Underreported Non-Western Games #1: Black Myth Wukong

I’m creating a series of articles that bring attention to some interesting non-Western games that have been passed over. Mainstream video game press has a tendency to underreport on non-Western games, even though there are a lot that deserve more attention and praise.

Black Myth Wukong might be a bit more popular than most of the games that I’d like to include in this series. While it certainly did get a lot of attention (its gameplay trailers have garnered millions of views on YouTube), I was surprised to have not heard about this game until recently. Because of its truly amazing graphics and its creative use of an interesting source material, I want to bring more eyes to this game.

The footage embedded below speaks for itself. The quality of the graphics is quite literally like nothing I’ve ever seen, and it looks like an ambitious adventure game with engaging, FromSoftware-style boss fights.

Black Myth Wukong Trailer Analysis

Wukong is an upcoming video game by developer Game Science that is based on material from the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West.

If you don’t know anything about Journey to the West (and I didn’t), here’s a short analysis of the intro sequence to the trailer above, based on a little bit of internet research. Please reach out and correct me if I’ve mischaracterized anything!

“You must have heard stories about him… some say he helped Tang Seng fetch the Buddhist sculptures…”

Tang Seng is also known as Tang Sanzang, a character from Journey to the West who is based on the historical monk Xuanzang. In Journey to the West, Tang Sanzang seeks out Buddhist scriptures. His name comes from the precise name of the Buddhist scriptures that he’s questing for, Sanzangjing, “Three Collections of Scriptures.”

“…becoming the ‘victorious fighting Buddha’.”

The victorious fighting Buddha is a title for The Monkey King, Sun Wukong. He is a monkey with supernatural powers who assists Tang Sanzang in his quest to gather the scriptures, and the name sake for this game.

“From then on, he stayed in Lingshan.”

I think this is just a reference to a city in China. I’m not sure that it has any particular relevance to the game or the story of The Journey to the West. There’s a statue called “The Grand Buddha at Ling Shan,” if that’s relevant.

“Some say it wasn’t him who was granted Buddhahood… the real him was already dead on the journey to the west.”

In Journey to the West, Sun Wukong ascends from immortality to Buddhahood, but I believe there are some tellings of the story in which Sun Wukong dies during his journey with Tang Seng.

“Some say there is no such journey. He’s just a storyteller’s fictional monkey. But you must have not heard the story I’m going to tell.”

I originally thought that the player character of Black Myth Wukong was a version of Sun Wukong, but it appears on closer inspection that you play as some sort of imposter. Perhaps with a warning that it may contain some story spoilers, see this article for a well-argued theory about who the player character may be. Additionally, it is possible that the narrator is, in fact, the real Sun Wukong.

“Black myth” seems to indicate that the story “he is going to tell” is an alternative, untold version of the story of the Monkey.

“This story starts with a golden cicada.”

Master Golden Cicada is another fictional disciple of the Buddha, but this line may also refer to the player character’s ability to transform into a cicada.

More Comments and Links

I got most of this information from reading Wikipedia articles, here and here and here, so have a look if you want to read more. There’s also this site, which has a ton of essays dedicated to Journey to the West.

Also, this in-depth analysis of the trailer is a must-watch. It’s a really well-done break down of what’s going on that’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t understand the Chinese language or the literary and cultural references the trailer makes. Interesting to learn that the game also draws from a 1986 Journey to the West drama series here and there, with a musical riff, a couple dialogue lines, and etc.

And one more trailer:

Black Myth Wukong is planned to release on consoles and PC in 2023, so I’m going to have to remind myself not to hold my breath for at least the next couple of years. But it’s pretty hard not to get excited for this game because its potential is just so astonishing.

Keep your eyes open for more updates.

If you have any suggestions for games I could cover in this series, please reach out to me at rieson.blumer@gmail.com or on Twitter @RiesonB.

Rieson is a game dev and writer. In his spare time, he's usually playing indie games. He lives in the Bay Area.