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Best gaming books 2021: from novels to retro compendiums, and other page-turners

Best gaming books
(Image credit: Future)

There are so many gaming books that make up the best gaming books nowadays - we really are treated to an enormous selection. From histories and looks behind the scenes, technical and industry explorations, art spreads, and works of fiction, the best gaming books are terrific in their own right, but very worthy contenders for any physical merch fans, and great companions to our favourite games.

In fact, I think, as physical additions to gaming merch collections and libraries, they are some of the most high-quality, informative, fun, and often beautiful bits of gaming merch and media we can get. They offer a fine, and refined means to add to one's merch collection, while also offering means to access loads more information, lore, history, and background content to our favorite games, and the way that games are made, and how the industry moves. And what with it being World Book Day this month, there's never a better time to embrace the best gaming books to go with our favorite games.

Amazon US - Video game novels | Video game art books | Retro gaming books

Amazon UK - Video game novels | Video game art books | Retro gaming books

So, when it comes to physical game merch, the best gaming books combine a few wonderful things to make them really attractive acquisitions: by merging behind the scenes insight with artwork and inspiration, or great stories and filling in narrative gaps seamlessly with great imagination, or taking us back to our early days of gaming with wonderfully retrospective looks at the retro gaming scene. Gaming books, in all their forms, are something to be cherished and valued highly among the wealth of plastic and flammable tat that usually comes to the fore when looking at game merch.

We hold many gaming books in the highest regards, (we also have a dedicated guide to the best video game art books). And you'll see some of our favorites here as we take a broader look at the best gaming books: from novelizations and supporting fiction, through to gorgeous art and lore books, and books specifically celebrating the retro games from our pasts - there's a glorious selection to choose from. (Just as a word of warning, book covers and artworks may look different depending on where you are in the world but as long you as you use the links below and stick to the book titles you won't go wrong.) These are but a few of the most well-known gaming books or some of our picks for best gaming books - there's so many out there.

Video game novels

(Image credit: Future)

Novels are a great way to continue enjoying the stories of our favorite games - or to enjoy them again but in a slightly different but equally absorbing way. Admittedly, some are more successful than others, but generally, there are some great books that go alongside some of the biggest and best game series we know and love.

It's important to note that even the most seemingly straightforward novelization of games' plots - like the Assassin's Creed books - are still very much worth a read as the writers and authors often provide lots of extra background story and narrative or plot sequences that support and fill 'gaps' that the games may have had. For example, you'll get some extra bonus Kenway Saga backstory and information with the novel Forsaken, rather than just a retelling of Assassin's Creed III. You'll also find that some games that are chock full of lore and history, and different lands and peoples give birth to really rich novel series with unique, standalone stories that are really gripping, like the Dragon Age books.

Anyway, there are many, many series of novels based on games that it'd be rather uninspiring to just list all of them out, but there are several standout series of novels to go to in the first instance, and you'll find some of them below, starting with one that's become very popular again recently...

Gaming Art books

(Image credit: Future)

Video game art books are some of my favorite things to collect and I've got dozens of them that I love dipping in and out of frequently. Gone are the days of guide and strategy books that happened to include some art, and even the purely behind the scenes books ('how the developers made the game') are not seen as frequently. Now, they cover inspirations and concept artwork, further game-universe lore and information, place histories and character backgrounds - enhancing almost everything about a game and what you thought you knew about it. They really are some of the best video game books you can get. There are hundreds of these art books, and each year we are treated to more, so we've simultaneously pointed you in the right direction, generally, as well as a little more specifically, below. (You'll have to forgive us for not including everyone's favorites *sadface*.)

Some real crowd favorites are out there and remain ever-popular, so I've taken the liberty of listing some below for inspiration, as well as including some of the nailed-on excellent gaming books that are yet to grace our bookshelves and that are up for pre-order.

Retro gaming books

(Image credit: Future)

One of the most exciting and excellent things to come out of the recent (ish) wave of retro gaming enthusiasm we're enjoying is the parallel surge in the media through which we're enjoying reminiscing about past games and tech. As well as the resurgence in the best retro games consoles, gaming cabinets and arcades and accessories, retro gaming books are also enjoying popularity - and with good reason. The standard of publication of retro game books is better than its ever been, and from enormous encyclopedias of a console's library, to insights into a retro classic's development, through to tracking the technology's history and all the trends and twists in culture that were enjoyed along the way, retro gaming books are a wealth of information and enjoyment.

Below you'll find some picks from the bunch that our friends at Retro Gamer magazine have picked out for us - thanks to them for helping us out with this bit - but if you'd like to browse more specialist books and tomes that are not found at usual retailers then check out Read-Only Memory and Bitmap Books. Both of these websites have awesome collections of really nice retro books that are classy, documented in a detailed fashion and bring to life the joy of retro gaming, that we all remember fondly, but also areas that are more niche, but no less interesting.

Rob Dwiar

I'm one of the Hardware Editors for GamesRadar+, and I take care of a whole host of gaming tech reviews, buying guides, and news and deals content that pops up across GamesRadar+. I'm also a qualified landscape and garden designer so do that in my spare time, and lean on it to write about games' landscapes and environments too.