To say that the Devil has taken many forms over the centuries would be an understatement. Satan has ranged from its original incarnation at the centre of a terrifying superstition that put the literal fear of God into those who believed, to the downright silly contemporary versions that add a little edge to cartoons.
But whether you think the Devil is a genuine threat to your immortal soul, an interesting mythological story or just a recognisable character offering some darkly comic relief, it’s ingrained deeply enough into western culture that you know what you’re dealing with when it crops up.
Of all Satan’s appearances in literature, film and other media, there are none that affect you quite so much as those that place you face to face with the Lord of the Flies. When you are the challenger, you are at the beast’s mercy.
These 7 video games do exactly that.
It would’ve been impossible to compile this list without giving the Diablo series at least an honourable mention. The clue is literally in the name.
Blizzard’s demonic hack and slash game takes you on an adventure through the mortal realm, the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. It throws you into the heart of a supernatural war that has been raging for eons, into a chaotic maelstrom of angels and demons.
Over the course of three games, you face Diablo the Lord of Terror, youngest and most powerful of the three Prime Evils. Imprisoned for two centuries before the first game, Diablo takes every chance he can to escape and wreak havoc on the mortal realm. In each instalment, you must find and destroy the soulstones that Diablo inhabits and sever his link to your world. You must battle his army of demons and his Prime Evil brothers.
So much of these games draws from the stories of angels and demons that form the foundation of the Abrahamic religions. The characters and their relationships, the way that the different realms interact and the visual coding all build to create the kind of war that religious texts have hinted at since before the time of Christ.
It adds a level of fantasy to those tales in a way that makes for a game series that endures to this day, but retains the kind of brutally powerful imagery that makes devout believers so afraid of eternal punishment.
Christian mythology is at the very core of The Binding of Isaac. Loosely based on the Bible story of the same name, you play as a young boy named Isaac fleeing his mother, who believes that the voice of God has commanded her to sacrifice her son.
Many elements of the game, including the items you find and enemies you face, continue to draw on Biblical stories. You can collect religious emblems that offer you protection, make deals with demons and even head into a boss battle with Satan himself in the depths of Sheol.
The Devil isn’t necessarily the toughest boss you’ll face in the entire game, but just reaching it is an achievement in and of itself.
The battle against Satan comes in three waves. First you will first be challenged by The Fallen, a lesser boss with demon wings and gleaming red eyes that only appears after you’ve been inside a Devil Room. The second wave sees Satan rise out of a statue at the head of the room and blast you with multiple Brimstone lasers. Finally, when you have significantly lowered his health, he will grow to his full height and stamp on you, forcing you to evade and attack his enormous cloven hooves as they fall.
Less scary than some games and less sinister than others, this incarnation of Satan is still a fearsome challenge that you need to be an accomplished Isaac to confront.
In the survival horror stealth game Hello Neighbor, your task is to break into your neighbour’s home, make your way down to the basement and discover the secret he keeps hidden down there. But, if you pay attention to the little details of the game, it becomes clear that you’re not dealing with any ordinary man.
The game is littered with symbols drawn directly from Christian mythology. References to mysterious Bible verses that reference rescuing hostages, an ominous 666 printed on the shoe of the neighbour himself and a shadowy figure that shows up in only the most terrifying rooms in the game.
Hello Neighbor is undeniably creepy whether you’re aware of the satanic presence or not. Sneaking around in someone else’s home to reveal a dark secret, stalked in turn by an advanced AI with no mercy.
But once you take a moment to acknowledge what’s really going on, the game takes on a hellish new dimension. Your neighbour is involved in something much larger and darker than himself. He is caught up in a sinister plot with Satan himself and it feeds into every aspect of the game.
Though you might not look the Devil directly in the eye, he is nonetheless there and his influence plunges you into ever more chilling depths with each new room you explore.
Bible Fight not only gives you the option of fighting against Satan, but fighting as Satan against other Biblical figures. Hosted on the Adult Swim website, the game opens with haunting choral music as you choose your player and launches you into a Tekken-style battle between saints and demons.
You can select a number of different characters to play as or against, including Eve, Mary, Moses and God, and you even get to choose the setting of your fight. Your battlefield options include Noah’s Arc, the Manger and even Hell itself.
It is a simple game with basic keyboard controls that are easy to pick up. With the usual movement controls and two attack buttons, it’s not difficult to get the hang of this game. There are even a handful of codes that will give you the option of some more complex combo moves.
It’s not complicated game and it doesn’t have any overarching moral or philosphical message. But, as long as you don’t take religion too seriously, it’s a decent little free-to-play fighting game that’s good for a laugh.
Indie run and gun game Cuphead follows the adventures of Cuphead and Mugman as they attempt to repay their debt to Satan.
After a winning streak at craps in the Devil’s Casino, the two brothers accept a bet with the Devil. If they win one more roll, they will take home all the money in the casino. But when they lose, the Devil gives them the option of collecting all the soul contracts of others who owe their souls, and in exchange they can keep their own.
Playing as either Cuphead or Mugman, you have to go on a gruelling journey to save your soul, only to have the Devil double cross you at the final hurdle. As you return to the casino with your collected contracts, you find King Dice, the casino manager, blocking your path in his own deal with the Devil. Prevent you from completing your task, enslaving your souls forever, and King Dice will save his own.
In an uncommon twist, the game’s finale gives you a choice.
When you are face to face with the Devil, you can choose to join him. You can hand over the contracts and accept your fate as a servant of darkness. Or you can choose to fight him and free not only your own souls, but those of everyone whose contract who collected on your journey.
If you’re looking for a simpler game that shows a somewhat less terrifying version of Satan, you could certainly do worse than Puyo Puyo. The 1991 that is still being played today in its latest incarnation on the Nintendo Switch has basic but addictive gameplay in which you match falling coloured blobs in order to pop them.
It’s the kind of classic arcade style game that can easily be played with no regard whatsoever for the storyline. But the Single Puyo Puyo mode story goes out of its way to be entertaining.
You play as a teenage spellcaster called Arle Nadja as you take on twelve opponents in Puyo matches and finally the Dark Prince himself. In Puyo Puyo, Satan is a flamboyant, green-haired villain with a liking for Hawaiian shirts. His most demonic features are his broad batwings and curved yellow horns, but even they are a bit adorable.
Rather than evil, this version of Satan is a hopeless romantic whose obsession with Arle is the driving force behind most of the trouble he causes. But anyone who has had seen unrequited love turn from sweet to stalker won’t have any qualms about taking on the lovesick demon at the crescendo of the game.
Drawing on some of the darker, more mature cartoons produced during the earliest era of animation, Bendy and the Ink Machine follows a retired artist haunted by his own creation. You play as Henry, returning to his old studio at the invitation of his ex-boss Joey Drew, only to find the place plagued by demons and overrun by the occult.
If the designs of Bendy (the little devil thing) and Alice Angel weren’t enough to evoke a sense of the demonic, stumbling across the pentagram at the end of the first chapter should clue you in. There are subtler indications scattered throughout the game of the spiritual elements, with even the toy manufacturing department being titled Heavenly Toys.
Over the course of the chapters released so far, you have to escape from ink monsters and insane cartoonists who worship them as deities. Sneaking around the studio at the command of the maniacal Alice Angel, the creeping suspicion that there’s something far more dangerous lurking in the splotches of ink. And rightly so – in the second chapter, you narrowly escape being presented to a demon as a human sacrifice.
There are two more chapters that are still to be released in the Bendy saga, and no doubt it will get even more chilling as it progresses.