Inspiration for video games is drawn from weird and wonderful places. However, one of the more popular ways for game developers to draw inspiration is to create video games based on books.
Whether directly porting classic novels into high-definition video games or simply drawing a little inspiration from some of the authors’ visions, there are plenty of games that have drawn inspiration from famous authors over the years.
But which book-inspired games are the best? Let’s find out! 👇
Top 10 Video Games Based On Books
From cross-medium international hits like the Witcher series to video games that have drawn inspiration from authors dating back to the 1600s, there are hundreds of incredible games you don’t want to miss!
Beyond obvious titles such as Rainbow Six and Conan: Exiles, here are the top 10 best video games based on books:
Keep on scrolling to find out more about each of these classic titles and how they draw inspiration from original books and authors! 👇 –
The Witcher Series
First Released: 2007
Inspiration: The Witcher Books (by Andrzej Sapkowski) Game Developer: CD Projekt RED
Kicking things off with the most popular video game that was originally a book, the Witcher Series. You will undoubtedly be familiar with the Witcher Series as the games have spawned several sequels, DLCs and even a hit TV show!
The games follow Geralt of Rivia, a monster slayer for hire and all the adventures that he encounters. As an action RPG, you’ll be able to explore large, detailed fantasy environments that take their own inspiration from Slavic mythology while encountering an involved plot full of twists that you will not have seen coming. Oh, and then there’s the money-making side to The Witcher 3 which has it’s own hidden gems to exploit.
What some gamers may still not know is that The Witcher was originally a series of novels and short stories written by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, which were published between 1990 and 2012.
These stories were closely followed when developers CD Projekt Red were adapting them, so if you want to see where the Witcher got his start, check them out.
First Released: 2007 Inspiration: Atlas Shrugged (by Ayn Rand) Game Developer: 2K Games
As an example of a game that used a book as inspiration but didn’t directly adapt it, the Bioshock series was started in 2007 and entailed a secret underwater adventure in the city of Rapture. Run by a millionaire, Andrew Ryan, he envisions a city free from the laws and regulations of regular society.
As the player character Jack, you stumble into the city after a plane crash and soon discover the ravages that an unruly attitude has had upon society here.
In the development of the game, a lot of the philosophies and ideas of Ryan are brought over from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This novel follows Jon Galt, a man who decides to create his own society free of the laws of others. While Jon’s society is not underwater, we love what the Bioshock team have done here to transform the vision.
As such, the game brings those ideas to a logical conclusion. It’s a really interesting way of interpreting the original book.
First Released: 2010 Inspiration: Metro 2033 (by Dmitry Glukhovsky) Game Developer: 4A Games Limited
Metro 2033 is a hit game from Ukranian-Maltese developer 4A Games Limited. In Metro 2033, you take control of Artyom, a man looking to protect his home metro station from monsters that lurk within the system. It’s a highly explorative game that forces you to venture into Moscow’s metro system after the events of a nuclear apocalypse.
Which, the Russian author is quite unique on this list, as he initially made the book available free on his website. There are not many authors that do this, so it’s well worth paying Dmitry some homage!
As you would expect, the game is quite faithful to the novel but has had to make minor changes to account for the change in medium. However, it still succeeds in creating the same tense atmosphere that made the novel successful.
If you like horror suspense games, Metro 2033 is worth playing!
Shin Megami Tensei Series
First Released: 1997 Inspiration: Shin Megami Tensei Books (by Aya Nishitani) Game Developer: Atlus, SEGA, Namco & More
The Shin Megami Tensei games have been a staple of JRPG gaming since the late 1990s. Yet, many may not know that they started life as a series of books. The original Shin Megami Tensei books were released as a trilogy in the early 80s by Japanese writer Aya Nishitani.
As a science fiction storyline which introduces a lot of the mechanics that are seen in the games, the Shin Megami Tensei series includes aspects such as demon summoning and the overarching themes of fighting for the fate of reality.
The games started in 1987 with the release of Digital Devil Story: Shin Megami Tensei and have been slowly drip-fed onto our consoles ever since. The games are typically unrelated in the stories created by Aya Nishaitani but have the same mechanics and themes.
The series is also famous for having several spin-offs, such as the Devil Summoner games and the Persona titles, which arguably have become a bigger name than their parent series over time.
The Binding Of Isaac
First Released: 2011 Inspiration: The Bible Game Developer: Edmund McMillen & Florian Himsl
Indie darling “The Binding Of Isaac” is a hugely popular roguelike adventure game. But, what you may not have thought about until now is its ties to the Bible. When you think of the game, you’ll think of the titular character, who has escaped into the depths of his basement to escape the wrath of his mother. On his way, he meets all kinds of hideous and disgusting enemies that he must fight to survive.
How does this relate to The Bible?
