Medieval European Fantasy
Fantasy Tavern by Javier Charro.

"Fantasy, for us, is a knight on horseback running around and killing things."
Todd Howard, Game Informer Issue 138

No matter where a fantasy story may be written, whatever rich history the author's homeland might have, most fantasy stories take place in Medieval Europe (or a facsimile thereof, possibly reasonable). People will fight with swords and shields, and the government is usually vaguely feudal: it may not map well to any real-world political system, but it usually has hereditary monarchs and nobles (which many other cultures also have, but if European titles are used, you're in a Medieval European Fantasy). Medieval European Fantasy settings are sometimes littered with Schizo Tech, though Fantasy Gun Control is often a limiting factor.

The modern age's Ur-source for Medieval fantasy is The Lord of the Rings, which was based heavily on European folklore. This trope also has its roots in the tendency for fantasy works prior to those of the author of ones like "The Lord of the Rings" to outright take place in the Medieval era, especially if they were connected to or influenced by the tales of King Arthur.

Christianity can occur, but is fairly rare. Mythopoeia is possible, as well as Crystal Dragon Jesus. This will partly depend on whether it's a High Fantasy or Low Fantasy setting, as religion and magic are often closely associated.

This is also frequently the setting of Japanese RPGs, Wutai aside, as well as mostly Western RPGs in between Sci-Fi games. The first settings of Dungeons & Dragons are perhaps the most well-known example - even though many later D&D settings avert this trope, the sheer popularity of Faerûn makes this trope almost synonymous with D&D. Notably averted however in Wuxia, which is a sister trope (Chinese fantasy with a long literary tradition, set in a pseudo-historical Alternate Universe China, featuring magic, wandering errant martial artists, legendary artifacts, dragons and the rest). Played straight in most fantasy anime.

Often depicts the setting as more Arcadia and the Ghibli Hills than the actual medieval Europeans viewed it as, though not always.

Prone to People of Hair Color.

May be imported in a Feudal Future, with or without advanced technology.

If the setting's history starts with The Time of Myths, jumps straight to the medieval period and stays there forever, it's trapped in Medieval Stasis.

