Cults might seem like a peculiar idea to base a video game on, but there are a surprising amount of games up for grabs that let players run their own cult, even aside from the obvious Cultist Simulator. For those with a dark sense of humor or even darker ambitions, there are games that let players build and control cults and are a fun way to scratch that strange itch. In recent years indie games letting players explore their darker side have become very popular, creating a small niche gaming market for those wanting to indulge some of their more sinister, possibly Lovecraftian inclinations.
The idea of cults is a fascinating one that evokes curiosity and horror all at the same time. Often depicted as isolated communities with strange charismatic leaders, the idea of running one, specifically a fictional one, not a real one, is oddly alluring. It is worth mentioning that indie game developers often have the freedom that some of the bigger names lack in terms of the subject matter they can focus on for their games. This can lead to some truly strange – but inspired – creations.
Playing as a villainous character has always been fun, and it cannot be denied that cult leaders are, more often than not, not the most law-abiding citizens. Players looking to dip their toes into this bizarre world might be surprised at how much choice is available to them. Here are some of the best games for those looking to satisfy their inner Palpatine or Joseph Seed.
Cultist Simulator: Difficult But A Classic
While many games ease the player into their main gameplay with a tutorial, Cultist Simulator instead throws players in at the deep end. Part of the challenge of this best-selling indie game is learning how to play it, so players should not be surprised to fail a few times before they start to wrap their heads around this very difficult card game. Each game can last between 20 to 40 hours as players use countless different cards to weave their own unique narrative in this 1920s-themed story featuring Lovecraftian gods and mysteries. The almost bottomless depth of its lore is also notable, as the beginning of a universe known as the Secret Histories, which will again feature in the upcoming Book of Hours.
Cultist Simulator is perhaps one of the most squarely thematic games that allow players to find and run their own cult. Released back in 2018 by micro-developer Weather Factory, Cultist Simulator has won many awards and has been nominated for two BAFTAs. Cultist Simulator is available on multiple platforms, including Steam, Android, and Nintendo Switch, so whatever platform players prefer, they can give this emergent, narrative-heavy plate-spinner a try.
The Shrouded Isle Taps Into Player’s Fears
The Shrouded Isle is a Lovecraftian-themed village management horror game from developer Kitfox Games. Released in 2017, the game puts players in charge of a village full of cultists trying to bring about the apocalypse through human sacrifice. As the leader of the village, players must choose an advisor from within the community full of characters with randomly generated virtues and vices.
The simple gameplay and graphics of The Shrouded Isle can lull some into thinking this is an easy game. However, The Shrouded Isle excels at making players anxious, not just because of the tasks presented to them but through the fear of making the wrong decision. The Shrouded Isle is available for budding cultists on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Honey, I Joined A Cult Is Cute & Quirky
Honey, I Joined A Cult is a cute-looking management game where players must build and grow their own cult. Avoiding the present day and set in the 1970s, the game is full of humor as players expand and manage their bases and fully customize their cult. The game was released in early access on Steam in 2021 and has recently added an update to add futuristic themes and items.
Gameplay is simple enough in Honey, I Joined A Cult, tasking the player with base-building and resource management. Where gameplay falls a little flat is in the lack of story as, aside from the missions players send their followers on, the game is almost purely micromanagement, albeit with a great twist. As Honey, I Joined A Cult is still in early access, perhaps more game features will be added before the final release by Sole Survivor Games to spice up this fun little game that’s a welcome breath of lightheartedness in the cult management space.
Underhand: A Free Card Game Not To Be Missed
Underhand is a mobile cult simulator card game by developers Spoopy Squad, available on both iOS and Android. Underhand is a mixture of resource management and roleplay as players use the cards at their disposal to run their cult and summon various creatures and gods. The game creates a good mix of strategy and luck as the randomly generated deck of cards is used to summon a variety of eldritch horrors.
The gameplay can sometimes be a tad repetitive; however, as players progress through the many gods, more event cards unlock. There’s a wonderful sense of humor running through Underhandand this, along with the beautifully stylized graphics, creates an enjoyable experience. Underhand is a free-to-play mobile game with no in-app purchases or ads, so anyone looking to try their hand at being a cult leader should definitely check it out.
Cult Of The Lamb Is Animal Crossing-Meets-Lovecraft
Cult of the Lamb is a fun-looking action roleplay game by developer Massive Monster and is slated for release in August 2022, with a demo available during June 2022’s Steam Next Fest. In Cult of the Lamb, players take on the role of a possessed lamb who has been saved from death by a mysterious figure. In order to pay back this enormous debt, the player must build a cult in their name.
Cult of the Lamb uses humor brilliantly as the player uses woodland creatures and critters to create a flock of faithful worshipers. The graphics are very cute, which wonderfully subverts the subtly dark tone of the game’s occult subject matter, while the gameplay is a mix of resource management and action-adventure. The existing demo shows off the game’s opening moments, spooky Lovecraftian boss design, and Zelda-like sword-swinging action. Upon its August 11 release, Cult of the Lamb will be out on all major platforms, including PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Games that allow players to run their own cult all tend to have a darker sense of humor running through them which can offset the dark tone of the topic. The games here offer a good mix of styles, gameplay, and challenges for the player. Whether players want to stick with the scholarly cosmic horror of Cultist Simulator or try something with a little more action, there is plenty for any would-be cult ruler to sink their teeth into.
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