Sunday, March 20, 2022

Depictions of Native Americans in Video Games

It'll be a while before we get here.
As part of an ethics course that I teach, I've recently had my students take the Implicit Association Tests on Harvard University's web site. The tests are based on the work of Dr. Tony Greenwald of the University of Washington, Dr. Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University, and Dr. Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia. They measure implicit biases by noting differences in the time it takes to associate certain groups of words with certain demographic groups. The ur example, and the most popular on the IAT web site, has the user associate good words with white faces and bad words with black faces and then reverses it. (And before you chime in with what you think are obvious objections, rest assured that the team already thought of them and has built in the appropriate controls; the FAQ addresses the most common issues.) Most white people, and even an unfortunate percentage of black people, find that they have a harder time associating positive themes with black faces. This implicit bias has obvious repercussions in any field where discretion plays a role (e.g., Does this person feel right for this job? Does this individual look "suspicious"?), and it shows that bias can still be a problem even in the absence of overt or conscious racism.
Not that there isn't plenty of overt racism, too.
I asked the students to take the white/black test and also to pick one of the other tests that interested them. I was looking through them and I saw the "Native IAT." I always feel bad about my score on the white-black test, so I figured I could feel better about myself by taking the Native American one. I can say with all honesty that I have never once had a negative thought about Native Americans as a group. I had to struggle to even think of a Native American slur. Not only that, but I also don't think I've even met anyone who expressed a racist opinion about Native Americans. If anything, I've always been exposed to positive associations. One of my earliest memories is watching I Will Fight No More Forever (1975) with my father, and having him explain how great a leader Chief Joseph was. In short, I thought, I got this.
Well, Harvard got the best of me. It turns out that the Native IAT doesn't ask you to associate good and bad things with whites and Native Americans: it asks you to associate contemporary and past things with whites and Native Americans. My scores were worse than they were on the white-black test. I may not think Native Americans are "bad"; I just think they're over. I took that test about three weeks ago, and I've thought about it every day since then. I can't decide what would be worse: being a member of a culture that the majority of people thinks is somehow "bad," or being a member of a culture that the majority of people thinks is extinct--that regards you and your family as remnants, artifacts. It made me think an entirely new way about the "sports team" controversies. Some fans think that "Braves" and "Chiefs" are the opposite of racist--that they in fact honor the people they reference. But line them up with other team names that reference peoples--Vikings, Celtics, Patriots--and it's clear what they have in common. You may draw inspiration from them, but they're part of the past.
These things were on my mind when Dr. Wendi Sierra of Texas Christian University wrote to me as part of her research into how Native Americans are depicted in video games. "Where are their homes? Are they seen as contemporary? Do they speak their indigenous language?"
Dr. Sierra's project comes from a fusion of her interests. She is a member of the Oneida Nation herself, and one of her passions is video games. She teaches Games Studies at her university, has designed a game around Oneida culture and language called A Strong Fire, and has written a 2020 book on Bethesda's Todd Howard. 
A Strong Fire includes a simple memory game with Native American images and words.
Unfortunately, the era that I've covered in this blog is one in which complex stories and NPCs have not yet emerged. But based on my limited experience, I decided that the use of Native Americans, as I've seen them, falls into essentially five categories:
1. Games in which Native Americans are basically fairy tale characters, akin to the inclusion of "Indians" in the story of Peter Pan. They're usually drawn quite broadly and use tired cliches. So you have an Indian saying "How, Pale Face" in Space: 1889 or an Eskimo saying "You use me kayak" in Tangled Tales (1989).
2. Games in which they are unapologetic enemies. These will often be set in the Old West. These are more likely to be strategy or action games than RPGs, but one weird example that I've played is Escape from Hell (1990), which is based heavily on Catholic mythology, and thus American Indians are in Hell along with all other cultures who were never baptized.  
If Dante said they were in Hell, they're in Hell.
3. The "magic Indian." This NPC helps the main character in his quest by lending his peace pipe or offering a tomahawk or whatever. I think of the Native American janitor in Elvira II (1991) or the Navajo who gives you the magic feather in Spellcraft: Aspects of Valor (1992).
The unnamed "magic Indian" in Elvira.
4. Games that depict American Indians respectfully, authentically, and with substance. None of these have come up yet on my blog, but I think some of the characters in the Red Dead Redemption games would qualify, as would Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.

