The Top 7… Games based on books

Have you ever heard someone say, “sometimes words aren’t enough?” That person was probably talking about books. Yes, books may seem like nothing more than a primitive ancestor to videogames, and in some ways, they are. Books are linear, non-interactive, and require little to no skill to write. They might even be obsolete today if it weren’t for people with no reflexes. But books aren’t entirely without merit, because occasionally they’re adapted into some really great videogames.

Lots of games have been inspired in some way by literature, or based on movies that were based on books. The games in this list go beyond loose ties, and were judged not only on overall quality, but also on how directly they relate to the books they’re based on. We’re not saying you should base your next book report on any of the following games, but that does seem like a pretty good idea.

We tried really hard to wedge in a Fahrenheit [whatever temperature plastic burns/melts] joke, but various plastics have a wide range of melting points, so it didn’t really work.

7) Dune (1992)

Based on: Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)

If you’ve read the book, the Dune videogame provides a strong (if rudimentary) base which you can flesh out with your imagination. You start at the Atreides palace in Arakeen, and from there travel by ‘thopter (which the game calls an “orni” for some reason) from sietch to sietch to get the Fremen to start working for you, mostly mining spice. Your ultimate goal is to gather a Fremen army to drive the remaining Harkonnens off the planet. It’s simple and short, but it has the right feeling to make it remarkably immersive, whether you’re talking to your mother Jessica in her chambers at the palace or walking out by yourself into the deep desert.

Above: Resist the urge to adjust your stillsuit 

How faithful is it to novel? While a game this simplistic could never do justice to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, Dune at least scores points for not getting anything horrendously wrong (unlike say, the 1984 David Lynch movie, as beloved as it may be - what’s with those Weirding Modules?).

Speaking of the movie, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (called Dune II: Battle for Arrakis in Europe and for its Genesis/Mega Drive port) is, somewhat confusingly, not a sequel to the Dune videogame. Dune II, which solidified the RTS genre as we know it today, would have easily taken Dune’s place on this list were it not actually based on the aforementioned David Lynch movie instead of being based on the actual book.

6) How to be a Complete Bastard (1987)

Based on: How to be a Complete Bastard by Adrian Edmondson (1986)

This game has a Fartometer.


In this ZX Spectrum classic (also available on Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64), you’re a guest at a hoity-toity yuppie house party with the goal of clearing out all other guests by being as bastardy as possible. Like completely bastardy. Find the most inappropriate places to fart, pee, jab at people with pointy objects, and otherwise be a drunken asshole.

You know you’re in for a treat when reviews range from:

“Adrian Edmondson’s book is brilliant, and so is this game.”
-Crash Magazine, Oct 1987 

“…merits an X rated tag…”
“Crass, tasteless, juvenile.”

-Sinclair User, issue 67 (page 30page 31)

“…es una programa que encorpora una serie de caracteristicas totalmente innovadoras…”
-MicroHobby, issue 159 

How faithful is it to the book? You can sort of think of the Complete Bastard game as an intermediary step where you can apply what you’ve learned from the book in the game world before trying it out in real life.


Top 7

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • PatHan-bHai - February 23, 2013 11:57 a.m.

    you forgot Alan Wake and the LOTR series :I
  • kellan-gerken - January 10, 2013 7:33 p.m.

    Why didn't they mention Metro 2033? it is a great book and a great game even though it is more recent
  • KFid - May 12, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    I'm going to pick this up and read it. With my eyes.
  • Arehexes - December 24, 2010 11:28 p.m.

    Awww I was hoping to have Shin Megami in there since it was based on novel also
  • gyrefalcon - April 9, 2010 5:17 a.m.

    It is a shame you didn't mention Betrayal at Krondor, the game based off of Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar series. Don't worry about the sequal though, not worth it. The first one, however, actually influenced the storyline in the books and was novelized by Feist.
  • Bodock - January 31, 2010 3:02 a.m.

    im surprised harry potter wasnt here
  • TheWebSwinger - December 19, 2009 10:03 p.m.

    @dahsif: No, that wasn't a joke. Actually this site really frowns upon the use of humor.
  • TheWebSwinger - December 19, 2009 10:02 p.m.

    As a game nerd and a lit nerd, I feel compelled to proclaim this THE BEST TOP a while. Good show.
  • dahsif - December 19, 2009 6:52 p.m.

    "require little to no skill to write (...) but books aren’t entirely without merit, because occasionally they’re adapted into some really great videogames." Please tell me you were kidding. It was a joke, right? Right? RIGHT? RA-FUCKING-AYTE?
  • EnderzArmy - December 19, 2009 4:07 p.m.

    I really thought Shadow Complex would have made the list.
  • xiceCold12 - December 19, 2009 6:38 a.m.

    Could you say any of the James Bond games? I know they we're probably based on the movies, but the movies we're based on books...
  • Ravenbom - December 18, 2009 9:10 a.m.

    @mumb00 - yeah, but the novelization of Betrayal at Krondor was probably his weakest work to date. Good game, and his other novels are fantastic, but the game to novel didn't work for me. Wheel of Time did do a fantastic job of making the books come to life. Not a direct game of any of the books, but still it was nice seeing some of the locations like Shadar Logoth come to life. @carolyn - nice list, hoping to hear you go over it on the podcast.
  • Mumb00 - December 17, 2009 10:24 p.m.

    I'm astounded that 2 games didn't make it on this list. Betrayal at Krondor, based on Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga, was a very good (at-the-time) RPG that had such a strong story that the author ended up novelizing it some years later. Wheel of Time, based on the late Robert Jordan's series of the same name, was an FPS that managed to put a very convincing set of imagery to all sorts of concepts that were difficult to visualize while reaading about them. Since there were a few entries that were either sequels or reimaginings of the original work, surely these 2 deserve a mention since WOT is huge (and tragically unfinished) and Feist is still putting out new stories in that same world which still manage to reference the events of BAK from time to time!
  • iluvmyDS - December 17, 2009 4:02 p.m.

    This is an extremely good top 7, it has a lot of info and really makes me want to play these games.
  • Christian - December 16, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    You're a retard, not that I don't love video games, but books are not linear or non-interactive and they take tons of skill to write, authors can take years to perfect a good book of their own. Not just anyone can write a good book. Books let you imagine the characters an scene for yourself, video games are an image of someone else's imagination, not your own.
  • scipio43 - December 16, 2009 3:45 p.m.

    No mention of Dante's Inferno, which is sure to send flecks of old man rage spittle straight into the eyes of Western Lit. students as soon as their professors get wind of it.
  • FreekinIdiot - December 16, 2009 9:53 a.m.

    Lord of the Rings anybody?
  • dante1924 - December 16, 2009 12:02 a.m.

    I also heard that in the hitchhiker's game, you need to feed some dog in the beginning of the game, or else you can't beat it. Nice try, game cover, but I think I'll go panic, you grinning, psychotic green planet.
  • lovinmyps3 - December 15, 2009 11:32 p.m.

    What a novel idea for a Top 7! XD
  • darthsmee - December 15, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    what about S.T.A.L.K.E.R based on roadside picknick? or Bioshock based on Atlas Shrugged. although on reflection ive read atlas shrugged and there were no giant underwater cities in it, or people high on genetic enhancement, just train lines...