When you can't actually play your favorite video games, instead of curling into the fetal position and/or rocking back and forth, you could crack open a book. Duh. Gaming may be one of the most important hobbies in your life, but it's not the end of the world if you've got to wait a day or two to make more progress in Skyrim. Books are equally entertaining. And hey, whoa! There are actually books about some of your favorite games! Books that strive to deliver the very same experience you had in the games they're based on or books that fill in the blanks the game's narrative did not. It's just about time for the holiday season to start up, so in honor of spending time with your family in lieu of immediately grabbing a controller when you walk in the door and instead politely reading after your holiday gathering, we've got five of the best video game novels around for taking the adventure beyond the screen.
If what sticks with you beyond BioShock was Rapture and its surrealistic atmosphere (not to mention its inhabitants), then you're likely itching for deeper insights on how it came to be, or how it began to decay so beyond what the games fill in the blanks on. Rather than simply re-telling the familiar story of Jack and his trials and tribulations culminating in the final reveal at Ryan's office, BioShock: Rapture spins the tale of the underwater utopia's chief engineer, Bill McDonagh, and from his perspective the creation of the now infamous undersea world that we have all come to love and fear. It's a fresh take on familiar concepts that fans of the game, new or old, can appreciate, and one of the best examples of telling a story we haven't already played through before.
Halo is a media giant. We all know this, and we've all seen the novels littering bookstore shelves. Halo: Cryptum is a bit of a departure from the typical adaptations and retellings, though, instead giving gamers a glimpse at the enigmatic Forerunner civilization and the creation of the infamous constructs. Readers step into the shoes of Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting (that's his realy name), whose journey as a Builder takes him through one of the more unexplored aspects of the Halo macrocosm. Rather than a simple, fluffy action read (you're going to want to see Doom's contribution to the list for that), Cryptum delves a bit deeper and offers a more mature adventure for those looking to get a little more involved in the Halo mythos rather than settling for Slayer on Saturday nights with friends and Mountain Dew.
Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead
Not every great video game novel has to be a specimen of masterful writing or literary prowess. Like the game it's based on, it needs to be fun, raucous, and entertaining. That's what you get with Dafydd Ab Hugh's Knee-Deep in the Dead, a quick read that explores Corporal Flynn Taggart's marooning on the moon Phobos and his discovery that his entire unit has been wiped out by hostile aliens. Carnage ensues. Heads roll. And “Fly” (Taggart if you're nasty) has a particularly ugly secret to uncover. While the novel is actually an adaptation of the classic FPS, it does a fantastic job of fleshing out the practically non-existent narrative of the run-and-gunner. I was totally fine with killing everything without a reason, but Knee-Deep in the Dead is an interesting read if you actually want to go beyond shooting first and asking questions later.
Dead Space: Martyr
Dead Space is an IP that has certainly been treated very carefully by Visceral Studios, and the media spawned from the horror adventure have been well-received (despite some terrible animation in Dead Space: Downfall and Aftermath). The mysterious Marker has a story all its own to tell, and plenty of secrets to divulge. Martyr focuses on the infamous Michael Altman – that Altman, if you're familiar with the games, and his brush with the Marker, conspiracy, and the effects the strange black artifact tends to have on people. You know, driving them insane, creating Necromorphs...all that good stuff. It's a suspenseful read that should answer plenty of questions from hardcore Dead Space fans, but will also prompt a few new ones as well.
Mass Effect: Ascension
Drew Karpyshyn is no newcomer to the Mass Effect lore, as the lead writer on the blockbuster franchise itself, so it should come as no surprise that his off-the-cuff Mass Effect adventures delight and enthrall. This novel explores the origins and operations of the infamous Ascension Project, the very same players will be familiar with through the plight of crew member Jack. Scientist Kahlee Sanders uncovers some unsettling truths about the program (Cerberus is caught red-handed, of course, once again being unsavory customers) and becomes determined to keep their most gifted student, Gillian Grayson, from harm. Who's targeting Gillian? Her own father. Ascension conjures the atmosphere of a great X-Files episode and is an interesting look into the Mass Effect lore that doesn't stay focused on Shepard or his crew, but adds another dimension to an already engaging universe. A great weekend read, if nothing else.
Which video game novels have kept your attention over the years?