There is nothing wrong with Movie adaptions, but there is always something wrong with the time constraints that removes a lot of the base material, and underestimates the original audience of any adapted literary work. On the other hands, classic fantasy literature keeps seeing a growing presence in game design, as developers rely these days on increasingly complex resources to shape the original work, and elevate it to the outmost potential of what games and literature could achieve together.
It’s time to bring two of my interests together, literature and video games. In this article, I have tried to create a diverse list of games that are directly inspired by literary works, or games that offer a strong narrative experience inspired by philosophical books or novels. I hope there is something on the list for everyone, and many of them can be a good starting point to get into the world of games and literature.
Games & Literature Comprehensive List
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl: a first-person shooter horror video game developed by GSC Game World and published by THQ. The game is set in a fictional reality, where a second nuclear disaster occurs in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the near future and causes strange changes in the surrounding area. The player assumes the identity of an amnesic “Stalker”, an illegal explorer in the area called “The Marked One”. The landscape and some terms (such as “Zone”, “Stalker”) are borrowed from the popular science fiction novel Roadside Picnic, written by Boris and Arkady Stragatsky. two centuries before the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion. In addition to the game’s Stalker, later scientists and engineers – who explored the interior of “Chernobyl” after it was built in 1986 – used terminology from the book. There is also a science fiction movie of the same name, and its story relied a lot on the events of the novel. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl will be arriving on Xbox and PC on April 28, 2022.
Metro 2033: Russian novelist Dmitry Glukhovsky is the main creator behind the Metro series, which began life on the web in 2002 as Metro 2033. Upon reading the book for the first time, you discover that it is more than just a story, the book has managed to create an entire expansive world. The story is set in the ruins of Moscow in the aftermath of a nuclear war, where the survivors are forced to live in underground metro tunnels. Players control Artyom, a man who must save his home station from the dangers lurking inside the metro. Inspiration comes from the writer’s passion for the Moscow subway and horror stories. One day it was discovered that the Moscow subway stations are the largest nuclear bunker in the world. It was built, planned and engineered as a large shelter. The writer began to imagine if the Third World War broke out, which the metro was already preparing for. The developers also mentioned they have taken a few pages from the Stalker series of games. The Metro Trilogy is now available on Consoles and PC, and a sequel is in the works.
Spec Ops: The Line: Inspired from the novel Heart of Darkness by author Joseph Conrad in 1092, and it confronts the brutality and confusion that prevailed in Africa in the colonial era. In 1979, director Francis Ford Coppola made a movie based on the story: Apocalypse Now, about the Vietnam War, and In the game Spec Ops, the story is told in 2012 in the Middle East, specifically in the city of Dubai. A central idea in Conrad’s work is that there is little difference between whom we label as civilized and the so-called savages. The novel raises questions about imperialism and racism. Spec Ops: The Line is a standalone story, yet it shares the main points of the novel in terms of its own psychological twists and unique commentaries on war and violence and what it means to be a hero, telling its story in ways that only games & literature can conceive together. The game is available on PC and Xbox through backward compatibility.
Dante’s Inferno: an action adventure game, in which the player controls Dante, the protagonist, and makes use of his primary weapon which is the scythe of death, and the Holy Cross, His secondary projectile weapon. The story of the game revolves around Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell to recover the soul of his beloved Beatrice from the evil Lucifer. The game is completely inspired by the first poem of Dante Alighieri ‘s ” Divine Comedy “, However, the similarity between the game and the Italian work is not just the names of the characters, but the environment of the game also bears many similarities to the original book, and the choices the player have to condemn people for their sins, for absolve them. The game is available on PC and Xbox through backward compatibility.
Suikoden: Suikoden is an RPG video game series originally created by Yoshitaka Murayama. The game series is largely based on the classic Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan or Water Margin by Shi Nai’an. Each game in the series focuses on multiple themes such as politics, corruption, revolution, the crystals known as True Runes and the 108 heroes that the characters are based on from the original novel. Each game follows the formula of a coup plot on the corrupt power holders, and the misuse of “True Runes”. As the hero struggles, despite enormous difficulties, he succeeds in the end to bring peace to the land alongside his friends, while laying rest to the evil touch of the True Runes. Games are not available on modern consoles, but a spiritual successor is currently in the works by the same original team, called Eiyuden Chronicle.
Dynasty Warriors: a series of action games and one of Koei Tecmo’s prominent franchises with the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms series , which is largely based on the Chinese historical text of the Three Kingdoms, from which it derives its name from in Japanese. Despite referencing real people and events, it twists the traditional deceptions of some characters, and gives each of them more distinguishing characteristics than their original counterparts, and also includes female general figures, despite the absence of females in Chinese wars in general, also something that can only happen through games & literature.
