10 Books That Should Be Turned Into Videogames

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It’s not often we see games that are based on books. The closest we usually get are games based on the cinematic adaptations of books—as is the case with nearly every Lord of the Rings game from the past decade. Recent events may change that, though, making game adaptations of novels and the like even more desirable than a film or television show. After all, turning The Witcher into a trilogy of games was probably the best thing that could have happened to Andrezej Sapokowski’s novels given the international popularity that Geralt and his companions have now. And don’t forget Metro 2033. Who’s to say that the next critically acclaimed game won’t be an adaptation of a novel you read in high school?

Here are 10 books that should be turned into videogames.

1. Ender’s Game

by Orson Scott Card

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This one is a pretty obvious contender. Published in 1985, Card’s novel follows the journey of Ender Wiggin, a young and brilliant strategist who undergoes training at a prestigious (and deadly) battle station school to help humanity fight against an invading alien army.

How Would It Work?

Tactics play a huge part in the novel, with Ender learning to lead a squad to victory in training sessions—think a deadlier version of laser tag but in zero gravity—so a game adaptation could be a tactical third-person shooter. Of course, that’s the obvious route; to make things even more interesting, this hypothetical game could make use of the social links from Persona 4 and the competitive House antics of Harry Potter in order to mine the wealth of teen angst at heart of Card’s novel. When you’re not fighting in the battle room or simulating spaceship battles, you could be building relationships with your fellow students, which would determine their loyalty to you and their performance on the battlefield.

2. The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

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The Sun Also Rises is probably the best thing Ernest Hemingway ever wrote, a novel about a World War 1 veteran (with a wound that’s rendered him impotent) being dragged across Europe by his friends and moping a lot while his love interest flirts and frolics with everyone but him. It’s a very moody book about a man trying and failing to find inner peace and love after the war. Several games have tackled the misery of war but these games aren’t divorced from the immediate action of battle itself. We’re never far away from the battlefields where more often than not we’re the heroes shooting down enemies for glory of god and nation without a second’s hesitation. What about a game that focuses on a veteran returning from the battlefield and trying to adjust their lives accordingly? It might not be a traditionally fun game, but I’d be the first in line to play it.

How Would It Work?

A short point and click or even a first-person adventure game filled with voice over musings from the novel’s characters as they try as hard as they can to drink, laugh and fuck away the pain brought on by the war.

(Interestingly enough there is a game called The Sun Also Rises but it has nothing to do with Hemingway’s novel.)

3. Tank Girl

by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

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If Mad Max: Fury Road proved anything, it’s that people like rad women kicking ass in the post-apocalypse. Tank Girl, a comic series created in the late 80s, is pretty much that but with a zany tone instead of a grim one, starring a character whose first words were “cauliflower penis” and who has a romantic relationship with a mutant kangaroo named Booga. Even now Tank Girl feels more punk than almost anything out there thanks to a woman protagonist who’s both badass and frank about her desires.

How Would It Work?

Since we’ve already got a Mad Max open-world game on the way that looks, well, it looks like your standard open-world game in this year of our lord 2015, let’s opt for something different. We’d love to see a Tank Girl game done in the vein of Tales From The Borderlands since Telltale has proven that their episodic, narrative-focused formula can be used to create hilarious stories that go against the grain, which is Tank Girl in a nutshell.

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

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The Wizard of Oz is a classic that’s entertained and influenced several generations of readers and fantasy writers. It’s a bit of a shame there haven’t been that many games created from Baum’s rich world; there was a platformer in 1993 for the Super Nintendo that’s pretty good by 1993 license tie-in standards and there was a Facebook game that looks like it’s gone kaput, but beyond that there hasn’t been much.

Perhaps the most crushing disappointment about this is that American McGee, who created delightfully twisted versions of Alice in Wonderland, was working on a dark fantasy version of Oz at one point but the project has vanished after a failed Kickstarter campaign. Boo.

How Would It Work?

So few good fantasy games are made with kids in mind. This seems like something that could be a great game in that genre that’s also accessible to the younger crowd since so much of Oz’s appeal comes from the fantastical delights of its world. A third-person platformer, perhaps, or an RPG in the vein of Costume Quest.

5. The Works of Elmore Leonard

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All right, so this one might by be a bit of a cheat since we’re opting for a man’s entire body of work instead of doing the painful, heart-breaking process of selecting just one novel, but um, we are talking about Elmore Leonard here. Even the man’s worst books are enjoyable reads, with popping dialogue, grim humor, memorable settings, and dastardly betrayals. Leonard was a creative force and his work has not enriched just literature but film (Jackie Brown) and television ( Justified) as well. It would be a shame for some of that brilliance not to find a home in games somehow.

How Would It Work?

