Cults in video games are kooky, crazy, violent and dangerous—but also sometimes right. Sure, they might sometimes want to bring about the apocalypse through the raising of an evil god, or they might feel the need to kill literally everyone and merge them into a big ball of dead flesh.
But sometimes, just sometimes, they manage to achieve something that wouldn’t have been possible if not for their cult-y ways. Here are just five of the strangest cults in video games that actually had pretty good ideas.
Read more: The history of cults in video games
Treeminders (Fallout 3)
The Treeminders are a strange bunch of tree-loving cultists based in the aptly named area known as Oasis. It’s the only place that you’ll find trees and plants that look even slightly like the ones you’d see today.
The reason for this spurt of nature is Harold, a mutant you first meet in the original Fallout, and the tree growing out of his head, named Bob. Bob was originally quite a lot smaller, more of a talking point for Harold, but Bob did what all trees do: it grew.
Now, many years later, Bob has (literally) grounded Harold, spreading both its roots and Harold’s internal organs across Oasis, breathing new life into otherwise broken soil. Where Harold was once a mutant with a sapling on his head, he’s now a tree with a face. He isn’t very pleased about the situation.
The Treeminders have dedicated themselves to protecting Harold, eschewing technology (other than guns) and ensuring that his Mighty Greenness comes to no harm. They think he is some kind of sentient talking tree, rather than an unfortunate person who has bonded with a tree. They are misguided and definitely strange (they are all named after trees, after all)—but they also might be one of the most important groups in the Fallout universe.
After the Great War, the whole Fallout universe is one big irradiated wasteland. Plants that aren’t horribly mutated and even outright carnivorous are rare. Harold and Bob offer a solution to that problem, presenting the opportunity for a dying world to start again. The Treeminders might be kooky cultists, but strip away the religious rambling and consider Harold and Bob for what they really are; saviours for the green places of the world, and perhaps their dedication to protecting this mutated messiah doesn’t seem so odd after all.
The Imperial Cult (Warhammer 40k)
If you aren’t intimately familiar with the lore of the Warhammer 40k universe, I will summarise for you quickly: Skulls, gothic cathedrals in space, mutated superpeople, a dying Imperium of Man fighting aliens and monsters from the realms of space. Also, skulls.
Perhaps a little less sarcastically, it’s a world set in the 40th Millenium where mankind has spread amongst the stars and found it is not alone. This was all made possible by the leadership of the Emperor of Man; think every single messiah and prophet rolled into one all-powerful chunk of psychic power, then roll that into golden armour and give it a flaming sword and wonderful raven locks. That’s the Emperor.
Skulls, gothic cathedrals in space, mutated superpeople, a dying Imperium of Man fighting aliens and monsters from the realms of space.
In this distant future, the Emperor has been sat on the ‘Golden Throne’ for thousands of years after a near-death experience, guiding Mankind even in his death throes. He has become a symbol of worship amongst the trillions of human souls, and this Imperial Cult has become the state religion for the fascist Imperium of Man. Worship the Emperor, or get BLAM’d into non-existence.
Ironically, the Emperor was what could only be described as a militant atheist while he was still walking around. He would have hated to be worshiped as the new god of mankind. However, in this world, belief has power. All this worship (along with the daily sacrifice of thousands of lives) has kept his psychic power in tact, enabling him to keep mankind safe from otherwordly intruders.
The Imperial Cult are fascist, weird, dangerous and even outright evil at times, but they are heaps better than being skull-fucked by a Demonette of Slaanesh for all eternity.
The Brotherhood of Steel (Fallout)
The original Brotherhood of Steel were a quasi-religious, technology-obsessed cult. A lot of that has transferred over to the new Brotherhoods as well, but rather than rampaging crusaders (Fallout 4) or powerful do-gooders (Fallout 3), they were originally insular xenophobes that would trade with outsiders, but that was about it. They certainly weren’t the socialites they have recently become.
Their mandate was to protect technology and, in some cases, remove it from the hands that they considered unworthy. That means anyone who isn’t them. That’s why power armour and laser weaponry, which was relatively common amongst the military of the pre-War Fallout world, became very scarce after the bombs fell.
That may sound selfish. They have the technology to essentially wipe out the raiders of the Mojave, of DC, of Boston, but they would rather hide in their bunkers and keep lubing up their armour or whatever it is Paladins do in their spare time.
They would rather hide in their bunkers and keep lubing up their armour or whatever it is Paladins do in their spare time.
But, to be honest, this might actually be for the better. Consider how much of a difference the introduction of gunpowder made on warfare. Now consider tanks, rapid fire weapons, and nuclear bombs. Every new weapon of war created a new opportunity for mankind to kill, maim, burn and generally murder each other in the most efficient way possible.
In the Fallout universe, the Cold War got heated very quickly and the bombs fell. Everybody, bar a few, the Brotherhood founders included, died. Now the Brotherhood has the opportunity to stop that from happening again. Imagine if Raiders, for example, got their hands on a cache of plasma weapons (or perhaps a mini nuclear device?), and the means to make them. Imagine how much death they could cause.
Most of them might be xenophobic arseholes, but they grudgingly have a good point.
Citizens of Rapture (Bioshock)
The citizens of Rapture have had a hell of a bad time. They’ve been stomped on by a random trespasser, a brutalised hulk of meat and metal and, weirdly enough, people from other timelines. And, of course, their own pseudo-government in the form of Andrew Ryan and, later, by their own Messiah, Eleanor Lamb.
What could they possibly have going for them? What ‘good ideas’ did they have that could have brought them to this point?
The whole point of Rapture was to build a paradise free from control.
The whole point of Rapture was to build a paradise free from control: governmental, religious and political. Businessmen wanted to remove unnecessary regulations, scientists wanted to pursue forbidden research avenues and artists wanted to break the world of expression wide open in taboo ways.
And they succeeded; the discovery of ADAM likely being the epitome of their achievements—and make no mistake: without their rules-free environment, the scientists of Rapture would never have been able to create this futuristic wonder that revolutionised every field from medical to industrial to philosophical. Their aim was to create something amazing, and they did. In that, escaping regulation was in some ways a good idea.
It did of course eventually drive everybody who used it insane. But who could’ve seen that coming? Except for, maybe, some kind of regulatory board…
The Fireflies (The Last of Us)
The Fireflies are less of a cult and more of rebels with some quasi-religious iconography. But close enough for me, and they are such a great example of ‘bad guys’ that actually had a good idea.
The Fireflies are a group that you are pretty ambivalent towards in The Last of Us. They fight against the military government, you know some people from the group and work with them, and Joel’s whole job is to get Ellie to a specific branch of them. However, over the journey, he grows rather fond of Ellie, and when he discovers that they plan to use her (fatally) to find a cure for the cordyceps virus that has ravaged humanity, he goes a bit… ape-shit.
You can argue all you like that the cure wouldn’t have worked, or that sacrificing the life of a young woman even for something so grand is morally wrong, the reality is that the Fireflies were probably right. Ellie could have been the answer to the greatest extinction-level event ever witnessed by our species, but it was stopped in its tracks by a gruff dude with some serious psychological scarring from his own daughter’s death.
Nobody even bothered to ask Ellie what she wanted, either. You never know, she may have thought the Fireflies had a good idea too.
Which cults do you think actually had the right idea? Let us know in the comments below!