Middle-earth in video games

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While an immense number of computer and video games were inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's works and the many other high fantasy settings based upon his, relatively few games have been directly adapted from his world of Middle-earth. From the early 1980s to the present, several video game series have been developed based upon Tolkien's writings, including titles by Electronic Arts, Sierra and Melbourne House.

Official games[edit]

Early efforts[edit]

In 1982, Melbourne House began a series of licensed LoTR graphical interactive fiction (text adventure) games with The Hobbit, based on the book with the same name. The game was considered quite advanced at the time, with interactive characters that moved between locations independent of the player, and Melbourne House's 'Inglish' text parser which accepted full-sentence commands where the norm was simple two-word verb/noun commands. They went on to release 1986's The Fellowship of the Ring, 1987's The Shadows of Mordor, and 1990s The Crack of Doom. A BBC Micro text adventure released around the same time was unrelated to Melbourne's titles except for the literary origin. In 1987, Melbourne House released War in Middle-earth, a real-time strategy game. Konami also released an action-strategy game titled Riders of Rohan.

Other early efforts included Shadowfax by Postern (1982), a simplistic side-scrolling action game for the Spectrum, C64, and VIC-20, in which Gandalf rides the titular steed while smiting endless Nazgûl. Suspiciously similar in appearance to Activision's Stampede. The Lord of Rings: Journey to Rivendell was announced in 1983 by Parker Brothers for the Atari 2600, but was never released. The prototype ROM can be found at AtariAge.

In 1990, Interplay, in collaboration with Electronic Arts (who would later obtain the licenses to the film trilogy), released Lord of the Rings Vol. I (a special CD-ROM version of which featured cut-scenes from Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation) and the following year's Lord of the Rings Vol. II: The Two Towers, a series of role-playing video games based on the events of the first two books. A third installment was planned, but never released. Interplay's games mostly appeared on the PC and Amiga, but later they did a Lord of the Rings game for the SNES, which played nothing like their PC games and instead was more like The Legend of Zelda.

Film trilogy revival[edit]

Thereafter, no official The Lord of the Rings titles were released until the making of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy for New Line Cinema in 2001-2003, when mass-market awareness of the story appeared. Electronic Arts obtained the licenses for the three films, Sierra Entertainment obtained the license to produce games based on the books from Tolkien Enterprises - this gave rise to an unusual situation: Electronic Arts produced no adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, but produced adaptations named The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (video game) (which covered events of both the first two films) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (video game), whereas Sierra only produced a game covering the first book of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game). While Sierra Entertainment's access to the book rights prevented them from using material from the film, it permitted them to include elements of The Lord of the Rings which were not in the films. EA, on the other hand, were not permitted to do this, as they were only licensed to develop games based on the films, which left out elements of the original story or deviated in places.

In 2003 Sierra produced an adaptation of The Hobbit, aimed at a younger audience: The Hobbit (2003 video game), as well as a realtime strategy game The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring both based on Tolkien's literature.

Further spinoffs from the film trilogy were produced: A real time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, and turn based role-playing game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age were released in 2004, and a PSP-exclusive title, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics in 2005.

In 2005, EA secured the rights to both the films and the books, thus the The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II incorporated elements of the film adaptions, and the original Tolkienesque lore. EA also began work on an open world role-playing video game called The Lord of the Rings: The White Council, development of the game was cancelled in 2007.

A MMORPG by Turbine, Inc., entitled The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar and endorsed by Tolkien Enterprises[citation needed] was officially launched on 24 April 2007. Initially, the game only covered the region of Eriador, from the Grey Havens to the Misty Mountains, and about as far north and south, but subsequent updates and expansion packs have more than doubled the game world, including areas such as Moria, Lothlórien, Mirkwood, Isengard and Rohan. The game is based on the books and Turbine's license explicitly prohibits them from including any story or design elements unique to the movie adaptations. On the other hand, this allowed game designers to include lesser-known areas and references to the events, which are absent from the movies. The first expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online was released on 18 November 2008, entitled Mines of Moria.[1] The next expansion, Siege of Mirkwood, was released on 1 December 2009.[2] The third expansion titled Rise of Isengard went live on 27 September 2011 and included the area's of Dunland, the Gap of Rohan and Isengard where the tower of Orthanc is located.[3] The fourth expansion, Riders of Rohan, was released on 15 October 2012, featuring The Eaves of Fangorn and eastern part of Rohan up to the East Wall.[4] The fifth expansion, Helm's Deep, launched in November 2013 and added the remaining of Rohan landscape.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest produced by Pandemic Studios using the Game engine used in Star Wars: Battlefront was released in early 2009 on consoles, PC and Nintendo DS. The console and PC versions received generally negative reviews, the DS version received average reviews.[5] The game also marked the end of Electronic Arts license, which had already been extended some months so that the game could be completed. Subsequently the license, obtained via Tolkien Enterprises passed to Warner Bros.[citation needed]

Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action RPG that takes place in Northern Middle-earth. It was developed by Snowblind Studios and released on 1 November 2011.