See also Heroic Fantasy, Standard Fantasy Setting, Fantasy Counterpart Culture and Hermetic Magic, all of which may overlap with this. See Urban Fantasy and New Weird for alternatives fantasy fans, who were getting tired of this setting, came up with.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan is more of neo-medieval fantasy, as architecture, civilian attire, and government are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but the military is more modernized, having 3D maneuvering equipment, guns, and more modern-day uniforms.
  • The Heroic Legend of Arslan is set in a rather thinly veiled expy of the Byzantine/Sassanid wars. Full of brave warriors, crusading templars, super heavy armored cavalry, and more evil sorcerers than one could shake a very large stick at.
  • Aura Battler Dunbine
  • Bastard
  • Berserk, which is mainly based on The Late Middle Ages but also incorporates elements from The Renaissance, The Cavalier Years, and The Enlightenment.
  • Claymore
  • Lord of Lords Ryu Knight
  • Magic Knight Rayearth has an interesting subversion. Cephiro itself is certainly Medieval European Fantasy. But the three Magic Knights are summoned from Japan. And Autozam represents the United States of America, Chizeta represents India/Arabia, and Fahren represents China.
  • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha's Human World is like this. The Demon World appears to be a bit more of a Fantasy Kitchen Sink.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins
  • Panzer World Galient
  • Record of Lodoss War (Based directly on the creator's Tabletop Games campaign. They started out playing Dungeons & Dragons but later switched to the Japanese system Sword World RPG and, after that, a game system of their own invention.)
  • Rune Soldier Louie (set in the Record of Lodoss War universe)
  • Scrapped Princess
  • Sorcerer Hunters
  • Spice and Wolf
  • Slayers
  • Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea
  • The Vision of Escaflowne: Although Fanelia is based on Japan, and Freid with Thailand.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh!
  • The Familiar of Zero
  • Ancient Belka of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise is shown to have this setting, with knights on horseback, castles standing tall, and kingdoms ruled by super-powered monarchs at war with one another while using Schizo Tech.
  • Only Sense Online: The titular MMORPG is described to be set in one of this.
  • Walkure Romanze appears to take place in one of those, until it becomes clear that modern day technology is clearly available to everyone and that modern cultural sensibilities are quite prevalent. It would appear that, though this isn't elaborated upon in the slightest, the story is set in some kind of alternate history in which technology kept progressing but some social values and aesthetics simply stuck in the middle ages (so schools which operate just like modern day Japanese highschools can have a "jousting clubs" with horses and lances but which otherwise don't function any differently from a modern school's kendo or archery club). People dress in Renaissance looking outfits but carry cellphones and fly in airplanes. Perhaps most intriguingly, the only weapon seen in the series which was explicitly used for war until recently (rather than sport) is... a flintlock pistol.
  • Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind is set in a post-apocalyptic world were the people has regressed to Feudalism. The Torumekians hearken back to the Medieval Europe, with their society of lords and nobles and soldiers going to battle in full-plate armor. Whereas their main enemy, the Dorok are more inspired by Medevial China/Japan, with their caste of warrior monks, Chinese-looking writing, and religious piety.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Dragon Bones: Vaguely medieval, vaguely European, with a couple of little countries unified under a high king, castles, swordfights, dragons, dwarves and all that. The king's court seems a bit anachronistic, as the king's habit of keeping a male concubine seems to be largely accepted, and everyone knows that the queen has a lover. Like in Lord of the Rings, the botany isn't accurately medieval European, either.
  • The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion popularized the setting in modern times, though it bears less of a resemblance to High Medieval Europe than many of its successors.
  • William Morris's The Well at the World's End and its other related novels, which helped inspire the above.
  • The Deryni works of Katherine Kurtz feature feudal governance and a Christian Church to rival the secular government.
  • The Kingdom of the Isles from The Riftwar Cycle, although it's implied this may be because its people are directly descended from European refugees fleeing the Enemy, in the same way that Kesh is of Asian stock.
  • Being based on the setting that gave birth to RPGs, more or less any book universe based off of Dungeons & Dragons. Especially Dragonlance.
  • Ranger's Apprentice is a young adult/children's series with this setting. Occasionally the stories move beyond "Europe", however.
  • George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is set primarily on the fictional continent of Westeros, based on medieval European culture; its geography and history are also loosely based on England/Great Britain (the North is analogous to a blend of Northern England and the Scottish Lowlands, while the Westerlands with their mineral wealth correspond to Wales and Cornwall). Dorne in the south has Spanish flavor, setting it apart from the rest of the continent. Locations in Essos generally are further removed from the medieval Europe archetype and have a variety of influences: for instance, the Free Cities bring to mind the Mediterranean city-states of Italy, Greece, and Phoenicia, while the cities of the Slaver's Bay (Astapor, Yunkai and Mereen) and Qarth seem primarily inspired by ancient Mesopotamian civilizations such as the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, with elements of Dynastic Egypt.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme takes place primarily in a Fantasy Counterpart France. (Specifically, it's an actual Alternate History version of medieval Europe; the splitting point was that at the founding of Rome, Remus won instead of Romulus, so the city is called Reme.)
  • Osten Ard, the setting of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, strongly resembles Medieval Europe in terms of society (though not so much geography) with a number of direct Fantasy Counterpart Cultures and an obvious Catholic Church-analogue.
  • The Cup of the World by John Dickinson is set in a world that strongly resembles Medieval Europe, albeit one in which some sort of magic exists. It's also mentioned that the ancestors of most of the world's inhabitants arrived as settlers from an unidentified land to the North.
  • Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy is set on the mythical island of Hybras, off the coast of France, and shares a style and approximate era with many ahistorical Arthurian romances.
  • Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm are set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Britain, with many unusual names.
  • The Sword with No Name trilogy by Andrei Belyanin has a modern-day man transported by unknown means to such a setting, full of deliberate anachronisms. For example, the Big Bad is an Evil Sorcerer terrorizing the land from his floating city and is Wicked Cultured (he actually wears a modern-day business suit).
    • Belyanin's Jack the Mad King books are also set in this sort of setting, minus the Fish Out of Temporal Water scenario, but still full of anachronisms (like the protagonist and a giant using modern street slang, although that could be Translation Convention). Until the last story, though, when the characters head East to save a sultan's daughter.
    • A variation in Belyanin's Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency series, where the setting involves a Fish Out of Temporal Water scenario, in which a modern-day Russian cop is transported to an idealized fantasy (almost fairy tale) version of Medieval Russia. There are still many aspects of the trope, but its more their Russian equivalents. For example, there are no brave knights in the books, but there are brave druzhinniki (the Tsar's guard), armed with sabers and Hand Cannons. While the Tsar is just and beloved by the people (it's the boyars, the aristocratic advisors, they don't trust), he can get a little hot-headed and is quick to punish when he's sure the guilty party has been found. The protagonist, being a fresh-out-of-police-academy rookie cop is insistent on following due process and finding enough evidence. Also, all supernatural is straight out of Russian fairy tales, with the Big Bad of the entire series being Koschei the Deathless, a prominent figure in those tales. There are some Western influences, though, such as zombies rising out of their graves.
  • The First Law trilogy is mostly this setting, though it would definitely be late medieval or even early Renaissance. Or at least the corruption and backstabbing politics of the Renaissance. As the timeline progresses, the series apears to settle in Early-Modern European Fantasy.
  • Widdershins Adventures is set in a late medieval/Renaissance fantasy counterpart of France.
  • The setting of No Good Deed... is heavily patterned on mid-15th Century Europe, particularly the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The Iron Teeth is occupied by humans that live in a medieval society with Kings, nobles, peasants,and medieval levels of technology.

