Today developer Ninja Theory announced the development of Project: MARA, a new game the developer describes as an “experimental title and a showcase of what could become a new storytelling medium.” Project: MARA will focus its narrative on complex psychological material and according to the description for the official teaser trailer, the game aims to portray “a real-world and grounded representation of mental terror based on real lived experience accounts and in-depth research.”
The short teaser trailer for Project: MARA features some shots of a clinical-looking environment along with shots of text and some scientific graphics that suggest a medical research project. The camera focuses on the word “terror,” and a woman is seen in a state of anxiety and extreme stress in a confined, dark space. The “Ninja Theory” screen also displays three dots on the lower right-hand corner, which likely suggest that this is the third project announcement from the developer, along with the competitive online multiplayer brawler Bleeding Edge and the recently revealed Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II for Xbox Series X.
Ninja Theory announced Project: MARA on Xbox Wire, Microsoft’s own news site for their Xbox series of consoles, games, and related content. Ninja Theory became an internal Microsoft studio and is now a part of Xbox Game Studios. Ninja Theory retained full creative control when they became a in internal Microsoft studio and saw the corporate acquisition as an opportunity to make interesting, genre-pushing titles that their creative team feel passionate about. Before that, Ninja Theory was well known for both the action title DmC: Devil May Cry and for the critically acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, another title that explores issues of mental illness.
Ninja Theory also released a new “Developer Diary” video series called “Dreadnought Diaries” with the first installment featuring studio founder Tameem Antoniades and commercial director and Hellblade team leader Dom Matthews. According to Antoniades, Project: MARA aims to capture “true mental terror” and will be “based heavily on research, interviews, and firsthand accounts to recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and believably as possible.” Antoniades also added that Project: MARA will feature “only one character and one location” and described the title as “an experimental project an a showcase of what could become a new immersive storytelling medium.”
Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice also examines mental health with a strong focus on narrative. Mental health is a sensitive subject and developers run the risk of alienating their playerbase if the topic feels too much like a marketing gimmick. Ninja Theory has an excellent track record of pairing the success of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice with various mental health initiatives, including donating a portion of the game’s profits to charity. Ninja Theory’s “The Insight Project” is a research and development initiative with a goal of combining game design with technology and clinical neuroscience to work towards alleviating the distress caused by mental illnesses.