The Magical Forests of Games
Updated: Apr 25, 2018
Playing the new God of War these last few days I was not completely amazed until meeting 'the witch' for the first time and entering her hidden home. As I walked around her garden sanctuary looking for herbs I knew it was a special moment. Everything in the environment spoke of hidden beauty and mystery. It was hallow ground, both in terms of experiencing a forest that felt so alive in a game and in the context of the story.
The experience made me think about all the forests that had captivated me previously in games. Abundant in folk tales and myths, forests have always provided a logical setting for video games, offering both fear of the unknown and the promise of something magical. Here are 5 magical forests in games I fondly remember.
Folklore (Playstation 3 - 2007) - Faery Realm
The Faery Realm is the first realm you visit in this game inspired by Celtic mythology. Based on what humans think heaven looks like, this realm is populated by faeries, which play a much darker role here than you might expect. Although not entirely a forest, the magical landscapes of Faery Realm are everything Folklore is; beautiful, haunting and mischievous. And who could forget those ethereal butterflies flying around you?
Secret of Mana (SNES - 1993) - Forest of Seasons
Imagine that you are going through a forest and that you can experience the splendor of all its seasons as you go. This idea inspired me to no end as a child playing my favorite game and I imagined how it would be if such a place existed in real life. The song that plays in the background is called 'What The Forest Taught Me' by Hiroki Kikuta and I always imagined it to be a reference to the sprite character, playful but endlessly wise.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES - 1991) - Lost Woods
The forests in Zelda games have become as legendary as the franchise itself. Everyone has a favorite and it pains me to choose just one. The Lost Woods manage to capture that fable essence better than most; hidden mushrooms, winding paths and a sword set in stone waiting for you. When you enter this area for the first time you know it has a special and secret significance. The revolutionary (for its time) fog effects, the strings which evoke both sadness and something familiar and that feeling there is always something to find deeper into the forest.
Quest for Glory I (PC - 1989) - Erana's Peace
Although technically a meadow, this is a place I'm sure that must be etched into the memory of gamers who experienced it on a now extinct machine. It was a scene striving to be something that no one really associated with games at the time; poetical and magical. Since it was a text adventure its perhaps best to give a description straight from the game. "The meadow lies covered with a blanket of flowers, unusual for this early in spring. It is warm, even though surrounded by the late snows of winter."
Witcher 3 (PC - 2015) - Any forest
While the forests I mentioned so far were memorable more for their magical qualities, the forests of the Witcher 3 are unforgettable for their realism. Although like in any medieval fantasy they contains scores of ghastly and mystical creatures, it is the feeling of walking through a real forest that makes this danger and excitement even more palpable. Whether in a frozen tundra forest on the Skellige Isles or in the gentle hued Caroberta Woods, when the wind passes through the branches you can really feel it and the whole world of the Witcher 3 comes alive as a result.
So, what are your most memorable forests from games?