Lists Opinion

Nine Books That Would Make Awesome Indie Game Worlds

When it comes to video games and books, a general misconception is that they go together like water and oil. However, books, novels, novellas, etc., have been used time and time again as source material or inspiration for a ton of great games like the Metro series, Witcher franchise and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise.
Obviously, not every novel is ideal for video games (To Kill a Mockingbird would be a pretty big snoozefest as a game) but there is more than enough print material out there with incredible stories to tell and to give independent developers enough inspiration to last a lifetime. This list is mainly based on the quality of the worlds constructed around the books themselves. Here are nine series of novels, in no particular order, that we think would make for great video game source material

These horror books would make for an excellent open world setting

The Strain Trilogy

This triad of vampire horror novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan follows the plot of an ancient vampire on a quest for world domination. Split up into three books; The Strain, The Fall and The Night Eternal, this trilogy has vampires, guns, nukes and it’s own TV series created by the authors of the book. That said, there is more than enough source material here to make one hell of an action-packed survival horror title.

House of Night Series

The House of Night series, written by P.C. Cast mixes magic and vampires in a dramatic way that could be translated into gameplay. This book series mixes drama, romance, danger, chaos, and two sides of the vampire spectrum while following the main character through her years in the House of Night academy. This twelve-volume series would work great as a quest-based game; the player could attend classes, learn various rituals, and work with the characters to expose the dark secrets surrounding the academy and its professors.

These books are part of the world that Max and the gang find themselves in

The Maximum Ride Series

Whatever you may think of the James Patterson or the mediocre movie that came of his series, the concept behind Maximum Ride is pretty sweet. As a whole, this series got me through my edgy teen years. Just look at those book covers, would they not activate your inner emo too? Anyway, the idea of human/avian hybrids flying running from pursuers and kicking ass was amazing to me when I was younger and now, it sounds like a solid concept for an open world game if you ask me. It wouldn’t even have to be faithful to the original source material, it could do just fine as it’s own spinoff.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

If you’ve ever heard the terms “Orwellian,” “Thought Police” and “Big Brother” before, but weren’t exactly sure what they meant. Well. Here’s your answer. Nineteen Eighty-Four, or 1984, was a novel written by George Orwell in 1949 and paints a picture of a much more grim version of 1984 where the world is split into three superstates after a worldwide war. Government surveillance is at a peak high while individual privacy and free thought are at an all-time low. Games like Orwell and Beholder explore the concept of a privacy depraved future, set more in the middle of the fray would a unique sight to see. Perhaps there can be a game that takes place right in the middle of one of the superstates?

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education

This series by Mark Walden is about a school that handpicks children known to have some degree of criminal skill and trains them to become professionals at it. So right off the bat, you get to be a villain, which is always fun. With four classes, or “streams” as they’re called in the books (Alpha, Henchman, Technical and Political/Financial), there’s an RPG-like variety of characters you could build, maybe throw some stats or skills in there. Then take the plot of H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education, which is about our protagonists discovering the mysteries behind the school and ultimately attempting to escape it. It’s got a very Portal-esque vibe to it, that is until you factor in the other schools in its organization, which have a complicated history.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood truly hit a home run when it comes to dystopian worlds. The second “book-to-TV” adaptation on this list, The Handmaid’s Tale follows a woman named Offred who has been forced to become a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state that has successfully overthrown the United States government in a coup. In Gilead, rights are extremely limited, especially for the women, who are treated as little more than the property of the state. The novel follows the rise, reign and fall of Gilead, so a spin-off story could be extremely easy to achieve at any point in this nation’s short history. Perhaps a stealth thriller where a handmaid tries to escape Gilead into Canada would be a good fit for a novel like this.

The Dark Tower

I had to include at least one Stephen King book in this list. The Dark Tower series follows Roland Deschain, the last living member of the gunslingers, and his homeworld is falling apart before his eyes. The best way to describe King’s self-defined magnum opus would be fantasy-western. A fantasy-western that could work as video game adaptation, a third-person shooter would likely be a good fit for this series.

All of Lovecraft's in one book

Just about anything by H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft became something of a martyr when it comes to horror fiction. His works inspired a number of games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, SOMA, Conarium and the Call of Cthulhu series. With the right amount of TLC, a majority of Lovecraft’s works would make for an amazing addition to horror gaming.

The Book of Edgar Allan Poe(ms)

Edgar Allan Poe stories

Indie horror games have been in the spotlight for a long time now, and with the stories of Poe there are plenty of ideas and themes to explore. The works could even go across genres, from top-down to first-person exploration, to interactive novels for mystery stories that would ask the player to investigate scenes and solve the problem at hand. Plenty of indie horror has been more effective at unsettling players than some mainstream titles, and the tones and could easily be adapted for a video game format, maybe even something like the standout Stories Untold.

What do you think of our list? Did we leave anything out? Let us know and remember; if any of these ideas inspire you, make sure you go through the proper channels and get copyright permissions as needed! Happy gaming!

Illustration courtesy of Jacob Pavone.

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