Aztecs in Entertainment: Best Films, Games, & Shows

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Some might argue that Aztec culture is alive and well throughout Mexico. This great culture thrived after establishing its capital Tenochtitlan, located in modern-day Mexico City. Though Aztec culture is often discussed in terms of the past or museums like the British Museum, it remains a core component of modern culture.

From architecture to law to sports, Aztec culture and influence lives on. At the height of their power, the Aztecs ruled around 500 smaller states and included a population numbering around six million. To this day, Aztec perceptions of time, space, and wellness can be felt throughout Mexico—and especially through ongoing projects to preserve and spread the use of the Nahuatl language.

Given the ongoing presence of Aztec cultural traditions, it’s no surprise that many draw on this era for creative inspiration and storytelling. In terms of games, films, and documentaries, their influence remains palpable. Let’s explore this world of Aztec-inspired projects, covering the most popular games, shows, films, podcasts, and documentaries.

Great Adventure Games

Many video games draw on the unique traditions of the Aztecs and their legacy. In Rich Wilde and the Aztec Idols, for example,  players are taken straight into the jungle where the archaeologist is on the hunt for another great find. The game includes a stone temple with carved decals, including symbols like tribal masks and old glyphs. This game taps into the wonder and adrenaline of exploring the great unknown and delving into the past.

But others take a closer look at Aztec culture. For example, Mictlan: An Ancient Mythical Tale explores the concept of the Aztec underworld (Mictlān). In the game, players must navigate a world of Aztec gods and Spanish invaders to survive.

Others take more modern approaches. In Aztech: Forgotten Gods, players navigate a cyberpunk future as an Aztec heroine named Achtli. Wielding the power of her gods, Achtli must face off against the world’s greatest evils to become a worthy savior. It’s a modern retelling that builds on Aztec folklore, heroes, and myths.

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Top Films & TV Shows

Games allow players to step into the shoes of Aztec heroes and navigate their worlds—but films and TV shows let viewers take a more relaxed approach. Once again, viewers will be offered variety in terms of Aztech themes, stories, and settings.

Onyx Equinox is a popular animated TV show that’s geared toward adults. It incorporates tons of myths from the Aztecs, along with the Mayans and Zapotecs. The idea came from a Mexican animator who pitched her vision to Crunchyroll—and, in 2020, the series premiered as the first fully-funded series from Crunchyroll.

Along with modern projects like Onyx Equinox, films like Return to Aztlán from 1990 remain popular. This film was written in Nahuatl, the Aztec tongue—making it the first of its kind. The story follows the attempts of an Aztec community to avoid a drought by making contact with the goddess Coatlicue.

Educational & Entertaining Docs

Lastly, let’s cover a few of the most entertaining non-fiction projects on Aztec culture. First, there’s a great segment on the podcast titled ‘Our Fake History’ that covers whether the Aztecs thought Spanish invader Hernán Cortés was viewed as a god. The two-part series does a fantastic job of breaking down popular narratives and contrasting these with historical logs.

In 2009, British historian Dan Show released a documentary titled ‘Montezuma’. The documentary breaks down how the capital of Tenochtitlan functioned, relying on sites in modern-day Mexico City. From there, Show explains how various forces contributed to the civilization’s eventual decline. Though the content isn’t necessarily breaking the mold, the documentarians base their research on the latest research and findings from the capital city.

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