Book and Video Game Pairings

Sarah and I frequently talk about video games, and I thought it would be fun to find pairings of video games and books that work well together. We’d also love to hear what games you’ve been playing recently and what books may complement them.

Stardew Valley Cover art with the farmhouse and a character on a horse

Stardew Valley ( A ) is a cozy, farming game that Sarah and I have streamed many times. You revive a farm in a small town. Maybe you spend your day fishing or wooing one of the townspeople, but overall, it’s low angst.

I’d pair this one with Spellbinding Love by Elizabeth Davis, which features a farm witch with a crush! The romance is light on conflict and makes for a quick read.

Dredge a fishing boat with lights on the front in murky scary waters with scary looking fish beneath the surface.

I’ve been super into Dredge lately, if you listened to the recent podcast. I’d call it cozy horror. There are cosmic horror elements with a series of fishing islands besieged by abnormal and massive fish. You play a fisherman who must collect them all and fulfill quests for the islanders.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is my obvious recommendation, with its killer mermaids and mysteries of the deep!

World of Warcraft is one of my vices. (Is anyone playing the new expansion?)

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood ( A | BN | K | AB ) has an orc main character who goes on a grand quest, and accumulates party members. I think any epic fantasy with an ensemble cast would work well!

Hatoful Boyfriend in pink with a big pink heart against a background of pigeons looking very romantic

Let’s get a little weird!

I recently was telling my partner about Hatoful Boyfriend, a dating sim with pigeons. For something equally bizarro, or even more so, you can’t go wrong with anything from Chuck Tingle.

Overcooked ( A ) is a multiplayer game I often play with my friends around the country. It’s very chaotic and tensions can run pretty high.

Pair this one with an enemies to lovers cooking romance, like Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly or Mangos & Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera.

PEntiment - an illustration of a man with his entire head on fire sitting at an easel illuminating a manuscript by hand it's dark and the only visible elements are his arm, his shoulder, the candle behind him, and his head which is on fire

I haven’t played this one myself, but I know Sarah has been loving Pentiment, a mystery game with monks, murder, and illustrated manuscripts.

This would go well with another of Sarah’s favorites: the Cadfael series, which features a crime-solving monk.

Which video games are you loving right now? Which books would you pair with them? Tell us!

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  1. Lynette says:

    For fans of mystery who don’t mind zero hand holding (but no scary jumpy bits) I cannot recommend Return of the Obra Dinn enough! You basically play an 1800s insurance adjuster who task is to figure out what happened to the crew of the Obra Dinn as it has returned to port all by itself and you are able to get snap shots of moments in time to figure it out. So satisfying to play and can be played with partners!

    The book that reminded me a lot of it in the best way is Devil in the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. It’s got mystery, set vaguely in the 1800s on a ship heading to England from India,and a lick of the supernatural. Very fun.

  2. Malaraa says:

    The world of My Time at Sandrock isn’t as recovered yet as the world in Becky Chambers Monk & Robot books, but the books could kinda represent the goal the town is trying to reach in the game. They definitely both include themes of hope for the future, and of balancing nature and technology, although with different approaches. Other more general options could be books with a US Wild West feel, or almost anything where the central idea is a tight knit community trying to overcome long odds.

    The Wandering Village is an adorable game where you live on a (rare, endangered) dinosaur’s back, but the only thing i can think of to pair with it is maybe Kaiju Preservation Society, which is much more action packed.

    There’s a Stray Gods demo on Steam free until May 8 as part of this “LudoNarraCon” promotion thingy, it’s a veryvery tiny demo, 2 scenes really. (Still excited) There’s a lot of takes on Greek Gods out there, and any of them could do as a match, but i think i actually like Gods of Jade and Shadow for this one. Completely different pantheon, lore, and culture – but the idea of a young woman searching for change in her life and getting more/different change than she wanted when the gods get involved is a good fit compared to Grace in the game.

    I’ve also been dabbling in Potion Permit, and i think the Penric and Desdemona novellas would pair well with it. Both involve a healer, whose methods (citified ways/via demon) fall under a certain amount of unease or suspicion at times, and both result in slowly winning one person after another over by doing good at them whether they asked or not!

  3. Melissandre says:

    I just finished Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tommorow, a book about video game designers that would pair well with any of these games. Can’t recommend it enough. It is not a romance, though

  4. Amanda says:

    @Malaraa: That is such a good pairing! I knew you’d come through with something amazing.

  5. Jean Lamb says:

    I stopped playing Warcraft when I read about the rape culture at Blizzard Entertainment. I choose not to give my dollars to people like that. Oh, sure, they’re lots better now! Honest!

  6. Denise says:

    We just discovered Dredge and are loving it our house. We are eagerly awaiting our preorder for Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. In the meantime, Spiritfarer is also a big favorite. It’s such a relaxing game. Which sounds weird, but it has very calming music.

  7. Crystal says:

    Dammit, I have already lost several hours to Dredge on my Switch and I bought it LAST WEEK. You can’t even feel the time passing. I stayed in one spot for at least 4 days on the game just trying to dredge out that damn belt buckle for the grieving father. Anyway, it’s giving Lovecraft, only without the racism and misogyny. Into the Drowning Deep is a good one, but I also keep thinking about the Ruthanna Emrys Innsmouth story from as I play the game. I think she’s also written two books set against that story as well (Winter Tide and Deeper Roots? Something like that). The story is really good. I’ll link below.

    On the PS5 I’ve been playing Guardians of the Galaxy and am almost 3/4 of the way through it. You get a space llama named Cami, and frankly, I pet the space llama every opportunity I get. As for read-alongs for that, I’d have to go with the Illuminae and Aurora Rising series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Space, found families, developing superpowers, the usual.

    Also, on the Switch I’m playing Have A Nice Death. I get to play as an ADORABLE little grouchy Grim Reaper who is sick of all of his underlings slacking off and is ready to raise some hell and whip them into shape. Your weapons are your scythe and your cloak and you can upgrade them in various ways. There’s some very funny, if vaguely mordant, humor in the game, and from a mechanics standpoint, it plays various similarly to Hades. Which means there is a lot of grinding. I’ve only gotten past Brad the Swol Security Demon once, but I will take his ass down. Bet on it. I haven’t read them yet, but from the perspective of Hell is Bureaucracy, Hench by Natalie Walschots and Sign Here by Claudia Lux are probably good read-alikes.

    Also, am I the only person that could NOT get into Disco Elysium? Overrated. Big time.

  8. Amanda says:

    @Crystal: So glad you’re enjoying Dredge!

    I also took Disco Elysium off my wishlist after watching my partner play it. It seemed like a slog and they got a game over after being locked out of dialogue choices.

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