silicon Knight, Crystal Dynamics

An ancient war between vampires and demonic Hylden ended in the Hylden exiled and vampires cursed with immortality and thirst for blood. Humans are screwed until the likes of Sarafan order come to fight against the vampires. And from the depths of the world, stretching across all of time lies a horror of many eyes and terrifying influence. The world of Nosgoth isn’t a good summer vacation spot.

Across the series players follow vampire Kain and his former lieutenant-turned-wraith Raziel as they travel across the realm, delve into forgotten temples for power and information, and fight numerous enemies, both human and supernatural. The story is engaging, the locations are interesting and well-designed, and the characters are compelling as they explore a dying and uncaring world.

Key features
  • Five excellent action-adventure games
  • Fantastic worldbuilding and a complex story
  • Old-school environmental puzzles galore
  • Compelling protagonists

Path of Exile

Release date:2013
Genre:Action role-playing, hack and slash
Developer:Grinding Gear Games

You wake up on the beach of Wraeclast, a continent that is pretty much a tomb for a long-fallen empire. You’re a convicted criminal and instead of wasting away in a cell you got sent to a penal colony established on Wraeclast. Oh, and there are undead and other monsters shambling towards you. Good luck, it only goes darker from that point, with secrets to uncover, and other exiles to deal with.

Path of Exile

Gameplay-wise it’s similar to Diablo, with action viewed from an isometric camera, plenty of loot, and a lot of room for detailed builds. In fact, progression in Path of Exile is very complex, with a dense web of passives to unlock as you gain levels, while you get new skills by slotting relevant gems in your equipment. It’s a fantastic game with tonnes of content and hundreds of builds to try out.

Key features
  • An optional sequel in the works
  • Extremely detailed character and equipment progression
  • A vast map to explore
  • Highly dynamic combat

The Witcher (franchise)

Release date:2007 (The Witcher), 2011 (TW2), 2015 (TW3)
Genre:Action role-playing
Developer:CD Projekt Red

The conflict between humans and the non-human rebels is in full bloom, while the Nilfgaard empire is preparing for a new invasion of the Northern Kingdoms. Sorcerers scheme and plot behind the scenes, and Geralt, a simple monster hunter is often found caught in the middle of all this political turmoil, and forced to make hard choices with long-reaching consequences.

Choice and consequence are big parts of each game in the series, and many decisions play out in a big way, including splitting the game into two separate storylines, like in The Witcher 2. There also, of course, a lot fo monster hunting, both small fries and big and dangerous creatures which require good planning and prep work to kill. Only witchers like Geralt can hope to go alone against them and live.

Key features
  • Based on a classic series of fantasy books by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • Plenty of difficult choices to make
  • Monsters and themes inspired by Slavic cultures
  • Memorable stories and likeable characters


Release date:1998 (Dark Project), 2000 (The Metal Age), 2004 (Deadly Shadows), 2014 (Thief reboot)
Developer:Looking Glass Studios, Ion Storm, Eidos Montréal

One of the grandparents of the stealth genre, the Thief series takes place in a deeply gloomy steampunk place known only as The City. There is magic, surprisingly functional mechanical eyes, and plenty of dark secrets to uncover. There are also dark cults, secret organisations, and plenty of valuables to grab as you go about your business as Garret, the eponymous thief and ally of the Keepers.

At its time the series was a masterclass of the stealth genre and remains solid even today. You need to skulk in the shadows, douse torches with water arrows, and avoid moving across hard surfaces, because the guards have a decent sense of hearing. There are quite a few gadgets you can use on your heists, provided you can afford to buy them: in The City thieving requires some investment.

Key features
  • Three games of the classic trilogy and a 2014 quasi-reboot
  • Some of the best stealth games of its time
  • Great, immersive setting
  • You have to try to not only be unseen, but also unheard

Total War: Warhammer 1 & 2

Release date:2016 (TW: Warhammer), 2017 (TW: Warhammer 2)
Genre:Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics
Developer:Creative Assembly

Warhammer is one of the most popular dark fantasy universes in interactive entertainment. Sure, there are elves, of several varieties, powerful magic, and dwarven gyrocopters, despite that it’s hardly a nice place to live in. Violent beastfolk constantly threaten small communities, demons seek entry into the world, aided by deranged cults, and there’s a huge region twisted by refined chaotic magic.

Total War: Warhammer plays out on two levels. On the turn-based strategic layer you forge alliances, direct research, and recruitment, and moves your armies. When you encounter enemy armies, you shift to the real-time tactical battles with hundreds of units under your control. These games are a great look at the scale of conflicts ravaging the Old World and how screwed many nations are.

Key features
  • Multiple distinct factions available in each game
  • If you own both games you can merge them for a grander campaign
  • Represents the atmosphere of setting very well
  • Based on a classic wargame by Games Workshop

Warhammer: Vermintide 1 & 2

Release date:2015 (Vermintide), 2018 (Vermintide 2)
Genre:First-person shooter, action

Where Total War: Warhammer takes a look at the grand scheme of things, the Vermintide games play out on a more personal level. Instead of commanding hundreds of soldiers in real-time battles or moving entire armies around on the strategic map, this time you’re in control of one character, and in assistance of friends you take to imperial streets to fight against Skaven invasion.

In both games you’ll hack, slash, and burn your way through hordes of swarming ratmen of several types, and Vermintide 2 adds a big serving of Chaos worshippers to the mix. It seems that while armies fight open battles elsewhere, the regular imperial citizens can only be protected by dedicated individuals such as a dwarven fighter, human fire mage, or elven ranger, but only if they cooperate well.

Key features
  • Two great first-person action games set in the Warhammer universe
  • Several distinct characters
  • Story-driven missions
  • Tight cooperation is highly recommended

Hope is dying, but you can keep it alive

Like all things, so does our list need to end, but hopefully you’ve found something that caught your attention. There are, of course, many more dark fantasy games out there, and the list above is just a brief primer, not a comprehensive look at the genre. From grand classics like Diablo to modern hits like Dark Souls, there are plenty of worlds for you to keep from collapsing.