Licensed games have always been a bit of a black sheep.
It seems like a no-brainer. Take an established setting and characters, and use them as the basis for a great interactive experience. And yet, it just doesn’t seem to work out most of the time.
Maybe it’s because the game creators feel hemmed in by the need to hit specific story beats, or they’re afraid of using the characters wrong. Another possibility is limitations the original creators of the world imposed.
Video games based on books are one area of licensed properties that essentially disappeared in the modern era. There used to be so many of them, and some of them were even good!
Books naturally rely more on the imagination and tend to have broader-reaching storylines than movies or TV shows. Maybe that’s why many games based on books managed to turn out well.
I’ve collected a list of some of my favorites here. They’re mostly older, because video games based on books just aren’t that common anymore. Did I miss your favorites? Let me know!
The Collected Works of Legend Entertainment
It’s impossible to have a list of video games based on books without mentioning Legend. The now-defunct game studio happily specialized in adventure games built on existing properties.
They were something like the Telltale Games of their day, although unlike Telltale, Legend didn’t shy away from putting in some seriously brain-wracking puzzles.
From their founding in 1989 until they were shut down in 2004, Legend developed and published 8 games based on books. They grabbed up the licenses to popular sci-fi and fantasy series, starting with Fredrik Pohl’s Gateway (somewhat of a “deep cut” even back then) and culminating with the enormously popular Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.
Most of their games still hold up very well today, if you can find them.