It’s fair to say that Harry Potter and its bank of video games haven’t really put the wizarding world in the most approving light these past two decades. Ever since Philosopher’s Stone first launched back on PlayStation, fans have been testing Warner Bros., comparing every square detail to the book and movie chain. And a lot of the time, fortunately, the developer has captured the essence of Hogwarts, the ambience of the common room, and even the joy of Quidditch. Other times, however, the magic just wasn’t there, resulting in quite an embarrassing amount of lacklustre entries in the timeline.
Mediocre subordinates aside, Harry Potter does have a tendency of finding success among the millions of loyal fans dotted around the world, meaning one fans’ opinion doesn’t make so much as a dent in ways. Still, what are the best games in the franchise — and which of the many owl-posted acceptance letters are actually worth RSVPing to? Well, if given the chance, these are the five I’d gladly board the train for, whereas the remainder I’d deliberately abandon at King’s Cross station.
5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Although it might’ve been a far cry from the book and movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone did actually possess some genuinely inviting elements, with a well-rounded narrative that loosely followed the pioneering plotline. Plus, with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry finally opening its doors for the first time in video game form, fans of the series couldn’t have been happier with its open-world design and exclusive areas torn straight from the very books that brought them to life.
With plenty of classes to attend, crucial spells to master, quidditch matches to enrol in, and, of course, a three-headed dog to hypnotize — Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone truly did set the benchmark for the franchise’s gaming division. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. mixed their potions a little harshly after the success of the game, resulting in a set of sour-tasting lukewarm sequels that didn’t formulate well with the palate.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
To this day, we’ve never really understood why Warner Bros. cut the ties with Argonaut Games, the studio that developed both Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. Of course, both being best-sellers on PlayStation One, it only seemed natural for the relationship to carry over and see the thread through to its final point. But alas, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was handed down to EA, who then put the wheels in motion for the coming releases, sadly sinking the ship in the process.
Okay, so the third instalment to the series wasn’t that bad. EA did actually do a pretty tidy job at capturing Hogwarts and its enchanting aura. And, incorporating the EyeToy for some of the featured mini-games was a neat little touch, too. The story stayed true to the book (sort of), the characters were mostly believable, and the school grounds were wildly vibrant yet silky to the eye. Overall, EA took the reigns and handled the transition pretty well. Only, they failed to follow up with something remotely comparable.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Rounding back to Argonaut Games and their well-received duo of PlayStation One hits, we do have to give credit to Chamber of Secrets, mainly for the upgrades the game made over its predecessor. Of course, Hogwarts was still Hogwarts, and the gameplay still just about hung on to the literature that drew millions of book lovers to its fascinating world. But beneath the recycled recipe, Argonaut tapped into something much greater, and something that would eventually push the sequel to one of the top spots in the Potter timeline.
As well as boasting new classes and a deeper narrative, Chamber of Secrets also made vast improvements to the fluidity of the gameplay and overall structure. Of course, looking back at it now, what with its jagged edges and monstrous facial expressions (not mentioning any names — Hagrid), it doesn’t exactly look worthy of a commendation. But for its time, weirdly enough, it was perhaps the closest fans of the series could get to an acceptance letter. And that has to count for something — even in 2021.
2. Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
Ignoring the fact that EA spiralled downhill after Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter did luckily go on to receive a cluster of charming spin-offs, namely Quidditch World Cup, which was released on PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube back in 2003. As expected, the fictional sport piqued quite a lot of interest after the books were released, meaning money-hungry developers (or, EA, to put it bluntly) sought to cash in on the game. Lo and behold, Quidditch World Cup was born.
Fortunately, with EA being known for developing best-selling sports games such as FIFA and SSX, Quidditch was in the best hands right from the get-go. Gameplay-wise, the chapter played smoothly, and its content was rich and vast — so much that it kept its players happily plodding along, mopping up the matches from both the Hogwarts Cup and the extensive World Cup. All in all, it was a nice change of pace that dared to put it all on the line for a fictional sport that could’ve either doubled the hype or capsized the ship. Though, going by the popularity of Quidditch — I’d say the former was destined from launch.
1. LEGO Harry Potter
Well, I did say EA made a habit of tarnishing the Harry Potter universe with spindles of mediocre video games. And although the publisher did find some ground over the series as a whole, 99.9% of it did fall flat at the first hurdle. But let’s not spread hate like butter over the Deathly Hallows and its sibling shipwrecks. Truth be told, that’s a story we can only really look at with gritted teeth and an acrimonious frame of mind. And so, to bandage the wound, it seems only right that we put one of the more successful chapters in the spotlight.
LEGO Harry Potter, despite cramming an entire anthology into relatively short tales, is still to this day the one to beat. Even with Hogwarts Legacy looming in the foreground, this loveable LEGO collection still owns up to being the ultimate crowd-pleaser and a true staple on the franchise. With its addictive couch co-op gameplay, oceans of explorable nooks and crannies and a whole roster of characters to delve into — it really is no wonder the game still idles at the apex of the category. But that’s just me.