5. Games with Native American protagonists with their own agendas and choices. This is a hypothetical category for me, but I'm sure they exist. The only game I've played where a Native American character was even an option is Don't Go Alone (1989), which depicts him wearing a feather stuck in a headband and otherwise makes no references to his background or motives. [Ed. As a commenter pointed out, Assassin's Creed III belongs more in this category. I don't know why I put it in the previous one.]
I have pasted below all the games that Dr. Sierra had identified at the time of this posting, so I would ask for your contributions. We're looking for games in which one or more characters is explicitly identified as indigenous from North America, so no games with Indian "themes" alone (e.g., one of the magic artifacts is a dreamcatcher), and no games that draw solely upon Central or South American peoples. The more obscure, the better; being a professor of game studies, Dr. Sierra has a pretty good sense of the AAA market.
Maybe in another 10 years, RPG stories will have grown complex enough that I can write about this subject properly.
1870 (2018)
Age of Empires (Definitive Edition) (2020)
Age of Empires III: Warchiefs (2006)
All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua ()
America (2001)
American Conquest: Fight Back (2003)
Apachacha (1993)
Apache Raid/Cowboys 'n Injuns (1987)
Assassin's Creed III (2012)
Assassin's Creed Rogue (2014)
Bang! Howdy (2017)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (2008)
Banjo-Tooie (2000)
Brave: A Warrior's tale (2009)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (1989)
Call of Cthulu: Shadow of the Comet (1993)
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013)
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword (2007)
Civilization VI (2016)
Colorado (1990)
Cowboy kid (1991)
Custer's Revenge (1982)
Dangerous Streets (1994)
Darkwatch (2005)
Davy: King of the Wild Frontier (1985)
Disney's Pochahontas (1996)
Don't Go Alone (1989)
Don't Wake the Night ()
Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus (1991)
Empire of the Sin (2020)
Empire: Total War (2009)
Escape from Hell (1990)
Expeditions: Conquistador (2013)
Fatal Fury series (1998/1999)
Fight 'N' Jokes (1997)
Fighters Megamix (1996)
Gun (2006)
Gun Smoke (1985)
Gun: Showdown (2006)
Hammer boy (1991)
Indian Attack/Apache Raid (1983)
Indian Battle (1980)
Infamous: Second Son (2014)
Kane (1985)
Kasumi Ninja (1994)
Killer Instinct (1994/2013)
Kona (2017)
Legend of Pochahontas (2002)
Lego Chess (1998)
Lone Ranger (1991)
Meriweather: An American Epic (2017)
Metal Gear Solid (1999)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Mortal Kombat (2011) (2011)
Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
Mortal Kombat X (2015)
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
Never Alone (2014)
Nightmare Circus (1996)
Oregon Trail (1985)
Outlaws (1997)
Peter Pan: Adventures in Neverland (2002)
Prey (2006)
Quick draw mcgraw (1990)
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Red Dead Redemption II (2018)
Red Dead Revolver (2002)
Rochard (2011)
Santa Fe Mysteries: The Elk Moon Murder (1996)
Shadow Hearts: From the New World (2005)
Shadowrun (1993)
Shadowrun (1994)
Sid Meyer's Colonization (1995)
Space 1889 (1990)
SpellCraft: Aspects of Valor (1992)
Street Fighter series (1987-2020)
Sunset Riders (1991)
Tao Taido (1993)
Tekken series (1994-2017)
Tengai Makyō: Daiyon no Mokushiroku (1997)
Terra Nova (2019)
The Raven And The Light (2015)
This Land is My Land (2019)
Thunderbird Strike (2017)
Total War: Medieval II (2006)
Turok series ()
Turok: Evolution (2002)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
Virtua Fighter (1993)
Virtua Fighter 3 (1996)
Virtual Fighter 2 (1994)
Virtual Fighter 4 (2001)
Virtual Fighter 5 (2006)
Virtual Fighter Kids (1996)
Werewolf: The Last Warrior (1990)
Westerado: Double Barreled (2015)
When Rivers Were Trails (2019)
Whomp Em (1991)
Wild West Guns (2008)
Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire (1990)


  1. Out of all the adventures I've played (going up to 1982 but I haven't finished 1982 yet) the ones that had North American indigenous people in some capacity are

    The Lost Dutchman's Gold by Teri Li (1979) -

    Ghost Town by Scott Adams (1980)

    Timequest by William Demas (1981)

    Time Zone by Roberta Williams (1982)

    I've got details on all the instances on my blog.

    1. In terms of adventure games, Freddie Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist has at least three very cartoonish "Cigar Indians" with very minimal backstory or characterization:

  2. Not a video game but the anime ( is entirely centered around native american culture. It's got a few derivative video games.

    1. Shaman King is not centered around native american culture. It is present there, but only among other shamanistic traditions from around the world. Most of the main characters are Japanese shamans.

  3. might have something.
    Mega Man 6 has Tomahawk Man.

  4. Wasteland. Redhawk's nationality is listed as "Indian".

    1. And during character creation you choose each character's nationality, and "Indian" is an option. I don't think it has any impact on the game though.


  6. Sentinel Worlds has characters who are very obviously supposed to be seen as at least analogous to Native Americans, although I don't think they're explicitly said to be. Kedro is a good example (appears in this post: )

    I'm surprised to realize that Shadowrun Returns doesn't touch on that part of the game's universe, despite being set in Seattle. I'm not sure there's even more than an offhand reference to Aztechnology, much less the Salish-Shidhe or the Native American Nations. Shadowrun: Dragonfall has a significant subplot related to Aztechnology, but I'm assuming they're out of scope of this project.

    1. Shannon Half-Sky in Shadowrun Returns is a Salish Shaman

    2. In the first Shadowrun (SNES) I met a Native shaman named Chrome Bison (or Chrome Coyote, I forgot) during the first chapter. Maybe there are more Natives later on. Anyway, "shaman" is one of the three main classes in Shadowrun.

      My understanding is that, in Shadowrun, the opposition between Seattle city and the surrounding independent Native countries is more a symbol for the opposition "oppressing city" vs. "good nature".

    3. This reminds me of two Italian Wild West series, "Tex" (a Texas ranger and Navajo leader) and "Magic Wind" (a white man adopted by the Lakota Sioux who becomes a shaman). In both series, the Natives are the "good guys" and the Americans are the "ruthless invaders" (this is a huge simplification, though).

    4. Chris is correct that there is an explicitly Native American character who appears in one mission of Shadowrun Returns investigating the disappearance of her late brother. Shdadowrun Dragonfall features the Aztechnology mega-corporation in some missions but takes place in Berlin and none of the Aztechnology employees that the player meets are specifically identified as Native Americans.

    5. Aztechnology would fall under "Central American". It's surprising that, given how important the rise of magic with Native Americans (amongst others) is for the general Shadowrun lore, they aren't really that prominently featured in the video games (not that surprising for the ones set in Berlin and Hong Kong I guess).

      @Abacos I don't think Shadowrun depicts The Native American Nations around Seattle as "good" - it's a Cyberpunk game afterall. Some of them are heavily militarized, some basically a corporate goverment, there's politics, crime, and powerful magic that they are unable to control.

