What Books Based On Video or Computer Games Are Worth Reading?
Posted on 14th of August, 2018


I have actually found that the opposite is true and that it is the books on which video games are based that are worth reading. Anyone who has played The Witcher games will agree with me that they are some of the best of the modern era, but did you know that they are actually based on the books of a Polish author named Andrzej Sapkowski? Read The Last Wish, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of Swallows, Lady of the Lake, and Season of Storms if you couldn't get enough of the adventures of Geralt of Rivia in the games. Fans of the Assassin's Creed games might also be surprised to hear that the series drew inspiration from a 1938 novel called Alamut that was written by Vladimir Bartol. There are a lot of other obvious ones as well, such as the Frank Herbert books that inspired the Dune games, the Discworld novels that were turned into point and click adventure games, as well as the games based on books by J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin etc.
You'll find that there are more than enough books based on video games to fill an entire library, but separating the wheat from the chaff is no easy task. A lot of these books were clearly written by hack authors just to cash in on the popularity of their video game counterparts, and some books are based on games that are so bad I can't comprehend why anyone would want to know more about them. Luckily for all of us who are not just readers, but also gamers, some authors got it right and delivered books worthy of our time.

My first pick would be Halo: The Fall of Reach that was written by Eric Nylund. It is the first of many, many books that are set within the Halo universe, but still one of the best. The book serves as a prequel to the first game, so it is also a nice stepping stone for readers who want to get into the games, but don't know much about the lore. Nylund wrote a few more Halo books, including First Strike and Ghosts of Onyx while other notable science fiction authors like Greg Bear wrote the rest. The Bear books in particular, Cryptum, Primordium, and Silentium, are definitely worth seeking out.

My second favorite video game series is Mass Effect and the lead writer for the game, Drew Karpyshyn, also wrote a few novels. The best starting point would be Mass Effect: Revelation, which takes place before the events of the very first game. This was followed by Ascension, and Retribution, also from Karpyshyn. I'm not sure about the other books set in the Mass Effect universe as they are based on the Mass Effect Andromeda game, which I did not enjoy as much as the first three games.

Last, but not the least, are the StarCraft books. There are a lot of them and some were written by authors who are quite reputable in their genres, like Tracy Hickman who wrote the third book, Speed of Darkness. The books cover the events of both the first and second games as well as other stories and make for nice companion reading to the games if you are a fan.
It is rather interesting how many people know about movie adaptations of video games, but remain blissfully unaware of the wonderful world of gaming fiction. There is of course a ton of fan fiction floating around, but the amount of serious authors who have dabbled with writing books based around video or computer games are quite numerous as well. As with all things the majority of them tend to be derivative or boring, but there are also a couple of diamonds in the rough, so to speak. I haven't read all of these myself, but some were recommended by my friends who are hardcore gamers.

1. Alan Wake by Rick Burroughs - From what I understand, Alan Wake is a very story based game, so it stands to reason that this novel turned out as good as it did. I actually read this one myself and even without ever having played the game, I really enjoyed the story. It is about a writer who takes his wife to some secluded town to try and get work done, but she ends up missing and he encounters lots of very strange locals while searching for her. The book was a little confusing at first, but things soon become clear. This is Rick Burroughs first book, but it is an enjoyable reading and I think fans of Stephen King in particular will find it great.

2. BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley - This is another really good book that even got me as far as playing the game myself after I finished the novel. It is about a city called Rapture that was constructed underwater, but things went wrong and it ends up in ruins. What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is told from the perspective of multiple characters and the fact that it isn't just a retelling of the story in the game. Instead, the book describes the events leading up to the game. If I have one complaint is that I wish I played the game first as the book gives some information that spoils certain segments of the game. Otherwise, it really is a good book. I haven't read it yet, but there is another novel based on the game called BioShock Infinite: Mind In Revolt, which is based on the third game in the series.

3. Crysis: Legion by Peter Watts - This is one that I haven’t read myself, although I have watched the game in action and according to friends, it is a good interpretation. What is extra interesting to me is that the story for the game was actually written by Richard Morgan, which left pretty big boots for Watts to fill when it came to the novel. Whereas the game excels in providing players with visceral action and bleeding edge visuals, this novel offers a deeper back story and superb characterizations.

4. Dishonored: The Corroded Man by Adam Christopher - The Corroded Man is based on the video game Dishonored and actually takes place after the game (but before the second one.) As such I would recommend playing the game first to get the most out of the book as it was clearly written with fans in mind. Christopher also followed it up with two more books, The Return of Daud and The Veiled Terror for fans who can't get enough of the Dishonored universe.

5. God of War by Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman - God of War is a surprisingly good novel based on the bestselling Playstation series of the same name. The game itself was pretty much all out hacking and slashing from what I can remember, but the novel goes into a lot more depth about the motivations of the character and what drives him in his epic quest. Even if you are not a fan of video games, the fact that this one is steeped so deep in ancient Greek mythology makes it a great read nevertheless. One of the authors, Vardeman, also went on to write another book based on the second book in the series.
Unlike the movies that are based on video games, which are almost universally bad, there have actually been a couple of books that are very good. It usually depends on the game, though, as the more lore a particular game has, the more there is for authors to work with. I'm not a particularly huge video game player, but I have come across some books that I really enjoyed. These will probably be even more entertaining if you are a big fan of the games, but most work quite well as stand-alone titles too.

- Legacy of Blood by Richard A. Knaak - People would assume that books based on video games would be childish, but Legacy of Blood is completely the opposite. It is a fantasy novel that is based on the Diablo video game and it features themes that are quite dark. One of the protagonists finds himself drawn to a set of armor that was hidden away in a dungeon and he ends up wearing it, which causes all kinds of havoc. Knaak went on to write quite a few more books based on the Diablo franchise and was followed by other authors like Robert Marks and Mel Odom as well.

- Sins of the Fathers: A Gabriel Knight Novel by Jane Jensen - The author of this book, Jane Jensen, isn't just a writer, but also a video game designer who created the series on which the book is based. It has to be said that Jensen is a heck of a storyteller and the book is every bit as good as the game. The protagonist, Gabriel, is a genuinely likable character and reading about his adventures in New Orleans as he uncovers more about the dark past of his family is engrossing.

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