Tolkien fans have had a rough time when it comes to Lord of the Rings video games, constantly weathering the disappointing spin-offs in hope of finding a rare gem.
The Lord of the Rings has been used for video game adaptions since the dawn of modern gaming, often churning out forgettable titles like Aragorn’s Quest or The Third Age. But occasionally, a few wizened game developers will hold council and produce a game that is both true to Lord of the Rings fans and a decent game in its own right.
Since we haven’t had a ground-breaking Lord of the Rings game in a while, let’s celebrate the few titles that got gaming in Middle-Earth right:
The Lord of the Rings Online (PC)
The Lord of the Rings Online is a fantastic rendition of the novels. Released back in 2007, the game started out as a subscription-based MMORPG which later turned free-to-play due to the increasingly competitive MMO gaming scene.
Lord of the Rings Online was received well among critics and players alike, capturing the interest of Tolkien fans with its devotion to Middle-Earth’s lore.
One of the greatest features of the game is the massive and open world of Middle-Earth, which is built from descriptions and maps in the novels. The combination of a life-size Middle-Earth to explore and a population of other players inhabiting the world allowed the game to gain a strong following and ensured its survival.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PS2, Xbox)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was a PlayStation 2 and Xbox game based off the Lord of the Rings movies that released back in 2002.
The game featured actual film footage, which it incorporated into its in-game cinematics. Critics praised The Two Towers for its skilled transfers between gameplay and movie scenes.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was a single-player game which redeemed the concept of Lord of the Rings film-based games after the dismal reception The Fellowship of the Ring received.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PS2, Xbox, PC)
The Return of the King followed the successful formula The Two Towers had set – film-footage cut-scenes blended with in-game cinematics.
The real genius of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the multi-player aspect though, which allowed you to team up with a friend and battle through all the conflicts in the film together.
The Return of the King also improved on its predecessor by allowing players to play scenes as any character, such as defending Helm’s Deep with Faramir or fighting at the black gate with Frodo.
The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth II (PC, Xbox 360)
The Lord of the Rings: the Battle for Middle-Earth II is a resounding success for Lord of the Rings gamers and RTS fans alike.
Battle for Middle-Earth 2 was a decent game in its own right, featuring balanced, strategic gameplay with various game modes. Someone at EA figured out that adding The Lord of the Rings to this formula was a recipe for success.
The game is a real-time strategy game released back in 2006, and allows players to battle each other as any of the factions featured in the Lord of the Rings movies.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a great game, fully conveying the story and background of The Lord of the Rings while remaining fun and enjoyable.
LEGO games have a reputation for making great video games based off films, and LEGO Lord of the Rings is no different. The game includes the full cast of characters from the film, and delivers engaging gameplay with a little touch of humour.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4)
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, released in 2014, is the most recent video game success set in Middle-Earth.
The game features an open-world environment with navigation reminiscent of the Assassin’s Creed series. The game offered the standard triple-A gameplay expected from its genre, and was met with great success due to the way it presented Middle-Earth.
The game did not rely on the Lord of the Rings name for success, instead delivering engaging and exciting gameplay in a Middle-Earth which follows the lore enough to convey the magic of Tolkien’s work.
The Lord of the Rings: The War in the North, Lord of the Rings: Conquest, and the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age did not score badly with critics, but lacked the scores to be placed among the above titles.