Worldbuilding is a crucial part of an immersive video game. In one of my previous articles, I explored how historical eras could be posed as a setting for video games since they've already got the worldbuilding, politics, architecture, traditions and rules figured out. But what if you wanted to make it spicy? Perhaps a touch of magic or a hint of dystopian gadgets could work.
Enter, books! The best stories known to mankind have originated from books. While books are fun to read, they're even better as settings for video games. Witcher 3, debatably one of the best RPGs ever, was based on a book. Sure, it wasn't a 'one to one' adaptation of the book, but the mere characters and setting hints derived from the books added to the charm of the Witcher 3. With Hogwarts Legacy based on Rowling's Harry Potter series coming out soon, we're looking at the top 8 books that need to be adapted into video games.
Hunger Games has the perfect blend of weapons, world and RPG elements required to craft the perfect video game. The best part about Hunger Games was the fact that they were held every year, so if someone decides to make a game based on the series, they don't need to stick to Katniss's story. The player could create their own character, choose their weapons and decide to either team up with other kids in the Hunger Games or go solo. Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like a premise to the revolutionary battle royale game?
The point is people love the Hunger Games and the concept of it. Incidentally, it happens to be a great concept for a video game as well.
When I say Percy Jackson, I mean more or less of Rick Riordan's books at large. Once again, we have the basis of a perfect RPG; a neglected teen arrives at the camp half-blood and can choose which Greek God are their parents. Based on their lineage, players will be allotted special abilities which will open certain possibilities in the world, while shutting off the others. For example, Zeus's kids could control the sky but they'd feel dizzy and underpowered when they're underground since that's the domain of Hades.
Once again, Percy Jackson books should be used as a reference for world-building and elemental abilities rather than trying to clone Percy's story in a video game. On top of that, the devs are free to choose any modern-day city as a setting and blend in the important monuments as mystical structures. I'd love to visit Edinburgh, New York or Sydney as a half-blood.
All this sounds like an RPG that I'd easily dwell a hundred hours into.
A Court of Thorns and Roses
How about a classic, but with a reality-check thrown onto it? A Court of Thorns and Roses is the retelling of the beloved Beauty and the Beast, but instead of delicate beauty, Feyre, the protagonist, is a fierce hunter who is moulded by her rough upbringing and poor state of life.
Feyre's life is turned upside down when she kills faeries, basically someone she was not supposed to kill, and then taken hostage by the beast. In the vast and magical castle, she relies on her wit and agility to escape, while she's falling in love with the beast. A Court of Thorns and Roses is the kind of book which can be adapted into a video game one on one, I mean including the setting, characters and the plot. I'd love to see one of my favourite classics retold in a brutal game.
The Volsung Saga
The Volsung Saga is the only classic that I'm adding to the list. In fact, the OG Volsung Saga is not even a book, but a Saga, which is basically a very long poem. The Heroic Saga outlines a lineage of the heroic Volsungs.
The Volsung Saga has got everything you need to craft an epic world. We're talking about heroic kings, jealous gods, huge battles, power struggles, damsels locked in towers, dragons guarding treasure and a cursed ring. Sounds familiar? Well, that's probably because the Volsung Saga was one of the primary sources of Tolkien's inspiration.
If you need a sci-fi twist to the list, then Divergent would make up for perfect settings. Set in dystopian Chicago, the society is divided into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; and Erudite, the intelligent. Basically, it's a character class system that is determined by a test when people turn 16 and helps them choose life. Those who are not assigned or accepted into a class are labelled as Divergents who live as an outcast.
The story of Divergents is mention-worthy because they did not choose to be an outcast, yet must prevail and brave the hard circumstances to survive in a facade of a 'dystopia'. The odds are stacked against them, yet they win! That sounds like the plot of a sci-fi GOTY sci-fi game to me.
The Immortals of Meluha
Imagine playing as a god, no, not a reincarnate or an avatar, but a literal God! Shiva is one of the 'Big 3' gods of Indian mythology and The Immortals of Meluha is a fictional retelling of how a man rose to the stature of God due to his brave deeds.
Shiva is portrayed as a barbarian tribe lord raised in the bosom of the harsh Himalayas. As a result, he's not only physically strong and mentally capable but an excellent chieftain as well. However, his life is turned upside down when he encounters a perfect utopia powered by a magical elixir that has the capability to expand the lifespan of human by hundreds of years. But, while the elixir is helping the elite of the society, the production of the elixir is polluting and killing the downtrodden. Shiva's fight against the elite makes The Immortals of Meluha an amazing book that needs to be adapted into a game.
Did the last Cyberpunk game letdown your expectations? Are you looking to fill that void, at least in the imagination? Well then, look no further than Altered Carbon.
Its the year 2384 and changing bodies is like changing clothes. Human memories are stored in a disk, known as stacks, and can be transferred into new bodies, hence death has become irelevant. But that doesn't mean everyone is happy, no, that wouldn't be entertaining. A new age means a new set of problems.
While it is possible to transfer one's memories into a new body, most of the people don't have a new body to inherit, while only the richest of the rich have back-ups of their memories on satellites. This has resulted in a huge income gap, since the rich can now live on and on accumulating masses of wealth. While just the premise and world of Altered Carbon is enough to power a whole Cyberpunk video game, the protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs is equally intriguing, if not more. Kovacs is a political operative with mercenary skills and the sole surviving soldier of the Envoys, a rebel group defeated in an uprising against the new world order. Quick trivia, the Envoy's leader, Quellcrist Falconer also happened to be the inventor of stacks.
Altered Carbon is one of the few games on this list that'd make a great game with the devs simply adapting the world and the setting, or both the plot as well as world and the setting. Netflix adapted Altered Carbon into a TV show and it was a huge success, I'm now hoping that a respectable dev picks up the IP.
Tolkien’s Extended Universe
How could I miss out on Tolkien, the father of the modern fantasy genre? There would be no Elder Scrolls, no Witcher, no Dark Souls and thousands of other medieval fantasy games without Tolkien. Tolkien's Middle Earth is the most expansive fantasy world that has ever existed.
Speaking from a technical perspective, Tolkien's Middle Earth has been adapted into video games, most notably Shadow of Mordor and the Sequel Shadow of War. The former was awarded Game of the Year while the latter received comparatively lousy reviews, but I played through both of them and loved them equally.
"So if there's a Tolkien game already, why's he on the list?" I hear you ask. Well, that's because all of the Tolkien games that have ever been revolved around LOTR. While the LOTR may have been his most popular work, it wasn't his Magnum Opus. His extended universe was full of stories of kings, heroes, villains and lore so deep that modern writers would drown in a matter of seconds. The Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien, Children of Hurin, The Book of Lost Tales and Ainulindalë are just a few of his works that deserve to be adapted into videos games. In fact, Tolkien's world is so deep that it can accommodate pretty much any story that a video game writer can think of, while still maintaining the charm and lure of Tolkien.