    6. Mexico is considered part of North America, not Central America, so Aztechnology could potentially count, I suppose.

    7. While it says "North America" in Chet's post above, my understanding of the scope was that it refers mainly to Native Americans on the territory that today is the US, not the whole of Mexico, too - not sure about Canada, but many cultures extend across today 's official borders. E.g. the Maya could be found both in present day Mexico ("North America") and Guatemala ("Central America").

      Maybe Dr.Sierra/Chet can clarify. Or we just keep collecting everything "North American" and she can then pick and choose what she needs / wants to use for the purposes of the study.

    8. I remember some Native Americans showing up in the Genesis version of Shadowrun but I don't remember anything about how they were portrayed

  7. Do the characters in the Wasteland games qualify? I'm not certain if they're based off any specific tribal group, however, they clearly seem to draw their inspiration from Native Americans (it's been a good while since I've played any of them, but I do recall a recruitable NPC in the sequel).

  8. Mobygames maintains a (rather slim, only 10) game group documenting games with Native American protagonists at ... Davidson's "Magic Tales" interactive storybook CD-ROM "Little Cub's Test of Courage" might also qualify. A lot of Sid Meier's Colonization pertains to managing relations with different indigenous groups, but there are not individual characterizations and none of them are playable.

    1. Colonization does have some characterizations in that it applies certain traits to certain tribes if I recall correctly? Some were always peaceful, some were always aggressive, etc

    2. Game groups in Mobygames are notoriously under-used because you can't add a game to a group until it's approved (at least I haven't seen a way to do it) and to add a game to a group you need to find the group first. So most people who contribute games ignore groups.

    3. I'm fairly sure that the all the Native American tribes in Colonization are hard-coded to get more hostile over time, though there may be slight AI differences between tribes with different types of social organization. The Aztec and Inca, for example, may make more demands of the player than nomadic groups. It's possible to maintain good relations with nearby tribes through regular trade and frequent gifts, but if left alone they will all eventually attack the player.

      Colonization is a fun game, but in some ways its implicit view or history is extremely deterministic.

  9. Marvelous: Mouhitotsu no Takarajima and Wild Arms 3 are a couple of other console RPGs with named Native American characters (or, well, close fantasy equivalents). That's a pretty exhaustive list though.

  10. This is the kind of post I’m reading you for, Chet. Thank you.
    Like others said, there’s a whole “Native” faction in Wasteland games, especially in W2 with a huge subquest about warring tribes. But that (like many things in that game) is on the verge of parody.

  11. Fallout 2, Fallout: Tactics, and Fallout: New Vegas (esp Honest Hearts DLC) all feature so-called 'tribals' pretty extensively.

    As far as I know, most tribals are not of indigenous heritage (though some are), but many of Fallout's tribes have adopted indigenous cultural markers.

    The protagonists in Fallout 2 and Fallout: Tactics are both tribals.

  12. A big issue with this is that of overcorrection. When trying to move away from bigoted depictions, people rarely settle for just scrubbing out anything prejudiced they find, but move further into glorification.

    This is extremely common - the black man with down to earth humility and folksy good sense, the Chinese student who is mathematical genius and musical prodigy, and the American Indian who is one with the land and delivers the wisdom of the spirits of earth and land to guide the protagonist. (Category 3 on your list)

    This is not just restricted to media. The school textbooks of my grandparents' generation were filled with Manifest Destiny and the Triumph of Civilization over the Native Barbarians. My textbooks bordered on outright worship of the local Amerindian tribes, with endless rambling about how much better they were than we are.

    The problem this creates is that this is every bit as dehumanizing as the older naked prejudice. And that's why you see so few games in Category 4 and 5 on the list here. Those are for people, and when you overcorrect too much you still aren't letting people be people.

    1. I thought Red Dead 2 did a pretty legit job of having realistically motivated and acted Indians. The main chief you deal with was maybe too "good" and his son too much the "young hot head", but taken as a whole I thought it was a pretty decent depiction of flawed people in a hard time, just like the main characters.

  13. This one was never translated into English, but the German point-and-click adventure "Der Schatz im Silbersee" (1993), based on the Western adventure novels of German author Karl May, has Native American key characters. (You don't control him as a character in that game, but the figure of Winnetou usually classifies as having his own agenda, at least in the novels). The Native Americans in that game (as well as the books) are mostly of the "noble savage" archetype, with all the positives and problematic negatives that encompasses.

  14. Black & White is a god game from the maker of Populous, Dungeon Keeper, and Fable (it was mainstream at the time but currently languishes in publishing-rights obscurity). One of the village types is Indian (there's also Aztec) and one of buildings that can be built by them increases villager movement speed and birthrate, as well as the power of the lightning spell with the words "American Indian Power" shown to indicate that. Quests involving specific villagers are: a village food storage has been poisoned and a villager asks that you heal them; face-painted priest and priestess offer their son as a sacrifice; a mother who has lost her children; and a man who has built an idol and is worshiping it (instead of you). There's limited voice acting or graphics resources devoted to villagers, so their mannerisms don't really differ from other villager types and their appearance is only superficially different.

    1. Ah, Black and White. Yet another massive disappointment when it released compared to the hype. Just like Fable. I remember drooling over game mag preview articles for both of those games only to be like... this is it? when they released.

    2. well, that's just Peter Molyneux shtick

  15. I feel like it is missing some strategy games, including :
    - Colonization
    - Conquest of the New World
    - Paradox Interactive games (Victoria, and more importantly Europa Universalis III and IV where they are playables)
    - The fairly obscure Wars in America by AGEOD (very respectful I believe, as you can play as the Natives in several campaigns).

    The interest of the two laters is that the Natives are not only the antagonists, but "playable" with their own ruleset.

    I also just covered the totally forgotten New World, totally obscure : - I will probably come back on this game as I had massive code check and background information from the game from one of my commenter.

