While February 14th usually just inspires a vague feeling of single man dread for me, this year I’m actually looking forward to Valentines day.
No it’s not because I actually have a girlfriend this year around, but rather because the second season of House of Cards debuts in full that day on Netflix.
The story of congressman Frank Underwood and his journey to the top of American politics proved to be one of the most compelling new shows of last year, and the series that established Netflix as a true name in original content. It’s a real game changer for how we perceive the idea of television, and a damn great show to boot.
Usually when I’m anticipating something this much, I dive into games that remind me of the world of the source material. In this case that proved to not be an easy task, as gaming has, surprisingly, not ventured often into the gritty political world shown in House of Cards.
That being said, I managed to come up with five titles that I’d recommend if you’re like me and just can’t wait to binge on House of Cards Season 2.
You’d think that being the unquestioned dictator of a fictional banana republic nation would be a pretty sweet gig. After all, what more could it entail but riding around the island in a jeep smoking cigars, and catching the occasional baseball game?
Well quite a lot more it turns out.
There are lots of strategy games like Tropico out there, but few match its brilliant mechanics. Along with the usual military and economic duties you’d expect to deal with, Tropico takes advantage of its unique setting to introduce a number of factions that all want different things, and could all contribute to your downfall if you don’t please them. Most of the game sees you trying to keep everyone happy by making promises you can barely hope to keep, and employing various shady tactics when your position as supreme ruler looks to be in jeopardy.
Frank Underwood would be proud.
Crusader Kings II
Sure the game’s time period is sooner to remind you of Game of Thrones over House of Cards, but underneath the medieval aesthetics lies one of the deepest political systems gaming has ever seen.
There is no aspect of the politics of that time that isn’t covered in full here. In order to even maintain the land you start off with you’ll have to commit acts of espionage and sabotage, arrange marriages, build armies, manage your taxes, keep the religious factions happy, manage your order of succession, keep your friends and enemies in check, and so much more.
Crusader Kings II makes Civilization V look like the Intellivision classic Utopia. If you want a game that will put your political mettle to the absolute test, look no further.
Oh and speaking of Game of Thrones, be sure to get the Game of Thrones mod for CK:II. It’s…just beautiful.
Political Machine 2012
Stardock Entertainment has rightfully earned their reputation as one of the premiere developers of deep strategy games that only the most hardcore of strategy fans need bother with.
Political Machine 2012 is not one of those games.
It allows players to run their own 2012 presidential campaign, complete with use of real politicians (or you can create your own). You cover all the basic campaign challenges that we see candidates deal with during election years, but sadly the game does lack greater depth, and doesn’t really get into the more nitty gritty aspects of the political game. It’s fun to do things like handle debates or try to win over a swing state with a smear campaign, but there’s some real missed potential here considering that this environment doesn’t get explored enough in games.
Still the game’s setting is spot on for those jonesing for some House of Cards and, even though the mechanics aren’t as deep as they should be, for the budget friendly price of $3.99 this isn’t a bad way to set the mood.
Whereas The Political Machine lacks depth, Democracy 2 might have too much of it.
In it, you take on the role of prime minister or president, and handle every single element of policy and government oversight you could possibly imagine. It’s a turn based, menu heavy game that will likely drive many players mad with the sheer amount of things it requires you to do. The trade off is that it gives you the ability to really make your virtual government exactly what you want it to be, down to the smallest of details.
If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to be the day to day overlord of a red tape democracy, this is the painfully accurate representation you’re looking for.
Republic: The Revolution
Republic is often a bad game. It’s unintuitive, glitchy, incomplete, and in general just a real mess.
It’s also the one I’d recommend most for those trying to get in the House of Cards mood.
The reason why is simple. While the other games on this list put you in a position of power, Republic makes you earn it through a political coup. That means, much like the popular Netflix series, you’ll have to involve yourself in all manners of dishonesty, espionage, bribes, backroom deals, and good old fashioned politics to see yourself rise to power.
There’s just no other game that covers that specific environment the way that Republic does. It’s the type of game that is just begging for a remake but, if you can find it, the original still serves as the most compelling video game example of so many of the elements that makes House of Cards as enjoyable as it is.