With its wizards, spells, monsters, and gripping battles, the Harry Potter universe has oodles of potential for quality video-game adaptations.
Still, as with video games from any mahoosive franchise, Harry Potter’s virtual outings are a mixed bag; over the years, developers churned out tie-ins to each of the eight movies, as well as spin-offs here and there, with varying levels of success. There’s stuff to enjoy in all of them, and touches of real excellence in the best examples, but one or two titles are unlikely to feature in many fans’ collections.
So, if you’re looking to delve into a little bit of wand-waving fun, which Harry Potter games should you track down first? Here are the seven best …
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1 – 4
The Lego games might not appeal to everyone, especially those of us looking for a more ‘realistic’ depiction of the Boy Who Lived’s tale, but these block-based Harry Potter games are still a lot of fun.
As the first four years of the Harry Potter story are the least-dark and grim, much of the Lego humour and colour fits in perfectly here. There’s also lots to see and do, from exploring Diagon Alley and Hogwarts to crafting your own potions.
Spell-casting is also done beautifully, and having to attend lessons helps to make Hogwarts feel more real. There are dozens of characters to unlock and secrets to uncover, but the game captures the Harry Potter feel so well, it’s worth playing again and again for the atmosphere alone.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7
This is pretty much more of the same, with shinier graphics and a few gameplay tweaks. Depending on which console you played this on, though, the differences between this and Years 1 – 4 are very noticeable – this entry is arguably stronger on the Nintendo DS, for example, with a neat duelling system adding a little more depth to the game.
Years 5 – 7 also manages to capture much of the excitement of the finale at Hogwarts too, and the Death Eaters’ Apparition effect looks especially awesome on bigger conoles.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Prisoner of Azkaban is a great adaptation of Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts, with the open design of the school itself one of the game’s strongest features. Given the dated graphics, this still looks great though, and captures the world brilliantly. The detailed character models, cinematic music, and the genuinely-creepy Dementors all help to capture the movie’s magic.
Getting to fly on Buckbeak’s back is pretty neat, too, opening the environment up and adding to the sense of scale.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a solid game, with an impressive recreation of Hogwarts. You can wander the corridors and explore as much as you like, and there’s lots to admire in the intricate design.
You can interact with various fellow students (many of whom are voiced by actors from the film) as well as the Hogwarts portraits, and simply enjoy taking in the iconic locations if you don’t fancy taking on any quests. There’s a real sense of scale and vastness to the environments, and the duels are fun, with impressive effects.
While this isn’t the best of the Harry Potter games, it’s definitely worth playing. Even if you do spend most of your time running up and down stairs …
Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
Quidditch has been pretty underused in some of the Harry Potter games, but for fans craving more, Quidditch World Cup is dedicated entirely to the sport itself.
The graphics might seem a tad sparse and plain, but the gameplay’s actually quite exciting and fast-paced. You can choose to play as one of the Hogwarts house teams, and recognisable faces from the franchise show up, including Harry, Draco, and more.
For long-term value, there are things to unlock and progress to make, and while it’s not regarded as the best Harry Potter game of all, it’s far from the worst.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This is definitely one of the strongest Harry Potter games, benefiting from a fun, exciting atmosphere, cartoony graphics, and simple controls. Being able to fly around on your broomstick and exploring Hogwarts is great, benefiting from a nice sense of speed and epic in-flight music.
Playing Quidditch is also pretty damn cool, with Harry’s chase after the Golden Snitch simply zipping through rings at high speed.
Chamber of Secrets may look a little rougher around the edges than the more recent titles, but it’s way more fun, and its more innocent, childish charm stands out from the darker games that came later.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Like Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince features a stunning open-world recreation of Hogwarts, which is endlessly interesting to explore. You’re also given a deeper potion-making system, which can be pretty challenging later on, and helps to capture more of the series’ magic than some other games in the franchise.
The graphics here are terrific, and the character models are decent, while the way in which students interact helps to make Hogwarts feel like a living, breathing environment. Quidditch is also nicely-done, capturing a real sense of movement, though some players might find it a tad repetitive. There’s no doubt this is one of the most impressive Harry Potter games, though.
What’s your favourite Harry Potter game? Let us know!