The 10 Best Games Based On Books

Books! They’re like films without pictures, or games that are all cutscene. Old people and hipsters really like them, teenagers think they’re like totally lame, and quite frankly we should all read more of them. There are countless games inspired by books – most especially Tolkien, Lovecraft and early Dungeons & Dragon fiction – but surprisingly few games based directly on books. Even fewer good ones.

Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that a game can, in theory, cleave closer to what a book does than a film can – with their length and their word counts, their dozens of characters and in some cases even their own in-game books, they can to some degree do the job of a novel. They don’t need to be based on books – and often they can do so much more, thanks to the great promise of non-linearity. Of course, the real reason for the dearth is that novels are so rarely the massive business a movie is these days. You might get a forlorn Hunger Games tie-in here and there, but suited people in gleaming office blocks just aren’t going to commission an adaptation of the latest Magnus Mills tale, more’s the pity.

I suspect that, over time, we’ll see the non-corporate side of games development increasingly homage the written word, but for now, these ten games (and seven honourable mentions) are, as far as I’m concerned, the best, and most landmark, results of page-to-pixel adaptation to date.

10. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth

[no official site; here’s Wikipedia]

Given quite how many games cite Lovecraft as an inspiration, there are surprisingly few which go directly to his original tales. Most settle for elder gods and other-dimensional tentacle-beasts, and perhaps a spot of pseudo-Victorian mysticism. Dark Corners Of The Earth works hard to provide more than Cthulhian lip-service, weaving in and out of several Lovecraft tales, particularly Shadow Over Innsmouth, replete with both mystery and a rare dedication to making the protagonist weak and fearful. Lovecraft’s tales were not about supermen fighting monsters, but about terrified mortals being destroyed by things beyond all imagining. Of course, the second you show something on-screen it becomes entirely imaginable, but standard sacks full of hitpoints they generally are not. Investigation, exploration and mounting terror are Dark Corners’ major concerns, but overarching all of this is a sanity system, your grip on reality loosening as you encounter terrible things. It does become a first-person shooter to some degree, but a very dialled down, more realistic one in which every single bullet counts, to the point that firing at the wrong time/entity can be deadly. Uneven and often expasperating, but it’s both directly based on Lovecraft and, I think, the closest game in spirit to his tales.

Notes: It’s buggy and it’s arguably too difficult, but sadly official support stopped soon after launch. However, several unofficial patches and mods exist, particularly DCOTEpatch. It’s a bit of a bugger to install with the Steam version, however – give these instructions a try.

Two planned sequels never came to pass; a great shame, as Dark Corners looked rather dated even at the time, and it would have been lovely to have a crack at more modern-looking follow-up.

9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

[official site]

Douglas Adams’ adaptation of his own novel is de facto inclusion in this round-up, though slightly against my better nature. Clearly, the words and spirit of the thing are wonderful, and it’s a faithful as they come, but as a game it’s bit of a pain in the arse, really. This sci-fi comedy very much reflects its time: a text adventure bound by an internal logic that wasn’t always obvious, and with an unforgiving streak because these early days of gaming didn’t go in for focus-testing or conscious mainstream appeal. It didn’t care that it was too hard. It didn’t much care about anything other than its own wit, in fact, which is at least part of the ongoing appeal. In an age of games – perhaps most especially those which cite literary influences – which strive for often preposterous degrees of melodrama, there is much still to be learned from Hitchhiker’s abiding nonchalance.

I would, at a push, say that its many deaths and roadblocks become puzzles for all the wrong reasons, at least in this day and age. But it is The Douglas Adams Game, and the second-person perspective – you are Arthur Dent – still works a treat. Balancing the familiarity of the book/radio show with the panic and confusion of being a faintly incompetent man thrust into a preposterous situation, it’s a far more authentic and illuminating reflection of the great man’s imagination than any other visual adaptation.

Notes: If you’re not concerned with being a purist, then there’s a semi-graphical 30th Anniversary Edition available online here. It includes a few modern-day concessions to make the experience a little less punishing too, including a save/load option.

Read more: My better half writes a retrospective of the game, and a tribute to Adams

8. Metro 2033

[official site]

Like The Witcher, the two Metro games are based upon Eastern novels which never quite crossed over here, in this case Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky’s 2005 post-apocalypse tale Metro 2033. There are close similarities to STALKER – Russia and the Ukraine seem to have their end-of-the-world tropes just as America does – but both book and game spend a lot more time exploring post-society society than the rival series. In the aftermath of nuclear horror, what remains of Moscow’s population has retreated into the subway system below the city, where they eke out a subsistence lifestyle and try not to fall into factional war. Supernatural elements and mutant wildlife make matters harder, too.

