Bookish Fun: Video Games Inspired by Books

While reading is certainly one of the big hobbies of my life, something I’ve also been doing since I was pretty young is video gaming. Yes, I know, I’ve heard it all – it’ll damage your eyes, melt your brain, waste your time, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, I love raiding tombs, spending hours crafting an island paradise full of cute animals, ordering Sims around like a mini-God, working out puzzle rooms designed by a crazed computer, or defeating other civilisations with my superior ability to build a rocket. There are so many fabulous games out there for people with all different kinds of interests and skill levels. However, would you be surprised to know that there are a few which were actually inspired by books? Okay, you’re probably not that surprised, but I thought it might be fun to have a look at a couple.

Nancy Drew Detective Game Series | Nancy Drew Series – Caroline Keene

The Nancy Drew mystery series has been around since the 1930s(!) and it’s managed to remain pretty popular since then (there have been multiple adaptations in the last few years alone). I got into these books when I was around ten years old and not long after also discovered the video games. To give you an idea of just how popular these point and click adventures are, the first entry, Secrets Can Kill, was released in 1998 and only last year, they released installment number 33! These games are so much fun and super re-playable. They’re full of challenging & entertaining puzzles, interesting characters and exciting stories. While the plots differ from the books for the most part, they do feature all the popular characters including The Hardy Boys. I highly recommend these even if you’re not a gamer. Plus they’re usually super cheap during Steam sales (some of my favourites are Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Tomb of the Lost Queen and Shadow at the Water’s Edge).


American McGee’s Alice & Alice: Madness Returns | Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

This gaming duology takes its concept from Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. People have often considered the Alice stories with regards to mental illness, but these video games take it a step further by having Wonderland exist as a mental retreat for institutionalised Alice’s traumatised mind. Here, Wonderland is a lot darker and more violent, but I suppose that’s necessary for a video game. The games feature a slightly older Alice battling her way across the land using a variety of weapons whilst attempting to repair her mind in the wake of her parents’ deaths. Fans of the stories will be happy to know that the games do include a lot famous faces such as the White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and Cheshire cat. The design style leans towards comic book-ish but there are some super pretty and engaging environments, as one would expect of something set in Wonderland.


Metro Series | Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

If you’re a fan of first person shooter or survivor horror games, then you’ve probably heard of Metro 2033 and its sequels Metro: Last Light & Metro: Exodus. The original game is based on a book of the same name by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Both are set in Moscow following the fallout of a nuclear war in which people are forced to live in underground bunkers and tunnels – a network called the Metro. Aside from the fallout radiation, survivors also have to deal with extreme human factions and dangerous mutant creatures. The story follows a man named Aryton who is tasked with journeying to the heart of the Metro to warn people about a threat known as the Dark Ones. The book and game share many similarities but also quite a few differences – most notably the game’s ability to make the player feel extremely uneasy for most of its run time and its different two endings.


The Witcher Series | The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski

If you’re considering video games with their origins in books, The Witcher games are definitely the most well-known. These are somewhat different to others on this list in that they don’t attempt to directly adapt the novels. Instead, they act as sequels. Well, at least they were sequels until the author realised how popular the games were, got ticked off at how things were handled, and went back to add extra books to the series. Because they’re follow ups, the games include a heap of prominent and smaller book characters and showcase many different parts of Sapkowski’s world in lush and fantastic detail. While it helps to have read the books to understand references, in-jokes, and backstories when playing, it’s not essential for enjoyment. Also, this is definitely a series which improves with each installment. Although the first game leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth pushing through to eventually get to play Wild Hunt (one of my favourite games of all time).


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | The Lord of the Rings Series – J RR Tolkien

There have been a HEAP of Lord of the Rings games and it’s easy to understand why: the franchise is ridiculously popular. One of my favourites is LEGO LotR, but considering how movie influenced it is, (and the fact I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow of Mordor) I’m going with The Fellowship of the Ring game for this list. Released the year after the film, you’d think it’d just be a basic, cash-in type thing but it’s actually very much a book adaptation. The characters are modeled using the book’s descriptions, not the actors, and the storyline includes a lot of sections from the novel which aren’t covered in the movie. This is particularly so where it comes to Frodo’s journey to Rivendell e.g. the Barrow Downs, Tom Bombadil, Farmer Maggot, etc. It’s not the best game around (oh lord, the graphics!), however if you’re a LotR fan it’s definitely fun running around fixing weather vanes as Frodo, battling trolls as Aragorn and using magic to defeat a Balrog as Gandalf.


Bioshock | Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Okay, this one is a bit less straightforward. Good thing I named this post “inspired by” and not “adapted from”. Bioshock is a first person shooter set in the rundown underwater city of Rapture. Philosopher/writer, Ayn Rand, is all over this game. In their development of the philosophy behind Rapture, the game’s creators relied heavily on Rand’s theory of Objectivism from Atlas Shrugged, which advocates for individuals focusing on their own interests over those of others with minimal state intervention (radical selfishness, in essence). Rapture is basically a depiction of just how bad strictly applied Objectivism can be, especially when its ideas become warped. The game also has other links to Rand and her work, e.g. the similarities between Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, and Rand, smaller references to the novel such as posters stating ‘Who is Atlas?’, and the links between the plight of John Galt and the game’s backstory events. It seems philosophical texts can make good games just as well as fantasy books.


Sherlock Holmes Series | The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

Much like Nancy Drew, the Sherlock Holmes series is a set of adventure-mystery games which feature Doyle’s famous detectives, Holmes and Watson, investigating some sort of crime in an attempt to solve it. The player solves puzzles, locates hidden clues and analyses them, and talks with suspects. The games’ storylines are largely original (with a few exceptions such as in Crimes and Punishment) and don’t really adhere to the novels but still seem to maintain the feeling of them. The series has been around since 2002, with the latest game released in 2016, and it’s remained fairly popular during that time, even winning a couple of awards. So if you’re a Sherlock fan and enjoy a good mystery game, this might be a fun series to give a try during your spare time.


And that’s it from me for now! Are you someone who loves playing video games? Have you played any of the ones in this post? (Psssst…If you’re as obsessed with the Nancy Drew games as me and my sister, let me know your favourite!).

9 thoughts on “Bookish Fun: Video Games Inspired by Books

    1. Thanks! Yes, there are two short story collections (which the Netflix series is based off) and then the main series of novels after that, which the games follow on from. Of the books, I’ve only read the short stories so far but I quite enjoyed them!

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