Unofficial games[edit]

Aside from officially licensed games, unofficial games have also been made. Some of the longest-lasting are Angband (1990), a roguelike based loosely on The Silmarillion, Elendor (1991), a MUSH based on Tolkien in general, and MUME (1992) and The Two Towers (1994), MUDs based on The Lord of the Rings.

Many Tolkien-inspired mods and custom maps have been made for many games, such as Warcraft III, Neverwinter Nights, Rome: Total War, Medieval 2: Total War, Warlords 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mount&Blade and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.

Some of the more prominent are:

  • Third Age: Total War, which is a mod of Medieval 2: Total War, is currently ranked as the 4th best mod at the Mod DB website and has competed for the "Mod of the year" award at 2nd, 3rd and 7th place. It allows player to choose one of the 14 factions and fight for the Middle Earth on the huge interactive map.
  • Fourth Age: Total War, a popular modification of Rome: Total War, based on the Fourth Age of Middle-earth and more geared toward the Tolkien purists.
  • The Last Days of the Third Age for Mount & Blade
  • Full Invasion 2 Survival Mod for Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Middle Earth Roleplaying Project for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Cancelled due to copyright claims by Warner Bros.)

As well as maps in games, many lord of the Rings fans have made modifications for the popular The Elder Scrolls Series for the PC, including a total conversion as well as a range of items and armour.

The roguelike NetHack also has many allusions to The Lord of the Rings, with references to creatures and sayings (i.e. 'Elbereth').

List of video games[edit]

Official games[edit]

Title Year Publisher Developer Platforms
The Hobbit 1982 Melbourne House Beam Software Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC (no graphics), Dragon 32, Oric Atmos, MSX, Apple II, IBM PC
Lord of the Rings: Game One (AKA: The Fellowship of The Ring) 1985 Melbourne House Beam Software ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC, Dragon 32, Apple Macintosh, Apple II, IBM PC
The Shadows of Mordor 1987 Melbourne House Beam Software Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, IBM PC
War in Middle-earth 1988 Melbourne House Melbourne House C64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC
The Crack of Doom 1989 Melbourne House Beam Software Commodore 64, IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 1990 Interplay,
Electronic Arts
Interplay, Chaos Studios (Amiga) Amiga, IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 2 1992 Interplay Interplay IBM PC
Riders of Rohan 1991 Konami, Mirrorsoft Beam Software, Papyrus IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 1994 Interplay Interplay Super NES
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2002 Vivendi Universal Games Surreal Software MS Windows, PlayStation 2
The Whole Experience Xbox
Pocket Studios Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 Electronic Arts Stormfront Studios
Hypnos Entertainment (GCN)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003 Electronic Arts
Aspyr (Mac OS X)
Electronic Arts,Hypnos Entertainment (GCN & Xbox)
Beenox (Mac OS X)
MS Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Mac OS X
Electronic Arts Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring 2003 Sierra Liquid Entertainment MS Windows
The Hobbit 2003 Sierra Midway Austin MS Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Saffire Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age 2004 Electronic Arts Electronic Arts PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA) 2004 Electronic Arts Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth 2004 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Tactics 2005 Electronic Arts Amaze PlayStation Portable
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II 2006 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows, Xbox 360
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king 2006 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar 2007 Turbine, Inc., Midway Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria 2008 Turbine, Inc., Midway Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest 2009 Electronic Arts Pandemic Studios Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, MS Windows, Nintendo DS
The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood 2009 Turbine, Inc. Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest 2010 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Headstrong Games
TT Fusion
Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North 2011 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Snowblind Studios PlayStation 3, MS Windows, Xbox 360
The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard 2011 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
Guardians of Middle-earth 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Monolith Productions Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, MS Windows
Lego The Lord of the Rings 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Traveler's Tales MS Windows, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth 2012 Kabam Android, Apple iOS
The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age 2013 Kabam Browser game
The Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep 2013 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Turbine, Inc. Mac OS X, MS Windows
Lego The Hobbit 2014 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Traveler's Tales Wii U, Xbox360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, MS Windows
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor 2014 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Monolith Productions Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, MS Windows

Parodies[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]