The setting, and the lavish treatment Metro 2033 and its sequel Last Light gave it, is very much the game’s enduring appeal. As first-person shooters, their many interesting ideas don’t always coalesce, and they can irritate, but amid so many games about soldiers mowing down infinite other soldiers, their strangeness and alternate perspective feels vital.

Notes: First game Metro 2033 essentially follows the plot of the source book, but sequel Last Light went down its own path instead of following printed sequel Metro 2034. As a game, Last Light is slicker but for me 2033 nails the atmosphere and oddness a little better. Both games were partially remastered into a redux version last year, which is probably the edition you should get.

Read more: Wot I Think: Metro Redux, Wot I Think: Metro 2033, the 50 best FPS ever made

7. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 Gold

[No official site; here’s Wikipedia]

I was reluctant to include this, as neither the pinko scum or the literary snob side of me wants to include hard-right military fetishism in a list of interesting novel-to-game adaptations. (For instance, here’s how Tom Clancy’s original Rainbow Six concludes: “After Rainbow defeats the eco-terrorists’ militia force and destroys their facility and supplies, Clark has the survivors stripped naked and left to die, taunting them to “reconnect with nature.””) But fair’s fair: Clancy’s 1998 counter-terrorism novel directly spawned an ongoing and initially landmark series of usually pretty great tactical shooters, which have long provided a more considered alternative to first-person shooters’ legion of supermen.

The 1998 first game used the novel’s Greenpeace-bashing plot and lead stormtrooper John Clark (a Clancy novel regular) kept on appearing until 2006’s Rainbow Six: Vegas, but Clancy’s high-tech, global counter-terrorism unit theme was a mainstay throughout. Many RPS staffers are particularly fond of the Vegas games, but the fanbase tends to be more keen on the more realistic, stealth- and teamwork-based first three games.

Notes: Opinions vary wildly about which is the ‘best’ Rainbow Six, but 2003’s R6 3: Raven Shield arguably finds the sweet spot between tactical and accessible, which is why its Gold edition got the title here. If you want to be bang up to date, it’s not too hard to get into the current Rainbow Six: Siege beta. The game itself is due for release this December.

Read more: Impressions: Rainbow Six Siege alpha

6. Betrayal At Krondor

[no official site; here’s Wikipedia]

One of those formative RPGs for PC gamers of a certain age, and although I don’t suspect a great many would rush to play it again now, like Rainbow Six it’s an example of books and games expanding upon each other in more ways than a straight adaptation. Set in Midkemia, the world of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar books, Krondor is itself structured to resemble a novel. It wasn’t based specifically on an existent tale, although Feist went on to adapt (and canonise) the adaptation of his own work into 1998 book Krondor: The Betrayal.

As for the game, yeah, it’s not aged too well in some respects, but the degree of freedom and complexity it offered is conceptually impressive even by today’s standards, and its avoidance of so many of what have become the genre’s mainstays are particular impressive. Other than in terms of nostalgia, Krondor really doesn’t feel familiar. It was also one of the first RPGs to experiment with 3D worlds, so it’s a bit of a milestone. Just seeing screenshots of its polygonal landscapes and digitised cast still does funny things to me.

Notes: While the GoG version ironed out most of the compatibility problems, Krondor can be made to look and sound a little better still. RPS reader Waltorious has a guide – plus an extensive replay of the entire game – here.

Read more: Why you should watch John’s dad play Betrayal At Krondor, the 50 best PC RPGs

On page 2 – entries 5-1, obv.

110 Comments

  1. Pazguato says:

    The closest game in spirit to Lovecraft’s tales is Alone in the Dark, not a shooter.

    • Halk says:

      In my opinion, the game that most closely captures the themes and the atmosphere of Lovecraft is “Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs”. Lots of parallels with “The Rats in the Walls” for example.

    • klops says:

      Also Dark Corners of Earth turns silly the moment you get guns. The Innsmouth part was great, but shooting Ancient Ones with laser rifles and killing tonnes of frogmen wasn’t that good. It wasn’t good at all and really lost the Lovecraft touch. That’s why I don’t really agree on DCoE being here. But nice article, anyways.