  • from Gloryhammer: Their first album,Tales from The Kingdom of Fife is set in Medieval Fantasy Scotland. It starts with an evil sorcerer and an army of undead unicorns laying waste to Dundee and rides the tropes from there. This is because it is an Affectionate Parody of Power Metal Heavy Mithril bands.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Ur-Example is the standard setting for Dungeons & Dragons, though there are a number of official settings in different flavors.
  • Justified in GURPS Fantasy with the world of Yrth, where a massive magical backfire several centuries before the current date transported in large numbers of humans from medieval Europe, who then did their best to build themselves a new home that looked and worked more or less like what they came from. Simultaneously double subverted by the nation of Sahud — first, it was populated with medieval Asians, and second, they were mostly peasants from four or five different cultures, who tried to do the same as the Europeans but ended up with a society that looked less like any actual Asian nation of the period and more like The Mikado on acid, as written by Monty Python.
  • Most countries in 7th Sea, although the ruins of the ancient Syrneth civilization mix things up a bit.
    • Again, only Ussura is truly medieval. Other countries are well into mid-17th century Renaissance, with Age of Exploration and Thirty Years' War playing key roles in the world development.
  • Ars Magica even calls its setting 'Mythic Europe' and is set in historically correct settings with many folklore and religious fantasy thrown in for the good measure. In a nutshell, it is the actual medieval Europe with all fantastic beliefs made true.
  • King Arthur's Pendragon, as the name suggests, is based on Mallory's version of Arthurian England, mixing high-medieval setting with magic and Celtic paganism.
  • The Dark Eye has Aventuria, a rough equivalent of Europe with Mittelreich modeled after the Holy German Empire. Other countries and lands also fit the role of Fantasy Counterpart Culture.
  • Warhammer has Old World that is late medieval/early Renaissance, although Kislev and Bretonnia (at least from 2nd edition onwards) play this trope straight. High Elves and Dwarves also fit the feudal mindset pretty well.
  • Havok And Hijinks
  • While Rifts is set in the future, the England Sourcebook has heavy overtones of this, right down to huge heaping handfuls of Arthurian Legend. Justified in that the setting is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink with more than enough Anachronism Stew, Days of Future Past, and Schizo Tech to go around.
  • Citadels is set in a Low Fantasy Medieval Europe style age of conquest.

