Five video games inspired by books

Fantasy book

It is all too common to see video games adapted into novels, though it is seldom you will find a video game adapted from a novel counterpart.

This is a list of five video games, or video game series, that were adapted and inspired by – either in whole or in part – from classic literature and novels.

Lord of the Rings

There has been a wide array of games to be based on the classic Lord of the Rings stories, some bad and some good.

Some of the games – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King – are all based on the films of the same name, directed by Peter Jackson. Though, some of the games are inspired by the work of JRR Tolkien. Perhaps the most obvious entries to this list are Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War.

These titles stand out immediately because of one particular character – the elf Celebrimbor who is the greatest Elven smith of the Second Age.

Lord of the Rings fans who have read Tolkien’s works and dug deep into the rich and vibrant lore of the world will immediately recognise the name Celembrimbor.

This is because Celembrimbor was manipulated by Sauron into forging the Rings of Power and thus setting in motion the plot for the series.

During Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, Celembrimbor aids the main character – a Gondorian – seek revenge on Sauron.

An older Lord of the Rings game known as ‘War in the North’ is a video game that is both inspired and based on both Tolkien’s books as well as Peter Jackson’s films.

Bioshock

When Bioshock was released back in 2007, it took the video game world by storm with its breathtaking setting. It’s a highly-gripping first-person shooter that makes the player reflect on their present condition in the game world.

Interestingly, Ken Levine – head writer and creative director for Bioshock – has made clear in the past that Bioshock is heavily inspired by Ayn Rand’s novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’.

Rand’s novel explores her ideas on philosophy – a concept which Bioshock explores further by offering a critique on it.

Atlas Shrugged is an exploration on what could happen if the world’s creative minds fled to achieve their unshackled desires, leaving society to fend for itself.

Bioshock’s critique lies in its premise: the world’s greatest minds have fled to their own Utopia, Rapture. However, this presents problems which are ultimately the undoing of the Utopia.

Soon enough the greatest minds begin to shift into ones of paranoia, slowly turning them into mutants and murderers. Its a comment on how a world without boundaries could implode.

Assassin’s Creed

When Assassin’s Creed first hit the shelves 12 years ago, it shook the gaming world up. It was incredibly fresh for its time and, while unpolished, offered unique and stylish gameplay that became a staple of modern day video games.

Since then, there have been countless Assassin’s Creed titles released, with some of them even having spin-off books.

Yet, what is relatively unknown is that the first Assassin’s Creed game itself is inspired by a novel.

The novel is called Alamut and was written by Slovenian author Vladimir Bartol.

Assassin’s Creed is fundamentally a work of science-fiction, but each game in the franchise also focuses heavily on portraying a relatively accurate depiction of historical periods.

The book is based in Alamut, a fortress in Persia which actually existed in the early 11th century. Many of the historical facts used in the novel overlap into the game.

One of the novel’s most famous lines is “nothing is an absolute reality, everything is permitted” which Assassin’s Creed re-writes to suit its own narrative: “nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Bloodborne

Bloodborne is a standalone video game developed by FromSoftware and has its roots set in a Victorian Gothic setting. It has its own, distinctive narrative that is presented as a mystery for the player to unravel.

This entry to the list is one that has its inspirations made abundantly clear. Bloodborne is heavily, heavily inspired by the fiction of one HP Lovecraft.

The game overflows with the copious amounts of Lovecraftian lore and inspiration, with many of its bosses bearing striking similarities to the grotesque monsters found in Lovecraft’s work.

In particular Bloodborne follows man’s descent into madness while imbuing monstrous creatures filled with tentacles and oddly-shaped bodies to mirror this madness.

Bloodborne is also a game that tackles Lovecraft’s fiction with beauty for while you can indeed slay these ferocious monsters, ultimately none of it matters.

No matter which ending the player unlocks, the futility of man’s struggle is always encapsulated, rendering the player’s efforts meaningless and reinforcing Lovecraft’s notions.

The Witcher

The Witcher game series is the most obvious collection of games inspired by books.

The first Witcher game (and the succeeding second and third instalments) continue from where Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels end.

The Witcher – in book form – began as a collection of short stories heavily focused on Slavic folklore and mythology. They soon turned into a novel series in their own right following the story of the Witcher Geralt and the Child of Prophecy, Cirilla, or Ciri for short.

While the games continue on from the books, they are not sequels, at least in the book world. The games were developed by CD Projekt Red who acquired the rights from Sapkowski.

Since it proceeds from the ending of the most recent novel for when The Witcher one was released, the narrative is its own.

However, many important plot lines and characters from the books remain vital and CD Projekt Red does a remarkable job of not breaking too much legend with many important scenes and narrative threads in the games paying homage to their source material.

There are differences, for instance, Geralt regularly shaves and hates beards. But in The Witcher 3, the player can grow his beard out.

Triss Merigold was also badly scarred from burning in the Battle of Sodden Hill and doesn’t reveal cleavage to hide the burns, though in the games her scarring is absent.

Most importantly, book Geralt often succumbs to waves of melancholy and is highly introspective, though in the games he is portrayed as witty.

Geralt’s characterisation in the games is largely changed to suit the needs of a fantasy role-playing game to allow player’s to make their own choices and experience the ramifications of those choices.

Similarly, Geralt’s use of ‘Signs’ (magic) is severely limited in the books, whereas they are a lot more powerful in the games – once again to allow them to thrive from a gameplay perspective.

All of the games on the list are highly regarded in the gaming world, much like their book counterparts in the world of fiction. Perhaps the narratives of the games stand out so much because their inspirations were so well-written.

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