The Lost Vikings Is One of Blizzard’s Oldest Treasures

The Lost Vikings

The Lost Vikings was an incredible puzzle platform that featured a scruffy trio of vikings who become displaced in time by an alien emperor named Tomator. Tomator, you see, captured these guys because he needed them for his intergalactic zoo.

The vikings — Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and everybody’s favorite, Olaf the Stout — break out of Tomator’s spaceship and go on a time-travel adventure that spans eons. There are 37 levels in the SNES version, taking the vikings on adventures in the time of the dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, and the space age. (There’s also a “time” called Wacky, which is, well, you know… wacky?)

The gameplay involves solving puzzles to get all three vikings to the next teleporter. Each viking has a different set of abilities. Olaf can use his shield as a hang-glider, for example, while Eric can smash walls by charging head-first into them. You must figure out how to combine these abilities to get past whatever obstacles the level presents. Since you can only control one viking at a time, you’ll be jumping from viking to viking frequently so you can maneuver each one individually (if you have a second player, you can control two vikings simultaneously, which does make some of the puzzles easier).

The Lost Vikings

The game was originally released for the Super NES in April of 1993, published by Interplay and developed by Silicon & Synapse. So who were these Silicon & Synapse folks? Well, if you assumed they were probably just a short-lived development studio that inevitably vanished, you’re dead wrong; the only thing that vanished was their name. In 1994, they changed their name to Chaos Studios, and in 1994 they were acquired by Davidson and Associates, becoming Blizzard Entertainment. You mean the folks behind World of Warcraft and Diablo? Yes, that Blizzard Entertainment.

Anyway, back to The Lost Vikings.

Allen Adham of Blizzard, who had been working for Silicon & Synapse while The Lost Vikings was in development, said in an interview with IGN, “We were inspired by a game called Lemmings. We loved it so much we thought we’d do a game just like it, but for console.” While Lemmings and The Lost Vikings are two very different games, you can certainly see how the former would have inspired the latter, with its solve-puzzles-using-multiple-characters gameplay.

The Lost Vikings

A version of The Lost Vikings game ended up on the Sega Genesis later on, adding five new levels and allowing three players to control the vikings at once (as opposed to the two-player limit of the SNES version).

Being a Genesis kid, I was introduced to the series via the expanded Genesis version of The Lost Vikings, and I absolutely adored it. I would have friends over so we could attempt the puzzles cooperatively, and we would scream the chorus to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” whenever Olaf did his shield glide. Yeah, we were weird kids.

The Lost Vikings

I think Olaf’s shield glide might be the most satisfying mechanic in the entire game, in fact. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the screenshot above absolutely has “Free Fallin'” worming back into my head.

Of course, my friends and I weren’t the only weirdos out there who loved it. Gaming magazine VideoGames & Computer Entertainment reviewed the SNES version of The Lost Vikings in their 52nd issue (with a cover date of May, 1993), calling it “the best Super NES puzzle game on the market” (a title The Lost Vikings apparently stole from Krusty’s Super Fun House).

The game was beloved enough that it received a sequel in 1997. There are actually two different versions of the sequel. The Lost Vikings 2 is the name of the SNES version, and Norse by Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings is the version that came out for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. There was supposed to be a 3DO version, but that never materialized.

The Lost Vikings 2: Norse by Norsewest

All of my experience with the sequel comes from the PlayStation version, but as I understand it, the only difference is that the PSOne and Saturn versions have a 3D polygonal art style, while the SNES version retains the pixelated look of the original. Personally, I actually like the look of the SNES version better. If I end up revisiting this one for a replay, I’m definitely going to go with the SNES.

If you’re feeling bummed out that you missed this classic treasure of puzzle-platform gameplay, don’t be. Blizzard has made the original game a free download on Battle.net, though the second is still absent from the service. (The first one is the better of the two, in my opinion.)

Plus, you can still find Eric, Baleog, and Olaf hanging around if you know where to look for them. They appear in a Horde-only World of Warcraft encounter, though they go by The Lost Dwarves here. Additionally, the three vikings were eventually added as a playable unit in Heroes of the Storm.

So despite the game’s “lost in time” story, these three lost vikings have not been lost to time. It seems there are many fans who remember The Lost Vikings fondly, and I’m sure there are quite a few who only discovered the game later on Battle.net. Of course, my friends and I might be the only ones who associate the game with Tom Petty.

“And I’m freeeeeeeee-ee-ee! Free fallin’!”

The full VideoGames & Computer Entertainment review can be found below.

The Lost Vikings Review
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