    Video Games 
  • The vast majority of western RPGs (as shown by the page quote). Listing exceptions would probably be easier. This was likely caused by Dungeons & Dragons. Many western RPGs basically seek to be as much like Dungeons and Dragons as possible, even when they aren't actually owned by the same company.
  • The King of Dragons, a Platform Game in which you fight lots of classical fantasy monsters and the red dragon as the final boss.
  • Chrono Trigger subverts this by starting out with two time periods that fit this trope, then taking you to a high tech future.
    • 1000 AD seems to be pretty schizoid, though, seeing as how they have refrigerators, stoves, apparently large-scale power plants that would be necessary to operate both, guns, mechanized warfare, and steam power (the ferry,) but there are no cars or paved roads, and Guardia's standing army has no firearms. On the other hand, Guardia is the sole world power in 1000 AD, so it's not like they need firearms.
  • The first five Final Fantasy games go in and out of this. The seventh, eighth, and thirteenth games are very much not examples, but most of the rest have some degree of this. The tenth is an odd example. It has anti-technology, though that turns out to be the Big Bad's plan. It also has more Asian inspired elements coming across as a mash up of Medieval Europe and Asian Wuxia.
  • The Breath of Fire series. Subverted in Breath of Fire III (to some extent) and especially in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, which, while not necessarily in the same "Canon" as the others, is set inside an underground sci-fi world made to escape the pollution on the surface. It's assumed by fans to take place long after Breath of Fire III.
  • The Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest VII is the only one that doesn't play this trope straight, adding in robot NPCs.
  • The Tales Series. Some tend to have an anime-like blend of Technology (mostly Abyss) but that still doesn't keep them from having royalty.
  • The Fire Emblem series.
  • Ogre Battle
  • Cadash is a textbook example, except for the Ninja character.
  • The Witcher, and the books it's based on. In this case though, it's based on Slavic mythology while making use of Eastern European (more specifically Polish) culture and history as inspiration.
  • Majesty, though it's an affectionate parody and set out to be a Cliché Storm.
  • The Sword Coast from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Unfortunately, most videogames set in the Forgotten Realms take place in the Sword Coast.
  • Most of the Star Ocean games attempt to avert this by setting up a sci-fi universe, but fall right back into it by leaving you stuck on an 'undeveloped world' (which are mainly Medieval European Fantasy worlds) for most of the game.
  • The Warcraft series, at least as far as the human kingdoms are concerned. The third game and the MMORPG add a slew of other settings, such as the vaguely Asian nightelves, the Native American-ish Tauren, Caribbean Trolls, the Steam Punk gnomes (and goblins), the Magitek-using draenei, vaguely Persian-ish Blood Elves, and the nordic vyrkul. Later on, there's the addition of the Asian-themed pandaren (the trailer revealing them has a pandaren monk (in a conical hat, no less) using a bamboo staff to thoroughly beat the crap out of a human and an orc with kung fu), originally introduces as a joke.
  • The original Diablo has this in full force. Act One of the sequel takes place in the same medieval region, but quickly departs it in favor of Qurac, Mayincatec, Hell, and the a scary snowy place in that order.
  • Sonic and the Black Knight - Justified in this case, since it's based around the Arthurian myths.
  • Guild Wars nails this trope in all other aspects but subverts it when it comes to geography: The tutorial level of Prophecies (pre searing) looks like the game would be something like this, with medieval castles, green Ghibli Hills and otherwise European geography. Then the Charr summon their Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Ascalon ends up as a broken wasteland and every other locations tries to avoid this trope. The rest of Tyria is (in order) Death Mountain, a Beach Episode, Jungle Japes, Shifting Sand Land, Slippy-Slidey Ice World and Lethal Lava Land / Mordor. The continent Cantha in contrast is the Far East while Elona has heavy African and Middle East influences.
  • One map in Backyard Skateboarding, Merry Old Englandland, fits this trope perfectly.
  • The Legend of Zelda heavily features elements of this, though the games also have Japanese and Greek influences. The Wind Waker arc, however, moves into the early modern period with more Caribbean influences and elements of Steam Punk.
  • Thief is part this and part Steampunkish Film Noir.
  • Super Robot Wars NEO has you visit Earth Tear from Lord Of Lords Ryu Knight.
  • Mount & Blade, which tries to keep as close to a realistic medieval setting as is physically possible, has this trope as its entire point. The games feature a number of empires based on historical nations such as the Mongolian Empire's 'Khergit Khanate' expy, though not all of the empires existed at the same time or necessarily had contact. On the other hand, the With Fire and Sword Expansion Pack is explicitly set in Poland in 1648. No points for guessing the time and locations of Napoleonic Wars