A text adventure or visual novel featuring characters from one of Leonard’s works in a deal gone wrong situation. Branching paths could speed you toward wildly different endings. Align yourself with the wrong fellow during a dispute and maybe down the line he could leave you dead in an alleyway. If you play it smart, maybe you run away with your former business associate’s wife and money to Miami to begin a new life while the man rots in jail (or the ground). There’s a lot of darkly comic fun to be had here.

6. Mistborn

by Brandon Sanderson

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Mistborn, a fantasy trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, is a dark epic concerning a rebellion against a tyrannical ruler and the political fallout from that rebellion. The complexity of the work matches the convoluted but compelling tangle of family trees and political intrigue found in Game of Thrones and The Witcher. Oh, and the main characters have rad Dishonored-esque powers that allow them to zip around and use various metals to lethal effect, such as turning a coin into a bullet, which could give players all sorts of goodies to mess around with in a game.

How Would It Work?

There’s actually a game for Mistborn in development but it looks more like a generic third-person action RPG than anything else, sad to say. A first-person RPG with an emphasis on stealth would be the better way to go, with branching paths that let you determine which factions emerge victorious in the power vacuum.

7. Blood Meridian

by Cormac McCarthy

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Yes, yes, Red Dead Redemption exists, so why bother making any other Western game? However, Blood Meridian isn’t your typical Western novel. More Dante and Melville than L’Amour, Blood Meridian is a grim story about a large gang of scalp hunters, the Glanton Gang, who pursue and cut down “violent” Native Americans for money. Soon, their license to kill reveals every single one of them for what they are: monsters that kill anyone that gets in their way and give into their vices until they’re finally devoured by the Old West. Where Red Dead Redemption was mostly concerned with translating the glory of the Spaghetti Western into videogames, an adaption of Blood Meridian could be the antithesis of that, a game about the sheer ugliness of the West and humanity.

How Would It Work?

Instead of following in the open-world footsteps of Red Dead Redemption, Blood Meridian would be better suited for a narrower kind of game, a third-person shooter that shares the narrative design of Spec Ops: The Line and The Last Of Us. The game would begin slowly with the character joining the Glanton Gang and building relationships with several of the members, only for those relationships to be upended several times during the course of the game as the story shifts back and forth between disturbing action sequences and quiet moments of character study until, finally, it picks up speed in the last third and barrels toward a devastating ending.

8. Preacher

by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

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Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s popular, irreverent action comic series about a super-powered preacher tracking down God to hold him accountable for all the shitty stuff that happens on earth is finally getting its own television series (manned by Seth Rogen, no less) so there’s never been a better chance for a videogame adaptation of a series that’s screaming for one. It’s Bonnie & Clyde & Irish Vampire going up against God, a German spy, and an immortal cowboy. This needs to be a game, y’all.

How Would It Work?

A third-person shooter where you get to use powers alongside conventional weapons would be fun enough, though we’d be more partial to an episodic adventure game that focuses on the crude but heartfelt buddy comedy elements of the comic.

9. Peter and Wendy

by J.M. Barrie

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Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie’s most famous work, is undoubtedly one of the most beloved books ever published, introducing the world to Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys of Neverland. However, there are only a few games that have used Neverland’s setting, most of them falling under Disney’s interpretation of Barrie’s work.

Over the years, several films have embraced variations of the work’s mythos, including Hook, where Peter is an adult returning to Neverland to save his children, and the upcoming Pan, which acts as an origin story for both Peter and Hook. We’d love to see a game about Neverland that plays around with that world in an interesting, distinctly non-Disney way.

How Would It Work?

So much of Neverland’s thematic material is tied into the sheer wonder of an individual’s imagination. It makes sense to create a game that’s tied into building somehow, a Minecraft-like perhaps, where the player is tasked with rebuilding the Lost Boys’ home after Hook destroys it. A good old fashioned swash-buckling adventure wouldn’t be unwarranted either.

10. American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

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There are quite a number of games you could call road games. The Last of Us, Final Fantasy X, and Kentucky Route Zero are all about people embarking on adventures that, in the end, turn out to be journeys of self-discovery and growth (or lackthereof). Neil Gaiman’s American Gods would probably make a worthwhile addition to that list.

Yes, Gaiman’s last foray into game development didn’t go so well but that doesn’t mean that a game about a recently released convict working as a bodyguard for a conman in a world where mythological beasts and gods exist would be a bust. With the right developer housing Gaiman’s world within the proper framework, it could be an enjoyable game if not an outright classic.

How Would It Work?

A point & click adventure sans puzzles. Really, no puzzles. Just let the player experience the richness of this world and the novel’s amusing dialogue without throwing arbitrary obstacles in front of them.

Javy Gwaltney devotes his time to writing about these videogame things when he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter or his website.