We're living through an era where films and books are starting to be based on computer games regularly, but books have inspired game creators since the first arcade games began to appear. So, to honor this fine tradition, we've compiled our list of the 15 best video games based on the books below.
Best Video Games That Were Inspired By Books
Whether direct ports of the stories or taking inspiration from the worlds created in the authors' minds, some of the most memorable and long-running game series have taken their spark from the written word. They cover multiple eras in gaming, as well as genres, so consider the numbering arbitrary. But these classic computer games are all inspired by equally classic novels and series.
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15. Metro series
Now a hugely popular franchise, the first installment in this series was the dystopian 2005 novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. A vast range of fiction has since spawned from the setting, several different authors, and a range of genres. But the FPS video games Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, and 2019's Metro Exodus have helped make it a globally recognized brand.
14. Vampire Hunter D
While this 2000 PlayStation title didn't receive much critical acclaim, Vampire Hunter D was an exciting take on the Resident Evil style of survival horror game that tried to introduce a bit more dynamism to the combat. But the vampire's castle setting was inspired by the Vampire Hunter D novels of Japanese author Hideyuki Kikuchi, which have also inspired anime and comic adaptations over the years.
Frank Herbert's original Dune novel may date back to 1965, but it has regularly been the inspiration for board, roleplaying, and video games ever since, as well as films and television series. The 1992 Amiga and PC game was genuinely epic by the standards of the day, becoming a huge hit. It largely follows the book's plot, using RTS and adventure game elements to create a unique experience.
12. The Witcher series
Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski had his first collection of short stories, The Witcher, published in 1990. There have been six novels and 15 short stories about the antihero Geralt of Rivia in total, but many fans will be more familiar with the television series and popular ARPGs. The games have wowed fans across multiple platforms, with 2015's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt often mentioned in best games of all time lists.
11. World War Z
While best known to many as a hit Hollywood movie, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War was first released as a novel by American author Max Brooks in 2006. But it wasn't until 2019 that the multi-platform co-operative third-person shooter arrived. It took inspiration from both the book and the film and was praised for its combat mechanics, selling millions of copies.
10. STALKER series
Loosely based on Soviet authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic, the first STALKER game was released in 2007. The survival horror FPS was a huge hit, with the book's original extra-terrestrial setting replaced with a starkly realistic Chernobyl backdrop. Two more highly acclaimed titles followed, with STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl.
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9. Conan Exiles
When you think of Conan, it's hard not to imagine Schwarzenegger in all his 1980s glory. But the character dates back to 1932 when Robert E Howard originally created the swords and sorcery hero for a series of stories published in the magazine Weird Tales. RPG Conan Exiles was released in 2018, creating a harsh landscape based on the lands of the printed stories and with characters beginning the game by being saved by Conan himself.
8. Call of Cthulhu
The original Call of Cthulhu short story, written by HP Lovecraft, was published in 1928 in Weird Tales, just four years before the first Conan stories appeared in the same magazine. Practically ignored at the time, Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos rose to public attention in the 1980s, years after his death, inspiring games of all kinds. The most recent video game title was the 2018 survival horror RPG Call of Cthulhu, which was praised for capturing the essence of Lovecraft's vision.
7. Discworld Noir
Video game Discworld Noir arrived on PC and PlayStation in 1999, while English author Terry Pratchett was still at the peak of his writing powers. As the noir in the title suggests, the game is based around Discworld's only PI and parodies genre classics, including The Maltese Falcon. Pratchett himself helped work on the adventure game, with its excellent dialogue helping Discworld Noir enjoy a string of great reviews.
6. The Lord of the Rings Online
While many games have drawn inspiration, either directly or indirectly, from Tolkien's novels, none have done a better job of recreating Middle Earth than The Lord of the Rings Online. The MMORPG sees characters progressing through the same storyline as the main characters but largely at a tangent from them, occasionally meeting up with the protagonists to fulfill side quests adjacent to the main plot points. The game has been online since 2007 and still enjoys regular updates today.
5. Rainbow Six series
Tom Clancy's original Rainbow Six novel was published in 1998, with the first video game tie-in arriving just two years later on all platforms. The techno-thriller became a New York Times bestseller, while the game has spawned a series of hugely popular tactical shooters that are still going strong today. The games' stories see you playing a part in the Rainbow counterterrorism organization, offering both co-op and solo play across a number of realistic storylines set in Clancy's universe.
4. BioShock series
The first BioShock video game hit our screens in 2007 and while the game's concept is credited to game dev Ken Levine, he acknowledges the game draws heavily upon the dystopian and utopian writing of authors Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. This helps create a fascinating narrative that elevated the BioShock games from standard first-person shooters into genuinely thought-provoking stories in their own rights.
3. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened
Developer Frogwares has been creating Sherlock Holmes adventure games for more than 20 years. The games are based on Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories and stay very true to their themes, giving players control of both Holmes and Watson and concentrating largely on puzzle-solving while putting together the clues you find along the way.
2. Lego Harry Potter
While every one of JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels has had at least one video game attached to it, the two Lego Harry Potter games (Years 1-4 and Years 5-7) have been the best received. They're based strongly on the books themselves but go the extra mile by peppering the games with comedic easter eggs you can tell are written and delivered by true fans of the Potterverse.
1. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Few books can make a stronger claim for the Geek's Hall of Fame than Douglas Adam's classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. While converting books to the screen via film and television has proven challenging, 1984's text adventure for Amiga and PC absolutely nailed the humor. The game was co-designed by Douglas Adams and was notoriously difficult, especially with no internet to share solutions. You can still play it online today via various emulators.
Are you looking for more great game lists? We've got you covered at Pro Game Guides with 10 Best Free Puzzle Mystery Games, Best Zelda games to play before Tears of the Kingdom, and more!
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15 Best Video Games that are Based on Books