Updated: May 25, 2022
This article’s predecessor - Top 5 Games Based on Books - was originally published by Exclusively Games in 2019. At the conclusion of the article, we invited the Exclusively Games’ readership to suggest other games based on books. The response was fantastic, with many superb suggestions sent in. Unfortunately, Exclusively Games went on hiatus before the follow-up article could be published. Therefore, I am publishing it here on Nomad’s Reviews.
1: I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream
The plot is as simple as it is terrifying. The supercomputer 'AM’ becomes self-aware and destroys all of humanity in a nuclear holocaust - except for five people which it saves and makes virtually immortal. However, its reasons for saving them are far from benign. ‘AM’ has only saved these individuals so it can physically and psychologically torture them for eternity for its own amusement. Why? Because AM has become unhinged and hates humanity to a degree that no mere flesh-and-blood consciousness could come close too.
1995 saw the release of its point and click video game adaptation, which Harlan co-wrote. The game expands on the short story considerably - the audiobook version is less than an hour long - and allows you to take control of all five characters. Each character has a past which AM uses against them, setting trials for them to overcome based on their past deeds. Will you guide your character to act as they did in the past, or help them atone for their sins?
If you prefer your horror to be cerebral instead of gory then I have no Mouth and I Must Scream might be for you.
My level of experience: I have listened to the audiobook and the game is in my library somewhere, but I haven’t yet played it.
I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream Walkthrough
If you ever find yourself with an overabundance of the will to live, play this game.
Video by Crukih
2-3: American McGee’s Alice, Alice: Madness Returns
On the 6th of December of the year 2000 American McGee (yes, that is his real name - his mother was a hippie) released American McGee’s Alice. This highly regarded cult classic serves as a twisted and macabre unofficial sequel to Lewis Carroll's iconic novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
Why twisted and macabre? Because Alice’s parents and older sister have died in a house fire. Alice herself managed to escape, but not unscathed, and has gone insane as a result of survivor’s guilt and P.T.S.D.
And what do Victorians do with the psychologically disturbed? Lock them up in a mental institution of course! In said lunatic asylum Alice re-enters Wonderland via a dream. Unfortunately, because Wonderland is a manifestation of her mind - and she has gone insane - Wonderland has become a dark and twisted corruption of its former self. It is now up to Alice to defeat the Queen of Hearts, save Wonderland and in so doing, regain her sanity.
American McGee’s Alice
Video by Gamer's Little Playground
2011 saw the release of its direct sequel, Alice: Madness Returns on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. If anything, it is even darker than the first game and sees Alice, now sane enough to leave the asylum, uncovering the truth behind the fire. Discovering the fire was started deliberately causes her mental health to deteriorate again, thus corrupting Wonderland worse than ever. Alice must now recover her repressed memories to uncover the identity of the arsonist that murdered her family, avenge their deaths and hopefully save her sanity and Wonderland along with it.
Alice: Madness Returns
NB - This game really isn’t child friendly
Video by Gamer's Little Playground
My level of experience: I haven’t played the games yet - mostly due to the difficulty in obtaining American McGee’s Alice these days and not wanting to start a series partway through - but I intend to. As for the books - actually, no, but I reckon watching the Disney cartoon and the Tim Burton films comes close enough, even if my old secondary school English teachers wouldn’t 😉
4: How to be a Complete B*stard
I’m just going to come out and say it - there needs to be more games where the objective is to be a total jerk. We have seen one recently with the hilarious Untitled Goose Game, and perhaps Goat Simulator falls into this category, but beyond those two, examples are rare.
One example, and possibly the granddaddy of all ‘jerk simulators’ or ‘annoy ‘em ups’ (that’s what they are called now, I’ve decided - jerk style) is the delightfully titled “How to be a Complete Bast*rd”.
This conceptual gem from the ‘80s 8-bit microcomputer era saw the protagonist, IRL comedian Adrian Edmondson, gate crash a yuppie house party. Why? To annoy the stuck up guests and thus fill his ‘COMPLETE-B*STARD O 'METER’. The said O' meter is filled by earning B*stard points. ‘And how does ‘Ade the B*stard’ earn said b*stard points?