    1. Here are some thoughts on the depiction of Native Americans in Europa Universalis IV:

    2. Colonization is on the list, just has the full title of Sid Meier's Colonization ;-)

    3. Speaking of wargames, I forget the occasional attacks by Natives in Infogrames's North & South. They have a better representation in the comic series from which the game comes from.

    4. Are units in strategy games really characters, though? Colonization at least has Pocahontas as a founding father, although she's not really a character in the game either.

      You might as well count the Madden NFL games that include Sam Bradford, who is part Cherokee, then.

    5. Well, the fact that the only representation of the Natives in North and South is that they sometimes attack you when you are I-can't-remember-where is interesting in itself.

      For a game like Wars in America, I would say that the Natives have a lot more "character development" than in some of the RPG mentionned : the leaders (eg Pontiac, Captain Jacobs, etc have stats bloc of stats, traits and historical tidbits. Plus, the special ruleset applied to Native units (compared to what is applied to regular, or even coureurs) is an interpretation of history. Interesting in itself. Even more a character than units // narrators in Age of Empires, certainly. Or, at the very least, Custer's Revenge ! :).

      And then, Europa Universalis is its own thing (for people who don' know it, see it as a Civilization games that only covers Renaissance, is way more historical, and allows 200+ civilization with their own "game traits".)

      But yeah, I am sure that the person that Chet is helping will quickly check every single name, at least on mobygames and wikipedia, and keep what they need.

    6. Ah - did not adress the the Sam Bradford quip. I guess it would qualify if he had a different ruleset, or at least different stats, to represent his Nativeness.

  16. In the 1991 platform game Elf, one of the early NPCs is an Indian, although NPC interaction is very limited in this game.

    In turn-based strategy game Leylines, one of the factions is lizardmen who are clearly Indian-inspired. There's no NPCs per se, but it has one recruitable hero (Gleam) that appears regularly in the lore text.

    And there's a DOS-based Zelda clone with an Indian-themed level that has some minor NPCs. I struggle to remember the name though.

    1. "And there's a DOS-based Zelda clone with an Indian-themed level that has some minor NPCs. I struggle to remember the name though."

      Legends (1996), perhaps? I remember that being an AmigaCd32 game, but there may have been a Dos port, and it definitely had a "native American" section.

    2. That's it, thank you.

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  18. There is a scene with a Hopi Native American in “Runaway: A Road Adventure”.

    Something not related to games, but to the history of humans in general, which also addresses the unequal treatment of different continents by history, is the book “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. I consider it worth reading.

  19. Well, that was interesting...

    To contribute to the discussion, though it's not a game, the movie 'Wolfen' (1980, Michael Wadleigh) has the most respectful and nuanced depiction of modern Native-Americans I've come across.

    'You guys do have a head for heights!' Watch it now and thank me later.

  20. Here are some not already mentioned:

    -Alone in the Dark 3 (PC etc) (player is guided by a native American shaman)
    -A*M*E*R*I*C*A (PC) (native Americans are one of the playable factions)
    -Billy the Kid (PC, Amiga) (player can visit an Apache village and talk with some people)
    -Blood Bros (arcade) (player 2 is a native American; others are enemies)
    -Boot Hill Heroes (PC, Switch) (at least one party member is a native American)
    -Bounty Hunter (C64) (both enemies and helpers)
    -Dead Dust (PC, PS4, X1) (enemies)
    -Ghost Town (C64 etc) (an "undead shaman" is one of the central characters)
    -Gunfighter (C64 etc) (some enemies)
    -Gunslingers (Wii) (one party member)
    -Heated Barrell (arcade) (enemies and I think one playable character)
    -Helldorado (PC) (one party member)
    -Lucky Luke (SNES, PC) (at least one bossfight duel, plus non playable characters)
    -Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold (arcade & every CD platform) (enemies)
    -Silverload (PC, PS1) (minor characters, plus the whole story is about a native American shaman's curse)
    -Six-Gun Shootout (C64, Amiga) (enemies in at least one scenario)

    -almost every Wild Arms game have native American characters or NPCs

    1. A*M*E*R*I*C*A is already in the list as America (2001). It was also known under its subtitle No Peace Beyond the Line.

    2. Yes, sorry, I was careful to copy that stupid spelling, and missed it.

    3. Also your "Billy the Kid (PC, Amiga)" game made me check, and that's a different one from the one I remember playing as a kid.

      The one I played is "Billy the Kid Returns" by Alive Software. A pretty terrible shareware game tbh. It has one stage called Apache Ambush:

    4. Timestamped the Apache Ambush stage:

  21. Pretty good list, even includes the somewhat obscure RTS America from 2001. That one is a very clunky Age of Empires clone, and the Indians are actually the worst faction in it due to how projectile weapons work.

    Their core units are archers and knife throwers. They deal decent damage, but the arrows and knives are projectiles. Projectiles move pretty slow in this game, and always in a straight line. If the enemy units move away, the projectiles will miss. Guns, on the other hand, are hitscanners.

    And that's why the Indians are the absolute worst faction in this game. Their projectiles can be evaded so easily, they're difficult to play even against the AI.

    There's another early 00s RTS set in colonial America which isn't in the list: No Man's Land from 2003:

    It's also a clunky AoE clone, but at least its mechanics are a lot fairer to the natives.

    Since Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition is mentioned in the list, does the research project also look at South and Central American natives? Because AoE2 only contains Aztecs, Mayas (both added to the original game by the Conquerors expansion in 2000) and Incas (added by the Forgotten Empires DLC to the HD Edition in 2013). There are no North American factions in the game since they don't fit into the timeframe.

    If South and Central American natives are included, then there are a couple more games that should make the list. If not, AoE2 should be tossed out of it.

    1. Just re-read your post and yeah, Central and South American cultures don't qualify for the list. So AoE2 Definitive Edition should be tossed, it doesn't feature any north Americans.

