What's the best political game you've played?


I think one of the most disappointing moments in my gaming history has been while playing Medieval II: Total War. Playing as the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope decided to excommunicate my empire. After many failed attempts to take out the pope from within, I sent an army across Italy and took down the Vatican. A turn later the Vatican army respawned with a new pope elected. This cycle continued for a while until I gave up.

So many strategy games seem to focus a lot on war (or assassination) when dealing with politics, and even then seems to have little actual consequences to actions undertaken other than wiping out entire civilizations.

I think Afghanistan '11 has been one of the only games I’ve ever played that handles a political situation with the necessary consequences and focus. Anyone know of any other strategy/war game/something that does something more than just the option between ignore and kill?


God help me, I’m talking about Persona 5 again, but Persona 5, more than a high school kissy game or monster-fighting RPG, is a game about political action directly relating to Japanese politics at the time of development (which feel surprisingly applicable to the current US political climate). The commentary on the relationship between fame, internet, and politics touches on some surprisingly nuanced ideas (even if it never fully delivers on them). I don’t think it’s the best political game I’ve ever played (See: Papers Please), but it’s better than you’d think.


So this is sort of a weird one that I’m not sure counts since the spotlight is on violence here, but I still got a kick out of the way the nemesis system in Shadow of War gives a picture of the brutal, simplistic nature of political power among the Uruks. The constantly changing nature of the hierarchy among them gave a clear picture of just how unstable and cruel their world is. The ability of one man to fundamentally disrupt the ranks offers a unique power trip.


I’ve been going deep into Crusader Kings 2 lately and if you’re after something with more politics built around it might just be your game. there’s still plenty of assassination and battle but with all sorts of politics mixed in; You can’t even conquer territory or go to war without a having valid claim to it (or having gone to the trouble to fabricate one).
I’ve been playing the Ua Briain dynasty and starting from a county on the southern tip of a divided Ireland over a couple of hundred years I’ve managed to unite Ireland and Wales under my banner with a foothold in Scotland. all through a combination of war, deception, and political marriages [nothing stops an armed revolt like having the Holy Roman Emperor as an inlaw] over the course of it I’ve gone from a duke, to a king, and then back to a duke languishing in my rivals dungeon and spiralling deeper and deeper into depression, that generation came to a bad end but fortunately his heir lived on and when the usurper failed to produced an heir of their own I inherited back my lands.
I’ve had to appease and gladhand pretenders to my crown before they could rally the forces to depose me, more than once I’ve had a vassal rise up and steal Wales away from me, one time they couldn’t even keep the country together long enough for me to conquer it back in one piece and I had to spend the decade reuniting the pieces.
Just today I had a wealthy duchess kick me out of Wales again, I might have been able to take her but once there’s blood in the water everybody want’s a piece.and it’s a feeding frenzy. I took back Wales and with any luck I stabilized the region by throwing the upstarts in the deepest dungeon, and stripping them of as many titles as seemed politically prudent.
Moving forward my eyes are set on Scotland and eventually England, I have a baron who was once some Scottish prince and I’d like to help him reclaim some of his lands and bring them into my realm, but he’s very old and I’m worried he will die before Scotland’s alliances with Finland and Norway dissolve. I also have a vassal who has been quietly amassing a troublingly large portion of my realm and It’s only a matter of time before they make a play at the big chair so I am looking for a chance to marry our heirs and bring their titles back under my control. Luckily the vassal in question is a distant cousin so they should be amenable to the union as long as I can get our kids to line up.


Bioshock Infinite’s nuanced portrayal of the politics of oppression. [Note to ed. - where’s the sarcasm tag?]


This actually sounds exactly like what I’ve been looking for, and I even own a copy of that game - but I’ve had a real hard time getting into it. Any good tutorials or lets plays I could watch to teach me the basics?


Austin has done a couple sessions of it that got me interested, one with Giant Bomb and a couple with Streamfriends and the tutorial scenario in the game is actually not bad, far from comprehensive but it gives you a decent framework you can build from through experimentation and googling. it’s a learning curve but I only picked it up a few weeks ago and I think I have a fairly decent handle on it now.


Cool, thanks. I should try to get deeper into it, your description sounds pretty neat.

