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Ten-ish Examples of Salem in Videogames

Ten-ish Examples of Salem in Videogames


For many people, the word “Salem” can evoke a striking image of secretive witchcraft, the power of a paranoid mob, and the darkness that can lie in the human heart. It is the name given to a town in the United States’ state of Massachusetts that has come to be known for the series of witch trials during the period of colonial America. Now logistically, Salem was by no means the only such town in the area to participate in this wretched time, with other towns including the similarly-named Salem Village (today known as Danvers) and more taking part. However, Salem, Massachusetts has endured as a particular symbol of this time and of witches in general. Considering this, is it really any surprise that this historically oversimplified, spooky town also has a past with videogames? Today, for the sake of Halloween and for a bit of light fun and research, let’s dive into Salem’s representations in games.

In Name Only

Quick little rundown here. There are many, many instances of characters (or objects) being named Salem, even in games. While many of these instances are, no doubt, meant in reference to the town, the name Salem is actually a real name. Coming from the Hebrew name שָׁלֵם (transliterated as Shalem), it often means “peaceful” or “complete”. It can also come from the Arabic سالم (transliterated as Sālim or Salim), meaning “safe” or “undamaged”. Still, there are a few instances of the name’s use in games that we can safely assume to be related to the Massachusetts town.

SpeedRunners Salem Update

1. Speedrunners - Salem, a cat

First is the character Salem from DoubleDutch Games and TinyBuild’s competitive platformer, SpeedRunners. A bipedal black cat wearing a large, purple witch hat, SpeedRunners’ Salem is undeniably inspired by common witch themes. Another point towards her spooky connections lies in how she (alongside SkullDuggery, a guy with a skull for a head) was added to the game on Halloween night in 2014. However, I would be remiss if I were to avoid mentioning that she is more likely to be a specific reference to the Salem character from the Sabrina the Teenage Witch series of shows and comics; My absolutely definitive ironclad reasoning for this is that Sabrina’s Salem is also a talking black cat that has magical connections. Still, both have a close relation to witchcraft and so I can cite this as an example.

world of warships salem2

2. World of Warships - U.S.S. Salem

From another Halloween-focused update comes The Salem Witch, a special promotional ship once available in Lesta Studio and Wargaming’s World of Warships. In 2015, the title featured a rather spooky event for the season, adding in a full moon, witches flying around, and ghostly clouds. Of the various special ships, there was the aforementioned Tier X Des Moines-class cruiser, The Salem Witch. Based on the real-life U.S.S. Salem - which now acts as a museum ship and is, in fact, the last heavy cruiser to still exist - the promo ship has a lot of history beyond its name’s spooky connections. Still, it’s hard to shy away from something actually called “The Salem Witch”, particularly when the real-life ship in question also has its fair share of ghost stories and haunted attractions.

Castlevania SotN Salem Witch 3

Castlevania SotN Salem Witch 4

3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (and others) - Salem Witch, an enemy type

Speaking of bluntly naming things “Salem Witch”, let’s talk about Castlevania for a moment. In the series, one recurring enemy type is the Aliorumnas, based on the Norse seeresses and magic users that were exiled by one King Filimer. They appear in several games, including Harmony of Dissonance (where they are referred to as Sirens and Sylphs), Harmony of Despair, and Portrait of Ruin. However, in their first appearance in KCET and Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, this enemy went by an entirely different name, at least in the US and PAL localisations. Renamed to Salem Witch, the enemies were very clearly described as “ghost witches from Salem” by the title. This translation has no major impact on the game itself, but it has persisted in many versions of the game, including Konami’s Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night, a mobile game from 2010 that recreates the original as a drop-piece puzzle game. Still, while this connection certainly wasn’t Symphony of the Night’s original intention, this Salem nod works well with the title’s overall creepy and gothic aesthetic.

Towns of Salem

Moving on from instances of game elements named after Salem, we should discuss a few titles that feature Salem as its setting. These games’ usage of the prototypical “Witch town” range from treating the location as a backdrop to heavily incorporating the Witch trials into its plotline. We’ll start by going into the examples more focused on Salem’s aesthetic appeal and then move into instances that lend the town’s storied history more importance. This distinction might be somewhat arbitrary in a few cases, but this is all for fun and research, so I hope you’ll forgive me for this unnecessary categorisation.

