Long-running video game franchises all have to start somewhere, and it’s not always pretty. Looking back to that origin point can show us not just how the greats began, but how far they’ve come since. Today we unearth the very first Harry Potter video game.
So, What Was The First Harry Potter Game?
LEGO Creator: Harry Potter! It came out on October 21, 2001, just 3 weeks before Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone on Game Boy Advance. It’s not exactly an orthodox Harry Potter game, but it is the very first.
What Kind Of Game Was It?
It’s a 3D-building tool that let players make their own Harry Potter worlds and also contained some puzzles that involved building.
How’s It Play?
Gameplay’s a mix of things. Most of your time in LEGO Creator: Harry Potter is spent building with virtual bricks. Going from videos and comments—it can be surprisingly hard to run late-’90s Windows games—the actual gameplay isn’t very complex, and the whole thing runs poorly. It looks like a bad stop-motion film, complete with jerky, weird animations. But for an early 2000s 3D building game it’s not half bad. I could see kids back in 2001 who loved LEGO sets getting sucked into this game hard.
You can also create your own minifigs and solve puzzles. The puzzles aren’t too challenging. One early one has you placing two small poles and making Hedwig the owl fly between them. Doing this completes a challenge and unlocks a small cutscene. And if you like fireworks, you can cast a spell that does just that, though you only see the results of your spellcasting in a cutscene.
Let’s Hear Some Music
While you read the rest of this post you can listen to this nice song from the game, until it abruptly ends.
Tell Me Something Interesting
Well for starters, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter was the very first time LEGO made a game based on a third-party franchise. Nowadays that seems to be the only kind of LEGO game we get, stuff like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Batman, but back in the ‘90s LEGO games all focused on original properties and ideas. Case in point was LEGO Island, another early LEGO PC game.
If you’re a LEGO nerd like me, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter is also a wonderful time capsule into how the Harry Potter LEGO sets used to look. Yes, Hagrid looked terrible. He looked terrible for years and years until not that long ago. This game also came out before LEGO introduced smaller legs for minifigs, meaning all the kids are the same height as other adult characters. That’s not a quirk of the game, that’s just how LEGO sets handled teens and child characters. It wasn’t until 2018 that we finally got mid-length legs.
Were Critics Into It?
This kind of game rarely got reviewed by critics, being developed mostly for kids as part of an edutainment series. I found one short paragraph from 2005 that is not really a review, but more a summary of playing the game. Other than that, I couldn’t find a thing. However, I spotted lots of user comments about the game across the web. Many reported it among their earliest gaming memories. They still look back on it fondly, mostly.
On a YouTube video featuring some random gameplay, I found a comment left by someone years ago who claimed to have worked on the game. In the comments, they explained they created the menu and HUD elements and said it was their first job in the industry. Of course, I can’t verify this comment. I reached out to the person, but their account doesn’t seem active anymore. I would be shocked if this person was lying. Why claim to be involved in such an obscure game in such a small way? A lot of folks responded to their comment with excitement. They loved the game as kids and were happy to get a chance to thank someone who was (maybe) involved in the development of it.
Here’s the game’s intro! It promises a grand and epic adventure, but in reality, it was nothing like this. I can imagine many kids watching this intro, getting excited, and then being disappointed with the actual game.
eBay Price Check
LEGO Creator: Harry Potter is easily purchasable on eBay and Amazon. If you want a sealed copy you might have to fork over about $29 or so, but for unsealed and loose copies, prices range between $6 to $17.
I’m assuming a lot of copies of this game were printed because eBay is flooded with cheap and used copies. And it sold well enough that it got a sequel in 2002 based on the next film in the Harry Potter franchise, The Chamber of Secrets.
What Else Did The Developers Do?
Developers Superscape would go on to port and develop a bunch of early 3D mobile games, including some based on the Alien and Predator films.
They also would go on to create Kingdom Hearts VCAST. This was a game exclusive to Verizon’s broadband service and it marked the first time a company other than Square Enix or Jupiter developed a Kingdom Hearts game. Based on screenshots it looks impressive for the time and featured gameplay similar to the original game. In 2008, Superscape was bought up by Glu Mobile and it seems it ceased to be a separate company at that point.
Worth Playing Today?
No. It’s an interesting piece of LEGO gaming history and the devs would later go on to push the boundaries of what was possible on a phone, but this game isn’t much fun. It’s mostly a point-and-click building game with some light puzzle elements. It also doesn’t run well on modern PCs.
The Old Game You’re Actually Nostalgic For…
Probably LEGO Island. It came out a few years before this and while it’s older, it ends up being a bit more complex in its gameplay. Alternatively, you might also be nostalgic for the original LEGO Harry Potter games. Hard to believe, but the first LEGO Harry Potter from TT Games came out a decade ago. Which means there’s a good chance that you were only a kid or young teen back then. Time sucks.