Hades is perhaps one of 2020’s games of the year. It’s an excellent roguelite, with an amazing story and addictive gameplay. But there’s another big reason why Hades is seeing such a massively positive response: Everyone is so friggin’ hot! Take main character Prince Zagreus, for example. I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw him in the Hades v1.0 launch trailer.
That breathless sigh, the multicoloured eyes, that hair flip which is nothing more than an excuse to show off his dummy thicc pectorals! Whew. Then there’s Megaera, who brings out the “please step on me” energy in a lot of us. And Thanatos — tall, dark, and death incarnate — sounds like a petulant ex-lover whenever Zagreus encounters him during an escape attempt. Even Asterius, who is part-bull, has this attractive aura of noble suffering that makes me want to tuck him in and make sure he’s well taken care of.
Turns out, Supergiant knew exactly what it was doing when designing Zag and his dysfunctional social network. When I asked game designer Greg Kasavin why everyone was so damned hot, he told me it was a deliberate choice. Everyone, from Megaera to Thanatos (call me, zaddy), down to even Asterius and Dusa owe their attractiveness to the vision of Supergiant’s art team.
“There’s a really simple answer to your question,” he said via email. “Because Jen Zee.”
“Our portrayals of the gods owe greatly to classical tradition,” Kasavin continued. “Something Jen cares a lot about as an artist. For instance, there’s this idea of heroic nudity that dates back to ancient Greek art, and culture, and it’s something we explored as part of developing the look of the game. So, I guess this is me telling you with a straight face that the gods in Hades are ‘friggin’ hot’ as part of our commitment to honouring the source material, expressed visually through Jen’s instincts as an artist.”
In other words, gods are hot because they are gods.
“For some of our characters, their attractiveness in fact is part of who they are,” Kasavin says. “Aphrodite and Dionysus spring to mind. For chthonic gods such as Nyx or Thanatos, I think their beauty is more effortlessly incidental. They are the personifications of these profound concepts such as Night and Death — we felt, how could they not be beautiful?”
Beyond being an utterly gorgeous disaster bisexual, Zagreus’ most attractive feature is how disarmingly tender he is. He has all the hallmarks of your typical cantankerous bad-boy. He is the prince of the Underworld, who resents his father, struggles with abandonment issues, and whose only talent it seems is killing monsters. I would have expected him to be some grimdark, I’m-not-here-to-play-nice kind of guy. But in his conversations with people, even people that annoy him, he is unfailingly gentle and jovial.
When Zagreus has a conflict with Nyx, I fully expected him to show resentment toward her for being party to his deception. That’s what often happens with conflict in video games. One of the characters will be “betrayed” and will spend the second act of the game being pissy and mean toward the offending character before the truth comes out and the two patch things up. Instead Zagreus skips straight to the understanding part. We stan emotionally mature king.
In fact everyone, including main antagonist Hades and the universally reviled Theseus, has this caring softness to them that enhances their blinding attractiveness to cosmic levels. Zagreus, full of concern for his friend Dusa, asks her if she’s ok with him killing other gorgons. Asterius, slain by Theseus in life, becomes bound to him by camaraderie and respect in death. Even Megaera, after being slain by Zagreus countless times, develops a fondness for him, and warns him to be careful whenever he ventures out to escape. Everyone loves everyone else and that is just so awesome to see — especially in 2020 when even human compassion is in rare supply.
In a mythos wherein the gods are usually portrayed as hateful, backstabbing, narcissists, Supergiant made these gods beautiful — inside and out.