We’ve all been there. You loved a show (or a movie, or a book), and then you run out of it. It’s over, on indefinite hiatus, between sequels, or there just aren’t any more seasons on Netflix. All you want is something new to fill it’s place in your heart. And that’s where Volcano Bakemeat can help. Although most video game adaptations don’t always live up to their source material, that won’t stop us. Instead, we’ll attempt to try to find games that capture the spirit of what made the original so special (minor spoilers follow).
Harry Potter (Book 1997-2007)
What is it?: Have you been under a rock? After years of abuse from his relatives, eleven year old Harry Potter learns that his parents didn’t die in a car crash, they were wizards and so is he. Over seven books, Harry grows up, learns magic and repeatedly fights the evil Lord Voldemort to save both the wizard and muggle (non-wizard) world. Seriously, you can find them in any book store. Just pick up Sorcerer’s Stone.
What We Loved About It
Normal Boy, Fantastic World, Real Problems
Harry Potter was fun because he started out like all of us. He was a normal kid in a normal world, but one day, Hagrid told him that he’s “a wizard, Harry,” and suddenly his world got a lot bigger. Most of the people who grew up with Harry are still getting over the fact they never got their Hogwarts letters and that’s because J.K. Rowling made all of us feel like we could be at Hogwarts and her wizarding world was just around the corner. The books also gave our real world problems (racism, depression and evil, just to name a few) fantastical forms, making the easier to deal with in their pedestrian shapes.
What You Should Play – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – When the normal kid Oliver’s mom dies, his doll comes to life and asks Oliver’s help saving his world from a dark wizard. Oliver enters a world of magic and fantastic creatures. The game’s playstyle is part Final Fantasy, part Pokemon paired with animation from the legendary Studio Ghibli, but the metaphors are Rowling reminiscent. The dark wizard used his magic to break hearts and gather more power, and Oliver has to unbreak them. Every heartbreak is a metaphor for real pain, and Oliver uses empathy (and magic) to fix them while working through his grief.
…Which makes it sound really depressing, but so does “Boy wizard battles magic depression.” Both are much more compelling than they sound on paper.
Slinging Magic – You saw this one coming. In a list of “Games like Harry Potter” you need at least one entry where you can feel like a powerful wizard.
What You Should Play – Fable – It’s actually pretty hard to find a game that properly captures the diverse system in the Harry Potter universe (if you know of one, please leave it in the comments, I’d love to play it), but if what you want is to whip powerful spells out willy nilly, Fable might do the trick. Although you could focus on a number of skills, if you choose to focus on a “Will” based build, you’ll be rewarded with the ability to call lightning or summon magic swords until you’re the most loved (or feared) Will user in Albion.
Good vs Evil – Although the series has a lot of nuance and deals with pretty complex issues, Harry Potter ultimately breaks down to a simple dynamic. Harry vs Voldemort. Love vs Power. Good vs Evil. It’s kind of nice to have that clean of a breakdown.
What You Should Play – Fire Emblem: Awakening. Although side conversations in Awakening give you some past history about why the evil kingdom is evil, for the most part, the evil kingdom is just plain evil. You and your army are good (despite your hidden link to the main villain–another Harry Potter parallel), and you will fight until friendship, goodness and love have triumphed over power hungry evil. (Side note: it handles time travelling kids better than Cursed Child.)
Hermione – Hermione is great. She’s whip smart, empathetic and won’t take crap from anyone. When the wizarding world looks down on her for being muggleborn, she wears it as a badge of honor. She gave an entire generation of girls (and boys) a competent, kindhearted, and fiercely loyal role model. She starts as a slightly hateable know-it-all, but she grows into a fearless freedom fighter and after the books, she ends up leading the Ministry of Magic. I still want to be her when I grow up.
What You Should Play – Mass Effect. Specifically for Liara. Liara comes into the first Mass Effect as an annoying puppy dog of a person who has a huge brain but no real world experience. Then, when the rubber hits the road, she steps up. She uses her knowledge and biotic abilities to help save the world, despite being looked down on for her purebred Asari heritage. By the end of the games, she’s become one of the most powerful people in the galaxy’s underworld. (And her first meeting with one of the protheans she studied for so long isn’t that far off from Hermione’s less successful SPEWing.)
Grows Up With Readers – Harry Potter grew up with my generation. The books first got big when I was in elementary school, and each book came out just as I was old enough to be ready for the slightly darker and more mature content each book brought. And that’s true for a lot of Harry Potter fans. The fact that the schedule roughly kept pace with our aging allowed for a deeper connection. Even now, parents can dole the books out to their children as they grow, giving them a new Harry Potter for each stage of their coming of age.
What You Should Play – Kingdom Hearts – It’d be impossible to argue that players have been able to age in real time with Sora (I’ve aged 11 years since 2005, but he certainly hasn’t), but like Harry Potter, the content of the game takes the player deeper and darker places in each installment. The first Kingdom Hearts starts as a lighthearted adventure where you pal around with Disney characters trying to save Mickey Mouse. By the time the first game’s over, you’ve glimpsed darkness. By the time the second game’s over, you’re deep in a mire of lore and conspiracy and the world’s a darker place than Sora could have conceived. There are plots and conspiracies and shifting loyalties that will be enough to satisfy anyone who sweated between books six and seven, wondering if they could trust Severus Snape.
It’s impossible to talk about kids fighting evil at school without bringing up the Persona series. “Let’s go to class then fight for the good of humanity” are these RPGs bread and butter and their monstrous long gameplay times should feel homey to anyone who’s read Order of the Phoenix.
The real Harry Potter adaptations
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve spent dozens of fun hours on EA’s PC adaptation of Sorcerer’s Stone and an almost equal number of hours trying to make my runes accurate in their Game Cube Chamber of Secrets game. I personally prefer the other games on this list to scratch the itch, but to each their own. Also, anything by Lego is always a blast (even if it’s technically based on the movies).
Lastly Pour One Out For the Game That Never Was
Nintendo put together a bid for a Harry Potter game. Rowling reportedly turned down the bid because she wanted to go with a company that could do more than just a game, and she eventually went with WB and the rest is history. But I’m still really sorry we’ll never get to play as Harry on a Forbidden Forest stage in Smash Bros.
What do you play when you miss Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments.