5 Popular Video Games Inspired by Books

Five well-known games with narratives based on literature.

Books are a timeless resource that can shape and reflect the culture of a society. With a mere page-flip, we can escape to new worlds built by the imaginations of others, learn new ideas, and glean insight into historical benchmarks. The advent of movies and video games have since transformed our conception of entertainment, altering our relationship with fictional stories and how they are absorbed. 

Video games offer new narrative experiences that are often more interactive and immersive than those conveyed by other forms of fictional media. While video games dominate the realm of entertainment these days, many of the best gaming narratives have been inspired by the ideas and plots of notable literary works. Some games are obvious book adaptations, such as those based on Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter. For this list, however, we’ve decided instead to highlight several popular games that some players may not have realized were inspired by famous books or literature,

The Witcher

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Many players turned their attention toward The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to partake in its narrative splendor in 2015, especially after it secured Game of the Year bragging rights from several outlets later that year. However, aside from hardcore fans, many players only recently came to realize that the Witcher video game trilogy is actually based on a popular Polish series of fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski.

The popularity of the Witcher games bolstered the need for the remaining Witcher novels to be translated into English, to appease those who wished to extend their time in the Witcher world beyond the games. Although Sapkowski claims that the success of The Witcher 3 “harmed [his] books,” most would agree that the beautifully-crafted, powerful storylines in The Witcher 3 alone deserve more praise for their literary quality than even some written narratives. Don't get me wrong, Sapkowski's writing is amazing, but the Witcher 3 developers created some of the most well-written quest storylines I've experienced in a while, and their narrative prowess only serves to enhance an already impressive book series.

BioShock

BioShock

BioShock isn’t based on a book per se, but it draws from philosophical concepts that have been the foundation of other key literary works by the same proprietor of said concepts. The plot of BioShock was inspired by the philosophical tenets of Ayn Rand, primarily her theory of Objectivism, which is centered around the primacy of objective reality.

From her theory, Rand postulates a social system with a moral code built upon rational self-interest and individualism, promoting a society devoid of overt regulation and oversight. BioShock utilizes concepts from Objectivism to explore what a Randian society could potentially look like, and the end result is Rapture. The most notable reference to Ayn Rand may be the iconic antagonist Andrew Ryan, whose name is a partial anagram of Rand's name, and who embodies several of her character traits. Although BioShock isn’t directly based on a particular book, we feel that since it has taken clear influence from Rand’s literary works, it deserves a spot on this list. 

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter based on a novel of the same name by the Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Similar to the Witcher novels, the book version of Metro 2033 never really took off in the west until the creation of the Metro games. Both the games and the novel take place in a post-apocalyptic Russian dystopia, where survivors of a nuclear war must live out their days within the tunnels of the underground metro station. One of the survivors, Artyom, is tasked with staving off a dangerous race of irradiated mutants known as the Dark Ones. Whether you read the book or play the game, both examine the impact that Russian politics can have on society and how citizens would be affected by such values in the wake of a catastrophic event. 

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six

Rainbow Six: Siege

Okay, this one is a bit obvious. However, after the release of nearly a dozen Rainbow Six games and expansions, it can be easy to forget that this popular first-person shooter series was adapted directly from a counter-terrorism novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. Ubisoft has of course pioneered the creation of various other Tom Clancy video game titles, but Rainbow Six has secured its place as the most iconic of the author’s franchises. While Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, and The Division aren’t far behind in terms of popularity, the Rainbow Six series is the only one of these tactical shooters to originate as a novel first. 

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” is an iconic phrase players will hear throughout the Assassin’s Creed games. Although this phrase is recognizable to most Assassin's Creed players, some may not know that this is actually a reworked version of a similar maxim from a Slovenian novel called Alamut by Vladimir Bartol. The 1938 novel became known for the adage, “Nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted.” Beyond the similar phrasing, the first Assassin’s Creed game also draws some narrative inspiration from the book’s plot. However, the game's story stands on its own and is not considered a direct adaptation of the book.

Larryn Bell

At my last save point, I left off in a massive open world where I write about video games and make content for the interwebs. For me, video games are all about the strength of the experience. Give me good narratives, unique mechanics, competitive strategy, or at the very least, distract me with cats.

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