Top 5 books that would make amazing video games

A look at the novels screaming out for 'The Witcher' treatment - the stories that need to be adapted into video games

Books, video games, movies, TV shows, theatre… we all have our own preferred medium to experience a great story, but one thing we can all agree on is that they don’t necessarily transfer well from one format to another.

Take for example the history of adapting beloved novels into movies. For every triumph, there are a handful of failed or at least disappointing adaptations, and even the good ones are often found wanting by fans to the extent that we’ve all heard the phrase “Yeah it’s good, but not as good as the book” at some point. This is in large part due to the fact that trying to condense hundreds of pages spent bringing a world to life into a two hour movie means removing a huge amount of detail that makes an author’s world feel so alive.

But at this point in time, it feels as though video games have become the medium most well suited for adapting and evolving great works of fiction and fantasy. Video games can provide immersion, interactivity and freedom like nothing else, and the fact that they are far less fettered than movies in terms of length and delivery allows developers to truly bring a story to life.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of five other great novels that we consider prime candidates for a foray into the world of gaming, so without further ado:

  1. 5

    The Odyssey by Homer

    What's it all about?

    This is about as old-school as it gets – Homer's epic poem was first composed in eighth century B.C. but has since been translated and converted into a more traditional novel many times over.

    The story follows Odysseus' troubled quest to return home to his wife and child following the end of the Trojan War. Odysseus' journey spans several years as he braves enraged gods, tricksters and oceanic monstrosities in one of the most influential and important works of literature in history.

    Why would it make a great game?

    Greek mythology has been plastered all over video game culture for decades and our enduring fascination in the subject has helped a wealth of titles achieve great success - The God of War franchise and Assassins Creed: Odyssey (2018) to name but a few.  So why not go to the source material?

    Odysseus' status as a soldier with no supernatural powers could make for a fascinating action/puzzle game where the protagonist has to use guile and swordsmanship to overcome almost insurmountable odds.

  2. 4

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

    What's it all about?

    Two aging magicians with a longstanding rivalry make a 'nature vs nurture' wager. One sorcerer adopts a child to take under his wing while the other uses his own daughter.  When both are grown, they are sent to an arena of sorts - a travelling circus where they must compete to outdo the other, using their magic to create increasingly awe-inspiring attractions.

    Why would it make a great game?

    Although this isn't the most action packed tale, Erin Morgenstern has an uncanny ability to cram all the wonder of a grand fantasy world into a confined setting. The ability to interact with the circus and see the wonders within play out in front of you would be incredible. The story is well suited to narrative-driven adventure in the vein of Life is Strange (2015), focusing on story and character development over action, but still allowing the player to explore and gawk at the incredible setting.

  3. 3

    Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

    What's it all about?

    Haviland Tuf is an anti-social, cat-loving space trader who finds himself in charge of the Ark - a colossal, advanced spacecraft designed to facilitate genetic engineering. Tuf eventually learns how to use the equipment now in his possession and sails the stars offering his services to sole the ecological problems of any planet that's willing to pay.

    Why would it make a great game?

    Similar to Spore (2008), stepping into the boots of Haviland Tuf could allow players to genetically engineer all sorts of bizarre lifeforms and let them loose on a world. Each planet could be set up like a puzzle that can be solved with the right combinations of flora and fauna, or alternatively, if the player completely messes the puzzle up, it could ruin the ecosystem thus dooming the planet.

    To go the extra step, dooming a planet could then make Tuf a wanted outlaw, meaning players will have to evade capture as they travel on, only receiving jobs from the most desperate of planets that have no choice but to hire someone with such a spotty record.

  4. 2

    The Stand by Stephen King

    What's it all about?

    The king of the horror genre's largest novel to date and also arguably his best. King's opus is set in across the U.S. after the release of a mutated disease kills off 99% of the world's population.  It focuses on a variety of characters across the country as they try to carry on, find other survivors and begin to rebuild society.

    Why would it make a great game?

    There have been past attempts to adapt this story into a new format. A TV mini-series based on the book was released in 1994 to mixed reviews, a movie was planned for a long time, which was then announced to be the first of four movies before the project was put on hold.  At present, another attempt at a TV mini-series is planned by CBS for 2020.

    The problem seems to be the sheer size of the 1000+ page story - something that could potentially be addressed in a lengthy story-driven survival game with character bonds developed as part of the gameplay as well as cutscenes, but also throwing in collectibles and optional side-quests to flesh out the world and the struggles of other survivors.

  5. 1

    Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

    What's it all about?

    If we have to boil the premise down to its absolute basics, this is essentially the Arya Stark story if it was written by someone with a better attention span – a highborn girl sees her father branded a traitor and murdered, swears revenge on everyone involved and goes on to join a cult of mysterious death-worshiping assassins in order to gain the necessary skills to exact her revenge.

    Set in a world that blends traditional fantasy and ancient Rome, Godsgrave is the second novel in a superbly written trilogy called The Nevernight Chronicles. This book begins with protagonist Mia Corvere intentionally getting herself captured by slavers and forced to fight as a gladiator in a series of brutal coliseum battles as part of her epic bid for revenge against the Republic's ruler and entrant number one on her hit list.

    Why would it make a great game?

    Reading this book feels like reading a video game.  Mia's fluid, next-level sword skills and ability to manipulate shadows a la Dishonored 2's (2016) Emily Kaldwin feel like they came straight from the Platinum Games playbook, so whenever Mia performs her dance of death it's easy to imagine using your own nimble fingers and twisted mind to dictate the choreography.

    Factor in stealth segments where Mia must briefly escape her confines in order to meet her co-conspirators, Mia's attempts to strengthen tenuous relationships with her fellow combatants (which feel perfect for dialogue options), coliseum battles that read like boss fights and dramatic set pieces - all set in a varied and wonderful world that cries out for exploration and side-quests...

    ...The Nevernight Chronicles is a great series that deserves further exploration and there's no doubt that an epic, open-world RPG is the perfect fit.

What novels would you love to see play out on the other side of your controller?  Let us know by joining the discussion below.

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