You don't have to invent a family of mustachioed plumbers to create a video game. Here are some classic works of literature that got the Nintendo treatment in the 1980s and 1990s.
1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1988)
In this side-scrolling game based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, Dr. Jekyll is going to his wedding but everyone—pets, men with bombs, ladies in hoop skirts—keeps getting in his way. It makes him so mad, he turns into Mr. Hyde and has to fight monsters and aliens until his anger abates. The game goes on like that until Dr. Jekyll reaches the church and goes inside. The end.
2. Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1989)
Tom Sawyer falls asleep in class and dreams he must save Becky Thatcher from Injun Joe. The game has six levels that initially resemble Mark Twain’s novel with riverboats on the Mississippi, but become progressively weirder until Injun Joe appears riding the Loch Ness Monster. After Tom Sawyer defeats him, Becky Thatcher shows up looking suspiciously like Princess Peach from Mario Bros and gives him a kiss. Tom Sawyer wakes up from his dream and looks confused. So was I.
3. Puss N Boots (1990)
For some reason, Puss N Boots is in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. He goes to different lands all over the world, including “New York,” Arabia,” “Space Wars,” and “Ocean.” In “The West,” for example, Puss N Boots shoots tumbleweeds, dodges flying horseshoes, and fights cats dressed like cowboys.
4. Super Robin Hood (1986)
An adorably cartoonish Robin Hood jumps through Nottingham Castle while cheerful music bops along in the background. Dodging spiders, guards, and fireballs, he gathers keys to move from level to level. At the end, you scale the castle wall and rescue Maid Marion [sic] and the treasure. “King Richard will return soon,” the game reassures you as an afterthought. “Long live the king!”
5. Frankenstein: The Monster Returns (1990)
The monster from Mary Shelley’s novel “rises from the grave”—a problematic concept given the monster’s origins—and abducts “Emily,” whoever that is. You, dressed in gold armor and a cape, kill monsters until eventually, you fight… no, not Frankenstein’s monster. That would be too logical. You fight a “Demon Horse,” half-horse, half-demon, and then the game just kind of ends.
6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1993)
Based on the movie version of the book, Jonathan Harker journeys through Transylvania and fights vampires, zombies, and wolves while a musical score tinkles ominously. Various bosses pop up along the way, including vampire Lucy Westenra, Dracula's three brides, a fire-breathing dragon, and of course, Dracula himself.
7. Bible Adventures (1991)
Three games in one. In “Baby Moses:” Miriam has to save baby Moses by carrying him on her head and throwing him over walls and Egyptians. (That’s right, you throw a baby.) In “Noah’s Ark,” Noah collects animals for the ark by stacking them on his head. In “David and Goliath,” David saves sheep by also stacking them on his head. Then Goliath shows up and David hits him with a slingshot.
8. Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990)
Peter Pan has to defeat Captain Hook, but before that, he has to run through many forest scenes fighting pirates and pigs. Sometimes Wendy or the Lost Boys show up to offer advice like, “Peter, Watch Out For Traps!”
9. JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Vol. 1 (1994)
Similar to The Legends of Zelda but more boring, Frodo performs a series of “fetch quests” to protect the ring. The game ends at the Mines of Moria. Since there were no sequels to this poor-selling Super Nintendo game, Frodo never gets to Mordor.
10. Little Red-Hood (1990)
A weird Taiwanese game where Little Red Riding Hood wanders through the forest fighting goblins and turtles to reach her grandmother's house. No wolf appears, but grandma sure is happy to see her grandchild. “Oh! My dear little red hood! Thank you for your coming!” she says as she and Little Red-Hood flap their hands wildly.
11. The Great Gatsby (2011)
Finally, a game where it makes sense to collect gold coins. As Nick Carraway from Fitzgerald’s novel, you frolic about dodging flappers, jumping on train cars, and fighting Dr. T. J. Eckleburg’s glasses between animated scenes from the book. Though initially presented as a long-lost Nintendo game, The Great Gatsby was actually made by developers from San Francisco in 2011. Who cares, it’s better than any of the games above. Play it yourself here.