    2. Aztec territory was largely located in Mexico and would be considered North American, although culturally they are largely affiliated with central America.

  22. Alone in the Dark 3 is a kind of fantasy/horror set in the "Wild West" and has lots of "Indian Mysticism". A montage of which can be seen in the cinematic that plays during the credits once you've completed the game.

  23. Desperados 2 includes a native American character named Hawkeye who joins your posse of bounty hunters, as does its sequel Helldorado.

    The original Desperados doesn't have any native American characters, but there's one scene where you get ambushed by an Indian. It's very minor though - the game is pretty interesting for being a Western game that doesn't feature "injuns" as a major player.

  24. Given that I just covered this, I have to mention Seven Cities of Gold. I don't know if this is quite what Dr. Sierra is looking for, as there aren't any characters per se, and it draws mostly, though not exclusively, from South and Central American cultures.

    It's abstract and difficult to pin down exactly what they were going for. There's no fantastic element, but nevertheless I think interpretation will be subjective, with pragmatic players viewing native Americans as little more than sources of gold and food to be raided at will. Trade is the other, more challenging, less rewarding method of obtaining their gold and cooperation, and it's all too easy to accidentally start a war, which you will certainly win on anything but the highest difficulty mode.

    Some other games that I can recall off-hand:
    Alone in the Dark 3
    Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
    Blood Brothers
    Desperados series
    Mad Dog McCree 2: The Lost Gold

    Kingdom Hearts series - maybe? Peter Pan and the Lost Boys show up in a few of these but I forget if the Indians ever show up. There's an "Indian Camp" area in Birth By Sleep but I can't remember if there's anyone in it.

    1. Re: Birth by Sleep, there is noone in the camp, just a hittable totem pole and some regular enemies.

    2. While its main focus seems indeed to be further south, I understand the „historical map“ of „Seven Cities of Gold“ also covers part of what today is the US, though not sure there is any notable distinction between different villages - Ahab may confirm this - and no real individual NPCs.

      On the other hand, there are aspects like the strange encounter mechanism (if you run into a native, you kill him or her - the reason given being that you do not speak the same language), the option to "amaze" the natives (with decreasing success) and some quotes from Dani Bunten on related thoughts about the game, e.g. in The Digital Antiquarian‘s article ( and an Antic interview (, which might make it worth a look.

    3. The historical map in the original Atari version covers both North and South America. In my play, there were Aztec and Pueblo civilizations named, and I understand the Inca Empire is present too.

      The manual claims there is a "cultural dissemination model," and I did notice behavioral differences. The Aztecs were initially defensive, but receptive to gifts, though the more I gave them, the more they'd demand in subsequent visits. Some unnamed settlements were outright hostile. On my first visit to a Pueblo village, they'd surround their chief and refuse to budge until I attacked. On later visits they'd flee the village at the sight of us, but regroup and counterattack on the plains.

  25. "Kane" from the original list is very strange: the box art and the loading screen both feature a native American character, and the game winning outro text says something about winning the war over the "Wagari Indians", but there are exactly zero native American people in the proper game.

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  27. Surprised you didn't count Assassin's Creed III as a category 5 since it features a (half) Native American protagonist. They failed to give him an interesting personality, which really stung after Ezio, and overall the game is quite dull, but they gave it a try in the representation department!

    1. Yes, of course you're right. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

  28. There are a few other fighting games not in the list which also feature a native American character:
    -Breakers (Condor Head)
    -Power Instinct (White Buffalo)
    -PowerStone (Galuda)
    -Samurai Shodown (Black Hawk)

  29. And some other games from this list:

    -Assassin's Creed: Rogue
    -Dino Crisis 2
    -Maple Story
    -Savage Warriors
    -Strikers 1945
    -Tell Me Why
    -Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon

    There are multiple named characters from different tribes' folklore in the Scribblenauts games.

    Pharah from Overwatch has an Egyptian mother and az indigenous Canadian father.

    Plus there are Marvel-based games featuring Echo,

    or Thunderbird,

    or Moonstar,

    or Warpath,

    or Forge.

    Some Shin Megami games have a character from Lakota folklore,

    or Manitou.

    There is a native American Power Ranger who appeared in many games

    1. Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers is even quite explicitly about about Algonquin folklore. With both the villain and the allies of the protagonist taking part in an Algonquin spiritual battle in a cyberpunk dystopia.

      It will be interesting to see what they bring in the sequel they just announced for later this year. IT's also kind of interesting to see what they'll do with a sequel after 25 years.

  30. Sorry if this is a double-post, but Three Skulls of the Toltecs is a 90s LucasArts-style adventure games that takes place in the American Southwest and has some Native characters and themes

  31. Fire Attack (Nintendo, 1982) (

    Body Harvest (DMA Design, 1998) ("magic indians" in the America stage)

    Vigilante 8 (Luxoflux, 1998) (

    Crimson Skies (Zipper Interactive, 2000) (

    Scribblenauts series (5th Cell, 2009-) (e.g.

    Last Hope Tower Defense (JE Software, 2016)

    Mulaka (Lienzo, 2018) (this is a good one)

  32. There's a Mario/Mega Man inspired game for the NES called Whomp Em, the re skinned North American version of the Japanese game Saiyūki World 2: Tenjōkai no Majin.

  33. (California:) Gold Rush!!,
    "This path brings Jerrod into contact with Native Americans".

    Spirit Lake
    "Learn Multiplication and Division from a 3-D Adventure Game set in Native American History"

    Dead End Junction
    "Being set primarily in an alternate universe version of the Wild West, Dead End Junction hits on themes relevant to the setting, such as treatment of the Native American population".

