The Top 7… Games based on books

2) American McGee's Alice (2000)

Based on: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

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

The best videogame stories ever 
15 end-all, be-all of tales to titillate your inner literary critic. Did your favorite make the list?

The Top 7... Stupidest puzzles
Ridiculous riddles that defy logic, common sense... and your patience


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