      • caff says:

        I love it. Yeah sure there were elements of being a derivative FPS, with clunky line-of-sight shooting and wonky AI, but you could stealth it quite a lot, and most importantly the maps felt wonderfully handcrafted. It was a journey rather than a sequence of levels.

    • alms says:

      Alone in the Dark really got a ton of things right.

    • murdertramp says:

      I think Eternal Darkness did a good job in terms of Lovecraftian horror as well.

  2. ProcrastinatingSod says:

    Regarding the Witcher novels. It’s worth pointing out that the international translation (handled by two different people resulting in two different styles), are unfotunately generally rubbish. Sapkowski’s biggest strenght was in the clever use of language, which unfortunately is very hard and in some cases impossible to properly translate into english. Games also suffer massively from this problem.

    That’s something that unfrotunately all “national”, foreign games suffer from to varying degrees. Sometimes I wonder If Hideo Kojima’s dialgoue is acutally excellent in the original Japanese ;)

    • Lakshmi says:

      Replying here as it’s a Witcher comment. I do agree that the translations are pretty weak.

      The latest Witcher novel is on it’s 10th print run in the UK, so I’d say it was selling pretty well.

      • ProcrastinatingSod says:

        The way these novels international release has been handled, baffled a lot of people here in Poland. While everyone agrees that it’s basically impossible to fully, properly transcribe the quality of Sapkowski’s text, since not only is so much of it drenched and based on local cultural and historical references, but most importantly becouse Polish language structurally is quite ill suited to be translated to english, and Sapkowski excelled at the type of clever and funny wordplay that – similarly to puns – makes little sense when brought into a diffrent linguistic structure and way of expression (especially the more archaic version of polish that AJ loved to play around with). Things like this don’t just affect the quality of dialogue, but sometimes also the appearence of whole characters or the overal thematic strength of acts and situations. Still though, a lot of people agree that it could have been handled better than what we ultimately got. Add to this the fact that the novels where released nonchronologically and that we also have to wait so long for further instalments. It’s all the more baffling considering the boost in popularity the franchise got becouse of the games.

        • Geebs says:

          I could well be totally wrong, but you know how English humour is notoriously prone to being dry, and hard for other people to detect? I’m sure that the translations don’t hold a candle to the real thing, and I don’t speak Polish, but there’s a fair amount of wryly funny stuff in the English version which people who don’t come from the UK might miss, and which might have been the translator’s effect to get the flavour across when a direct translation wouldn’t work.

          The two short story compilations are much funnier, and funner, than the novels but I believe that was always the case. I’ve read the fan translations and the official versions to date, and to be honest there’s not that much difference between them.

          • aleander says:

            There’s plenty of really dry polish humour, that’s for one. Another thing is, Witcher’s humour isn’t really that full of historical references — it is, though, full of references to the period it was written in, including people talking like a bunch of drunken 40-year olds in a flat (these kind of people didn’t really do bars that much) complaining about politics — which, by the way, is the reason the humour was occasionally jarring to this polish person. But both the game and the book take literal “memes” (for lack of better word) from popular Polish culture of the early nineties/late eighties.

            And that, I believe, makes a thing hard to translate. Even most Polish kids no longer remember these jokes, I suspect.

            Of course, that makes certain arguments about historical accuracy of the series even more hilarious, but that’s the point everyone backs away slowly from the thread.

    • Pan Vidla says:

      I would also like to add that it’s a bit ignorant of the author of this article to claim that the Witcher books haven’t made much of a dent outside it’s original fanbase. While that may be true for the British and the like, in Eastern Europe these books are considered to be some of the pinnacles of fantasy literature (and in my opinion the only fantasy books actually worth reading, looking at it from today’s point of view).

      Also, I hear the author of Metro 2033 was in fact very disappointed with how the developers of the game interpreted his novels and said he wouldn’t give the permission to make the game, if he knew what they wanted to turn it into. Meanwhile, I’d say the STALKER games are excellent, but as adaptations of the original book they hardly could have turned out dumber.

      So far, the only good videogame adaptation of a book I have ever heard of is Pathologic. I don’t think the book is at all famous, even in Russian, nor do I know whether it was ever actually released to public, but according to the developers at Ice Pick Lodge it is indeed inspired by a book written by Nikolai Dybowski (the director of the game).