Nioh: A game that revolves around the souls formula of navigating levels and defeating hard bosses, but the events happen during the early 17th century Japan during a fictional version of the Sengoku period , when Japan was in the midst of a civil war before the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate. The protagonist of the game is a sailor named William , who arrives in Japan and is set to become a warrior who defeats the armies of yōkai monsters that have appeared in the chaos of war. The Sengoku period was chosen as the setting for the game due to it being a rich period in Japanese history for suitable materials. A major influence on the story was James Cavell’s 1975 novel Shogun , which focused on the fictional English samurai named William Adams. The general theme of the game was the cycle of life and death, which was represented by both William and the enemy Yokai monsters. Nioh and Nioh 2 are available on PS5, PS4 and PC.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron: an original epic adventure game for PS3 and PC inspired by an alternative narrative of Torah myths as mentioned in the Book of Enoch, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The story follows the protagonist Enoch , a writer who searches for seven angels to prevent a great flood that will destroy humanity. He is helped in his quest by Lucifer, a guardian angel in charge of the protection of the world who exists outside of the flow of time, alongside four Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. Also this source of myths was the main inspiration for games & literature who readapt these angelic icons just like the Shin Megami Tensei series.
MadMax/Fallout: Madmax is based on the novel A Boy And His Dog , a collection of short stories by author Harlan Ellison. This novel tells the story of a boy (Vic) and his dog (Blood), who work together as a team to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war. Both the story and the film were well received by critics and science fiction fans, but the film based on the novel was not commercially successful. The original novel was followed by short stories and a graphic novel. Fallout is a game series that takes place in a different time between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Apollo program , in which technology, politics, and culture followed in a different path. While technological, cultural and societal progress is stagnating, giving the general world a paradoxical appearance that combines the backwardness of civilization and advanced technology. Fallout contains references to many, many games, movies, and books. Also, the universe is very similar to the one established by Mad Max the latter was it’s inspiration. Both games are available on modern consoles.
Alan Wake: Bestselling author Stephen King has been a huge inspiration for Alan Wake. The main character in the game, the writer whose writings come true, is a topic that King has talked about in a number of his works. The game alludes directly to King on several occasions, including the game’s opening sentence. The game also pays tribute to The Shining (based on a Stephen King novel of the same name) with a labyrinthine area resembling the movie’s emblematic maze, among other references. The makers of the game asked the author himself for permission to use his quote. Ironically, He also received copies of the game as a thank you when it came out, but was unable to try it out because he doesn’t own an Xbox. A sequel is announced to be released next year.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Shadow of War continues the previous game narrative, which is based on the legendarium of John R. Tolkien, and is placed between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Like its predecessor, the game also takes great inspiration from the film adaptation of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson. The player continues the story of the ranger Talion and the elf spirit Celebrimbor, who shares Talion’s corpse, as they create a new ring of power to assemble an army to fight against Sauron. The game re-utlizies “Nemesis System” introduced in Shadow of Mordor, allowing Talion to gain followers from several battles in Middle-earth, including Uruks and Ologs, and plan complex strategies using these to complete missions. Game is available on all modern consoles.
Bloodborne: H.P. Lovecraft is a major contributor to inspirations of horror stories and literature. Paradoxes in Lovecraft’s work—and most notably the writer’s Cthulhu Mythos , a common world that links most of his fiction ruled by great creatures, called the Old Ones—are a mainstay of nearly all of his writing. An understanding of the intricate horrors he created, can enrich your experience a Ton with games such as Blood Borne, in addition to taking some tidbits from the works of Bram Stoker, and architectural design from some of the real-world locations in places like Romania and the Czech Republic. Game is available on PS4.
Bioshock: In her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote about John Galt, an inventor and philosopher, who has become so frustrated with oppressive bureaucracy and socialist ideals that he feels drained. Therefore, it encourages the big industrialists of society to strike against the repressive organization that prevents the individual from realizing his full potential. BioShock is not only inspired by the theory of Objectivism developed by Ayn Rand and popularized in her written works – such as her novel Atlas Shrugged – but the game’s novel functions primarily as a chilling critique of a society shaped by its political and economic beliefs. The meaning of this theory, in short, according to the words of the writer Rand, is that no human being “owes” anything to any other human being in the world, except to be free from the threat of violence, and that every man and woman should be allowed to pursue their own happiness and economic interests without regard to anyone else. Its theories have many diverse implications for politics and economics, as well as religion, but the creators of BioShock primarily use the vehicle they created to explore one question that Rand takes for granted in her imagination and philosophy: “What would society look like? If everyone lived only for themselves and had no loyalty for anyone else?”.