    12 is Better Than 6
    According to reports on the game, it includes "a white guy who smoked a little too much ganja and is now convinced he’s Native American" (named "Tomato of Wild Prairies") and has "Native American colonies" among its settings.
    12 is Better Than 6: The Apostles
    One of three new playable characters:
    "Indian Warrior
    A brave avenger who despises all weapons of the white man. All of them. Except Dynamite."

    Not sure if this "counts":

    1. Ah yes. I played "12 is Better than 6" - a Western-theme hotline Miami. Definitely Indian characters (NPC and hostiles) there. A lot of them.

  34. The extraordinarily obscure Flash escape-the-room-style adventure has a Native American NPC who is very strongly of Type 3; I forget if he is the one who explains to the protagonist what is happening but... well, he's very squarely in the "magical Indian" trope.

    Not only is this Flash, but it is not at the original place anymore. There does seem to be a site called "KBH games" that is hosting it but I have no idea whether it is full of viruses and, again, Flash. There seem to be some video walkthroughs on YouTube but I'm not sure any cover Chapter 3, which is the relevant part... so this is probably not worth researching!

    The walkthrough at Jayisgames is at

  35. I find it amusing that less than 24 hours after saying you don't want anymore suggestions, you instead ask for suggestions of a different kind.
    For 5 there's Blackstar: Agent of Justice, and spoilers I guess, though there's no way to say it without spoiling the game, Gun. Both, IIRC, are half-native half-white though.
    Alone in the Dark (there's one enemy who's in a painting)
    Blueberry (the Coktel Vision game)
    Its probably worth checking out western games on Mobygames, although in most cases they're probably minor enemies.

  36. This review suggests that Where The Water Tastes Like Wine has at least one Native American character which was written by a Native American writer--I have not played it, though!

    Beneath Floes is a Twine interactive fiction with an Inuit protagonist. It has been translated into Inuktitut, one of the principal Iniut languages of Nunavut. Kevin Snow of Bravemule also worked on Where the Water Tastes Like Wine; I think Pinnguaq, the other group credited, did the Inuktitut translation.

  37. Every game in the Civilization series has a playable North American native civ, not just IV and VI. I & II have the Sioux, III & V have the Iroquois.

  38. Don't be too quick to take the word of the Harvard group that they have analysed all potential issues with their pet test! See, for example,

    1. I'm not really all that interested in the debate. There are numerous expert opinions and peer-reviewed articles on both sides of the debate, and as non-psychologist, I can't parse them. Neither can most people who will read this, but they will naturally decide to support whatever side conforms with their existing biases.

      All I can say is that its results ring true for me and it has made me reflect numerous times on my own attitudes and behavior, so in that sense it has done its job.

  39. Humankind, an obscure strategy game that (like Sid Meier's Civilization games) offers indigenous North American cultures to play as.

    Europa Universalis 4, another unbelievably obscure game that allows your probably-European nation to interact (mostly as a colonizing force) with the New World.

    Skinwalker Hunt, an early access survival-horror game where the player is a Native American "monster hunter".

    Depraved, a Wild West-themed city builder game where the player can either befriend or fight with Native American tribes.

    Commander: Conquest Of The Americas, a naval combat / trading simulation game where the player is a European nation who can ally or fight with Native Americans.

    Wound Of The West, an early access wargame depicting a mid-19th century era conflict between the US government and the Native American peoples.

    1. Is calling EU4 unbelievably obscure a joke? I mean, it's niche, but it's one of the major players in the "grand strategy" genre. It's got 71,000 reviews on Steam...

      In EU's brother-game, Crusader Kings, there is an expansion that allows for a historical fantasy end game where the Aztecs end up invading Europe.

    2. You can also play as Native Americans... or Africans or Asians, etc., in EU4. Although yeah, the name kind of speaks for itself, I suppose.

    3. AdventureMaterials: Yes, I was being playfully sarcastic when I described EU4 (and Humankind) as obscure.

  40. You also have "Fields of Fire: War Along the Mohawk" in your master list. It's a RTS with some RPG elements where you can side either with the English or the French in the 18th century American Northeast, but also get to play with some Native Americans. Despite the historicity of the setting, the Natives have some fantasy skills such as commanding wild animals.

  41. This issue still comes up even in current AAA games like Horizon Forbidden West, see

    "Aloy as a character does evoke the narrative trope of the “white savior,” in which a white character rescues non-White people from their misfortunes. The franchise’s costume design and aesthetic is inspired by Native American imagery and the image of the classic American frontiersman; van Beek described Aloy’s story as “sort of like a Western story, with a girl riding on horseback traveling over the Great Plains.”

    The first game’s script generated controversy by using certain words to describe warriors that was seen as insensitive to Native Americans."

  42. Sand-dancer ( is an interactive fiction game by Aaron Reed and Alexei Othenin-Girard with a contemporary teen protagonist of mixed Native American and white parentage. I haven't played the completed game, but reviews suggest that while the game has rough edges, the player character is well-developed.

    Reed's book "Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7" shows how to build the game from the ground-up as a way to learn the Inform programming language, and Chapter 1's 'Concept Document' section notes what Reed was trying to convey with the player character's situation and the game's use of Native American mythology.

    There's also this Interactive Fiction Database poll where Sand-dancer and 3 other IF games were submitted as having "Native American" themes, but I haven't played them either:

  43. How could I forget Hard West (PC) 2015?

  44. "The Fall - Last days of Gaia" has an entire section / quest line dedicated to native american people called "Garden of Eden". The quest line was added by a patch and is available in the "Reloaded" edition.
    IIRC it was designed by some former Black Isle member.

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. "...which is based heavily on Catholic mythology, and thus American Indians are in Hell along with all other cultures who were never baptized"

    I'm not sure there's a clear catholic dogma regarding where unbaptized but virtuous - possibly not the shotgun wielding kind - people (or infants) end up. Dante puts them in Limbo, which I guess is technically in Hell, but more in a "not heaven" kind of way. If I understand it correctly, the position of the catholic church is more or less "there may be a way for these people to end up in heaven anyway, but God hasn't bothered to tell us about it".

