The Top 7… Games based on books

5) The Witcher (2007)

Based on: The Witcher Saga (series) by Andrzej Sapkowski (1992-1999)

The basic gist of The Witcher – you’re a super-powered monster hunter for hire named Geralt and you have amnesia – sounds totally unremarkable, but it’s the world the protagonist lives in and the difficult choices he faces that make The Witcher compelling.

While it’s pretty standard these days for action-RPGs to have good/evil decisions that affect the gameplay to varying degrees, the choices in the The Witcher aren’t as obviously black and white. Since options are purposely not delineated into moral categories, you’re forced to think more naturally in terms of actions and consequences. To absolutely ensure you’re actually thinking about your decisions, a lot of the consequences are time-delayed and layered so that there’s no way you can rely on saving and reloading to undo the repercussions of a choice you made.

Above: If Geralt “The White Wolf” of Rivia were a real person, he would either be best friends with Chris Dane Owens or fight him to the death

How faithful is it to the book series? Both the books and the game center on Witcher Geralt. Both also explore the ambiguity of morality, and the idea that a character can seemingly be good in some aspects of his life and evil in others. It’s hard to get into specifics though since as of this writing only one Witcher-related book is available in our native English. Terrible! Here’s hoping the rest of the series gets a translation soon.

4) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1984)

Based on: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)

This charming piece of interactive fiction boasts the distinction of being the only game on the list that was actually designed by the author of the book it’s based on. While the Hitchhiker’s Guide novel is known for its humor, the Hitchhiker’s text adventure twists that same humor into unrelenting mockery of the player through sadistic deviousness.

Above: The fact that this game was such a big hit probably says something about the psychology of Douglas Adams fans

The most famous example of HHGTTG’s fiendishness is the Babel Fish Dispenser puzzle, which involves obtaining a fish from a vending machine (which subsequently flies across the room into a hole, etc etc). Not only is it completely illogical and impossible to solve rationally, but to solve it properly you needed to have picked up a pile of junk mail from your house near the start of the game which by the time you got to the Babel Fish puzzle would have been destroyed if you hadn’t already picked it up. Oh, and if you didn’t solve the puzzle in the specific way you were “supposed” to? You’ve permanently rendered your game unwinnable. But you won’t get any indication of that until you get to the end. Yeah. The Hitchhiker’s game has so many (read: several) instances of completely random irrational ways to render your game unwinnable that it appears in the Wikipedia entry for the term “unwinnable.”

How faithful is it to the novel? The game begins in the same way as the book, with protagonist Arthur Dent at his home just before the total destruction of Earth. After that, the two widely diverge, making the game still incredibly difficult even for fans of the novel.

You can play the BBC Radio 4’s 20th anniversary edition of the game here, or play the original version on Douglas Adams’s website.  

3) Parasite Eve (1998)

Based on: Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena (1995)

The plot of Square’s action-RPG Parasite Eve is so out of control crazy that you probably would never guess it was based on a book (unless you already knew, in which case you wouldn’t guess anyway, you would know). Basically, evil mitochondria take over the bodies of people and animals and turn them into grotesque monsters that only one badass rookie NYPD cop can take down. 

The artistry of design for each of the mitochondrial mutants and the sheer amount of crazy shit that happens in the Parasite Eve game totally stand on their own merits and originality, yet still perfectly complement the disturbing medical horror of the original book. Add a beautifully eerie soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura and you have a game that truly holds up as worthy of the literature it’s based on.

Above: A gigantic fetus blows up some ships. Yes!!

How faithful is it to the novel? While the Parasite Eve videogame is actually supposed to be a sequel to the novel, both plots boil down the same way: a sentient being made of mitochondria named Eve tries to overthrow her human hosts and create an ultimate being that will make humans obsolete. She has two powers: spontaneous combustion and goo.


Top 7


  • 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...

Showing 1-20 of 49 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000