author: Julia Dragovic
The History of Harry Potter Games - We’ve Been Waiting Long Enough
Harry Potter games have a long history. The history of games with mediocre quality but still loved by millions of fans. Will Hogwarts Legacy be the game they were all patiently waiting for? Let's hope so!
The Harry Potter universe has been immensely popular around the world; among millennials and later generations, these two short words – Harry Potter – immediately evoke positive emotions. And while there have been numerous blockbuster movies set in this world, the games have arguably been lackluster both in terms of numbers and quality.
However, the franchise is so huge that people were willing to turn a blind eye on many shortcomings, just to be able to play as wizards, so the old Harry Potter games still enjoy some devoted fans. Myself included. Hogwart's Legacy is here, here's a recap of Harry Potter games released so far before we all dive into Hogwarts.
In my early childhood, I had a friend, who had a PC full of games and would willingly introduce me to all the new stuff. That's how I got to know practically all of the most important games of my childhood, such as Aladdin and The Lion King, and I can vividly remember the great leap we took throughout a few years from these 2-D games, to sitting together in front of the computer, immersed in the dark, three-dimensional hallways of Hogwarts. And… I didn't like it all that much. Fortunately, there were also The Sims, so I didn't have to worry too much. So, where were we...? Ah yes, Harry Potter.
Although I never returned to this series after that brief encounter, I ocassionaly still get the urge to buy all these games and max them out. Maybe one day. And not at all for the history, which I already know, nor out of curiosity, because I expect these games to have gotten old as badly as it gets. I would love to feel that excitement of an unknown, fascinating world retold anew. After the reading books, watching the movies and playing the LEGO games, this is my last missing horcrux of the soul of Harry Potter's universe. A universe so deeply rooted in my childhood, and evoking such strong emotions that I am ready to hold this moment off until retirement, so as not to waste it. I think all potterheads understand what I'm talking about.
Electronic Arts published these games between 2001 and 2011, book after book (or rather, movie after movie), dividing the last installment into two parts, and adding the Quidditch World Cup between Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.
When I wrote "horcrux," I use full dark magic analogy. Overall, the series was just pretty average, and (in my opinion) it was mainly driven by the hype surrounding the perpetually filmed movies and widely read books. Adventure games full of puzzles, spells, elements of exploration, set in a magic school loved by the community, perfectly satisfied the fans' hunger for all things Potter. Those were the times when every child and teenager knew what house they would be in if they went to Hogwarts, knew the names of the actors playing Harry, Hermione and Ron, had at least one gadget with the characteristic lightning font, bought books on release day, and went to the cinema when movies premiered.
So, the huge community was ready to forgive EA a lot, which it also ascertained with their wallets – the first part remains the best-selling game from the universe so far. Players' ratings after the release of The Sorcerer's Stone flirted with the 80% mark, while critics scored it about 10 pp lower. With the second part, namely The Chamber of Secrets, both lots increased their ratings by 10 pp on average, and everything indicated that the fandom received a worthy, action-adventure extension of books and movies. However, from game to game, the scores kept falling, to finally collapse and crash on the merciless rocks of The Deathly Hollows Part 1 and then Part 2 – freezing at the level of around 4/10. Dramatically declining sales sealed this failure.
Around this time, before the double final chapter, Electronic Arts decided to shift the focus from adventure to combat. It takes basic knowledge of the story of these installments (such as: it ends in a great battle) to realize this wasn't a baseless decision. However, along the way, between turning the game into an FPS and dividing the adventure in half, something clearly went wrong. Just read the sample reviews on metacritic. Here's my favorite, published in the Czech Republic by the LEVEL magazine (Rating 3/10, issue No. 199):
Grievous and almost unplayable attempt to create an action shooter has ended in a disaster. Spit to the faces of Potter fans and all gamers which deserve just this: Avada Kedavra.
I'd love to read the full review. An initially promising series of games published by EA met its doom; in the worst way possible, leaving a bad taste after what – it would seem – just couldn't go wrong in the midst of the greatest Harry Potter craze that's ever been.
Enter the LEGO series. This was a return, because the first game, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter, was released already in 2001. While writing this article, I watched the gameplay and realized that I had played it, too – just completely forgot I did – which should give you an idea of what this game was like. We just built a magical LEGO-world in very limited limited way, curbed by all the tech constraints of the early 2000s, coming with a negligible level of difficulty. A year later came the sequel, Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
In 2010, just months before the ill-fated The Deathly Hollows Part 1, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 launched. One year later – Years 5-7. Now, you don't have to agree, but for me, these will forever be the best HP games ever made. And the reviews confirm it! The only major downside was that all these years were not released as separate games. Also, as these titles are almost 15 years-old, it's difficult to compare them with more modern LEGO productions. However, their prowess is such that even with the limited camera work, non-intuitive mechanics of flying brooms, or inconvenient spell selection on game pads, the gameplay set in a huge, open world full of puzzles and the iconic atmosphere make it an experience to remember (I recently retried it, and fun was indeed had).
The humor, our favorite characters, the atmospheric soundtrack, a world that encourages exploration in the free mode – all these factors and more have made these games synonymous with Harry Potter games. And in 2016, they were remastered.
If I sound like I'm not entirely objective, that's because it's true. Give me one game that I would like to play again for the first time the most, and I would go with LEGO Harry Potter. Preferably both installments. Just to feel the Potter nostalgia again and regain this taste of the Unknown in a thoroughly familiar universe.
Intermission – section of forgotten games
In 2012, Harry Potter was released for Microsoft's Kinect. A month later, owners of PlayStation Eye and PS Move could learn magic in Book of Spells, and a year later – in Book of Potions. However, none of the three allowed playing as our favorite characters. Because of the peculiar platforms they launched on, they had a hard time breaking through to the general awareness of players around the world, which doesn't mean, of course, that they didn't have their fans.
Where are we at today?
In 2017, Warner Bros. studio decided to take matters into their own hands and founded the Portkey Games studio. Their achievements include only HP games: the mobile Harry Potter Puzzles and Spells (a magical version of Candy Crash Saga), Harry Potter Wizards Unite (a magical version of Pokemon GO, which has already became unavailable) and Hogwarts Mystery. In addition, the long-awaited Hogwarts Legacy and – also planned for this year – the Harry Potter Magic Awakened card game.
Hogwarts Legacy, which will have its premiere on February 10, will be the first "quality" game from the Harry Potter universe, though it will probably have absolutely nothing to do with the title wizard. Is the setting alone enough to make fans flock to the game? Everything indicates it is so. One thing is for sure – history shows that Harry Potter fans have waited more than enough for a decent game set in Hogwarts. And they will probably be ready to make many concessions again. Portkey Games, it is time to deliver!