Film adaptations of books are made so often that nobody really pays attention to the notion. If a book does well, it is generally accepted that there is a huge chance that one will probably see a film adaptation of the book sometime in the near future.
However, the same cannot really be said about video games. This is not to say that video games are a creatively superior form of media; themes and elements from some the most acclaimed pieces of literature can be recognized in most video games.
Rather, it is just to say that there aren’t as many direct adaptations of books. For example, how many video game adaptations of Ernest Hemingway novels can you name?
Some may feel that it may be hard to adapt a novel into a video game, but there shouldn’t really be anymore fear that a video game adaptation of a book may not be very successful than there is when a video game based off an original storyline is released. The first example of a video game adaptation of a book that comes to mind is The Witcher series. If you’re a gamer, you probably already know that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was one of the most acclaimed games released last year so there should really be no question whether a game based off a book or book series could be any good.
One may argue that only books in particular genres, such as sci-fi, action, adventure and fantasy, lend themselves to being adapted into video games, but I disagree with this notion. With games such as Gone Home garnering great acclaim, one could argue that there is room for books of different genres or literary movements in which physical conflict is not always a primary factor to be adapted.
It was for these reasons that I have decided to list four books that I feel should receive video game adaptations. You will notice that some of these have already previously been turned into video games, but in these instances they may have either been very disappointing titles or did not include the features that I wanted to see in the title. I have also tried to make sure that not all books come from a single genre (or else I would have probably needed to rename the list the top five fantasy books that should be adapted into video games).
1. The Saxon Stories/The Last Kingdom
The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell (television series adaptation The Last Kingdom) is a book series set in late 9th/early 10th century Britain and is centred around the life of fictional Saxon lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg. A general overview of the series is that it basically explores Uhtred’s adventures in Britain during a period in which the Danish (some would say Vikings) were invading. In undergrad, I studied history and in postgrad, I studied media. It really should be no surprise that I just love it when the two mix to create a film, book or video game. It’s the reason why I keep on buying every Assassin’s Creed title; they give life to the periods that are generally only accessible in textbooks, but that many would like to explore in a more concrete environment. I don’t really know of any games that allow one to explore this particular period in history. Sure, most fantasy games tend to have some elements from this period in history, but I want a game that allows you to explore this area without the fantastical elements, in which one is able to discover new lands and expand or defend the borders of your country.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is a novel that tells the story of Captain Ahab’s obsessive desire to kill the whale that had maimed him (Moby Dick) in a previous whaling expedition as told through the eyes of Ishmael (the only surviving crew member after Captain Ahab’s final attempt to kill the whale.) Moby-Dick is extremely well-known with several apparent references being made to the story in various forms of media, including video games. It is thus quite surprising that it has not yet been adapted into a full-length video game, particularly given the story’s actual content. One can debate the moral or philosophical themes explored in the novel, but at the end of the day the characters are hunting a giant fish. An open-world game in which one spends their time scouring the ocean in an attempt to track Moby Dick and eventually attempt to kill him, would be rather exciting particularly if it is accompanied by some amazing visuals (well, at least to me.) If anything, I think that the overall benefit of having such a game will be the fact that people who have played it will at least know the story of Moby-Dick if they are ever made to read it at school or university.
3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is semi-autobiographical novel by the author James Joyce. It takes the reader through Stephen Dedalus’ life as he goes from early childhood into early adulthood, detailing how he changes over time and begins to craft his own beliefs about the world and life. It is probably one of the best ‘coming-of-age’ stories ever written (certainly one of the most famous.) To be honest, I don’t know whether I want this novel to be adapted into a video game so much as I want a novel with a good coming-of-age storyline. Previously, I wrote that a primary reason people play games is that they want to feel as if they have accomplished something. I do feel leading a character from the early life into adulthood or even death accompanied with an extremely well-written narrative maybe tremendously fulfilling and it is something we do not see very often in games. Yes, I do know that you can take a character you created from birth to death in The Sims games but this is not accompanied by any formal narrative other than the one you create in your mind and it is the good narrative that I am asking for here.
4. A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones
I know that video game adaptations of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series already exist, but I want one that offers me more than the others previously have. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past six years, you would know that A Song of Ice and Fire (television series adaptation, Game of Thrones) is a fantasy series in which a group of noble dynasties attempt to gain control over the fictional continent of Westeros, while unknowingly (unless you’re Jon Snow) the Others (zombie-like creatures) threaten to invade meaning death and destruction to all regardless of which House is in power. What I want is a video game based in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire that allows you to build your own House or join a faction associated with particular Houses and lets players sort of create their own story in the same vein to that of the Dragon Age or The Witcher series, where you make decisions which ultimately determines the outcome of your game. All of the possible endings need to be completely terrible fates for it really to be based on A Song of Ice and Fire – even when you think you’re winning, you actually need to be losing. This needs to be complimented with the same combat system as the Batman: Arkham series or Shadow of Mordor. Please, please, somebody make this.
So here’s my list of books I think should get video game adaptation. Which books do you think should have their own video game adaptation?
Also, if you liked my list and would like to see more, do make sure to check out my list detailing my top five video game soundtracks here.