3 fiction franchises I can’t believe haven’t gotten their own video game yet
There are certain characters, settings, and properties that just feel tailor-made for a video game, especially when the industry is capable of turning major media into surprisingly good experiences like Guardians of the Galaxy — heck, even Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has gotten a game. And it was pretty good! When there have been video game adaptations of Dune, the Discworld books, and several Call of Cthulhu games, it feels so surreal to me that there hasn’t ever been a video game adaptation of some franchises out there.
For example, it’s kind of nuts that Wonder Woman has never gotten her own game. Sure, she’s appeared in games, but the upcoming Monolith Soft game is the first one to feature her in a solo lead role. It’s going to be 2022 in less than a week, and we’ve still never seen a Wonder Woman game — and likely won’t for at least another year, as the upcoming Wonder Woman title doesn’t have a release date yet. That just feels completely ridiculous to me.
And Wonder Woman isn’t the only great character who hasn’t had a proper video game debut: there are tons of characters and stories that have never made that leap, but could. So what other characters, series or stories would you expect to have their own games? Here are a few I’m scratching my head over.
There’s a video game adaptation of the TTRPG Numenera. And there should be! It’s a wild and crazy setting a billion years in the future, after numerous ages have come and gone and left their mark on an Earth wholly changed from anything we know today, the perfect setting for a video game playground.
But if Numenera has a video game, why has the former White Wolf (now Onyx Path) TTRPG setting Exalted not gotten a similar treatment? Exalted is set in a mythic past, on a world utterly unrecognizable as our own, one that’s created out of the clash between the chaos of the fair folk and the divine power of the Exalted. As the chosen champions in the gods’ overthrow of their Primordial ancestors, the Exalted brought an age of order and stability to the world of creation, before their leaders the Solar Exalted were overthrown in a coup orchestrated by their Sidereal brethren.
But the Solars have returned, to a creation on the edge of collapse, to pursue their destinies — whether it be revenge on the Dragon Blooded who served as the Sidereal’s weapons, to save Creation from those threats that have grown bold in the Solar’s absence, or any one of a hundred other possibilities.
In TTRPG form, Exalted is a wild, frantic game, a game as much inspired by Tanith Lee and fantasy anime as it is by anything you’d find in a D&D game. It’s a game where you can play a character who is already terrifyingly powerful and just run from there. It’s equal parts Final Fantasy, Escaflowne, and Masters of the Universe thrown in a blender. How has there been no Exalted video game, I ask you?
Last Call, first novel in the Fault Lines trilogy
Tim Powers is one of the greatest living writers of speculative ficti0n, which blurs the lines between historical novel, urban fantasy, and magical realism in wild and exotic ways. His The Stress of Her Regard and The Anubis Gates are both masterworks, and he continues to write amazing books like Declare and Medusa’s Web. But for me, the best books he ever wrote are the three books of the Fault Lines trilogy, and while both Expiration Date and Earthquake Weather are fantastic, it’s the first book Last Call that I think has the most potential as a video game in the vein of the Rockstar-style GTA or Red Dead games.
Last Call is a novel that takes place in Las Vegas over the course of several decades, telling the story of people who harness the magical divination power of gambling to fight for the ability to become a kind of Fisher King of Las Vegas. The themes and ideas it draws upon — the evolution of Tarot decks into playing cards, the way rolling the bones used to mean literally hurling bones around to see the future and now it means dice games, the concept of assumption, or being awash in Jungian archetypes at the level where they’re most primal and dangerous, like lurking monsters in the abyssal deeps. And you’ve also got gangsters and Bugsy Siegel’s ghost and just a lot, and I think it could be the basis for an incredible game.
Seriously, if you ever played any of the more recent Saints Row series, just replace some of the more out there goofiness with surreal occultism rooted in gambling and you’ve got the perfect Last Call game.
Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood
How has this guy not gotten a video game? Varney even made a cameo in the Castlevania series on Netflix, but somehow hasn’t made it into his own game.
Varney is a vampire featured in a lengthy series of 1840s penny dreadfuls, and the character basically the origin of the whole sure, he’s a vampire, but he’s not that bad trope. The whole sympathetic bloodsucker thing that’s inspired authors from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice (requiescat in pace, ma’am) and media as disparate as Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel to Dark Shadows to True Blood — that all started with Varney. Heck, Blade steals some elements from Varney, like the fact that Varney can go out during the day just fine.
It is amazing to me that this, the OG of penny dreadful gothic horror pamphlets — think the mid 1800’s version of pulps — has never gotten a video game, especially considering how many games like Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and Vampyr there are where you play a vampire. Why has no one gone back to the well with Varney? Is it because it’s not very well written? (Penny dreadfuls weren’t exactly known for their quality.) Maybe! But really, there have been several Duke Nukem games and I gotta think anyone who hasn’t been huffing paint could probably make a better Varney game than any of those were, especially Duke Nukem Forever.
I really expected Varney to pop up on the show Penny Dreadful as some point, but that never happened, and we keep getting all these games about Sherlock Holmes and never once does he meet Varney! That’s kind of insane. This guy is one I really think should be seen a lot more than he is.
That’s three great properties that have, for some mysterious reason, never gotten their own video games. There are others I’m pretty sure would make fun games — C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, the Space 1999 TV show, Logan’s Run (one of my favorite bizarre 70’s movies, up there with Zardoz, which I know has never gotten a game and never will) — but I’m 100% certain that they’ve never appeared in a game, so I’ve left them be. And there are no doubt many, many more. Fiction is full of great characters and settings that would be a blast to explore in game format, and there’s so much more that games could explore.
And if I’m wrong and there’s a Varney game out there somewhere, please share it in the comments.
Originally published 12/27/2021
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