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The best games by or about Native Americans

Indigenous peoples have existed on-screen in video games since the earliest days of the medium, but trying to find games created by Native Americans or that offer a respectful, researched, and nuanced portrayal, is exceptionally difficult. Any steam or console search is instead filled with non-indigenous developers giving their takes on Native characters and stories, often with disastrous results.

For Native American Heritage Month, I searched, vetted, and played games in order to find those that tried to get the representation right, and put them together in one easy-to-find list. Some of these games are by Indigenous developers, while others made seeking out and incorporating feedback on characters and themes a priority. Here are the six best games by or about Native Americans.

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Never Alone
Never Alone
70 %
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Mac, Android, iOS, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre Platform, Puzzle, Adventure, Indie
Developer Upper One Games
Publisher E-Line Media
Release November 18, 2014
Never Alone is an indie platformer by Upper One Games, an indigenous-owned developer and publisher, and uses gaming to tell a story passed down by the Iñupiaq people of Alaska. The beautiful 2D art follows Nuna, a young girl who befriends an arctic fox, and their quest to find the source of the blizzards that are threatening their village. It’s narrated in Iñupiaq with subtitles, and you can unlock Cultural Insights, short videos that dive into the history of things in the game, including arctic foxes as companions, and the Bola, a traditional hunting tool that features prominently in the game. Never Alone is beautiful, culturally relevant, and a delightful experience.
Never Alone - Gamescom Trailer (Official)
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre Shooter
Developer id Software, Nerve Software, LLC
Publisher Bethesda Softworks
Release July 26, 2019
Yes, that Doom. One of the most legendary video games of all time, and the brainchild of one of the godfathers of the first-person shooter genre, John Romero. Doom was designed to be a timeless story, not occurring with any sense of when — just existing. It’s an unusual idea in an industry obsessed with timelines and framing, but very common in the storytelling and traditions of many indigenous cultures, including the Yaqui, Cherokee, and Mexican heritage of Romero. The fact that Doom was one of the progenitors of first-person shooters, and has endured for decades since release, spawning sequels, a board game, novels, and a movie, makes it an easy inclusion for this list. 
DOOM (Classic) - Let's Play (FULL GAME)
The Raven and the Light
The Raven and the Light
Platforms Mac, PC (Microsoft Windows)
Genre Puzzle, Adventure, Indie
Developer Mark Basedow
Release November 01, 2015
The Raven and the Light is a very small indie horror game by Mark Basedow. It’s rough around the edges, but it does a nice job with atmospheric horror and surrealism. What makes it stand out is the setting, as it takes place in a Canadian Indigenous Residential School. For those unfamiliar, thousands of indigenous children in the U.S. and Canada were forcibly removed from their parents and put into (typically Catholic) boarding schools. There they faced sexual abuse, starvation, disease, and the attempted eradication of their culture. To this day mass graves of indigenous children are still being discovered at these sites. The Raven and the Light addresses this through found letters, and the haunting use of iconography. While the background of the creator isn’t clear, the way this game directly confronts the horror of Residential Schools years before it became mainstream news is worth celebrating.
The Raven and the Light - Teaser Trailer
75 %
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox 360, Mac, Legacy Cellphone
Genre Shooter
Developer Human Head Studios
Publisher 2K Games, SkyZone Entertainment, Spike, Aspyr Media,
Release July 11, 2006
It might seem odd to single out Prey from the Xbox 360 for being a true-to-life depiction of a modern-day Native American. After all, it’s a sci-fi game that primarily takes place in space, involving aliens, spiritual powers, and the ghost of a bird. It also wasn’t created by primarily Indigenous developers. But it stands out for its excellent protagonist Tommy, a modern-day member of the Cherokee tribe. He’s not a caricature, but rather a fleshed-out individual with a complex relationship with his heritage. A lot of that is owed to Michael Greyeyes, a Cree Plains actor and director who voiced Tommy in Prey. His insight shaped the character and thematic elements of the game. The result is an excellent sci-fi first-person shooter with the best contemporary Native American lead in all of gaming.
Prey - Gameplay Trailer (Official)
When Rivers Were Trails
When Rivers Were Trails
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac
Genre Point-and-click, Adventure
Developer Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Michigan State University's GEL Lab
Publisher Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Michigan State University's GEL Lab
Release February 20, 2019
When Rivers were Trails is a throwback to the adventure games of the past. Set in the late 19th century, you play as a member of a tribe that has been displaced from your ancestral home in Minnesota, and forced to relocate to California. You select a direction to travel, and stumble upon various scenarios while managing your supply of food, medicine, and well-being. Some scenes have you dodging “Indian Agents”, participating in hunting and fishing minigames, and interacting with other First Peoples on the journey. It has a beautiful art style, gorgeous music, and enough player choice to make multiple playthroughs distinct. Historical facts presented between scenes are equal parts fascinating and infuriating, and the full package captures both the grief of losing one’s home, and the resilience of those displaced. Over thirty Indigenous artists, writers, and musicians contributed to When Rivers were Trails, and the project was directed by Elizabeth LaPensée,  of Anishinaabe and Métis heritage.
Assassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed III
73 %
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Genre Strategy, Adventure
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Release October 30, 2012
Assassin’s Creed III served as the endpoint for the first chapter of the Assassin’s Creed trilogy. The Revolutionary Era America setting is historically significant, but the slow pace and swap from grand pieces of ancient European architecture to the climbing of trees and cabins in colonial America is divisive among series fans. However, the care taken with crafting an Indigenous protagonist is undeniable. Most of the game is played as Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Conner, his adopted English name), a mixed Mohawk and English Assassin hunting the Templar that slaughtered his people and burned down his village. While Ubisoft Montreal is a Canadian developer, they worked closely with the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk an indigenous consultant, to create an authentic and respectful representation of a Native American. Ratonhnhaké:ton was portrayed by Noah Watts, a member of the Crow tribe, and is an outstanding portrayal of a character grappling with a mixed-race Indigenous identity.
Assassin's Creed III - Connor Story Trailer (Official)

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