      It’s a bit sad that videogames are mostly pretty shit at adding to the original books, but I have hopes for the future.

      • welverin says:

        I believe you are completely wrong about Metro 2033, because I as I recall the author helped write the story for Last Light since he didn’t think Metro 2034 would make a good game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      Someday I really hope that the people who localize games, movies, books, and comics will realize that translating fiction calls for an author, not a tech-manual translator.

    • wwwhhattt says:

      I actually have been told that the Metal Solid games have really good scripts, but that Kojima insisted that they were all translated as literally as possible.

  3. Lakshmi says:

    Fantastic article, Alec! I completely missed Enslaved coming to PC so I’ll have to try that out.

    Anyone who likes Stalker & reads should try Roadside Picnic. It’s so haunting.

  4. Risingson says:

    NO NO NO NO AND NO.

    All the four Legend adventure games should be here: Gateway, Shannara, Death Gate and Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon.

    Their absence, while including abysmal games like The Hobbit, is really something to worry about, RPS.

    • Risingson says:

      And Gateway 2, but a bit below the others.

    • Pan Vidla says:

      Alec could have also included Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons among the honorable mentions as it is, as far as I know, strongly inspired by Astrid Lindgren’s Brothers Lionheart. An excellent book and a trully excellent game. Possibly also the only videogame and book that I sheded a few tears for.

      • SuicideKing says:

        I don’t know about the book, but I didn’t like the game much at all. Was too simplistic and rather boring. Kinda predictable too.

        Of course, subjectivity and all that, but I’m not sure if it was worth mentioning on this list.

      • hymnharmonia says:

        I love both the game and book, but I don’t really see any similarity between the two…

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I’m with you Risingson. Legend Ent. made the only text adventures worth bothering with nowadays IMO, they are surely underrated.

    • emertonom says:

      I think it’s mostly because almost nobody played them. I went over to GOG the other day and upvoted some of these (Deathgate, Gateway, and Gateway II, which are the ones I’ve played) in the Community Wishlist, but they’re pretty low on votes.

      So is Rise of the Dragon. That’s not related to the article, it’s just another great adventure game I was looking for on the wishlist.

    • dreadguacamole says:

      Great call, I’d forgotten these! I’m partial to Gateway as a game, but Callahan’s is basically like stepping into one of the novels. It’s an incredible achievement.

    • Scrofa says:

      I believe Companions of Xanth worth a mention too.

      • Scrape Wander says:

        Was looking in the comments for this mention. Piers Anthony is pretty much a shit writer (though I loved his books as a child, even the…..randier ones), and playing COX (heh) on my old IBM computer as a kid was a pretty big thrill, after I had spent so much time imagining what every silly thing looked like in my mind by that point.

        Not sure if it holds up as an interactive experience, but I remember it being a dedicated, genuine attempt at bringing the world of Xanth into gaming.

  5. Matt_W says:

    Would this post have been catalyzed, perhaps, by this announcement?

    • Halk says:

      Oh God, that’s aweful indeed. Will it be an Excel spreadsheet game?

      “Okay, so I made 5 shillings* working in the alchemy lab, then I had to repair my lute for 3 pence*, buying drinks for Denna was 2 farthings* and she STILL didn’t let me **** her, so that leaves me completely unable to pay my tuition this year – AGAIN.”

      I am expecting the best gameplay ever.

      * = or whatever the books’ monetary units where called.

      • lglethal says:

        Ahh god no! Let him finish the damn series and lets find out if its actually going to turn out good before getting films involved! Doing the movies?games first will mean either having to have Patrick Rothfuss showhorn in something done in one of the movies into the timeline of the future books or performing some stupid retconning.

        I’ve loved the first 2 books of the Kingkiller Chronicles, but we are at least another 2 books away from their conclusion. So damn it – Stop distracting the man! ;)

        • Werthead says:

          There’s only one more (apparently close to being done, which is one of the reasons they agreed to start development now), The Doors of Stone, out next year.

          You are certainly not alone in wondering if Rothfuss can wrap up things in just one more book, but given that the most exciting subplots in Book 2 were handled through brief summaries of off-screen action whilst 25,000 words were dedicated to student finances, it is certainly possible. Awful, but possible.

  6. Nootrac4571 says:

    It’s wonderful how Roadside Picnic (the novel,) Stalker (the film,) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R (the game) are all so very different from each other, but all pretty equally fantastic in their own way. I’d second the recommendation to read Roadside Picnic: It’s not very long, but extremely evocative.

