Adaptations have been mainstream part of pop culture for decades (even millennia if you consider the endless retellings of ancient myths). However, one adaptation journey that still feels uncommon is a video game adaptation of a book. It is understandably more difficult to turn a strictly narrative experience into an interactive one, so this form of adaptation won’t work for every book.
However, games like Dante’s Inferno and The Witcher have become famous not just as adaptations but as great games unto themselves. Well, the world is full of stories like those that have the potential to be refitted into a personal, interactive story. Here are the best of them.
If any of these books interest you, here is a list websites you can use to buy your own copy
1. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
With just a brief plot description, this book is already going to sound like a video game. 13-year-old Maddy Spencer is in Hell and doesn’t think she should be. Breaking out of hell-jail, Maddy travels across the underworld, fighting demons and obtaining their loot to grow stronger like a prepubescent female Kratos from his adolescent PS2 and PS3 days. She builds up an army of fellow sinners on her way to the Devil, who she demands for her release.
Imagine the gameplay loop of a looter-shooter like Borderlands, combined with the team-building mechanics of Mass Effect. Build your team, climb up the leg hair of an extremely tall Arch-Demon, cut off his head, and treat yourself to whatever powerful piece of loot they just dropped; all of this told with the irreverence and dark humor that would only come from the man who wrote Fight Club.
2. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
A subgenre that both movies and video games cannot get enough of is “Coming-of-Age-Story-in-the-Midst-of-a-Horrific-Scientific-Disaster”. This book about two teen boys that accidentally start – and then try to stop the “Giant-Praying-Mantis’-that-Eat-All-the-People” apocalypse would perform like gangbusters. I envision this
It would be a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story like that of Telltale Games or the aforementioned Don’t Nod – one that focuses on both the perils of being a teen in the midst of figuring out their sexuality, and the perils of giant man-eating bugs wiping your small town off the map. The choices made should drastically affect the story – real unforgiving stuff, like characters dying if you make the wrong choice, and vastly different endings (including one where you fail to stop the apocalypse). This would really flesh out the tone and theme of the book.
3. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The book is already extremely unconventional. It functions as an annotated research paper about a documentary. The documentary is about a supernatural event regarding a house which is inexplicably larger on the inside than it is on the outside. The person annotating the book has also gone crazy so the format is constantly changing requiring the reader to flip all over the book in order to figure out the full story. Including a collection of letter from the annotator’s mother written in code, some portions of the book being written upside-down and backward, and finding lost letters and words that the annotator burned out with a cigarette.
As a video game, this would best function as an online ARG (Augmented Reality Game) or something akin to Hypnospace Outlaw.
Combing through fictitious links to solve puzzles on a variety of websites would create the illusion that this story spans the entire internet. Organizing the story in this way would allow to player to obtain information in any order, building the full story in their head as they uncover more.
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Remember Coraline? The story of a girl who moves into a new home, meets a bunch of zany neighbors, finds a whimsical alternate house run by copies of her parents with black buttons for eyes? Well imagine a book with the same creepy yet alluring vibe as that but it takes place primarily in the woods. The story is about the unnamed protagonist and his childhood friend Lettie as they fight off a supernatural worm who has taken the form of his new nanny.
Oh, and there are giant birds that eat reality.
As a videogame, the player would traverse this macabre yet folksy world as a cinematic platformer similar to Limbo or Inside. Given that the story has no need for any kind of combat mechanic, it could also work as a first-person exploration game like What Remains of Edith Finch , in which much of Gaiman’s wonderful prose could be presented as text that floats across your view as a tactile addition to the scenery.
5. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Imagine The Witcher, but with the gothic aesthetic we associate with Bloodborne. Play as renowned yet eclectic Pellinore Warthrop, an acclaimed monster scientist of late 1800s America. The story is actually a series of books so as a video game this best exists as an open-world RPG. Following a main questline while discovering monster-hunting side quests along the way. This way, all the best parts of the series can be included like actual author and purported monster hunter Algernon Blackwood, the picturesque locale that is the Isle of Blood, and a graveyard side quest featuring the anthropophagi (nasty boys).
Whereas The Witcher has a focus on killing monsters, this would be a monster-hunting game in which the player must capture them alive for further study, while still upholding their duty to keep people safe. The protagonist of the books is actually Warthrope’s apprentice, however, in a video game Warthrope would be the obvious protagonist.
6. Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
For a while Gerald’s Game was deemed unadaptable, due to the fact that it mostly took place in one room. This kind of setup doesn’t lend itself readily to film (although there is now a film adaptation) but it does lend itself to a point-and-click horror game.
It starts with the inciting incident. You and your husband are about to engage in some NSFWGS (Not Safe For WebGeekStuff) bedroom activities when oops, he has a heart attack and dies. He already handcuffed both your arms to the bedposts though, so what are you going to do?
Either from a first-person perspective, or from a top-down perspective, imagine clicking on different objects all throughout the cabin, or at least anything within your reach. Progress is marked by flashbacks from your past like your marriage that probably wasn’t great, and your childhood that definitely wasn’t. And just adding that healthy injection of horror, the puzzle changes once the sun goes down.
New things appear where there wasn’t anything before, and it feels like now there’s someone in here with you. It’d have some eerie Clock Tower vibes, which we’ve been starved of for such a long time.
And while you wait for the new Gerald’s Game Game check out the best survival horror games you wont want to play alone