How many AAA, no holds barred The Lord of the Rings games have you seen? Yes, we see them come out from time to time. They were especially especially prevalent when the movies came out. But how many really quality affairs have we been able to enjoy? Why is it that, when we look back, hearing about something like The Lord of the Rings: Gollum might strike us as uncommon and unusual, rather than something that should be more commonplace? In short, Middle-earth should be tapped as a setting for games more often, and it is criminal that it hasn’t been.
One great thing about these Middle-earth books is how they really can be appropriate for all audiences. I don’t know about you, but my school had us reading The Hobbit in fourth grade for English class. By that Tolkien (pun very much intended), we can also reference both of the Lego games, two of the rare Middle-earth games to receive huge acclaim and attention. Both Lego The Lord of the Rings and Lego The Hobbit made these efforts for the whole family to enjoy. Especially since Traveller’s Tales nature makes them even more accessible. We could see more efforts like that.
There are the obvious genres a AAA, big deal Middle-earth game could fall into. Namely, a new strategic installment could be a perfect fit. In The Lord of the Rings, the realm is in the middle of a war, with Sauron’s troops fighting those who want to keep happiness and light within the realm. We’ve seen some strategy games try to tap into that. Most notably, The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics, and The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring. However, these are few and far between. Also, each one has been rather niche. If you bring them up in a group of gamers, they might not even remember they exist. A return to the more tactical elements of the war could be very much appreciated.
It would also be a perfect pick for games that are think pieces. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum could be this sort of game. We know it will be an adventure game where both the choices you make and moving stealthily matter. People will also have both the Gollum and Smeagol personalities to manage. What we have here is one of the more interesting characters in the series, though he sometimes has been relegated to comic relief. His time with The One Ring showed the negative effects it can have on a person, and his influence helped shape the course of Frodo’s destiny. Simply put, we need more games like this.
The one sphere where companies really seem to get it and understand that Middle-earth is rife with possibilities is when it comes to action games or RPGs with MMO or open-world elements. It’s the one area where The Lord of the Rings is represented well, even if it isn’t always getting the attention it deserves. The Lord of the Rings Online has been active since 2007, with even the Minas Morgul expansion in 2019. We also had both Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, which handled the lore well. With another open world installment and MMO on the way, maybe these could provide the hope we need.
We deserve more J.R.R. Tolkien inspired games. There is a whole world here filled with lore. It’s all been meticulously chronicled. While we have a good start on interactive stories, we’d all benefit from more opportunities to adventure and fight wars in this rich environment.