Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games

Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games

I have an overactive imagination. When I read books, I imagine myself as being in the book's world, as sharing the experience with the characters themselves. Video games are cool because they actually bring that experience to life; with The Witcher, for instance, fans of the books finally got to be the witcher Geralt, hunting down monsters and saving kingdoms. Recently, I've been thinking about what other books might make great video game adaptations, and I have a few ideas.

It's worth noting that The Witcher games aren't a direct adaptation of the novels, but rather the world and characters in them. This gives the developers the freedom to try new things and create memorable quests like the Bloody Baron.

Since I can't screenshot books, have some lovely The Witcher 3 screenshots instead.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Heists are perfect, even when they go wrong. I can't think of a story about con men I don't love, and if I love any protagonist in fiction, Locke Lamora is the one I love the most. He's flawed and human and interesting, but most importantly, more than anyone else, he wants things. As Locke and his best friend Jean perform cons in the city of Camorr, I couldn't help but want to be a part of their crew. Every member of The Gentlemen Bastards, Locke's crew, has their own unique skills. Camorr itself is quite clearly Venice; a hybrid of Assassin's Creed II and Hitman that explores Deus Ex: Human Revolution's more in-depth conversation would be the perfect seed for an interesting game.

Chasm City by Alistair Reynolds

If you're a fan of the Mass Effect universe, you're a fan of the Revelation Space world, you just don't know it yet. Everything Mass Effect did, Revelation Space did better, and I say this as a huge fan of both series. Chasm City is my favourite novel in Reynolds' fantastic hard sci-fi universe; most of the story is about a bodyguard, Tanner Mirable, who is on a quest for revenge against the murderer who took out the woman he was assigned to protect. It's a cat and mouse story with some of the coolest twists I've ever experienced in the novel. Imagine the gameplay of Deus Ex mixed with the aesthetic of the Mass Effect universe, but you're trapped in a city that's become infected with an alien plague that mutates technology.

Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games

The Scar by China Mieville

China Mieville's Bas Lag is one of my favourite fictional worlds, but instead of the city of New Crobuzon, I'd like to see a game set in Armada. Unlike traditional nations, Armada is a nation made up of boats tied together. Its nine boroughs are ruled by different factions, all quietly vying for control over Armada itself. Personally, I think it would be fun to play as an agent of the Brucolac, my favourite of Armada's rulers, skulking around like Corvo Attano in the Dishonored games. As Armada sails around the world, players would have opportunity to explore some of the stranger locales in Mieville's world. Plus, hey, being able to play as a living cactus instead of a human would be pretty cool.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that sci-fi could be exciting. Reading Consider Phlebas was like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. Horza, a shapeshifting mercenary, is tasked by some religious space zealot aliens to go find a Mind. What follows is a mad rush through some of the coolest, most inventive locales in science fiction. Consider Phlebas is screaming to be made into an action game; every moment in the book is something new. I know it's hard, but imagine something with the flawless level and encounter design of Gears of War 3 and the mobility of Uncharted 2, but set in the far future and starring a mess of cannibals, artificial intelligences, and clones.

Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games

The Ankh-Morpork City Watch Novels by Terry Pratchett

I can't pick any one Terry Pratchett novel, but I can pick one character, and that's Sam Vimes, the Clint Eastwood-esque chief of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork. Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels have always been great, but the City Watch novels have always had his best mysteries. Imagine trying to solve crimes in a comical open-world city while putting up with some of the most inept, well-meaning comrades you could imagine. It would basically be The Witcher 3, except instead of hunting monsters, you solve crimes, and instead of cool loot, all you ask people for is a new kettle and a dart board.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

I was introduced to Jeff VanderMeer's work through Finch, a bizarre, beautiful noir novel about a city where a race of mushroom people took over after the events of a civil war and a human detective assigned to investigate a double murder, but I think his Southern Reach books are even better. An unnamed biologist and a team of scientists are sent to a place called Area X, where reality appears to be breaking down. Area X itself appears to be expanding, and it gets worse from there. It's hard to summarize three books in a single paragraph without spoiling them, so I'll just say that I want another S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, but with some of the haunting mystery of the Metro novels.

Six Novels That Could Become Great Video Games

Thinking about adaptation as I've done here is always a fun academic exercise. For me, the real fun of it all is taking what's there and trying to turn it into game mechanics. How does this story moment work? Can it be made into compelling gameplay? Sometimes, doing this has resulted in some pretty interesting gameplay ideas, some of which I'm hoping to implement in my own game within the next year or two.

Hundreds of novels could make fantastic video games, I think. Gene Wolfe's enigmatic Shadow of the Torturer is always a treat. Altered Carbon's cyberpunk noir city, where wealthy murder victims have their minds backed up on storage drives, could provide a wealth of great gameplay adventures.