Xenosaga: Created by Tetsuya Takahashi as a spiritual successor to Square’s Xenogears game, many of the Xenogears employees, including co-writer Soraya Saga , have returned . The series made use of biblical myths and elements of the works of Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche ,and this was evident from the series’ three game titles, all derived from book titles by Nietzsche: The Will to Power, Beyond Good and Evil, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The main topics include the ambition of humans, the “ethics” and “morality” systems people use, and how humans can go beyond themselves. Not available on modern consoles, but players can try the spiritual successor series: Xenoblade Chronicles, which shares many of the themes and core points of the games & literature that inspired Xenosaga.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six is a series of books created by American writer Tom Clancy about the fictional international counterterrorism unit called the Rainbow . The series began with the novel “Rainbow Six”, which later turned into a series of tactical first-person video games. The idea for the title comes from color-coded American war plans, specifically the Rainbow plans of the 1930s, with Rainbow 5 being the last known plan. In these plans, America gave many nations a symbol of different colors, and the Rainbow plans outlined strategies for dealing with potential conflicts between alliances of nations. Rainbow 5, for example, discusses in detail several US strategies for America’s involvement in World War II. For Rainbow 6 , it is a color that denotes that the aggressor is international terrorists. “Rainbow Six” also refers to John Clark, the leader of the rainbow, because “six” is the United States’ military terminology for the unit commander. The title additionally symbolizes the multinational nature of the elite unit: like a rainbow of many colors, the unit contains many different nationalities.
Assassin’s Creed: Alamut, a novel by Vladimir Bartol, was first published in 1938 in the Slovenian language, and dealt with the story of Hassan Al-Sabah and the Assassins (the Assassins ), and it was named after Alamut Castle. Bartol first began conceiving the novel in the early 1930s, when he lived in Paris. In the French capital, he met the Slovenian literary critic Josip Vidmar, who introduced him to the story of Hassan Al-Sabah and the Assassins. Additional impetus for the novel came from the assassination of Alexander I in Yugoslavia by radical Croatian and Bulgarian nationalists, allegedly perpetrated by the Italian government. When the story was originally published, the novel was devoted to satirizing the Italian politician Mussolini. The novel begins with the sentence “Nothing is absolute reality, everything is permitted.” It is the hallmark of the Assassin’s Creed series of games.
Parasite Eve: Based on the novel of the same name by Hideaki Anna.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: The story is a re-imagining of the novel Journey to the West by Chinese writer and poet Wu Cheng’en. Many games and literature are inspired by this novel, which is considered one of the 4 great Chinese texts, in addition to water margin, and three kingdoms.
Chaos Legion: The video game is based on Tow Ubukata’s novel of the same name. He is a famous author of many beautiful anime stories such as Ghost In The Shell: Arise, Psycho Pass, Mardock Scramble.
Game of Thrones: Telltale Series: The story revolves around the northern home of Forester, the rulers of Ironrath, whose members – including the game’s five characters – try to save their families and themselves after they end up on the losing side of the War of the Five Kings.
American McGee’s Alice: Based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Treasure Planet: Based on Robert Trey Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream: Based on the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name.
Vampire Hunter D: Based on a series of Japanese novels written by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano since 1983. To date, twenty-six novels have been published in the main series, in addition to other games & literature spinoffs.
The Da Vinci Code: based on the 2003 novel by Dan Brown.
The God Father: The game is based on the 1972 movie The Godfather, based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo .
The Darkness: Based on the American comic book series published by Top Cow Productions.
Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword: The game and its story are based on the novel “With Fire and Sword” by Henrik Sinkiewicz, which depicts Poland’s war between 1648 and 541 against the Khmelnytskyi Uprising in Ukraine.
Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy: The game introduces the character of Jason Bourne in expansion, written by novelist Robert Ludlum in his novels.
Innate Guilt: The moral order established by the International Federation in the game is similar to the society established in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World. Also, The game, according to the developer, was inspired by Alev Alatlı’s novel Schrödinger’s Cat .
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: an RPG video game developed based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, that inspired many games and literature works later.
The Golden Compass: Partially based on the novel on which the film is based on of the same name, but called ” Northern Light ” directed by Philip Pullman.
The Witcher: The Witcher, by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski , is a fantasy series of games and literature novels about Geralt of Rivia.
Brave Story: Originally a Japanese fantasy novel written by Miyuki Miyabi . It tells about the life of young Wataro Mitani, who is searching for a way to change his life.