Gaming worlds are a fascinating place to get lost in. Be it something ultra-realistic, like Red Dead Redemption II’s Wild-West US, or something fantastical, like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, gaming maps are not just a backdrop; they often become an entity of their own thanks to unique design and memorable lore. Now, when it comes to games set in an Indian backdrop (or a setting that resembles India), global AAA developers haven’t been too keen on exploring the rich heritage and colorful landscapes the subcontinent has to offer.

The Sparse Indian Presence in Global Games

There have indeed been a handful of games that have embraced the Indian subcontinent backdrop. For instance, the painstakingly detailed Mumbai city assassination mission in Hitman: World of Assassination, Call of Duty: MW3’s ‘Persona Non Grata’ escape mission set in Himachal Pradesh, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy set in the beautiful Western Ghats. However, apart from these honourable mentions, there aren’t many global developers truly exploring the many facets of India. This often results in clichéd representations rather than a genuine portrayal of India’s diversity and depth.

Indian Developers Stepping Up

Time then, for Indian (and a handful of global) developers designing games set in India, which not only utilize a familiar backdrop but also celebrate everything India, without falling victim to typical clichés. Raji: An Ancient Epic by Pune-based Nodwin Games has already shown the way, coming back strong from a canceled Kickstarter project to earning a user score of 7.6 on Metacritic. Several Indian games are making the right kind of noise, putting India at the heart of their design.

Why Gaming Worlds Matter

Ask any pseudo-gamer and they might argue that it is the gameplay that matters and not the setting. However, any dedicated gamer would regale you with stories of how they still get goosebumps when it starts raining in their games. “Yes, worlds matter. Games as a medium excel at immersion. Even more so than films, because the worlds in games can be engaged with,” explains Shalin Shodhan, CEO of Masala Games. His studio is currently developing a curious ‘mini-series inspired by Indian cinema,’ called Detective Dotson, which is marked by a unique 2D-meets-3D pixel art design.

Major Developers Join In Gaming

Apart from indie vibes, major developers are also cashing in. Take Krafton for example, whose Battlegrounds Mobile India is easily one of the top draws when it comes to mobile battle royales in the country. Earlier this year, it released its first Indian mythology-inspired rogue-like RPG, Garuda Saga. “We’ve noticed a surge in interest from Indian gamers for titles that incorporate Indian themes. The rich cultural tapestry and captivating narratives of India have resonated deeply with the Indian audience,” said Karan R. Gaikwad, who leads the India Product Management Team at Krafton India.

Imaginal or Real-World Backdrop?

When it comes to game design, a lot of planning and research goes into figuring out exactly how the game is intended to look even before the first (digital) brushstroke is applied. Gaikwad explains, “Prior to any project, extensive research is undertaken to understand the intricacies of the landscape, geography, architecture, mythology, and folklore to ensure accuracy and authenticity.”

Some games find that a real-world design offers the best immersion and storytelling, while others benefit from an otherworldly setting. Take Indus for example, developed by SuperGaming, it’s a battle royale driven by a unique theme of ‘Indo-futurism’. Roby John, co-founder and CEO of SuperGaming, explains, “We wanted to take a unique approach that didn’t confine us to primitive weapons or high fantasy settings. Instead, we posed ‘What If’ scenarios, ultimately leading us to envision a future where the Indus Valley Civilization thrived and advanced into the space age.”

Indian Icons: Cricket and Bollywood

Incorporating Indian cultural icons like cricket and Bollywood can seem like an easy route to popularity. However, it’s not as simple as it appears. “For indie game developers, venturing into cricket or Bollywood IP games might not be the best idea, since cricket is dominated by major companies with millions in budget, and acquiring licenses for Bollywood IPs is not cheap either,” explained Shubham Rajanwar, Game Developer and Designer at MadMantra Games. His game, Kamla, inspired by old-school Bollywood horror, presents a unique challenge and setting.

Development Challenges

Lack of 3D assets is a significant hurdle for games set in an Indian backdrop. Shodhan explains, “At first, we went looking for some assets in the marketplace to get a running start, but soon realized that there are no 3D assets representing modern India. So we had to build all of that on our own.” This lack of ready-made assets means extra effort for developers, but it also paves the way for a more genuine representation.

Sensitivity and Cultural Association

Choosing an Indian theme for a game requires careful thought. Gaikwad from Krafton India explains, “When conceiving a game set in a real-life Indian city-inspired map, it’s essential to approach it with sensitivity and cultural understanding. Research is key to accurately representing the landscape and cultural nuances.”


The gaming market in India is projected to reach $7.5 billion by FY28, as per a Lumikai report. With more developers and studios coming on board with fresh ideas, it’s safe to speculate that more homegrown games with authentic settings inspired by India will emerge. The success of games like Garuda Saga, Indus, Detective Dotson, and Kamla suggests a bright future for Indian-themed games that go beyond typical clichés and offer a rich, immersive experience.

Garuda Saga is available to download on Google Play and App Store. Indus Battle Royale is out on Closed Beta, with an official release date yet to be announced. Detective Dotson is available to wishlist on Steam, with a Q4 2024 release expected. Kamla is available to buy on Steam.

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