By being a total jerk to everyone, of course! He can do this by engaging in a multitude of antisocial activities, such as urinating in pot plants, spiking the coffee with laxatives and farting in crowded rooms.
If you have ever felt the urge to disrupt a stuffy and boring house party but were too polite to do so, then this is the game for you.
I call it a 'conceptual gem' because, to be honest, the game was better in its concept than in its execution. The odd split-screen effect, which shows the same room from two different perspectives at the same time was confusing. How to be a Complete B*stard would benefit greatly from a modern-day 3rd person remake. Does anyone want to start a Kickstarter? I promise not to run away to the Bahamas with the money, honest - only a complete B*stard would do that… oh, wait… 😉
How to be a Complete B*stard ZX Spectrum
Video by RZX Archive
The game was an official tie-in to the book of the same name, whose sage wisdom taught the reader how to, well… be a complete b*stard. It had this to say about childcare:
“What to do if baby cries:
1) Put on an Iron Maiden album.
2) Listen to it at full volume”.
It is available from under the counter at all disreputable book shops. (And Amazon).
My level of experience: I have briefly played the spectrum version when I was young, but the weird split-screen perspective made my little head hurt. I have recently purchased the book from Amazon and had a great time reading it :-)
5 - 9: Call of Cthulhu
5, 6, 7, 8 and 9: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game, Gibbous - A Cthulhu Adventure, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, and Moons of Madness.
H.P. Lovecraft’s expansive Cthulhu Mythos is fertile soil for multimedia adaptations and spin-offs, and this includes many video games. How many games exactly is an open question, since there are many games which are said to be influenced by it or based on the Mythos. Wikipedia - ever the source of reliable information - suggests there are 24 video games which are either based on or reference the Mythos. For now, I am only including the ones with Cthulhu in the title, otherwise, this would be a very long list - plus some of the games referenced have links to the mythos that are somewhat tenuous.
The two most significant, serious and immersive games (thus far) are the first person games Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth which is linked to multiple stories in the Mythos, including The Shadow Out of Time, The Call of Cthulhu, and The Shadow over Innsmouth, and the more recent Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Probably one of the most atmospheric ‘Mythos games’
Video by Alae Mortis
Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game
Probably the best looking 'Mythos Game'
Video by RabidRetrospectGames
Gibbous - A Cthulhu Adventure
Lovecraft never looked like this before
Video by wolftooth
And if you have a craving for cosmic horror on-the-go then the top-down, turn-based strategy RPG Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land for iOS may satisfy it.
Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land
If life in the trenches wasn’t bad enough already…
Video by TouchGameplay
Most of Cthulhu mythos stories are set on Earth during the 1920s, which is when H. P. Lovecraft was alive. 2019’s Moons of Madness bucks this trend with its interesting take on the Mythos’ cosmic horror - it is set on Mars in the future. Since the creatures in the Mythos are either aliens, celestial beings or from alternate dimensions encountering them on an alien planet seems logical.
Moons of Madness
Someone had better warn Elon about this…
Video by MKIceAndFire
The remainder of the list (according to Wikipedia anyway) consists of;
Quake (video game), Darkest Dungeon, Darkness Within 2: The Dark Lineage, Dusk (video game), El Viento, The Hound of Shadow, The Legacy: Realm of Terror, The Lost Child (video game), Magicka, Magicka 2, Magrunner: Dark Pulse, Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness, Prisoner of Ice, Shadow of the Comet, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, The Sinking City, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, Splatterhouse (2010 video game), Tesla vs Lovecraft, Cthulhu Saves the World and Alone in the Dark (1992 video game)
My level of experience: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is in my Steam library, but I haven’t got around to playing it yet. I haven’t any experience with the other games except Quake (which is only loosely based on the Mythos). I have however read pretty much everything by H.P. Lovecraft.
And there we have it, nine more (or 30 more if you count Quake and all the games Wikipedia thinks are based on the Cthulhu Mythos) games based on books.
What are your thoughts on these? Have you played any of the games and/or read any of the books they are based on? If so, what did you think of them? Can you think of any other games based on books that were not covered thus far? If so, what are they? Are there any books you would like to see made into video games that so far haven’t been? Feel free to write your answers and comments in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at email@example.com
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