The process of adaptation is always a fascinating one; some might suggest that we read the original novels and leave it at that, but adaptation is fascinating because it lets us recontextualize works. Dune's video game adaptation became the precursor to the real-time strategy genre. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is based on the novella Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky brothers, and its film adaptation, Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. Personally, I think The Witcher 3 is one of the best video games of all time, a true classic if there ever was one.

So, yeah, admittedly this is a pretty idle post, if ever there was one, but it's Saturday morning and nobody else is awake. What novels would you like to see adapted into games? I'm always interesting in knowing what people are reading!


    I'm glad you mentioned Iaian M Banks. I feel that post-singularity societies have never been done in video games. They'd work well for an RPG. You could potentially be anything, from a cloud to a koala.

    I'd really love a world like that of Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer. Far far future, where the sun has dimmed and the relics of bygone ages are lurking within the shadows. It looks like medieval fantasy at first start. He grows up in a tower, or example, but it's not until he mentions nose-cones, that you realise something else is going on.

    A version of a city like M John Harrison's Viriconium where every time you finish the game the archetypes and architecture in the city randomise? That would be cool.

      Torment: Tides of Numenera is going to be close to Shadow of the Torturer. The Numenera setting cribs a lots from it.

        So keen for that. Im listening to the audiobook at work now. I read it a long time ago. Such a wonderful world yet no one ever mentions it. Like you cant tell me the story with typhon doesnt strike you as the eeriest best rpg sidequest ever.

      Iain M. Banks is one of my favourite authors, although Consider Phlebas is an odd choice as it's one of the weakest of the Culture novels.

      I'm not convinced the series would play out in a video game. Sure, Bank's 'Boys Own' action adventure stuff is fantastic, however when I think about it a hell of a lot of it is simple mayhem interspersed with some really interesting characterisation and interpersonal relationships, with world building asides.

      I guess it COULD be done really well, but so much could go badly wrong that I cringe at the thought that we'd get nothing but another generic space opera game.

      Lone wolf journeys, like with the Witcher, and Ocean's 11/Assassin's Creed style heists, on the other hand, they're made for video game adaptation and there should be far more of them.

      The world of Shadow of the Torturer, for sure, has potential as an RPG.

      Last edited 05/09/16 8:34 pm

    An open-ish world Ankh Morpork where you play as Vimes would be sweet. Like fantasy LA Noire with Pratchettian humour

      We had Discworld Noir as a point & click game. You played at the Disc's first & only Private Eye.

      Alternatively, Vimes and the Watch as the antagonists. Imagine playing an unlicensed thief in an open-world game, focused around the kind of improvisation that GTA3 would vaguely encourage. (Discworld protagonists tend to be clever, so you want to give players the opportunity to be clever all around Ankh-Morpork.) You start attracting attention, maybe Nobby Nobbs would turn up, and you walk slightly faster and problem solved. Enough attention and you'd start being pursued by Angua; peppermint bombs might get you out of a scrape but you're going to have to work hard to lose her. But if Vimes gets involved, he *will*, eventually, catch up.

    But Doc, we already have a name for screenshots of physical real-life objects. They are called photographs.

    Seriously though, the Dragon Tattoo books could have really gone the Witcher route, but it as a series is really a franchise "out of time" now. The first book was released and hit the big-time right before smartphones took off, and of course its online security ideas are already quite dated.

    Not to mention the author died before he could see his work published. I haven't bothered with the 'new' one yet. As a big fan of the original books, and the (Swedish) movies (that weren't that good in the end) - I'd rather let it remain untouched.

    I always wanted a For The Term of His Natural Life adaptation. Brilliant novel, successfully made the transition to stage and screen before.

    I end up sort of hanging crap on the Aussie games industry at this point. We could have had a kick-arse Tomorrow When the War Begins game by now, if not for this whole bunch of people I've never met being lazy, who of course aren't really but it's easy for me to say so.

    I expect at some point we'll see a big rush of cashed-up video-game developers and publishing houses aggressively go after 'the book club' demographic. I don't know if I want that to happen though.

    When I saw this, I almost immediately thought of several other options. In hindsight maybe they wouldnt work, but I'd like to see Asimov's Foundation series made into a game, I think theres an interesting multipart game lieing under it. Or maybe not, hard to tell.

    But I was also thinking of a writer called Hugh Cook, and his Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series. 10 books, all broadly dealing with the same story, give plenty of backstory to work with, and plenty of scope to add variety and expansions. It was set up for a 60 book run (yes, 60) but didnt happen as it didnt catch on, but that setup means a lot of lore to work with.

    Third one was Peter F Hamilton's Commonwealth books. The detail in those make for a real nice sci fi setting, with inbuilt respawning to make multiplayer easy.

    The Eternal Champion, Michael Moorcock. Merge in all the various incarnations of the eternal champion, especially Elric and you've got one fine piece of game material right there.