    1. Dante is very clear that not being in the loving sight of God is its own level of suffering, just not as bad as the lower circles. And it's definitely Hell.

      Whether that represents current Catholic theology I certainly couldn't tell you.

    2. I said "Catholic mythology" deliberately. I would regard it as distinct from "Catholic theology" or "Catholic dogma." It would encompass a large number of stories and notions that have never passed through the lips of a pope, such as the angel classification system of pseudo-Dionysius and Thomas Aquinas.

    3. There is a Catholic concept known as Baptism of desire. It's been debated over the centuries, but John Paul II's Catechism states: "Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity."

  47. I think a part of your comment shows a significant urban/rural disconnect. Growing up in rural Canada, and now living in rural northern Maine, there are large active native communities around here. Thus, over the years I've seen people express some pretty disgusting racism towards native groups. We'd be fooling ourselves to think anti-native racism isn't quite prevalent in parts of this country.

    Early video games are packed full of racism. There's hardly an early text Adventure game that does show people of African origin as cannibals and savages that must be defeated.

    1. I think you misread my comments. I never claimed, and never would claim, that anti-Native American racism doesn't exist. I just said that I haven't felt it or been exposed to it. Of course it exists.

    2. I never said you said it doesn't exist. I think you also misread me. :P I'm just saying where people live and grow up greatly influences their perception. I was just surprised someone might have never heard blatant racism regarding Native Americans growing up, when where I grew up it was omnipresent.

      This event occurred about 20 km from my hometown:

  48. Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force has Commander Chakotay, though his ethnocultural background is essentially irrelevant.

    1. And is a mishmash of several different tribes made up by a known con man

    2. Sure, we're not going to find anything like "authenticity" in Chakotay. In Elite Force he's a peripheral figure with some dialogue, and I don't think his heritage really comes into play, though they sometimes leaned into it on Voyager (the TV show), with predictably uneven and sometimes cringeworthy results.

  49. Two examples based on Mark Twain: Injun Joe shows up as the final boss in a pair of otherwise unrelated NES/Famicom games, Adventures of Tom Sawyer (which was released in the US) and Square's Tom Sawyer (which wasn't).

    Square's Tom Sawyer is somewhat infamous for its description of another character -- one that, whatever the creators' intentions, would certainly be received as an almost absurdly racist caricature nowadays.

  50. I didn't see The Savage Empire mentioned. Though obviously fictionalized, it relies heavily on Native American (Mesoamerican, I suppose) stereotypes. One of the tribes, the one with the city, seems pretty clearly inspired by Aztecs or Maya.

  51. Really interesting stuff. Wouldn't mind more posts like this amidst the games, serious food for thought.

  52. The first game I can think of that takes Native Americans seriously is Seven Cities of Gold and while acceptable for a 1980s video game it’s not great.

    Other games that come to mind are Conquest I’d the New World and Europa Universalis IV, both of which allow you to play as Native American nations.

  53. A character in Martian Dreams talks about Comanche and Sioux Indians and how he helped move them to their new home:

  54. Chet, how could you? You left off Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004 remake) which has Native Americans as part of the game. (Indian war canoes and settlements, for example, and Indian units are the only ones that can walk through forests and attack on the same turn). I never played the original Pirates! or Pirates Gold, so you may want to check those out as well.

    Also, the new Apple Arcade version of the Oregon Trail has been specifically designed with Native American sensibilities in mind.

  55. Kinda surprised nobody mentioned Skunny in the Wild West yet. I had that one as a kid and got really frustrated with its often bullshit difficulty and not very smooth movement.

    The first level features very cartoony stereotypical Indians who shoot arrows at you from their tipis and you can ride canoes:

  56. The only game I can think of that isn't already on the list is Hard West, a turn-based tactics game a bit like XCOM but with cowboys . . . and also demons and mad scientists and various horror elements. To the best of my recollection, Native Americans appear exclusively as enemies during normal gameplay, but in some scenarios it is possible to trade with them or recruit them as guides and laborers between missions.

    1. You can recruit a Native American in the last scenario in the base game

  57. I'll chime in on the analog world. There are a couple of games published by GMT Games and designed by Joel Toppen that cover the topic respectfully. The first one is Navajo Wars where you play the Navajo fighting to stay culturally relevant during the time of the Spanish, Mexicans, and finally the Americans. It has an anti colonial feel, but based on their historical struggle. Joel was a missionary who lived among the Navajo for many years and was befriended by them. They encouraged him to produce the game. Later he did another game based on the Comanche nation called Comancheria.

    Do note that these are fairly involved solo board games that have a high learning curve and take hours to play through each scenario.

  58. Sanitarium, a point-and-click game, has a sequence involving Central/South American mythology and characters (if I remember correctly). I think Aztec?

    Just checked Wikipedia, and it lists one of the levels as "an Aztec village devastated by the return of the god Quetzalcoatl."

  59. A bit of a leap perhaps but the Star Trek Voyager have Chakotay, even though the Chakotay character's various stories and lore were later revealed to have been fabricated by a fraudulent "Native American Expert Consultant." So another racist disaster but it at least had better intentions than most that fall into that category.

    1. *games based on Star Trek Voyager, obviously not the TV show itself.

  60. "MOTTO: 'Scalps? --- I'm talking heads!'"
    Howling Manslayer in Champonship Wrestling (Epyx/1986)


  61. Another for the list is Hunt: Showdown (2019ish), which added a set of Native player characters in 2021 - mix of DLC and event-tied unlockable characters.

  62. 80 Days visits most of the world. The Native American portrayal felt really weird there, they somehow have a flying ship they let you come along on. Don't remember anything they said, it just felt weird to see them have one of the fanciest transports in the game while the suckers on the ground are building the railroad.

