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5 Games Based on Best-selling Novels

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About two-thirds of all Best Picture Oscar winners have been based on works of literary fiction and nonfiction, from comic books to short novels to classic novels. However, video games have yet to join the long list of successful book adaptations. Despite this, the many popular video games based on literature, from modern horror to classic poetry, show that these two genres can function together. A fact that is proven by today’s most well-known franchises. 

At times, the adaptation either does the book justice or it transforms into its own fantastic work in its own right. It’s not uncommon for new adaptations to be based loosely on a book or not faithfully on the original story. More game developers are discovering that books are a terrific source of inspiration. So, if you are curious to know which video games are based on best-selling novels, here is a list that will sure intrigue you.


5. Call of Cthulhu

Many games have been indirectly influenced by H. P. Lovecraft’s horror novels. However, some take a much more direct approach to the legendary mythology. One such game is Call of Cthulhu released by Cyanide in 2018. The author’s work is difficult to adapt because of its dependence on cosmic horror and what is rarely seen. Call of Cthulhu, on the other hand, cleverly combined several stories into a creepy, evocative first-person puzzle game.

The game is also based on a tabletop game of the same name from 1981, which takes inspiration from the original novel.  The gameplay encourages players to question the protagonist’s views and to rely on intelligence rather than force, both of which are prominent aspects of Lovecraftian horror. The mystery survival horror game follows private detective Edward Pierce as he uncovers the demise of the Hawkins family.


4. Parasite Eve Series

Making way to our list of the the best games based on best-selling novels is Parasite Eve. Parasite Eve is unique in that it is a video game that serves as a sequel to the book on which it is based. The game is based on a novel by the same name authored by a pharmacologist, Hideaki Sena. The book published in 1995 will either leave you afraid of your own cell or so  annoyed at the medical jargon. 

 “What if mitochondria were actually part of a sentient being waiting to overtake the entire planet?” asks Sena in the book. The premise may seem unusual, yet the novel went on to win the Japanese Horror Novel Award for the first time and inspired manga and video game adaptations. Beyond renowned names like Crichton and Cronenberg, Parasite Eve‘s odd investigation of human biology is not something players typically encounter in the horror genre. It’s a whole new level of biochemical terror when sentient mitochondria can give birth to beings who can write their own genetic code.

Parasite Eve (1998) and Parasite Eve II (1999), the first two videogames are sequels to the original novel. The third and final game in the series largely separates itself from the novel’s plot.


3. S.T.A.L.K.E.R 

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The connection between S.T.A.L.K.E.R and literature isn’t nearly as close as a direct adaptation. However, much of the game’s context and ideas clearly take inspiration from the world siblings Boris and Arkady Strugatsky established in their Russian classic Roadside Picnic. The plot follows Redrick “Red” Schuhart, a skilled stalker who travels to the ‘Zone’ in search of precious items to sell. The Zones are confined areas where aliens visited and later abandoned in the novel Roadside Picnic. Filled with unknown, mystical traits as a result of the extraterrestrial encounters, the zones are extremely perilous to explore.

The Stalker series is also a pseudo adaptation of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1978 film Stalker, which is indirectly based on Roadside Picnic.  The Strugatskys brothers also published a novel called Stalker. The novel is based on a script for the film Stalker, which was based on their debut book. S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2: Shadow of Chernobyl is probably the most evocative game in the trilogy of games, with Roadside Picnic as a backdrop.


2. Metro Series

Players in the Metro series must battle to survive in a post-apocalyptic Russia that has become uninhabitable due to nuclear weapons. As a series of games and books, the first game Metro 2033 is a fairly standard translation of the 2002 post-apocalyptic novel of the same name by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky.  A character named Artyom appears in both the video game and the novel. He is one of the few characters who feature in both.

The game received positive reviews and fans praised it for its dark atmosphere and horror elements.  It was eventually followed by two sequels, Metro: Last Light in 2013 and Metro Exodus in 2019.  The game also has remasters of the first two games in the Metro Redux collection.

All of the games in the series received positive reviews and did well on the market. Exodus sold 50% more copies than Last Light. Players can follow up with the novel Metro 2034, the game Metro: Last Light, the novel Metro 2035, and the game Metro Exodus. On this list, Glukhovsky himself has credits as a writer on both the video game and its accompanying novel.


1. The Witcher

The Witcher has stolen the show since its global success in 2015 with its third major instalment.

This list of games based on best-selling novels would be incomplete without mentioning the Witcher series, which is arguably the best book-to-game adaptation ever. The Witcher is one of the most popular role-playing game series out there. The game has a core trilogy and a slew of add-ons and spin-offs. A 1986 short story by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski served as the inspiration for Geralt of Rivia and all of his subsequent exploits. The short story “Wiedzmin,” or “Witcher” in English, was the beginning of a series of books and short story collections about the titular Witcher, which later grew to include several novels.

One of the most noticeable alterations from the source material is that Ciri is now an adult. New and long-time fans were able to enjoy the games regardless of whether or not they had read the books.  Sapkowski and developer CD Projekt Red recently renegotiated their contract, despite their rocky history of disputes over royalties and licensing costs. This means we may expect to see more games and merchandise based on the Witcher IP in the future. 

So, what’s your take? Do you agree with our top five games based on best-selling novels? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.

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Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.