The recently passed March 25th has become a symbolic date for Italian culture and literature through the years and centuries. It's not an accidental date - it was officially established last year by the Council of Ministers on the proposal of the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini - it has always been linked to the great poet Dante Alighieri, whose 700th death anniversary falls between the 13 and 14 September this year.
But why has March 25 become such an important day for the Italian poet? According to various scholars and Dante's experts, this date is precisely when the big author begins his journey into the afterlife, narrated in his most famous work: la Divina Commedia. According to tradition, in fact, the First Canto in the first Canticle (The Hell) is set in the night between 24 and 25 March 1300, "in the middle of the road of our life" in which Dante, at the age of thirty-five, found himself "in a dark forest, because I'd lost the straight path". And while he found himself lost and frightened by three wild beasts, the Poet met Virgil, the great Latin poet and author who helps Dante to go through Hell.
La Divina Commedia is undoubtedly one of the most important works of literature in the world, a source of inspiration not only for many other authors and poets in many centuries of history, but also for many cultural products of various kinds, including the most recent ones such as video games. In this article, we retrace all the games and franchises that paid homage or were simply inspired by Dante's great work, revisiting - obviously in a pop key - some of its aspects and characters.
Dante's Inferno (Visceral Games, 2010)
The game that, in a declared way, celebrates Dante Alighieri and La Divina Commedia is undoubtedly Dante's Inferno. Released for the very first time in 2010 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (later also on PlayStation Portable), the dynamic adventure game developed by Visceral Games pays homage to the first Canticle (The Hell) of Dante's great work, albeit freely inspired by it. Here the player plays Dante, a veteran soldier of the Third Crusade, who tries at all costs to save the soul of his beloved Beatrice from Lucifer, the King of the Underworld.
In his long journey, which leads the hero to retrace the terrifying circles of hell, Dante also finds himself dealing with his own sins, his family's past and the war crimes committed in Burundi. Although in a dark/ fantasy interpretation, Dante's Inferno remains today one of the most intense and important videogame tributes dedicated to Dante and his Commedia. Who knows if we'll ever see it again in the future...
The Devil May Cry series (Capcom, 2001-2019)
It's true: Devil May Cry tells a very different story than Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia, but the saga pays homage to the great Italian literary work, giving its two main characters the names of the two great protagonists of the first Canticle: Dante and Virgil. Dante - son of the demon Sparda and the human Eve - is a hybrid between human and demon who, to make ends meet, hunts monsters by managing an agency called "Devil May Cry", hence the name of the popular saga. Known in the first chapter as Nelo Angelo and, later, in Devil May Cry 3 as the main antagonist, Vergil is Dante's twin brother, but also his nemesis. Like his brother, he's half demon, but while Dante puts his skills at the service of humans, Vergil uses his powers for personal purposes.
While they openly distance themselves from their literary counterparts - in Divina Commedia, Virgil is Dante's spiritual guide to Hell, while Dante is the lost poet - it's very interesting how Capcom deconstructed the original material to bring one of his most popular hack'n'slash sagas. And long-lived, since he has been resisting for twenty years now!
The Darksiders series (Vigil Games / Gunfire / Airship Syndicate, 2010-2019)
In Darksiders there's no Dante, there's no Virgil; we know that well. Still, it's hard to believe that Vigil Games hasn't somehow flipped through a few pages of Divina Commedia to bring to life the first game in the Darksiders series, first released way back in 2010.
Although the series has seen other developers take turns over the years (Gunfire and Airship Syndicate), Darksiders stars the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and in the first chapter, players play War. The Knight's task is to safeguard the balance between Hell and Heaven, by forcibly intervening to put a truce between the two Kingdoms.
Dante VR - The Gate of Hell (Collegio San Carlo-Beyond the Gate, 2020)
Although not a commercially distributed video game, Dante VR - The Gate of Hell is an interesting virtual reality experiment dedicated to the first Canticle in Divina Commedia. Born thanks to the collaboration between Collegio San Carlo of Milan and the Italian start-up society Beyond the Gate, this interactive experience, sponsored by the Dante Alighieri Society, retraces the opening song of Divina Commedia, exploiting the technology of virtual reality.
The educational game allows you to experience first-hand the triplets of Canto I, allowing the player to experience first-hand the experiences lived by Dante just before his meeting with Virgil. Reinterpreting the original text, the user moves along the Dark Forest, moving through dark places, until the meeting with the three Fairs and, after having climbed the mountain, the meeting with Virgil, with whom he will begin his journey up to reach Heaven and Beatrice. During the exploratory phases, the player may come across some artefacts, which offer some information and details about Dante's life and works. But it won't be a real video game without challenges: in fact, to access the door of Hell, the player has the task of answering a few questions about Commedia. You can see the game trailer over here.
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