What Literary Video Game Should You Play?

Posted by Jadzia Axelrod

[Video game still from Arm Joe, Takase]

The life of the bibliophile is one of varied pleasures. For example, when one gets tired of reading books, one can always play them! There have been no shortage of video games based on books, but which one is right for you? It all depends on who you are.


[Created by Takase, free download]

I regret that I have but two fists to give to the revolution”

Then you need to play Arm Joe, comrade! You will not find a better fighting game based on Les Misérables. Developed unofficially by Japanese indie developer Takase, Arm Joe –a pun on the Japanese name of Les Misérables, Aa Mujou (Ah, Cruelty)—takes all the characters you love, Jean, Javert, Cosette, Eponine and Marius, as well as characters that quite frankly should, be in the book like a robot duplicate of Jean Valjean, and PonPon, the 6 foot tall rabbit. Gameplay is strictly of the Street Fighter variety, but if you ever wanted to Eponine kick Javert in the face, this is your best option. Plus, there’s special moves like sending a horde of French soldiers after your opponent, or dropping an entire barricade on this.


[Created by Charlie Hoey and Pete Smith, play here]

“I like Jazz-Age decadence and hat-throwing”

Then prepare to visit Wild West Egg, with The Great Gatsby! Developed by Charlie Hoey and Pete Smith as a 8-bit NES throwback, this game has the players control Nick Carraway as he hunts for the elusive Gatsby—and possibly the American Dream itself. But as Carraway jumps his way through Jay Gatsby's mansion, the sewers of New York City, the Long Island Railroad and the beaches of posh West Egg, he’ll need all his martini-shaped power-ups and fedora-slinging skills to defend himself from butlers, hobos, flappers, leaping alligators and the disembodied glasses of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg!


[Created by Judy L. Tyrer, play beta here]

“I like going to tea parties, but I hate the taste of tea”

Then you need Ever, Jane, an immersive online RPG based on the stories of Jane Austen from former engineer for Second Life, Judy L. Tyrer. Currently in an open beta after a wildly successful Kickstarter, Ever, Jane puts you in an adorably Austen-tatious village, where you can attend grand balls, put on dinner parties, and decorate your house. Future plans include sewing and cooking mini-games, adjoining villages to visit, and, one assumes, worrying about your lack of money so that the prospect of marriage has shifted from one of idle romance to one of immediate necessity.


[By Visceral Games & Electronic Arts, more info here]

“Love Hell, hate poetry.”

Then Visceral Games have you covered, having adapted Inferno, the first canticle of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. A few things have been lost in the translation from epic poem to video game, though. Instead of poet, Dante is now a muscular knight who wields Death’s scythe and has red cross-shaped tapestry stitched into the flesh of his torso for…reasons. While all the scenarios and historical figures Dante describes in his original journey through Hell, everything has been given an extreme makeover than befits a protagonist with a cross sewn into his chest. Also Beatrice spends half the game as succubus. So there’s that.


[Play here]

“I am a naughty person, and deserve to be punished”

Then you should check out Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Players start the game as milquetoast Dr. Jeckyl, doing the standard side-scroll left to right, and being set upon by all sorts of pixelated 19th-century rudeness. Once Jeckyll’s “anger meter” gets to a certain point, he changes into Mr. Hyde, and the entire game shifts into a darker, monster-battling scenario, but with Hyde moving right to left, literally undoing Jeckyll’s progress. This game has a reputation for extremely frustrating gameplay, so props for putting the player exactly into the mindset of Robert Louis Stevenson’s protagonist.

Jadzia Axelrod

Jadzia Axelrod

Jadzia Axelrod is an author, an illustrator, and a world changer. Throughout her eventful life she has also been a circus performer, a puppeteer, a graphic designer, a sculptor, a costume designer, a podcaster and quite a few other things that she’s lost track of but will no doubt remember when the situation calls for it.She is the writer and producer of “The Voice Of Free Planet X” podcast, were she interviews stranded time-travelers, low-rent superheroes, unrepentant monsters and other such creature of sci-fi and fantasy, as well as the podcasts “Aliens You Will Meet” and “Fables Of The Flying City.” The story started in “Fables Of The Flying City” is concluded in The Battle Of Blood & Ink, a graphic novel published by Tor.She is not domestic, she is a luxury, and in that sense, necessary.