I’ve been trying to get into Hearts of Iron 4 too, lately. With the world war as a backdrop for geopolitics, it’s been possible so far in my run to stay out of it (purely by location and influencing neighbors). I’m playing as Afghanistan, the previous Barakzai royal family is currently ousted in favor of a Democratic party with strong influences in the Soviet Union, Iran and the British Raj. By playing my politics this way I have not had to invest into military a lot so far, instead pioneering research. The problem does seem right now that the amount of factories the country has is abysmally low (relative to other nations), making any progress on the ground / infrastructure boringly slow. I’ll probably take that into consideration when I play another country. The war itself is still influencing the populace, however, as the lack of military focus has some members of my party worried and they’ve been rioting to invest more in case there ever was an attack.


Honestly, for all that we like to clown on Kojima (and as much as he deserves being clowned on for a lot of his nonsense), I can’t help but love the statement being made with the big multiplayer metagame of Phantom Pain with the nuclear weapons. Everyone could choose between keeping a hold of their nukes, or agreeing to unilateral disarmament and, well, I’m pretty sure it went the same way it does in real life. MGS fans are MAD. The tone of the whole Metal Gear series does well at disguising how switched on the people behind it were to current/forthcoming geopolitical shifts, especially in military tech, but I can’t really blame people for getting distracted by the vampires and basically-nude snipers.


That’s the problem with small nations in HOI4 - the 10 year span of the game is just not long enough for your backward nation to build its infrastructure up to a level where you can have an appreciable impact on the war. Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis on the other hand are hundreds of years long, so it is much more feasible to take a one province minor and make it a superpower (which is one of the delights of those games). The politics in CK2 and EU4 is much more fleshed out as well so I would definitely recommend either of them (EU4 is the better game IMO) for your political fix than HOI4.


my favourite video game take on politics is D2, which manages to present every single possible political opinion at the same time


No game has yet to have the nuance or emotional depth than the 2008 allegory of US politics Cory In The House.


A few CK2 Youtubers I’d recommend:

Northern Lion

Personally I lean toward Quill18 and J2, Northern Lion is good too and Arumba is probably the “best” player but the speed they play at, at least in the ones i’ve watched, might be hard to latch onto as a new player. One thing you gotta make sure is to watch LPs that are using the same DLC as you, otherwise they’re gonna touch if not focus on stuff that isn’t relevant to you at all.


Sunless Sea?

I mean I should probably say Fallen London but Sunless Sea was so much more consistently on message about satirizing English colonialism. I still have to smile impressed everytime I think about how many layers there are to the tigers of Port Carnelian analogy.


They aren’t exactly the best, but two of the weirdest political games I’ve played are Balloon Protest and Maciver for the Atari 2600

The games’ programmer, Bill Osmulski, worked for a think tank in Madison, WI back in 2011-2012 and made games based on some of the weird stuff he saw going on around the protests taking place in the state capitol building.


On the subject of MGSV - I also had the whole Jeep scene speech resonate with me in a way that I did not expect. Language is one of the most important building blocks of common culture. The anger related to having your language, and subsequently your culture, systematically erased and completely taken away was very interesting from a post-colonial perspective. People criticize it for being ridiculous in a “I WILL DESTROY THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE” sort of way, but man… I kinda get it.

Further on topic - It almost feels cliche to say this, but I really liked Spec Ops: The Line for what that did. It came as a breath of fresh air for someone from a post-America country. The constant portrayal of good-guy American bad-arse/tragic hero was getting really tiring.

“This War of Mine” was another good one. It just captured the feeling of that war. I’ve talked to plenty people who lived through the siege, and while I’m not from Sarajevo, I’ve also lived through somewhat rough times surrounding all that. That is the first game that made me stop playing it because I just couldn’t do it. I basically went “I see what this is doing and I respect it. I don’t need to experience that again.”


The entire Molleindustria catalog, but particularly Unmanned and Phone Story


Twilight Struggle because of the brinkmanship

Victoria 2 for the political upheaval of Socialism/Liberalism/Communism/Fascism


spelunky. 15 characters.


In all seriousness. As a kid, MGS3 made me completely anti war. I thought Snake was so cool and then I realized what was actually happening and it blew my mind.