Well, the game features many references to events depicted in the Bible, including meeting Biblical figures such as Cain, Eve, Samson, and more. Drawing plenty of similarities between the Bible, the Binding of Isaac is a roguelike adventure with a twist.
I Have No Mouth, I Must Scream
First Released: 1995 Inspiration: I Have No Mouth, I Must Scream Book (by Harlan Ellison) Game Developer: Cyberdreams & The Dreamers Guild
This 1995 point-and-click adventure game is one of the best examples of how to adapt a book into a video game. While developed by two companies, Cyberdreams and The Dreamers Guild, it also had input from author Harlan Ellison.
The original novel was written back in 1967, and his story became an excellent example of dystopian sci-fi fiction with both the book and the gaming following the five remaining people left on earth. Placed into virtual reality by an AI named AM, Harlan Ellison might be considered a visionary, given the technology we have today.
In the game, AM places the five remaining humans in realities based on their character flaws to torture them. And in the game, humans must interact by making decisions around several ethical dilemmas. As such, the game is considered to be one that truly does its source material justice
Spec Ops: The Line
First Release Date: 2012 Inspiration: Heart of Darkness (by Joseph Conrad) Game Developer: YAGER & Darkside Game Studios
As another game that wasn’t directly adapted from a book but was heavily inspired by it, Spec Ops: The Line is a military shooter that turns the idea of military shooters on its head, making the player question the morality of the player character and, in turn, themselves. While you play with standard third-person shooter mechanics, the storyline and tone are much darker than most.
The inspiration for the game comes from Heart Of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. This book details the horrors of war and also directly inspired Apocalypse Now.
Unfortunately, Apocalypse has now been marred with flaws. However, if you play the game knowing this, the inspiration is easy to see.
First Release Date: 1999 Inspiration: Discworld Fantasy Novels (by Terry Pratchet) Game Developer: Perfect Entertainment & Teeny Weeny Games
Many will know of the legacy of Sir Terry Pratchett and his Discworld fantasy novels that are mostly set in the city of Ankh-Morpork. These novels use fantasy tropes to poke fun at real-life issues and events, and their sense of humour made each book an instant classic.
The setting of these books was brought to Discworld Noir, an adventure game developed in 1999 by Perfect Games. The game is unusual as it doesn’t follow the plot of any of the books. Instead, it borrows the characters and setting to create a new story.
As such, the game plays like a new instalment of the Discworld series, following Lewton, Ankh-Morpork’s only private eye. You use interrogation-style gameplay to attempt to solve a murder case. As Lewton also becomes a werewolf during the course of the game, you also get a unique smell mechanic to help solve the case.
For the Sherlock’s among us, Discworld Noir is a must-own!
First Release Date: 2003
Inspiration: Arrakis (by Frank Herbert) Game Developer: Westwood Studios
Dune II is a real-time strategy game developed by Westwood Studios in 1992. The game is based on the novel Arrakis by Frank Herbert, the first book in his Dune franchise.
The game shows the three factions that are warring to gain control of the planet Arrakis, and they are considered to be somewhat faithful to their book counterparts. However, you will see that the developers didn’t include a lot of the world-building that was done in the book, such as the exploration of the religious and social themes that were used.
However, the game shines as it is one of the earliest examples of a real-time strategy game. It still holds up today and has inspired a lot of other games that we all love, such as the Civilisation series, alongside many others.
First Release Date: 2007
Inspiration: The Roadside Picnic & Stalker (The Movie) Game Developer: GSC Game World
S.T.A.L.K.E.R was created in 2007 by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World and takes the form of an FPS title set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In this version of the world, the area is infested with mutants, and as the player character, you must explore the zone while defending yourself from them.
It’s your typical suspense FPS survival game but with a twist.
The game takes inspiration from two sources: The Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers and Stalker, a movie by Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. As such, it doesn’t follow the book’s plot but instead uses the setting and atmosphere to its advantage.
Having watched the movie and read the book, we’re kind of glad that GSC opted to use inspiration rather than take direct extracts, as that would have been an extremely messy storyline without any real conclusion.
The Final Word
So there you have our roundup of the best video games that were books; originally.
When you create a video game based on a book, the game takes an entirely new form of storytelling that often is unrivalled. A common problem with modern games is the lack of storytelling, and therefore, basing the game on a book instead will quickly counteract that.
Whether the game entirely transforms the book into a video game or takes some inspiration, there are many authors we must thank for the games we play today. Out of all of the games on this list, The Witcher and the Bioshock series are must-own titles, regardless of whether you are into JRPGs or FPS games.
As someone who is not generally into reading books, I’ve grabbed a couple of these titles to see how the games have taken extracts from them, and I must say, there’s a ton of creativity here!
Do you know of any other video games based on books?
Drop a comment below with your recommendations for us to play, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible! Once you’re done, don’t forget to check out some of my other roundups, game reviews and technology deep dives:
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