    1. I think it's a pretty core part of 80 Days' central postcolonial thesis, the notion that in its alternate history, freed from Europe's petty wars and interference, indigenous people around the world were in many cases able to cook up wondrous homegrown alternatives in the fields of industry and governance that were equal or superior to what Europe was working with.

  63. I see Call of juarez gunslinger in the list, but you have also the first two games to add in the list, as a several apaches are involved in the plot of the game, especially in the second.
    Check out the article "Calm Water" in the wikia of the series for more information.
    In Hellpoint, a dark souls like in a space station, you have a whole questline centered aroun an npc in an indian attire sitting next to a fire and you discuss philosophy with him. The whole game have like 5-6 sidequest. You can find the transcript of his lines on the wikia, and the cutscene at the end of his questline is tied to him reincarnating.

  64. At my Primary School we played an educational computer game based on Around the World in 80 Days; I believe it was the Around the World in 80 Days by Sherston Software, though I am not certain (if anyone has any screenshots or video footage of the game for me to verify I'd be most grateful). My vague recollection is that it included the sequence from the novel where the train is attacked by Sioux; but again, I'm not certain! Presumably any other faithful computer game based on Around the World in 80 Days should also include the same attack.

  65. There is Aztec Adventure on the Sega Master System, which is only Aztec in North America. The original Japanese version is called Nazca '88, and the game clearly revolves around Nazca culture, not Aztec culture. The clothes of the characters are South American and the last stage shows the famous Nazca lines.

  66. I recently published a post on my own blog (Computer Chronicles Revisited) about a series of adventure games published by a small company called Rhiannon Software in the early 1980s. Rhiannon's goal was to make games specifically targeting young girls--or really, young white girls. All of the games had the same premise: You play a young white girl stranded in a remote location who needs to gather supplies to survive. In one of the games, "Jenny of the South Seas," the player is specifically admonished about the need to avoid the native "cannibals." Granted, this was not strictly a depiction of Native Americans, but it goes to show how some early developers defaulted to the idea of native, non-white peoples as natural enemies in games.

  67. Yes, I "canceled" a certain sub-thread. It had long past the point at which it was respectful to the topic and to anyone coming into the comments to read about the topic. No more of that, please.

  68. Game & Watch: Fire Attack

    If the Inuit count:
    Goonies II
    Ice Climber

  69. "Theocracy" should be a good addition to this list.

    It's a strategy game set in Pre-Columbian Central America so there are no playable European factions. The end game is Spanish invasion which the player must defend against.

    1. Sorry, I didn't notice the "no Central or South America" requirement.

  70. Dragon Quest III has a town called Soo directly referencing the Sioux. It's been a long time since I've played it so I can't remember exactly how the inhabitants are depicted but I think they're very much the "in tune with nature" type.

    Other DQ games may have North American indigenous locales, as they tend to theme areas/towns after the real world.

  71. The list has most depictions I'm aware of with Europa Universalis series and Breakers being mentioned in this thread.
    Native Americans also show up in Noah's Ark(1992) on NES as an enemy type

  72. In Pray (2006), the main character is a native indian.

    1. I would say Prey is especially relevant. The protagonist is a Native American who is trying to escape the reservation life. His grandfather is the epitomy of the "magic indian" you mentioned above. And his girlfriend is happy with where she is and who she is. There are also Native American themes throughout the game.

  73. The edutainment title "Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?" has the Shoshoni Indians.

  74. Wild ARMs (PS1) - a game with an Old West theme that features "in tune with nature" Native Americans.

  75. Other Civilization games had civs from Turtle Island.

    Civ 2: Sioux
    Civ 3: Iroquois
    Civ 5: Iroquois, Shoshone

  76. RPG Addict: Flagellates himself over unconscious bias towards Native Americans.

    Also RPG Addict: Doesn't care about contributing to persecution of Romani around the world.

    1. Anonymous commenter: Equates repeating a word used in a game to describe fantasy characters as "contributing to persecution."

      Also anonymous commenter: Doesn't actually care about Native Americans or Romani except to the extent that they can be used as dung to throw.

  77. I remember there being two "Quest/Adventure" games by some French company, called "Inca" and "Inca 2: Wiracocha". Now, they were some kind of space fantasy Incas, fighting space fantasy Spanish, but still. Oh, wait, Incas must be predominantly South Indians, right? Not being American, I sadly have a hard time distinguishing =(

    Also, to the (off)topic of indigenous people, I remember fantastic roguelike "Unreal World" which is about some Scandinavian indigenous cultures, what with building huts, archery, hunting, shamans, and "rituals intended for the proper circulation of bear spirit" after the successfull bear-hunt...

  78. Blackstar came to mind. It's an small, indie adventure game with really "edgy" dialoge (monologue mostly tbh)where you play as a native american investigator type.
    Regarding the test:
    for me, it really didn't work. The only hits i botched were due to my poor hand-eye coordination (I don't know how they call it in english, but you can very easily confuse me if you switch things up between my left and right hands), and still, I mishit only once in each test. Maybe I have almost no biases, but that's much harder to believe.

  79. So the adventure game Dust: A Tale of the Wired West is an interesting example. The Main character is The Stranger a veteran of the Comanche Wars and also Native American themselves.

    However it is totally possible to miss this fact if your not paying attention until near the end of the game. The Tribe of The Stranger are fictional though. His name does turn out to be a real Hopi name so I guess we can assume they are related.

    There are two other native characters: one is a mysterious woman and the other is a total magical Indian. Its an pretty good game though I haven't played it a while so this might be nostalgia and/or I cant remember the more terrible bits.

    Though I should probably mention Help the Chinese immigrant store owner who hates your guts and has quite an accent. At least he is actually Asian and not just a white guy doing that accent like some other 90s games.


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