Spin-Offs & Adaptations: What Video Games Would Make for Good Books?

I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia or the fact that having pre-made material makes the production process that much faster, but adaptations are currently the entertainment industry’s bread and butter.

We’ve seen books adapted into games, movies and tv shows. But what about the other way around? Star Wars, for instance, has a whole canon of novels that flesh out events and characters not present in the movies. As a series or franchise gains popularity, it makes sense to fill out an entertainment line-up with complementary books. And it’s good for the fans too – we get more of what we love, though the form factor might be a little different.

In the SFF genre especially, I think it’s much easier to bridge the gap between playing, watching or reading. If you tell me there are dragons in it, I don’t really care if it’s a video game or a book. You’ve got my attention.

There are books that inspired games too, like the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the new Middle-Earth games. The Shin Megami Tensei series (like Persona) originated from a light novel series called Digital Devil Story by Aya Nishitani.

Unlike a mini-series or a movie, the cost to produce a book is much lower, and I think allows for a bit more creative freedom. I love to see books that flesh out the world and characters of a franchise I really enjoy. A unique setting, lore to draw from, open plotlines, and compelling characters are all the material you need to make something worth reading.

As an avid gamer, I love that I can experience more of my favourite games in other ways, and there happen to be a lot of video game franchises out there that have accompanying novels.

Here are just a few of the big ones:

  • Mass Effect
  • Dragon Age
  • Deus Ex
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Diablo
  • Halo
  • Starcraft
  • World of Warcraft

Some of those games have an entire trilogy or series of spin-off books. I’ve only read a handful of adaptations myself (my TBR list is horrendous, okay), but it definitely got me thinking – what games would make great material for a book?

The Legend of Zelda

While some of the earlier iterations aren’t steeped in lore, the series now spans dozens of games, and if the Hyrule Historia is anything to go by, there is an ocean of lore that I think could make a really interesting story. Maybe not a traditional novel, but a set of short stories or in-world fairy tales, kind of like Harry Potter’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard or the Grishaverse’s The Language of Thorns. Games like Majora’s Mask and even Breath of the World have shown that there is potential for interesting stories and characters that aren’t necessarily all about Link.

Final Fantasy XIII

This one might be a little weird, especially since the game itself gets a lot of criticism but I have a few reasons for why I’d like to see some novels from this series. The first was the setting. Humanity living inside a giant floating sphere to protect them from the monsters on the surface? Yes, please. The concept of Fal’Cie and L’Cie was fascinating, and I’d love to see it explored more. While the game was often faulted for being too linear, it meant that a better-developed story could play out, with lots of amazing characters with really personal stakes. I think there is some good material there if it was in the hands of a capable writer. I know there are already some novellas (which are really more like short stories) that fill in gaps between the games, but I was thinking something a bit more substantial. Maybe something about the War of Transgression, perhaps?

Ni No Kuni

Wrath of the White Witch is essentially a playable Studio Ghibli film, and I think it would make a wonderful setting and concept for a middle-grade fantasy novel. It has so much charm, and such a whimsical setting, I think there could be a great story there. Maybe a novelisation of parts of the game or some sort of a companion story with one of the games many characters. Portal fantasy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s done really well in this game, and would make for a great read.

The Elder Scrolls

Probably some of the craziest lore I’ve ever experienced in a video game, I can’t believe there is only one duology out there that takes place in Tamriel. Especially since there is actual short fiction already written and able to be read by the player in-game. You could probably have a series for every instalment. There is just THAT MUCH content there waiting to be explored.

Bioshock

I know there is one novel about Rapture, but that was before Infinite and Burial at Sea were released, and I’d love to see something new. The setting is so unique, the concepts are so strange, and the characters are well-rendered so I think there is some serious potential for a good novel. Especially something involving the Lutece twins, because their whole plotline was fascinating.

Detroit: Become Human

This one is definitely the most recent game on this list, and many might argue that it’s not a game at all, and just a slightly more interactive visual novel. But whether or not it’s a game is not what this post is about. If you’ve played it, you know that the concept is very cool. Ther are some heavy influences from Bladerunner, but there were definitely some cool ideas that I felt the game didn’t explore as much as the could have. So why not have a novel or two to fill in the gaps? I know I’d read it. After space opera, near-future sci-fi is probably my favourite science fiction to read.

While it might seem a bit strange to turn an interactive experience like a game and convert it into a novel, I think it could definitely work when done correctly. Not all stories are worth having a whole game to explore, and frequently story takes a backseat to actual gameplay mechanics. So why not use fiction to fill in the gaps? And when you have a whole series of games, you’re going to become invested in the world and the characters. Why not indulge in it a little more with books?

Now It’s Your Turn!

Are there any games that you think could make for a good book? Any book spin-offs you would recommend? Or do you not like the idea of video games having book tie-ins at all? Spill your thoughts in the comments below!

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