    • Nootrac4571 says:

      *Was supposed to be a reply to Lakshmi, not sure what happened there.

    • Lakshmi says:

      RPS comments system ^^

      Yeah, it’s technically a novella so it’s really not a big investment. Totally agree about the book, film and games too. It’s actually quite a change to find something that works so well across mediums.

    • Zhivko Yakimov says:

      By the way, why the authors of the novella are not mentioned? That’s Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, probably one of the best Russian sci-fi writers. While Sergey Lukyanenko may be the most famous outside Russia (Night Watch and all the sequels), the Strugatskys write much deeper – I’d compare them with China Mieville, Ian M. Banks or Gene Wolf.

      As I see if, the games are closer to the novella, rather than Tarkovsky’s film, which is a loose adaption at best.

      • Lakshmi says:

        I think who is more famous might depend on the audience. The Strugatsky’s are certainly very well known and Roadside Picnic is considered a sci-fi masterpiece.

        Sergey Lukyanenko is popular, though I bet most people have seen the two films & not read the 4 books. I do enjoy them, but they’re nothing as good as the Strugatsky’s.

  7. ThomasHL says:

    Enslaved is The Last of Us crossed with a Ratchett and Clank knock-off.

    (Grumpy man, escorts and protects an active female NPC through the heart of America, after the greenocalypse leading up to an ending where you wonder if you did the right thing all along. Featuring Uncharted style climbing and action sections. There are screenshots of the Last of Us which look almost identical to Enslaved. It was somehow a game incredibly ahead of it’s time and yet also behind the times )

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Yeah, but it’s also a lowest-common-denominator AAA action game with next to no depth in the mechanics. A shame.

      • Pulstar says:

        But it has an “active female NPC”, so it must be a masterpiece!

    • Enso says:

      Is the story really any good? I picked it up in the sale and have played a couple of hours of it. No real story has emerged yet (I assume I’ll get to Trip’s village at some point).

      So far it’s an incredibly repetitive action game with pointless and shallow upgrades, but if the story saves it I’ll give it another shot.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    No Honorable Mention for Game of Thrones: The Role-Playing Game? Et tu, Alec?

  9. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    Do comic books next!

    • Nootrac4571 says:

      I’m convinced there’s an amazing Judge Dredd game out there, just out of reach, waiting to be made. But maddeningly, nobody’s come close yet.

      • klops says:

        X-Com Apocalypse started from the idea of doing a Judge Dredd game. That’s why silly desert outside the city and various factions and death and destruction.

        If I remeber correctly…

  10. Nootrac4571 says:

    There’s a particular bookI’d love to see made into a game: Against a Dark Background by Iain M Banks.

    It’s such a wonderful setting, which lends itself perfectly to an open-world side-quest-stuffed RPG: A small system of planets with an ancient and mostly lost history, studded with hidden archaeological artifacts of immense value. A particular, apocalyptically powerful long-lost item which serves as the protagonist’s goal, and a complicated array of political factions who each desire the item for their own reasons. Plus a narrative that’s all about gradually assembling a diverse party of characters. It’s pretty much perfect videogame material.

    • GernauMorat says:

      So much this. I would love being a Special Circumstances agent too, but their might be balance issues. Although I suppose you could make a mechanic out of being subtle and low tech in evironments where that was necessary, and keeping the Cultures hands clean

    • jeeger says:

      Man, I’d love to play a shooter where you get handed a lazy gun. Or a drone, at that.

    • lokimotive says:

      On a somewhat similar note, in that the resultant game would be pretty much the exact opposite of that. It would be interesting to see someone attempt to adapt Delaney’s Dhalgren. An open world game with little to no end goal, where you pretty much just soak in the rather bizarre atmosphere of a sometimes hostile, but generally just okay, place.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Good call – sign me up for that one!

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      It’s a shame we haven’t had a sci-fi game based on the Culture novels. I know Against a Dark Background isn’t a Culture novel, but its discussion leads to this point. It probably has to do with them not being quite so mainstream enough to justify what the license would cost – besides I wouldn’t blame Banks’ estate at all for having a moratorium on adaptations of the ‘M’ books since it’s exceedingly rare for anyone to ever justice to sci-fi that’s on the sort of scale Culture novels typically are.

