Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice story recap — Characters, plot, and more

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice burning tree
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Get caught up before exploring the next chapter of Senua's story.

With the launch of Xbox Game Studios and Ninja Theory's Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, a number of players might want to check out the latest game without remembering exactly what happened in its 2017 predecessor. If you want to catch up on what happened but don't feel like going back through another run in this emotional, often-draining and terror-fraught story, I've got you covered.

That being said, if you haven't played Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice before I highly suggest you check it out for the first time. It's not a long game (you can complete it in just a few hours at a leisurely pace) and it helps ground you in the world as Senua perceives it: A world of nightmares, monsters, and voices, yes, but also a world with beautiful moments and kind people in it. It's available on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles as well as Windows PC. Naturally, it's also available in Xbox Game Pass

Still here? Alright, let's dive in.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

This dark, emotional story delves deep into ideas of what psychosis can look like, with Senua journeying into the Norse land of the dead to take back the soul of her dead lover. Play it and get ready for the long-awaited sequel.

Buy from: GameStop | Walmart 

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice — Full story recap

Surtr is a Norse nightmare of fire made manifest. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice tells the story of Senua, a Pict warrior. Senua has dealt with psychosis all her life, which manifests primarily in the form of voices. Referred to by the developers as the "Furies," they provide constant commentary. They encourage and discourage her, warn her and taunt her, attack her and defend her. All the time and all at once. Senua also suffers from the presence of the Darkness, an oppressive voice following her everywhere and constantly disparaging her very existence. Senua carries with her the head of her dead lover Dillion, as she is seeking out the goddess Hela in order to bring Dillion back.

Throughout the course of the game, Senua's background is revealed through different flashbacks. As a child growing up on the island of Orkney, she learned that her mother suffered from the same condition, but her mother chose to embrace it. Her strict Druid father, Zynbel, believed this was a curse and had Senua's mother burned alive. After going into self-imposed exile for a time, Senua returned to her home as a grown woman to find it completely destroyed by Viking invaders. These invaders killed her lover, Dillion, executing him in a "Blood Eagle" sacrifice to the gods of Norse mythology.

It's also revealed during her exile, Senua became friends with Druth, a former slave of the Northmen. Druth told Senua stories that he learned from his captors, which players are regaled with upon finding various lore stones scattered throughout the game. These stones and the accompanying stories are optional, but add extra depth to the desperation of Senua's quest. For instance, Druth recounts stories of Norse mythology such as the tales of Ymir and all creation, of Odin the Allfather hanging himself on the World Tree in pursuit of Runes, of Loki's treachery in the death of Baldur, and many others.

Valravn, god of illusion. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Arriving near the entrance to Helheim, one of the Nine Realms and the Norse land of the dead, Senua ventures in, solving puzzles of illusion and perspective while fighting off Northmen that have taken on ethereal, monstrous appearances. Senua battles and defeats the Fire Giant Surtr, who the Northmen believe is prophesied to destroy the world at Ragnarok. She also overcomes Valravn, a creature from Scandinavian legend pictured here as a raven-like god of illusions.

Progressing further, Senua attempts to fight Hela, the goddess of the dead, but she is brutally defeated, losing her sword and gaining a wound on her head. Searching for a more powerful weapon that can turn the odds back in her favor, Senua embarks on the Trials of Odin, different tests designed to make the participant overcome fear and adversity, such as barely being able to see and navigating by sound in a place filled with horrible creatures.

For completing these challenges, Senua recovers Gramr, the legendary sword once held by Sigurd and used to slay the dragon Fafnir. With this sword, her combat prowess is increased, and Senua carves her way through the Sea of Corpses, fighting to reach Hela's domain.

The Sea of Corpses is a horrifying realm. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Upon reaching the gate to Helheim, Senua is pursued by the hellhound Garm, a creature that thrives in the dark. A grueling fight ensues in which she relies upon all her training and learning across her journey. Eventually, Senua is triumphant against the monster and ends up confronting more of her past. Only this time, Senua comes to understand that the Darkness is truly the manifestation of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, with years and years of unpacked trauma building within her psychosis to create this oppressive entity. 

She descends to fight Hela, charging the goddess of the dead and demanding the return of Dillion's soul. In response, Hela conjures hordes of undead combatants, with more and more appearing despite Senua cutting down dozens of her foes. Eventually, Senua realizes she cannot win, and comes to understand that it's time to finally let go and stop fighting. Once she stops, she lets go of Dillion's head, accepting that she was never going to be able to bring him back. As she departs, she turns to the screen and says that it's time for another story. 

Senua's journeys continue in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, which is available on Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC on May 21, 2024. Like all Xbox first-party games, it's also available in Xbox Game Pass.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2Buy from: Best Buy | GameStop

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2

Senua's story continues in Hellblade 2. This warrior, more assured of herself, is taking vengeance on Viking raiders by heading into the heart of Iceland in order to take down the Norse slave trade. Along the way, she faces challenges from men and monsters.

Buy from: Best Buy | GameStop

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.