It hit me while checking out Fred Saberhagen’s fantasy classic The Book of Swords: This should be a video game.
The Book of Swords has a great out-of-the-box premise. “For a game the gods have given the world twelve Swords of Power so that they might be amused as the nations battle for their possession. But Vulcan the Smith has had his own little joke: the Swords can kill the gods themselves.”
I would play the heck out of that game. Even more so if there were dual storylines where you could play through as a human hunting down a God-slaying sword, or a God collecting the swords before all the humans can kill you.
The more I imagined that kind of game, the more I realized that there are a lot of science fiction and fantasy series stretching back through the decades that could find new life as a video game adaptation. Here are 6 off the top of my head:
The First Swords by Fred Saberhagen, as a Final Fantasy-esque RPG
I have to admit, the reason First Swords’ premise put me in video game mode is because of Final Fantasy XV, and that open-world RPG also features a human main character who is collecting godly swords in order to…well, actually, that’s a spoiler but it DOES involve gods. Plus, one of the first instances of you using some of your godly swords is to stand up to a really mean meteor-hurling God-Titan.
Combine Final Fantasy-style visuals, Saberhagen’s storytelling, and the insane action of the God of War series and you’d have an amazing video game.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, as a surprisingly emotional Portal-type game
Imagine the (also surprisingly emotional) Portal 2, but with the added features of having to negotiate between different types of portals. For instance, Meg could use a fifth dimension-based portal (a wrinkle, in the parlance of the books) to jump across a puzzle room in one shot, but would lose a memory of her family, the very thing that makes it possible for Meg to rescue Charles from IT at the end of the story. Alternately, she could use a tesseract-type portal and retain her memories, but be forced to negotiate a “flipside” version of the puzzle room, with different spatial relationships that don’t quite match up with the “normal” version.
Although this could also make unsolvable puzzles solvable. Like if you were placed inside a sphere and asked to get to a door on the opposite side, going into a “flipside” version where the sphere is a rectangular room could solve that.
There’d be a myriad of ways to solve a puzzle, but maybe only one way to preserve the memories, emotions, and humanity that enable Meg to truly win the day.
Wild Cards by George R. R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, as a Marvel vs. Capcom-esque fighting game
The Wild Cards series tells a wide range of stories and could sustain a similarly wide range of games, but really what I’d like to see is a game that disposes of those frameworks and just lets all the characters duke it out, power-to-power. The results would be insane, as characters who could never have met slam their powers against each other.
A bright, artistic, energetic art style akin to the Marvel vs. Capcom games would be very well suited to the Wild Cards series, and it would bring some whimsy to what is otherwise an apocalyptic landscape.
(Also you could have tournaments where the character that wins gets featured in the next Wild Cards story collection!)
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, as a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure game
Lloyd Alexander’s middle-grade fantasy spin on Welsh mythology is better suited for a bright, cheery Dragon Quest type RPG series, but making it more of a Legend of Zelda-type would produce a way more fun game. Since each book in the five-book series involves a fetch-quest of some type, the story already naturally provides a series of dungeons, interspersed with story events. There’s also a ton of different cultures in the Prydain series, which would allow the player to wander around from town to city to village doing lots of cool, different sidequests and unfolding the mythology of the series bit by bit….
Iain M. Banks’ Culture series, as a SimGalaxy/Civilization-esque game
Because it basically already is. Except with the added tension of trying not to mess up the galactic utopia that you’ve already built!
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey, as an open-world Elder Scrolls-esque MMORPG
The medieval setting of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has an amazing backstory for players to discover, one that could easily sustain a main quest storyline in an otherwise open world setting, similar to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The setting and the mythos are so solid, in fact, that you could really open Pern up (and really, you should, because otherwise you get weirdly stiff games like this Pern adaptation) and make it an online multiplayer game where players capture and breed dragons in between quests. (I imagine a video game studio would make millions off of dragon-breeding micro-transactions alone.)
Imagine actually being the person with the very best dragon in Pern, though. Who could ascend that valiant peak?
Originally published December 2016.
Chris Lough writes about fantasy on Tor.com.