      However, far more perplexingly, we haven’t even had a game that’s obviously inspired by the Culture novels. Pan-galactic civilizations in sci-fi still tend to more closely resemble something from Star Trek. Seems to me that the Culture sort of setting is ripe for an Obsidian RPG. However, the ‘M’ novel I’d really love to see adapted is (again not a culture novel) Feersum Endjinn.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Thinking about it some more. It’s either a terrible waste of material, or it’s a good thing because we have all of these underexplored ideas to look forward to in future games. Though I’d have thought by now someone would have at least noticed Banks’ unique take on the technological singulairty.

  11. Zombleton says:

    No Wheel of Time? ‘Twas a great game, one of the first Unreal engine lisenses to come out if I recall correctly. Really surprised not to see it in the list.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Yeah, a fairly forgotten spell’em-up. Especially the pioneering tower defense like level were you set up traps to stop an advancing monster army was memorable.

    • Zombleton says:

      *licenses

      Indeed, though I was surprised to see it being run at Games Done Quick this year so perhaps not completely forgotten. When I saw this headline I fully expected it to be here.

  12. G says:

    I feel duty bound to mention that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio series (and all other versions, and radio series beyond the first two, are clearly inferior).

  13. BrianOConnell says:

    Nitpick re. Betrayal at Krondor. It was written by Neil Hallford and John Cutter. As an aside Halford also released an excellent book on designing RPGs, Swords and Circuitry.

  14. ohminus says:

    What, only an honorable mention for “I have no mouth…”? How many other games are out there in which the book (or story) author was directly involved in the game development?

    • Premium User Badge

      Waltorious says:

      I believe that the author of Metro 2033 was directly involved with the game. Also, while Feist did not write Betrayal at Krondor, he was consulted and he approved the script (and of course, later adapted the story into a novel, as the article mentions).

  15. Elarmarth says:

    What, no Rama? :(

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      The Rama game was based on the dreadful Gentry Lee sequels and not on the original Rendezvous with Rama, and for that reason should be erased from history.

  16. kud13 says:

    I wanted to write something about the Russian-made RPG adaptation of Nick Perumov’s “Keeper of the Swords” series (which is a part of what I consider to be hands-down THE best fantasy series to come out of Easter Europe, despite the fact that I love the Witcher to bits), but then I realized that it still languishes unplayed in my Steam library, so I can’t really speak about it.

    • Unclepauly says:

      What game are you talking about?

      • kud13 says:

        I was speaking about “Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword”. But now I realize I confused it with “A farewell to dragons” (which is also an adaptation of a Perumov novel, IS actually in my Steam library, and I also have not played it). It doesn’t look like 1C bothered to translate Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword (the game) to English.

  17. DrMcCoy says:

    What about:
    – Discworld 1 and 2 (and to a lesser extend, Discworld Noir)
    – The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes
    – The Dark Eye (the claymation thing running on Macromedia Director)

  18. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I’ll be honest, that brief description of I Have No Mouse and I Must Game intrigued me. What is so awful about it? Also, what is so awesome about it?

    Also, please do a list of the worst games based off of TV shows so I have an excuse to talk about Farscape on RPS.

    • adamsorkin says:

      You are in luck; there was a Have you played..? feature about it just yesterday: link to rockpapershotgun.com

      I remember it being pretty engaging, weird and creepy. But mostly, close to 20 years on, I mostly just remember one of the characters screaming in pain. Take that as you will.

  19. heretic says:

    Excellent article, thanks Alec! Been meaning to start reading the witcher but wasn’t sure where to start.

    • kud13 says:

      To be clear: you want to start with “the Last Wish”, and then read the SECOND short story collection, “Sword of Destiny”, which introduces Ciri, ends right before the novels start, AND is probably the best short stories collection ever written. Ever.

      Due to publisher idiocy, “Sword of Destiny” has only recently been released, AFTER they did several novels. But it should definitely be read BEFORE the novels, I cannot stress that enough.

  20. Darth Gangrel says:

    Seeing this article I thought to myself that I would be very upset if it didn’t include The Witcher, which I consider one of the best games or books or book-to-game adaptations. People say that the official English translation is bad, but is the fan translation better in that respect? I haven’t noticed anything gotten lost in translation, because the books are so good.

