The Diablo series consists of three action-adventure RPGs  (plus expansions) set during a biblical medieval war.

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Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll

Violence: Realistic violence and blood is present in all three games. Torture is a common theme.

Horror: Specific religious imagery is present consistently. The protagonist literally descends into hell; possession is a common theme. Although the Diablo games are not considered horror games, much of the imagery is horrific.

Sexual Content: Sexual content is hinted at (for instance, through the presence of succubi) but never elaborated on.

Substance Use: A character in Diablo (the first game) is explicitly drunk the entire time. It is presented as a negative, however.

Nudity and Costuming: There is a substantial amount of waist-up nudity in all three games.

Player Interaction: All three games have a multiplayer component.


In Diablo, players may save at any time, including during fighting. Diablo II allows players to save any time as well; however, they must exit upon saving, and all monsters will respawn. The character will appear back in town, thus losing any progress they may have made in the game since they discovered  a “waypoint.” Diablo III saves automatically at intervals (although any gold or objects acquired will remain, regardless).

Story & Themes

Some game mechanics attributable to all three games are the ability of the character to return to town periodically to speak with NPCs and gather quests; a variety of character types to choose from, each with different abilities and attributes; and the descent (or ascent) into different levels of dungeon or realm. Each game features a different protagonist, but the RPG nature of the games means the protagonists aren’t specifically characterized. The first Diablo game has a fairly straightforward storyline. The world of Sanctuary is a roughly medieval fantasy setting. The player chooses one of three characters (warrior, rogue, or sorcerer) and embarks on a quest to defeat the evil lord Diablo, who resides in the catacombs beneath the town of Tristram. Diablo is one of three Lords of Hell, the other two being Mephisto and Baal. There are also several Lesser Evils who have banded together to overthrow the three Prime Evils and vanquish them to the normal realm, though only Diablo is present in the first game. The three Prime Evils were initially trapped inside a soul stone, but periodically they escape and must be re-sealed.Diablo II features a new protagonist tracking the previous game’s hero through four (five, with the expansion installed) different regions of Sanctuary, battling the lords that have arisen and taken residence there. The three Prime Evils want to reunite and retake their place as rulers of hell.Diablo III has several important characters aside from the protagonist. It takes place 20 years after the second game. Leah is a young woman with a mysterious background. Adria, a returning character from the first game, is her mother, who ends up betraying the protagonist and Leah. Leah is inhabited by Diablo, and the protagonist must finally defeat the Prime Evil and make an alliance between humanity and the angels.The themes of Diablo are biblical, but the games don’t aim to make a religious statement. The story features an unending battle between the forces of heaven and hell, and the names of demons and angels are primarily taken from Judeo-Christian mythology. Corruption and possession are consistently present.

The Creators

Blizzard Entertainment


Despite the biblical imagery and influences, some of the biggest controversies have been mechanical. Players said that the third game was too colorful and didn’t have the same dark atmosphere that the previous games had. Diablo III also suffered from connectivity issues; you had to be connected to the Internet while playing, even when not playing online, and players were constantly being kicked off servers.

There is also an real-money component to the auction house in the third game, which many players rejected. The auction house will shut down in the early half of 2014, and was not even present in the South Korean version of the game because it would have violated South Korea’s anti-gambling laws.

Conversation Starters

  • Where do you think fears of corruption and possession come from? What, historically, might have given rise to these fears?
  • Do you think it’s okay for stories to use religion as an aesthetic or setting, without respect for the people who follow those religions in real life?


Cow Level is a common term for easter eggs in games. The term comes from the first game, in which a mythical level where players can fight cows with pikes is accessible only via a specific order of operations.

Wirt’s Leg is a recurring theme in Blizzard games since Diablo. A young scammer with a wooden leg named Wirt is a character on the outskirts of town. It is implied that he has died in the second game, since players returning to the town uncover his wooden leg (the leg is necessary in the equation that unlocks the second game’s cow level). In other games it sometimes appears as a special weapon.

Fun Facts

All three games contain a mythical “cow level,” accessible only through secret mechanisms. The cow level is meant to be humorous, and the phrase is sometimes used to refer to easter eggs in general.

This article was written by

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.