Salem MMO

4. Salem, an MMO

To kick things off here, let’s talk about Salem. No, not the town, but the MMORPG originally developed by Seatribe. The title, which has been managed, updated, and published since 2014 by Mortal Moments, another indie developer, focuses heavily on various forms of crafting in a beautiful, if somewhat aged, depiction of colonial Massachusetts, usually in the Autumn, going by available screenshots. Particularly notable features of Salem include permadeath for every player’s character and the ability for those players to permanently change the landscape through creating and destroying various houses and other buildings. Additionally, that permadeath I mentioned can come to a player from a variety of enemies, including other players, Lovecraftian monsters, and witches. Thankfully, players can take refuge in Providence, a general hub area where they can socialise and trade without the threat of getting murdered in the woods. Honestly, it’s somewhat interesting for players to be safest in a town while playing a game called Salem, named after the town where people were brutally executed for little reason, but I suppose MMOs have to have their safe spaces. However, beyond the more magical enemies that surround the game’s setting and the focus on PvP, there’s little to distinguish Salem’s Salem from any other colonial town.

Town of Salem

5. Town of Salem, a social deduction game

Unlike Salem’s safe haven in Providence, being in a town will not save you from brutal murder in BlankMediaGames’ Town of Salem. Self-described as “a game of murder, deception, lying and mob hysteria”, Town of Salem, released for Windows and Mac in 2014, is an online social deduction game in the vein of in-person games like Mafia and Werewolf or the online, more recent Among Us. You play as a simple resident of Salem, taking on one of many secret roles, either supporting the town, the Mafia fighting against the town, a neutral party, or a Coven of witches. Playing through days of discussion and voting on who to execute and nights of taking covert actions to accomplish unknown goals, each villager in every game of Town of Salem has something they want to do. The final wrench in the works is that most of the roles are not guaranteed to even make an appearance in any given time spent with the game. Altogether, Town of Salem can be a bit confusing to get into, but offers hours of fun with friends once you get the hang of it. In terms of its use of Salem, a social deduction game that can quickly descend into baseless paranoia does seem like a good fit for the town, considering the history of the Witch Trials, and the addition of the Coven is a solid use of the general witchiness that Salem appearances take on.

The Crew Salem

6. The Crew - Salem, a regular town

Moving away from the cutesy graphics and online murder comes Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflection’s online racing title, The Crew. Similar to the MMO Salem, The Crew features a persistent open world, though this one doesn’t feature the same flexibility in modifications. Instead, The Crew allows players to drive all around a scaled-down version of the United States, offering looks at a variety of landmarks across the country. And wouldn’t you know it, that includes Salem, alongside other Massachusetts representatives Cape Cod and Provincetown. In addition to several real-world buildings, The Crew’s Salem also features a few areas decked out in Halloween decorations. All in all, this is a respectable little nod to the town.

Fallout 4 Salem

7. Fallout 4 - Salem, a ghost town

Next is Bethesda’s Fallout 4, whose Salem representation is a fair bit larger than The Crew’s. The game overall takes place within post-apocalyptic Massachusetts, including Salem as an explorable area. The locale features a pier and docks as well as an abandoned church, several homes, a diner, and the Salem Museum of Witchcraft. Beyond the scenery, the most notable feature of Fallout 4’s Salem is a sidequest that takes place in that very museum. The player is led to the museum to investigate after hearing of weird happenings and finding a corpse around the building. After entering the building and experiencing a variety of scary shenanigans that seem to come right out of a horror movie, the player comes upon a dangerous monster known as a Deathclaw. The quest, named The Devil’s Due, is certainly spooky, though it doesn’t have much to do with witches. Still, an old museum that highlights the darkness in the human heart is a very interesting backdrop for this tale, particularly once it reaches the choice the player has to make in its climax.

