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15 Of Your Favorite Video Games You Didn't Know Were Inspired By Books

Updated October 14, 2020 784 votes 284 voters 15.6k views15 items

Books have inspired all kinds of different media, video games included. It's pretty rare for games to be directly taken from books, which means there are a lot of video games you didn't know were books first. Games tend to adapt features, atmospheres, and ideologies from books, which makes for intriguing stories and hidden Easter eggs for the most observant of players. 

Games writing is its own unique animal, which is part of the reason that video games inspired by books tend to crib ideas or atmospheres from books rather than be outright, moment-by-moment adaptations. Both kinds of video games based on books exist, of course, but the realities of writing for games mean it isn't as easy as writing a story and having the developers, designers, artists, and so on make it a reality. But that's what makes games based on books special: they're enjoyable not just because they replicate our favorite stories, but because they do so by translating them to an entirely new form and method of experience. 

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  • Photo: Ubisoft

    BOOK IT'S BASED ON: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series

    Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series isn't shy about its literary inspiration--it's right there in the title. The book series concerns a fictional counter-terrorist unit comprised of people from all around the world, but primarily England and the United States. The unit uses a mixture of espionage and tactical attacks, which feature heavily in the game adaptation as well. The series is known for being a tactical shooter, requiring players to think quickly and strategize rather than just run in, guns blazing. The result is a game that, like the novels, is a thrilling take on the military genre that sets it apart from many other games. Rather than being focused on individual achievement, Rainbow Six encourages success as a team, not just through offensive domination but through cunning, planning, and flawless execution, just as the team does in the novel.

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  • Photo: Square Electronic Arts

    BOOK IT'S BASED ON: Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena (1995)

    Hideaki Sena's Parasite Eve is an interesting case--the game isn't an adaptation, because it's actually the canonical sequel to the novel. The novel is a sort of biological horror story where mitochondria have developed consciousness and intelligence that surpasses humanity's. In the game, the player takes on the role of Aya Brea, a New York City police officer trapped in the middle of the mitochondria's plot for domination. Combining the horror of the novel with survival-horror mechanics, Parasite Eve takes a step further than the novel, imagining a future where mitochondria have already begun to destroy human bodies in revenge. It's a fitting sequel that applies what works so well about the novel to video games, turning the horror into an even more frightening experience when players feel it first-hand.

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    #126 of 382 List of Games With Girls in the Lead & Female Protagonists#321 of 1,371 The 100+ Best Video Games of All Time, Ranked by Fans#362 of 454 The Most Addictive Video Games of All Time

  • 7. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

    Photo: Deep Silver

    BOOK IT'S BASED ON: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (1971)

    The Strugatsky brothers' Roadside Picnic takes place after an extraterrestrial event that spans several locations throughout the world. These events, which weren't seen, have left the sites full of dangerous phenomena and objects with supernatural properties. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. isn't a direct adaptation, instead taking that premise and applying it to the Chernobyl accident site and swapping the extraterrestrials for government experiments. The game references plot points and characters from the book, making it a sort of reimagining of the well-regarded novel rather than a direct adaptation, but with a compelling throughline between the two nonetheless. 

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  • Photo: Bethesda Softworks

    BOOK IT'S BASED ON: The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft (1928)

    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth isn't subtle about its inspiration--it comes directly from HP Lovecraft's short story "The Call of Cthulhu," which introduces the tentacle-faced being that's become so popular in pop culture. But the game doesn't stop there; it's heavily inspired by "The Shadows over Innsmouth," as well, combining the two stories for a supernatural horror experience that blends the investigation and psychological fear that characterizes Lovecraft's work. Though it doesn't concretely follow any one particular story, it's situated firmly in Lovecraft's universe. With survival horror mechanics like limited ammo and decreasing sanity, the game creates the distinct atmosphere of dread that runs through Lovecraft's most famous works.

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