The Top 7… Games based on books

The written word, made more betterer by gamification

Not only is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the oldest source book on the list by far, but it’s also the only book on the list that’s sort of actually inspired by games. Lewis Carroll uses games as a motif throughout the story, from playing cards playing croquet (a game within a game!) to mathematical riddles and word games.

American McGee’s Alice takes the already twistedness of Lewis Carroll’s work and takes it a step further into the outwardly sinister and macabre. Alice explores the question: if Wonderland exists in Alice’s mind, how would it change if Alice went insane? Games and movies that are adapted from books are often criticized for diverging too much from their source material, but Alice’s greatness actually comes from where it diverges and re-imagines the world and characters of Wonderland. From the skeletal outline of the Cheshire Cat to the festering, mushroomy environments, Alice presents a world that feels both new and familiar at the same time.


Above: The Cheshire Cat’s sweet piercing represents Alice’s inner rebellion against her own mortality?

How faithful is it to the novel? Like Parasite Eve and The Witcher, American McGee’s Alice actually takes place after the events in the book. Alice is older, and has gone insane after the death of her parents. The game is full of familiar characters from Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, but they’ve all been heavily distorted by Alice’s mind.


1) Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (1998)


Based on: Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy (1998)

This one may be a bit of a cheat, since the Rainbow Six game began development while Tom Clancy was still writing the novel, but we had to include it because no other game based on a novel has:

Revolutionized a genre – Rainbow Six solidified the tactical shooter into what it is today. Above all, the gameplay emphasized careful strategic planning and stealth over gunplay. The key to Rainbow Six is realism – one wrong move and a carefully aimed enemy bullet will kill you instantly, so you must plan each move cautiously and carefully.


Above: Planning > shooting

Spawned a franchise on the level of Rainbow Six – Starting over ten years ago with the original Rainbow Six, the franchise has released games consistently over the years (Rogue Spear, Lockdown, Critical Hour…), and is still going strong with the Rainbow Six Vegas series.

Paved the way for numerous other franchises and games – The Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon series probably wouldn’t exist if Rainbow Six hadn’t been so huge. And don’t forget EndWar and HAWX!

Made an author arguably more synonymous with games than books – Tom Clancy became famous as an author first (with The Hunt for Red October in 1984), but today more games bear his name than books.

Any one of these on its own would have made Rainbow Six a shoo-in for a spot on the list, but all of it combined means that it had to take top honors.

How faithful is it to the novel? Both follow the same plot, where the Rainbow Six team hunt down an eco-terrorist group that plans to release a mutated ebola virus at the Olympic games to wipe out humankind. However, developer Red Storm actually finished the game before Tom Clancy was done writing the novel, so parts of the plot near the end don’t match up. The Rainbow team still gets the bads guys in the end though, so it doesn’t really matter.

Dec 14, 2009




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