  • Dragon Age games and books take place in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture setting, where most countries/cultures having a prototype in our history. The nations of Ferelden and Orlais are based on Medieval England and France, respectively, right down to the accents. Antiva, though never shown, is described like Rennaissance Italy, although Antivans have a Spanish accent for some reason. Other parallels are less Clear. Interestingly, Dragon Age: Origins does not include any horses or mounted warriors, reducing the image of a knight a little. The novels, on the other hand, have them in spades. The Orlesians, for example, fight mostly using their heavy cavalry troops known as the chevaliers (French for "knights"), while the Fereldans prefer infantry, with a mix of magic and war dogs thrown in.
    • The sequel introduces the Free Marches, which are implied to be the equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire, except the Free Marches is just a name, with each city-state being, pretty much, on its own. Kirkwall, for example, doesn't even have a king but a viceroy. However, the city of Starkhaven does have a king and a royal family, but the King of Starkhaven rules only Starkhaven.
  • Castlevania takes place at various points in history, including the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, the modern age, and even Twenty Minutes Into Thefuture, though the overall aesthetic is Gothic Horror.
  • Phantasy Star III has a variant: it turns out that the entire medieval-style world the game takes place in is in reality an Arc-like spaceship that was fleeing the destruction of a very technologically advanced planet, and all the inhabitants are descendants of the ship's original population. After about 1,000 years and a lot of conflict, they lost their ancestors' technological advancements as well as the knowledge about the real nature of their world.
  • Runescape, though with Arabian and African/Caribbean based settings, as well as some post-Medieval European technology.
  • The The Elder Scrolls games prior to and after Oblivion subverted this in a few ways, in that most of the cultures save the Breton are based on various other cultures, such as the Middle Eastern/African influences on the Redguard, Native American on the Argonians and the Roman and Chinese Empires on Cyrodiil. Oblivion played this almost painstakingly straight however and Skyrim toys with it by being Northern Medieval European Fantasy, but restores the cultural diversity on everyone else. There are also elements of Steam Punk with the Dwemer ruins which appear in both games.
    • Averted to Oblivion and back by The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Some Imperial settlements try to invoke this trope, but the native settlements, such as the Telvanni's mushroom cities and the Redoran's hollowed-out giant crab shell cities, as well as the landscape itself are incredibly alien. The Dunmer borrow a lot from Biblical Hebrew/Israelite sources, with some influences from Mongolia and feudal Japan.
  • Medieval Mode in Team Fortress 2 and the cp_degrootkeep map, which surprisingly has modern-day computers hidden in the castle.
  • For the most part the Shining Series is set here.
  • Dark Souls is set in a mix between Medieval European Fantasy and Dark Fantasy
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has the Haven faction, which is your typical European castle with knights, archers, monks, etc. Until HoMM V, the Tower faction used to be a typical "ivory tower" city full of magical libraries and wizards. It has since been replaced with a more Middle Eastern-themed floating desert city and renamed Academy.
  • The Empire in Disciples is a typical example. There are knights, priests, inquisitors, mercenaries, peasants, Christian-themed angels.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms: the kingdom of Aramon takes the stereotypical theme of European Fantasy. It has knights, wizards, dragons, along with gunpowder cannons.
  • Played with in Wurm Online, which seems to be set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Mediterranean; there's wine instead of ale, you can plant olive groves and some of the architecture has a faint Ancient Grome vibe.
  • The Drakengard series uses this theme along with Dark Fantasy. Amusingly if one looks at the games world map one can see that it is Europe just flipped upside down.
  • Played with in Valkyria Chronicles, which used to be one of these settings, complete with magic crystals and people born with mystical abilities, but has since progressed into an analogue of a different bloody and war-torn period of European history. Even so it still has many stylistic nods to the genre, with The Empire's soldiers wearing combat armor designed to look like Diesel Punk knights, wielding anti-tank rocket launchers shaped like jousting lances and their heavier tanks even looking like mobile castles. Ragnite itself meanwhile, the mineral that's key to fueling industrial civilization, is what would in any other medieval fantasy be considered a mystic orb.
  • Played with in Little War Game, while there are Soldiers, Archers, and Dragons, there are also Airships and Ballistas. It can be argued that this is needed for competitive balance considering that the game is a Real-Time Strategy game.
  • The default tilesets in the RPG Maker are designed for making RPGs in this setting, although RPG Maker VX supplied an alternative tileset catering to games set 20 Minutes into the Future.

    Web Comics