Plot-Centric Salem

murdered soul suspect

8. Murdered: Soul Suspect - A crime in Salem

As previously mentioned, we will now delve into our final three examples, each featuring Salem in a much more significant role. First on this list is Airtight Games and Square Enix's Murdered: Soul Suspect, a third-person mystery adventure game set in a fictionalised version of the famous town. The game revolves around a mysterious serial murderer known as the Bell Killer and protagonist Ronan O’Connor, a detective working towards uncovering the Killer’s identity and bringing them to justice. The only problem is that when he finds the Bell Killer at the start of the game, the mysterious murderer manages to kill O’Connor too, leaving him to continue his investigations into his afterlife as a ghost. While at first, the mystery seems unrelated to the history surrounding Salem, several events in the story point towards a major connection that becomes very important to Soul Suspect’s central mystery. Several of these plot points are even revealed at a museum exhibit about the Witch Trials. Additionally, due to the protagonist being a ghost, O’Connor is able to meet (or at least see) several ghosts that are much older than him. Around the town, several apparitions of the deceased in colonial attire can be seen, though most of them will disappear if Ronan moves too close to them. One older specter that does have much more screen time is that of a young girl named Abigail who assists Ronan in his investigations and in surviving the world of the dead. Such a helpful ghost Abigail is! I wonder just how old she is and what unfinished business has kept her from moving on?

Fate Grand Order Heretical Salem

9. Fate/Grand Order - Heretical Salem

Speaking of small children in Salem named Abigail that come back from the dead and may or may not have anything to do with the Witch Trials, up next is Fate/Grand Order. A mobile gacha game from publisher Aniplex and developer Delightworks, Grand Order follows the last remnants of humanity as they summon historical and mythological figures and travel to various important moments in time to undo the Incineration of Humanity and thereby save the world. Specifically, we will be discussing the fourth chapter of the Epic of Remnant storyline that takes place after that whole Incineration of Humanity business has been solved. The long and short of this stage of the plotline is that some of the last villain’s underlings managed to escape their death and have hidden out in various places in history. This means that our heroes now have to find and defeat these adversaries while also fending off more political matters from the world that they saved. The fourth chapter, The Forbidden Advent Garden: Salem - Heretical Salem, features modern-day Salem, Massachusetts getting swallowed up by a strange magical barrier that encompasses the entire town and a wide radius around it. Furthermore, any sort of scouts sent in, be they people, animals, or magical technology, never return or send anything back. Deducing that this may have something to do with their last missing enemy, our protagonists head in to try and fix the situation, finding that within the confines of Salem everything has been reverted to colonial times. What follows is an interesting story where our heroes pose as a theater troupe, figure out what went wrong, and must protect themselves and a young girl in the village named Abigail Williams (hey, there’s the Abigail connection!); not from mythical beasts, but from the fearful and paranoid people around them. And also zombies sometimes.

Of course, this being Fate, Abigail Williams is actually also a summoned historical figure, being the exact same Abigail Williams from the real Witch Trials, a roughly 12-year-old girl that was one of the first two people to falsely accuse others of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts. Some events of Grand Order’s Salem story can get a little convoluted, particularly once the Lovecraftian connections get a bit out of hand, but is a solid story through and through. Not to mention a fairly unique take on the general Salem mythos.

Nancy Drew Midnight in Salem

10. Nancy Drew; Midnight in Salem

With our final example, we’ll move a bit away from the fantastical and towards a somewhat more accurate version of the Massachusetts town. That being said, HER Interactive’s Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem is certainly no slouch when it comes to frights. Like most Nancy Drew titles, Midnight in Salem follows the titular intrepid sleuth, Nancy Drew, as she uncovers a mystery while also offering an opportunity for the player to learn a lot of trivia about the locations she visits. In Midnight in Salem, Nancy must figure out who set fire to the historic estate of Judge John Hawthorne, a figure from the Witch Trials. Of course, if that weren’t enough, inexplicable events begin to occur as well, with the possibility that there may even be a ghost haunting the old town. Moreso than any of our other examples, Midnight in Salem tries to provide a fairly accurate and history-focused view of the town. That being said, the game certainly features enough twists and turns in its own plot to wind up a lot more fun than just reading a history textbook.

So there you have it, 10 examples of Salem, Massachusetts that have made their way into videogames over the years. Were there any that we missed? Did any of these iterations frighten you when you first came upon them? Please share in the comments below!

Erin McAllister

Erin McAllister

Staff Writer

Erin is a massive fan of mustard, writes articles that are too long, and is a little bit sorry about the second thing.

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