Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some Video Game Books

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die

I saw this book at Borders the other day and thought it looked pretty cool. Apparently it's part of a "1001 _____ You Must Do Before You Die" I haven't previously heard of, but it's an absolutely huge full color manual of essential games as determined by some of the folks at Edge Magazine. The retail price is a bit on the high side (fixed by ordering on Amazon or taking one of those 30%+ coupons to Borders, but there's a ton of content and it's quite nicely written. Some of the Amazon reviews are slightly critical of their choice of games, but it's quite broad and it works well. The only thing that stuck out in my mind is the inclusion of Cruise for a Corpse when there are far more interesting adventure games to choose. Then again, the recent Retro Gamer also featured the same game in its excellent "best adventure games that aren't made by LucasArts" article, making me think it just must be a European thing.

100 Videogames (BFI Screen Guides)

This book is a few years older and isn't quite as broad. It's shorter and in black and white, but the articles themselves are longer, and usually fairly interesting essays. They aren't marked as "essential" or anything, just 100 games that the author thought were interesting and worth writing about.

The Video Game Archaeologist

A series of self-published books focusing on a variety of retro subjects. There's a Sega Master System Game Guide as well, although it appears to mostly focus on US releases, as far as I can tell. I haven't picked these up myself but you can check out the author's website at for some samples.

Graphic Adventures

This book on graphic adventures largely consists of re-compiled Wikipedia articles, but there are a handful of original interviews that are quite good. You can also download the whole thing for free at the author's site, although part of the profits for the book are being donated to the Wikipedia foundation.

Art books

Udon's been putting out some absolutely fantastic art books lately - my favorites are the Mega Man Complete Works and SF20: The Art of Street Fighter. It's worth keeping an eye on Okami Official Complete Works too, as it seems to go in and out of stock regularly, and the jackasses on the second hand marketplace immediately quintuple the price any time Amazon runs out of copies. A couple new books have cropped up lately too, to be released in the coming months:

Valkyria Chronicles: Design Archive

I've seen the Japanese version of this book at conventions and it's brilliant, filled with both character and mechanical designs. Given the quality of Udon's other art books, they'll probably be translating the many interviews and design notes, too.

Atelier Series: Official Chronicle

I'm not really a fan of the Atelier games, but some of the artwork, especially in the more recent games, is quite pretty. I'm not sure if this is published by Udon or not, and information appears to be slim at the moment.

I may as well solicit suggestions for any other decent video game book that's been published recently. There's still too few them in an era where book stores have shamefully devoted whole shelves to "supernatural romance" sections.


Oh, Gamespite Vol 7 is out now too!


  1. Hmm, my personal dislike for EDGE and Mr Mott puts me off the first book.

    As for other books, must they be recent? Because I still find Kent's Ultimate History to be essential reading. Forster's Hardware Encyclopaedia is likewise timeless. Another great (though about 8 years old now) is the Level X Famicom book, which featured translated interviews of several prominent NES-era developers:

    Also, not strictly game related, but for sheer weirdness with a Japanese twist, and fairly recent-ish, Japanese School Girl Confidential piques my interest:

  2. I actually got 1000 Games To Play Before You Die for Christmas, and though list-books are always up for debate, I actually find it a very enjoyable coffee table book to thumb through and lose an hour over and over.

    Also, props for mentioning the Video Game Archeologist, who's a very nice fellow poster over at

  3. A few more great books are "Game Over Press Start To Continue" by David Sheff, a history of Nintendo; "Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic" by Brad King and John Borland, about early roleplaying games; and "Masters of Doom" by David Kushner about Doom and id. (Kushner also wrote an amazing book about Magic the Gathering, "Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids.")

    Recently I also read another Nintendo history book which goes up until Game & Watch. (I've never seen it sold anywhere except directly from the publisher: It's not a great read, but it has a ton of very oddball information and lots of full color pictures of Nintendo's old products.

  4. The Gameplan books by Winnie Forster are mostly German, but the 2nd (I think) revision of the first book was released in English as Game.Machines.

  5. Oh, and there's also this, a little older:

  6. Thanks for the heads-up on these books! I find it really satisfying to read books about video games and how they are created and perceived. In particular, I really enjoyed Steven Kent's Ultimate History of Video Games and David Kushner's Masters of Doom. I am still looking to pick up Tom Bissell's Extra Lives and Chris Kohler's book about Nintendo at some point.

  7. I enjoyed reading Kent's Ultimate History of Video Games, though I found the book to be very, very US-centric.