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The Best Adaptations of Video Games On Print
Adaptations of video games never work. They tend to be quick cash grabs with little effort put into them and are designed entirely to milk a fanbase that will shell out the money to see them—or at least that’s true in the case of many film adaptations (Super Mario Bros., Doom, Prince of Persia, Uve Boll’s entire filmography). In the realm of print however, video game adaptations have a much better track record, and today I’m gonna highlight the games that excel in print. These will be listed by medium and only critically acclaimed books or ones that I enjoyed will be here. Let’s get started!
To kick things off, we have a series that is not only critically acclaimed but is also my personal favorite book series. As it turns out, the origin of everyone’s favorite super soldier, Master Chief, is a morally complicated affair that asks, “Can sacrificing the needs of the few go too far?”—a question that still holds up well. On top of that, the Halo books also craft an intricate universe with no real villains, just well-intentioned people trying to do what they think is right. Plus, ya know all those new story developments that Halo 3: ODST, Halo Reach, and Halo 4 are going for? Well the roots for these stories were planted in the books long ago, and the games are just now getting into them. I would recommend Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike as your first two reads for this series, as Eric Nylund really makes this world come to life in an action-packed way, and you don’t need to play the games before diving into Fall of Reach.
Starcraft, Gears of War, Assassins Creed
I bundle these three together because I honestly haven’t read these, but they receive critical praise so they’re on the list. The Gears of War books have Karen Traviss as its main writer, and given her work on Star Wars and the Kilo Five Trilogy of Halo books, I would recommend them to fans. Starcraft and Assassins Creed however do have intricate worlds worth trying to get into. Starcraft is interesting because it’s a space opera with a Southern touch to it, which honestly just sounds cool. Assassin’s Creed, meanwhile, is historical fiction with endless possibilities, so if they do harness the potential of Assassin’s Creed it could make some compelling historical fiction with a conspiracy thriller edge to it. Once again, however, I still have yet to read these so I would advise to approach with caution.
Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man
I’m bundling these two together because they have the same publisher, Archie, and head writer, Ian Flynn. While I can’t speak for the Sonic comics’ current quality (I stopped reading in 2013), what I read I did indeed enjoy and recommend to fans of Sonic the Hedgehog. The only problem is that the Sonic comics have twenty years of history behind them and not all of it is good, unlike Mega Man.
I have read Mega Man since Issue #1 and it is something I highly recommend not only to Mega Man fans but comic fans in general, as it is a highly enjoyable superhero comic. The comic is not only fun, it delves into themes of identity, emotion, and whether giving robots such traits is a good thing—all topics that are prevalent as robots and computers become more advanced. And before you ask, yes, Sonic and Mega Man have crossed over with the story, Worlds Collide, and actually are crossing over again in 2015 with Worlds Unite.
Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Metroid
In terms of licensing, nobody has failed harder than Nintendo. Sure, Metroid has largely avoided bad licensing, but Mario and The Legend of Zelda? Oh boy, are there stinkers, namely the Super Mario Super Show, which also had a Legend of Zelda segment that sucked. Luckily, the comics largely avoid this. There’s a Mario comic that ran in the Nintendo Power Magazine called Super Mario Adventures and it’s actually pretty good. Why? Because it knows the entire premise of the Mario series is dumb and just runs with that fact, getting steadily insane to the point where the finale takes place on a giant cake. In fact, it was so well received that it got a full fan dub that you can check out here.
The Legend of Zelda and Metroid also had comics in Nintendo Power, but those aren’t nearly as noteworthy as the mangas they received. The manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda works because the author and artist saw the games as a rough outline of the story that they should tell. Is it great? Nope, but it is still a better story than the games tell and gives the characters some sort of personality.
Particular mention should go to the adaptations of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, as they don’t change too much but still develop the world and characters and address certain issues that I had with the games’ stories. Metroid, on the other hand, takes the prequel route and makes Samus seem more human than in Metroid: Other M which, if you recall, was supposed to humanize Samus but honestly only weakened her character. By going the prequel route and depicting Samus’ early days, they’re able to humanize Samus and make her vulnerable in a way that makes more sense than in friggin’ Other: M. Sadly, you can’t get an official English version of this manga and will have to rely on fan translations, unlike Other: M.
Agree with the list? Disagree? Ever read any of these books? Think I missed something? Speak your mind in the comments below, and be sure to check back with Leviathyn for all the news, editorials, and reviews your mortal heart can handle!