Tolkien's rich and lore-heavy anthology of mythical tales has played a major role in the world of literature for decades, providing generations of enthusiastic readers the chance to delve into wondrous adventures and enchanting locations. Of course, we're referring to The Lord of the Rings, a franchise that has gone well past the point of acquiring an almost cult-like following and simply snagged a spot with the all-time greats.
But let's talk video games. As predicted from the moment the media grasped the concept for the silver screen, game developers soon followed suit with a volley of titles. And while the majority of them were well received, only a select few of them really managed to make a lasting impression on the eagle-eyed fan base. But let's run it from the top five, ranking them based on popularity. Here are the five best Lord of the Rings games money can buy. Yes, even in 2021.
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Admittedly, before EA seized the reins for the video game adaptations of the acclaimed trilogy, developer WXP carried out a pretty sleazy job on The Fellowship of the Ring, presenting it as more of a family-friendly fable-like journey than a full-fledged, action-heavy phenomenon. And while there were a few solid parts that lived up to the lore buried in the books — it just wasn't, I don't know — gritty enough.
Then along came Electronic Arts. Somehow, the talented division was able to redeem the series with a stellar sequel, effectively transforming The Two Towers into an all-out banquet of chaotic battlefields, stunning backdrops and addictive gameplay with a few added upgrades and playable characters. In essence, it was what fans of the franchise had hoped for the first time around — only it came a step too late. But you know — better late than never.
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Yes, of course, it's EA's closing chapter to the tremendously popular trilogy, The Return of the King. Only with this project, it was almost as if the devs had taken on board all of the minor criticisms from the previous instalment and figured out how to patch them up, effectively bringing a smoother, tighter contraption to the table without a single loose nut or bolt to sabotage it.
The Return of the King wrapped up the events from the movie in a fashionable order, combining all the core moments from the lengthy tale with a selection of solid quests to take on either with a friend or as a lone wolf. It was beautifully carved, compelling enough to sift through with an open mind, and an absolute blast to shovel through on a Sunday afternoon session with a friend or sibling. It was, in short — a near-perfect follow-up to an already incredibly prominent prequel.
3. The Lord of the Rings Online
Ask Google what some of the best MMOs of the last generation were, and you'll probably have to dig through a whole lot of World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 material before you finally reach The Lord of the Rings Online. But to be fair, that comes as no surprise, seeing as MMORPGs were at the height of their popularity during the early noughties, with the throne even being passed around like a conveyor belt with a faulty switch for the most part.
Anyway, despite its booming global reputation, a select few developers were still able to establish a name for themselves. And Turbine, who created Tolkien's vigourous world using The Lord of the Rings Online as its ambitious platform, was of course one of them. Complete with an advanced leveling system, a collection of quality story arcs and a boatload of Middle-earth references, the online counterpart sailed straight for the the upper leagues, cementing its place as one of the greatest MMO games of its time.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a slightly different approach to both Electronic Arts and Turbine's world, but definitely a worthy accessory to the iconic franchise all in all. Having an open world to sludge and slay through was a huge step in the right direction, of course, as well as its innovative Nemesis system, which ultimately gave players a thousand reasons to go back and tackle it all over again.
For years, fans of the franchise lingered on the possibility of seeing an open world game sprout from Tolkien's vision. But apart from EA's nexus of titles and a few spin-offs, nothing really came to light. And so, the moment Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor found its way into the spotlight, followers were quick to ignite the bandwagon and send it soaring to glorious heights. Complete with an Arkham-style combat system, a sufficient amount of quest arcs, as well as a generous number of locations to explore, Shadow of Mordor made for one heck of a journey. There and back again.
1. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
It was only natural for Monolith Productions to squeeze the cash cow for a second pale after soaking up the stream of accolades from Shadow of Mordor. But rather than choosing to settle for a mediocre sequel with a copy and paste formula, Shadow of War instead aimed to one-up its acclaimed elder by expanding the regions by nearly four times their original scale, as well as upgrading and evolving both combat and the iconic Nemesis system.
Of course, as well as bringing a whole bunch of technical advancements to the board, Shadow of War also brought another stellar story, which saw the events surrounding protagonist Talion's tale bunch together in a satisfying way. Overall, it was a perfect counterpart for Tolkien's world, and an undisputed staple on the open world genre as a whole.
So, what about you? Which game from The Lord of the Rings franchise is your all-time favourite? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.