From being able to drown baby Moses in Bible Adventures to losing your good Christian soldiers to the perils of contemporary music and Arabs in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, Christian video games have long and hilariously struggled to preach through the world of gaming. It's hard to talk about love and tolerance while also encouraging players to kill everything in sight.
But there's one thing few developers have tried, and that's letting gamers play as the original action hero, Jesus Christ. The brave, misguided, and/or flat-out crazy creators of the following games made Jesus our eternal co-op partner, and the results are confusing enough to baffle even the wisest theologians.
Journey of Jesus: The Calling is the Facebook game for people who think FarmVille's a bunch of secular hippie nonsense. We're told it allows you to experience the life of Jesus in a "brand new fun way," because nothing says fun and innovation like the gaming platform that's built for crappy knockoffs and lazy cash grabs. But then the developers also claim that this is the world's first video game about Jesus, a claim the very existence of this list proves false. So I guess there's more than one Father of Lies in this Bible tale.
Anyway, my epic adventure began when my attempt to see John the Baptist was brought to a screeching halt by a log in the road.
Now I understand why the Bible's always going on about enduring suffering.
Well, I guess I'm doomed to the eternal fires of hell. Unless I walk around it, or step over it, or ... wait, I have to grab the ax and chop it up? Why? Well, I do that and get to the water, where I can talk to Jesus ... right after I clear out the thorn bushes that are between us, because apparently it's a sin to slightly raise your voice or step around foliage.
It's a little-known fact that Jesus had serious, serious hearing problems.
This isn't the tutorial easing you into the game. This is the whole game. "Learning the story of Jesus" is 1 percent hanging out with Yeshua and 99 percent performing errands for lazy assholes. In the next stage, a woman wants to be baptized by John, but she's too hungry to take the eight steps required. She can't summon the effort to go to the even closer pomegranate trees either, so you need to pick fruit for her. Lady, if you're too lazy to feed yourself, you have problems that baptism isn't going to solve.
Apparently Jesus has been slacking, because no one in the game is aware that sloth is a sin. "Pick up the pebbles that are literally at my feet for me." "Ugh, those herbs are, like, inches away. Little help?" "Hi, we fish for a living. Can you fix our boats for us, man who knows nothing about boats?"
"And get us all some lemonade. Mm, yeah. Lemonade."
See the "50" in the bottom left? That's how much crap I have to pick up to complete this level. It's too bad I only have 22 lightning bolts' worth of energy to do so, because no one else in the Holy Land bothers to do any work when the Sucker of Galilee can do it for them. So, like every Facebook game, you have to either come back hours later or throw down real money to keep playing. Remember, gamers, Jesus loves all of you. But he loves those of you with expendable income more.
When you finally reach the odd moments involving Jesus, it's hard to take him seriously, because look at him:
He doesn't look like the son of God being tempted by Satan in the desert; he looks like Zach Galifianakis being tempted into a strip club by Ryan Reynolds. The characters are too cartoonish, like stereotypes of what game characters actually look like.
"Dagnabbit, that mean ol' centurion's crucified someone again!"
You do nothing but spend the whole game trying to keep Israel tidy, like it's one giant living room. I'm pretty sure this was an indentured servitude simulator before they decided to throw Jesus in.
Jesus of Nazareth recreates the feel of biblical times by being a text adventure, the gaming world's equivalent of ancient days.
Paul Allen Panks
"And Jesus did preach: Be wary when it is pitch black, for it is likely you will be eaten by grues."
Your goal as Jesus is to convert six disciples to your cause. You accomplish this by aiding people in their time of need, by which I mean Andrew or John or Billy (were they all disciples? I'm not very religious) will ask you to bring them an item, like a fish. You will then wander Galilee at random, occasionally climbing the odd tree for the heck of it, until you find said fish (it wasn't in the tree). Upon your return, the quest giver will be overwhelmed by the miraculous delivery time of God's courier and pledge their allegiance. For surely even the most hardcore atheist knows well the story of how Jesus spent his life putzing about and recruiting followers with small bribes they could have easily picked up themselves if they weren't a bunch of lazy beatniks.
Paul Allen Panks
Chick saints and their jewelry, am I right, men?
Jesus of Nazareth further departs from biblical canon by allowing you to convert Herod Antipas, who, for the benefit of those who slept through Sunday school, was partially responsible for the execution of Jesus and John. So, how do you convert this sinner to the path of righteousness? Give him a really nice fish? Nope, you kill a rebel who's been causing him problems. Yes, this just became Assassin Jesus' Creed.
Dmitry Kalinovsky/iStock/Getty Images
"Those who live by the sword will die by my sword."
You can actually attack anyone you encounter, which seems both ungodly and more than a little dickish. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it's a little uncomfortable to make the Lamb of God beat the shit out of some centurion who was just minding his own business. The game actually has a full-on battle system, albeit one that apparently decides fights at random. And if you die, you're dead for good, which is bullshit because you're Jesus.
Paul Allen Panks
Being the son of God gave Jesus a +50 HP buff.
So this is basically a game about Jesus bribing people into following him and killing those he can't convert, which I'm pretty sure makes him more of a gangster than a preacher. And if you're going to take that approach, you might as well go all the way and make Grand Theft Camel.
For centuries, some of the greatest artists the world has ever known have tried to capture Jesus' likeness. From canvas to marble, geniuses like Michelangelo, Raphael, and the other Ninja Turtles endeavored to recreate the serenity, grace, and holy power of God's son. How did the creator of the Jesus Christ RPG Trilogy approach this noble task?
Hey, wow, Ike Broflovski has his very own game and is the son of God. Joseph looks baffled by what he's seeing, and I don't blame him. Jesus definitely takes after Mary, Virgin of Facial Expressions.
But to be fair, plenty of classic video games aren't visually appealing. And Jesus Christ RPG is inspired by one of the most classic franchises of all, Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy games are largely about stabbing and setting fire to hordes of monsters, while Jesus only killed, like, three cactuars and a tonberry (that we know of). If your assumption is that the game uses the standard RPG model to focus on storytelling and dialogue while keeping combat to a minimum, you haven't been paying attention to this article. Come on, get your shit together. Like Mary does:
Yes, the first game of the trilogy, Baby Jesus Christ RPG, begins with Saint Mary buying a battle saw. That's ... not a thing, but the name makes it clear that she's not planning on cutting down trees with it. And thus begins the classic biblical tale of Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem, and also sending several dozen bandits straight to the fires of hell by sawing their heads off.
It turns out the real message of the Bible is "don't mess with pregnant women."
After an interlude where you help the three wise men murder the ghost of Zarathustra on their way to Bethlehem (we need a Christmas carol about that), Baby Jesus and his folks flee to Egypt. Despite being less than a day old, Jesus is more than happy to help slaughter every Roman soldier in their way. While you'd assume his move set would be limited to "loud, distracting crying" and "shitting himself," Jesus calls down angels to buff the party with defensive powers. This version of the gospel is basically a recap of a World of Warcraft raid.
"And whilst Herod proved a formidable foe, his defeat gave the Messiah truly epic lootz."
The second game in this legendary trilogy features adult Jesus, Simon, Mary Magdalene, and Judas gallivanting about the Holy Land, while the climatic finale sees Jesus being crucified and going to heaven ... and then descending into hell to kick some serious sinner ass, in a very literal and bizarre interpretation of the Harrowing of Hell.
The series ends with every demon you've fought through the trilogy merging into a hideous beast, prompting a battle for heaven itself. While this is an admittedly badass conclusion to Jesus' story that would have made me pay way more attention that time I went to church, I'm like 60 percent sure this never happened.