The relationship between video games and books is an interesting one, both historically and in the context of artistic media. Each one has its strengths, but blending the two forms has been tricky for game designers.

Throughout the years, however, a handful of games have been adapted from literary characters and universes in outstanding fashion. Sometimes this means developing a pure-form remake, and other times it involves creating an entirely new interpretation. Either way, the best games adapted from books successfully capture the elements of the literary work that made it appealing in the first place. These are the top 10 games that do just that. 

For the record: I have not included games that are more closely adapted from Hollywood films, like Electronic Arts’ Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings titles. 

Caution: There may be spoilers ahead.

10. Dune

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is a pillar of modern science fiction. Its story is one of nobility, power, political scheming, psychological conflict, and the treacherous pursuit of spice on a desert world. Cryo Interactive molded Dune’s themes and characters into a computer game in 1992, assigning players the role of Paul Atreides and tasking them with driving the cunning House Harkonnen from the planet. Since the newly-arrived House Atreides has virtually no presence on the planet Arrakis (also known as “Dune”), the core objective of the game is to amass equipment and resources in a number of different categories – mining, finance, military, and ecology.

Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty, a game unrelated to Cryo Interactive’s Dune, was released by Westwood Studios in 1992. Although Dune II is less loyal to Frank Herbert’s plot, it went on to significantly influence the future of the RTS genre. Series like Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, and StarCraft all borrow heavily from Dune II’s strategy mechanics.

9. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

Classic literary characters rarely translate well to video games, but Frogwares has achieved enormous success with its Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series. Placing players in the boots of the uncannily observant detective, Sherlock Holmes, the half-dozen or so adventure games in this series brilliantly evoke Arthur Conan Doyle’s vision of late-Victorian London with all of the mystery, intrigue, and seedy characters that come with it. Players can also control Dr. Watson, Holmes’ loyal sidekick and biographer, as they search for evidence and solve both main and secondary puzzles. 

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is the first entry in the series to have Holmes deal with supernatural elements, much like he did in Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and stands as one of the strongest entries to Frogwares’ series. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is Doyle’s introductory collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1892.

8. Dynasty Warriors 3
Xbox; PlayStation 2

Japanese game studio Koei released Romance of the Three Kingdoms in 1985, a turn-based simulation title based on the Chinese historical novel of the same name. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese: Sanguo Yanyi) is attributed to 14th-century scribe Luo Guanzhong and is a dramatic rendering of the final years of China’s Han Dynasty. It is considered one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. 

Koei went on to produce a spin-off series of Romance of the Three Kingdoms called Dynasty Warriors. Dynasty Warriors 3, one of the most widely-acclaimed entries to the series, came out in 2002, featuring several characters from Luo Guanzhong’s book, such as Guan Yu, Cao Cao, and Lü Bu. Like the novel, Dynasty Warriors 3 contains dozens of semi-fictional figures from China’s Han Dynasty era. The series is likely also influenced by Chen Shou’s Records of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese: Sanguozhi), an authoritative 3rd-century text on that period in China’s history. 

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