Since the mid-50s when The Lord of the Rings was first published (The Hobbit was much earlier), the world has pretty much been obsessed with all things Tolkien, including everyone from rock stars like Led Zeppelin, all the way through basement dwelling Dungeons and Dragons masters, and all the way up to movie aficionados ever since the release of, quite possibly, the greatest movie trilogy of all time: Peter Jackson’s, The Lord of the Rings. This cultural obsession with all things fantasy, has spawned a number of excellent videogames (and also some terrible ones, as well). With the release of the hotly anticipated Middle Earth: Shadow of War, we thought we’d take a look at some of the other brilliant Lord of the Rings games.
- Lego: The Lord of the Rings (2013)
Lego have made games of nearly every major franchise going, including Harry Potter and Star Wars, so it only made sense for them to turn their yellow heads to Tolkien. The Lego games are somewhat of a mixed bag, however their version of The Lord of the Rings was definitely one of their better endeavours. Allowing you free roam across the trilogy with all the usual humour of the Lego franchise, was a delight, and filled many a fan-boys’ hearts with happiness. Plus, you were able to play as nearly anyone from the films and some peeps from the larger Tolkien mythos, so it had that going for it. The reason this is lower down than the next couple, is that I’m just slightly fatigued by the constant stream of Lego games, so I’m just being a bit mean, really, and plopping them back here as a show of resistance! Who’s with me?! No one? … okay …
- The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (2009)
I’m not saying that Conquest was a good game, but I’m not saying it was a bad game by any means and I had a lot of fun playing it … for a short time. If I were to sum up the game in as few words as possible, I would say, ‘Star Wars: Battlefront but with LOTR characters instead’. That sounds INCREDIBLE, I know, but unfortunately the execution of the game wasn’t amazing. Like Battlefront, the game did let you play as good or evil, which was especially fun when you got to march into the Shire as Sauron and lay waste to those little hairy blighters!
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (2011)
Now, War in the North is a strange game that I remember both fondly and … not so much … The game was an action, hack and slash, RPG that told an alternate tale to the films and featured a man (rogue), elf (mage), and dwarf (warrior) as they battled their way towards the titular North. The game was built for three-person co-op, however could be played through as a single player (kind of). There were some great sequences and the game was nicely challenging at times, however I remember it being sometimes repetitive and often buggy, plus I was playing it solo and got to a section where I had to invite my brother to help, because I could just not do what the game was asking me to do on my own (maybe I was just bad at it …)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II (2006)
If you like RTSs, then I’m sure you already played this to death back in the mid noughties. As with the previous entry, Battle for Middle-Earth II featured an alternative tale from further back in Tolkien’s rich lore. The ‘good’ campaign featured Glorfindel as he tried to defeat Sauron before he was able to destroy Rivendell and featured genuinely intuitive controls (even when playing on Xbox 360). There was also the option to play as the forces of evil, as Sauron lay waste to the remainder of the good peoples of middle earth.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (2004)
Some of you may be surprised to see this so high on the list as the reception wasn’t overwhelmingly positive, however it has a very special place in my heart. I’m not much of a Final Fantasy fan, however the first one I ever played was X and it has stuck with me ever since and is one of my favourite games (even though I have never gotten on with any of the others, even VII or XV). Essentially, The Third Age is Final Fantasy X with Tolkien characters and story … what is not to like? Apparently, the critics felt the combat was too similar to FFX, however that was one of the reason I loved it so much, as the FFX combat is one of my favourite combat systems in any game, so to be able to have that turn-based goodness with (albeit made-up) Tolkien characters, was something special and I still return to the game at least once a year to grind my way up to defeating Sauron atop his tower.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
I recently wrote about the movie tie-in videogames that are actually good, and The Return of the King featured prominently as it is truly exceptional (for the time anyway). Sometimes hack and slash games can get old really quickly, however for some reason, this didn’t. The story had three branches (a Gandalf one, a Frodo and Sam one, and an Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas one) and followed the closing events of The Two Towers movie and all of The Return of the King. It allowed you to battle your way, with a genuinely exciting and engrossing combat mechanics, throughout your favourite scenes in the film. Once you had completed it, you were then able to redo any of it with any character, including some unlockable like Faramir, Merry, and Pippin. Many fond childhood memories are conjured up by this gem.
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)
And now we get to the series that initiated this list in the first place: Shadow of Mordor, which came out of nowhere back in 2014 and was the surprise hit of that year. In the build-up to the game being released, most people assumed it would be like Conquest or War in the North, a solid effort, but altogether lacklustre … oh how they were wrong. You played as Talion, a ranger who is killed and then bonded with the wraith-spirit of ring maker extraordinaire, Celebrimbor. You then wreak havoc across Mordor in a style that is best summed up as Assassins’ Creed meets Arkham City … what is not to like? What makes the game so special is the much publicised ‘Nemesis System’, which allowed for grudge matches against specific orcs who could get promoted among the ranks by killing you or each other, which you could help facilitate, before brainwashing them with magic and forcing them to fight for you against Sauron. An excellent game … and rumour has it the sequel is just as good …
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