    I’m a bit surprised that Vampire the Masquerade didn’t get any kind of mention, especially seeing as it’s got plenty of coverage here on RPS, but then again it’s not a book, but a role playing game. Nonetheless, the novels based on that roleplaying are some of the best I’ve read and Bloodlines (and to a lesser degree Redemption) is one of the best games I’ve played.

    • Lakshmi says:

      I felt that the fan translations of the later Witcher books were better than the official translations of books 1 & 2 (3 wasn’t out when I read them). There was like more attention to language style, puns, jokes – things that ProcrastinatingSod above points out are missing or hard/impossible to translate in the official novels.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Thanks for replying, I might reread the books some time using the fan translation then.

  21. razorblade79 says:

    With the Battletech kickstarter running and all I want to mention Mechwarrior 2 which was a direct adaption of a Stackpole novel and even had lots of passages from the book in it if I remember correctly.

    One might argue that it was maybe even better than the book at the time.

  22. kit says:

    Neuromancer was good for its time!

  23. Johgr says:

    Is this in response to th Kingkiller Chronicles announcement?

  24. Sin Vega says:

    80 Days is not mentioned because the world is mad.

    • Oozo says:

      Absolutely. There’s arguably no other game on this list that is as faithful to the adapted piece of literature while turning it into something all by itself at the same time. Also, contrary to some of the games on this list, it’s actually a great game, too.

    • Lakshmi says:

      Good point! I just started playing it & it’s done so well.

  25. Bundin says:

    Dune 2 has pretty much nothing to do with the novel, except for some names and sandworms. Try Dune by Cryo Interactive if you want something that’s a tad closer.

    • Lakshmi says:

      I’m sure Dune 2 was the one with lots of cutscenes (static screens with text because it was pre-dinosaur), and followed the storyline quite closely. A google image search shows quite a few of them.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Nah, Dune 2 only had cut scenes as the intro and right at the end, and they had nothing to do with the plot of the books, just the setting. You’re likely thinking of the first one, which was the sort of adventure/fiction/strategy hybrid thingy with a story beyond “you’re blue and they’re red, get them!”

        • Lakshmi says:

          Obviously my pre-dinosaur brain has forgotten the details! Thanks.

    • ansionnach says:

      Agreed. Cryo’s Dune is closer to the essence of the novel, which was full of politics and mysticism. The strategy is pretty light but something it really got right was the difference you can make as an individual by engaging with the locals. I can’t really imagine an adaptation of any book being much closer to the source material than this, let alone Dune, which is a bit of a graveyard when it comes to adaptation to other media.

      Is Dune II even any good? I have to ask since I never played it much. Of course, it kicked off the real-time strategy genre… but even at the time wasn’t it a bit of a micro-management nightmare with terrible AI? My very strong suspicion is that not only is Dune II a poor adaptation of the novel but it pales in comparison to Cryo’s effort as a game.

      • ansionnach says:

        In Dune II’s case perhaps RTS means real-time… something!

      • Sin Vega says:

        Dune 2 (not played the other 10) was great, the precursor to Command and Conquer and just about every other related base builder. But they surpassed it in most ways, and without improvements (some of which have been done by fans, as was posted on RPS a few weeks ago) I imagine it’d get really fast – wonky AI, limited strategy, having to issue the same order to 30 units individually instead of en masse.

        As an adaptation of the book it’s crap, yes, but it doesn’t claim to be that. It’s a game based on the setting of the book, with barely any story but lots of atmosphere and a gameplay setup and elements that are explicitly drawn from it. It does with a setting what only games could do, which is a perfectly valid and arguably undervalued way to make an adaptation.

        • ansionnach says:

          Yeah, the point made about taking the setting and making it into a pure game is a good one, but in the case of Dune I wouldn’t particularly agree seeing how heavy it was on politics, mysticism and the actions of the individual. That was what Cryo’s game had. I really didn’t like issuing all the orders separately, even when Dune was a new enough game. Command & Conquer was where they got everything right for the first time (until you discovered the AI couldn’t handle sand bags).

  26. Gnoupi says:

    The Alice games? No?

  27. welverin says:

    When you say ‘based on’ do you mean actual adaptations, which the list doesn’t completely support, or set in the world. If it is the latter, then Shadow of Mordor deserves a mention.

  28. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Isn’t the old Wheel of Time game supposed to be pretty good?

    • elevown says:

      No, Its fantastic – they should do a have you played? on it – it hasn’t aged too well graphically, being an old 3d game, but it was maybe the best book tie-in I ever played.

  29. Faxmachinen says:

    I was going to say Myst, but apparantly the books are based on the game. They’re certainly worth a read if you like the Myst universe though.

  30. alms says:

    Enjoyed the Skyrim trollface opening. Kudos for including Vanilla Angband.

  31. Frank says:

    Something is amiss with your html on page 2. Everything from the text “On page 3: Honourable Mentions” on down is italicized.

  32. dreadguacamole says:

    A couple of obscurities not listed since they’d probably end up closer to the opposite end of the ranking…

    Hard to be a god. The book (by the Strugatsky brothers, too!) is great. The Game is decidedly not, though it had some great reactivity and a ton of goofily enjoyable ideas.

    Cryo put out two games based on classic sci-fi novels – Ubik and Riverworld. I bought Ubik despite it being a Cryo game (hey, it was one of my favorite novels!) and… wow. It was some kind of real time tactical combat game, an absolute mess. Never went near Riverworld.
    Strangely enough, I remember enjoying their adaptation of Dune.

  33. anHorse says:

    What, no Left Behind?

    John Walker seemed to love it when he covered the game…

  34. Arglebargle says:

    A lot of bad games based on novels. While the top few do work, much of these are terrible through bad or aged design.

    I loved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so much that I cut up the floppies with scissors and tossed the bits like confetti into the dumpster. Guess the exact word was never so anal.

  35. TheApologist says:

    Given all the Warhammer novels, I expected this to be a list of comprising entirely of Dawn of War, its expandalones and sequels, and Shadow of the Horned Rat.

    • elevown says:

      This isn’t a list of games that have been made that are set someplace books have been set too – its about games based on books.

      The warhammer games are NOT about the books – and warhammer isn’t derived from novels either – its a big franchise stemming from the rpg and board game source material – which has many spin offs – like games and books.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but the dawn of war games are NOT games of any of the books? Even if they featured a few elements or characters / locations from a book, I’d say they were still franchise games not games stemming from books.

      • Werthead says:

        Yeah, it’s the other way around. There are Dawn of War novels, but they’re based on the video games.

        WH40K originated as a tabletop wargame, but GW actually make more money out of the novels and video games. The novels are massive sellers, with Dan Abnett being Britain’s second-biggest-selling SF author (behind Peter F. Hamilton) almost purely off his WH40K work. He’d probably be doing even better if GW actually kept the books in print for longer than five minutes.

  36. Text_Fish says:

    I’ve always thought Magnus Mills could write a fantastic point’n’click adventure, or some equally gentle and brain teasing genre.

  37. bill says:

    RPS is doing “10 best..” articles now?

    If “10 sexist characters in video games” shows up then I’m going to be very disappointed..

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      They better put me in the ‘100 Best Comments’ one.

  38. AnTREXon says:

    you missed the biggest of them all – Lord of the Rings Online
    Probably the biggest book game of all time

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Nah, two points against this. First of all it’s based much more on the movies than it is on any of the books, and secondly it takes massive liberties with the spirit of the Lord of the Rings for the sake of action oriented gameplay. Two LOTR based games I’d always put ahead of it are Angband and The Two Towers MUD… I’ve yet to see a multiplayer LOTR experience that comes anywhere near as close as Towers in terms of getting the pace and tone of the book.

  39. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Very cool to see Angband on here – It was originally developed at my old University and there was a whole subculture in the CS labs when I was there that revolved around working on different versions of it, particularly the multiplayer variant.

    Discworld 1 is a shocking omission from this list though, say what you like about the puzzles, it had some brilliant writing and brilliant voice acting.

  40. bgm says:

    All right, I’ll have a go…
    What about the old SSI games based on the TSR books of the same names….Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Pool of Darkness to name a few. Most were awesome….for their day!

  41. zipdrive says:

    I’, utterly shocked (SHOCKED, I say!) that the writer chose Dune 2 to represent the best adaptation of Dune and not the game which actually had a narrative similar to the book,,,you, know, Dune (a.k.a Dune 1).

  42. i646755@trbvm.com says:

    Tolkein isn’t a book, it’s an author’s last name. I think the elephant in the room here is that specific books are less accessible to consumers than the mythos or canon they contribute to. Consider the challenge of establishing what the humidity is in any generically “Dune” game, or what ship we’d be sailing in an Aubrey/Maturin game.