    While @leigh is bringing up Aussie novels I'd mention Lian Hearn's Tales Of The Otori series. Tremendous fantasy series set in Not Japan, would make for a fantastic Ninja Gaiden killer in the right hands.

      Oh, man.. Tales of the Otori would be perfect source material a video game adaptation. I loved those books as a kid!

      I'd also love to see a Redemption of Althalus game. My first thought was something like Thief.. but it might be more suited to a party based RPG.

    A book I would love to see turned into a game would be Matthew Reilly's 'Seven Ancient Wonders' + the sequels. That as an Uncharted-esque game would be spectacular.

      From Matthew Reilly's page... dunno how current it is:

      What is happening with the movie versions of your books?

      The original option of Contest expired, so I got my rights back, ready to sell again. As for Ice Station, I have discovered how slow the Hollywood movie-making process really is. Paramount have been great, developing the screenplay, but with a project this big, it has to go through many sets of eyes before a big decision is made. The short answer is: it’s still percolating through the system and will hopefully come out within four years. (As a point of reference, The Fugitive took five years just to come up with a script!)

      And news just in: ABC US Network Television has bought the rights to the Jack West Jr series (Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors) for a TV series put together by ABC US Studios. The producer is the powerhouse Mark Gordon (Speed, Gray’s Anatomy) and the writer is Michael Seitzman (North Country).

      And the Scarecrow series would be great too... though it'd have to be 3rd person.

    My fiance is going into game development and his ultimate dream is to create an open-world RPG based on Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy. Will actually 100% die if he ever manages to pull the damn thing off.

    Eddings Belgariad/Mallorean series could be amazing as an instanced MOrpg destiny/division style instances thingy.

    Last edited 05/09/16 7:32 pm

    Thankfully no-one has said The Wheel of Time. If anyone does I'll crawl through the screen and strangle them.

    Brent Weeks' Lightbringer series - an interesting world with an excellent lore and magic system that would translate brilliantly to an open world fantasy game.

    The Dresden FIles - cos it's the Dresden Files

    Brandon Sanderson - The Stormlight Archive

    Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon - Cyberpunk +

    Jim Butcher - Codex Alera - Pokemon for grown ups

    Justin Cronin - The Passage - best take on the Vampire novel for a while. Plenty of interesting stories to tell.

    Last edited 05/09/16 7:25 pm

      The Wheel of Time was a great series. Up until about book 3... After that, it dribbled off into nothingness, and lost every chance of ever being great. Wasnt it something like book 9 where exactly zero happened in 600 pages?

      Having said that, how could it get any worse being turned into a game? :) Ignoring that, theres already been 1 or 2 efforts to make it a game. The 1999 release wasnt terrible.

        Yeah. I still have the disc for The Wheel of Time game. The best thing about it was it had almost nothing to do with the books.

    I'm almost at the end of gaunts ghosts series which is set in the Warhammer 40k universe and can't stop frothing at the possibilities of a videogame playing as the Tanith ghosts. They're a highly skilled scout regiment and I've been picturing a stealth game crossed with xCom squad management with larger levels almost the whole time I've been reading them.
    A guy can dream...

    The Red Knight by Miles Cameron would be a great series for a video game.

    And, done properly, Eragon too...

    Bas-Lag trilogy
    Stormlight archive
    Shadows of the Apt
    Kingkiller Chronicle
    Night Lords trilogy
    Gaunts Ghosts
    Daughter,Servant,Mistress of the Empire
    Dunno,tons more...

    I'd really like to see a game based in the Skullduggery Pleasant universe.

    I thought the witcher books were set hundreds of years apart from the game - but reading the article state that fans of the book could finally play as geralt with the game makes me think I was wrong about that.

      Nope they certaibly aren't not too far off the game at all actually. Hell they even include meeting Ciri.

      The first game takes place 5 years after Lady of the Lake, the final book (a more recent one has been published, but is set earlier).

      The books take place over about a 20 year period, although most of the action is in the 2-3 years prior to the end.

    One that I think would be pretty neat as a setting even if it doesn't follow the book's protaganist; it's call "Fighting Iron" by Jake Bible.

    Basically it's a post apocalyptic western where the main character is trying to get to north america from the south with his totally-illegal-but-functional mech with an AI. Ai's were banned after the last massive civil war called "The bloody conflict".

    A good reads review sums it up;

    "I was not expecting “Into the Badlands” starring Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’ directed by Quentin Tarantino. "

    A futuristic post Apocalypse wild west with mechs? Yes please.

    Would love to see anything set within the world of Steven Erikson's & Ian Esslemont's Malazan: Book of the fallen. The lore within that series is simply epic, I haven't read a series yet that has come close in terms of sheer scope. So far there are something like 25 books worth of content that could be adapted.

    C'mon guys! What about "Ready Player One" a book about video games turned into a game! It'd be meta-Inception as hell.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now