No-one quite expected Harry Potter to become such a phenomenon. J.K. Rowling certainly didn’t, but look at her now. None of her doubters sitting at home can attest to being the world’s first billionaire author. The series has spawned seven books, eight films and a multitude of video games. It’s the latter that we’re interested in here. Everyone has their favorite book or movie, but which of Harry Potter’s various games comes out on top? With so many to choose from, there’s no time like the present…
The Deathly Hallows – Part Two
By the time the series’ final game was released, the graphics might have been at an all-time high, but the gameplay certainly wasn’t. Gone are the in-depth exploration elements that make the earlier titles so enticing to play. Now, Harry Potter is nothing more than a third-person shooter game. There’s always been an element of casting spells to fight back against enemies, but it’s usually taken a back seat to everything else. Here, you can’t go five minutes without being bombarded by death eaters. We understand why, especially given how the stories have progressed over the years. You can’t spend your time lazily wandering around Hogwarts when most of the final book/film is spent away from the magical school. However, the shooter aspect of this game feels out of place in the franchise. If we wanted to go around taking down enemies all the time, we’d put on something like “Call of Duty” instead.
The Deathly Hallows – Part One
Much like its successor, “The Deathly Hallows – Part One” is more of a third-person shooter than anything else. The soundtrack is immersive and the visuals relatively pleasing, but the change of pace in the later books/films effectively ruins the games. The charm and magic that was once everywhere you looked is now gone, replaced by repetitive quests that involve battling an insane amount of enemies. Despite being a shooter game, a lot of the focus in “The Deathly Hallows – Part One” seems to be about telling a story. The narration is constant to the point of being intrusive, but the story it’s creating is sometimes only loosely connected to the one from the book/film. The end result is something that seems confused at the best of times and has us wishing that the series had ended several games ago.
The Half-Blood Prince
Not a lot seems to happen in “The Half-Blood Prince” film, and that translates into the video game adaptation too. Following a similar structure to “The Order of the Phoenix,” this game takes what its predecessor does well and fails to go anywhere with it. The exploration aspect is still great, but the collection of mini shields is more laborious than it was in the previous game. Plus, the minigames in this title – particularly the potion making – are a lot more frustrating. It turns out that making a good potion isn’t as easy as it looks. Of course, things aren’t all bad. You get to walk around casting your available spells on people, and the cast from the movie voice a lot of the characters. As Harry Potter games go, this one definitely felt the most authentic (at the time of release), but it ultimately comes across as a bit of a letdown. We won’t be rushing to return to this one anytime soon.
The Goblet of Fire
If there’s any video game in the Harry Potter franchise that sticks out from the rest, it’s the PS2 release of “The Goblet of Fire.” After three games that became increasingly explorative, the developers here decided to move away from the free-roaming aspect to something more level-based. Rather than being able to explore Hogwarts however you wish, you’re now restricted to a select handful of levels based around some of the book/film’s major plot points. Although “The Goblet of Fire” doesn’t do anything particularly bad in its format, the change of pace is a disappointment for a series that was getting increasingly better. However, the addition of multiplayer is a positive aspect for this game, as is the rich variety of spells available. While the levels might be quick to advance through, the need to collect Triwizard shields gives you a reason to replay them several times with different results. Unfortunately, this contributes to the game becoming rather tiresome quite quickly.
The Sorcerer’s Stone
We expect “The Sorcerer’s Stone” would look incredibly different if it were released as a video game now. Back in 2001, the industry was still getting used to video game graphics, and it shows. However, this game looked pretty revolutionary when we booted it up on our PS1 for the first time all those years ago. Loosely following the narrative of the book/film, “The Sorcerer’s Stone” establishes a lot of the basics for the earlier games in the franchise. You collect Bertie Botts beans and wizard cards, with many of your actions either earning or losing you house points. You get to play Quidditch, attend classes and learn spells, all while working your way towards the final battle against Professor Quirrell. Despite being a kid’s game, this first title is surprisingly dark, with a lot of the action mildly terrifying. Even now we’re still unsettled by the gargoyle coming to life and the cackling eyes jinxed by Peeves. Nothing is worse than some of the rooms beneath the trapdoor though. You’ve never felt pressure until you’ve had to levitate objects out of the way of a sleepwalking troll. At least we learned how to play chess down there, though.
The Chamber of Secrets
Things stepped up massively for the Harry Potter video games when it came to “The Chamber of Secrets.” The PS2 version of the game introduces a much more connected world compared to its predecessor, with Hogwarts castle looking and feeling more like the real (even though it’s technically not real) thing. There are more places to explore, things to collect, and opportunities to get in trouble. The prefects in this game seriously don’t let up. We get more scared of being chased by them than taking on the Basilisk. The lessons in “The Chamber of Secrets” are a particular highlight, especially given they only involved button presses in the previous game. The quests you go on to find spellbooks are reminiscent of the dungeons in some “The Legend of Zelda” titles, combining puzzles and combat in an incredibly effective way. They might be a bit dangerous for a 12-year-old student to take on, but that’s beside the point. If fighting enemies aren’t your thing though, just exploit the ability to fly around outside using your broomstick. You’ll be amazed at how relaxing it is to zoom around Hogwarts while you avoid the storyline completely.
Lego Harry Potter
Plenty of franchises have received the Lego treatment over the years, and Harry Potter is no different. In 2010 and 2011, “Years 1-4” and “Year 5-7” were respectively released to great acclaim. It captures the magic and heart of the Harry Potter universe with the playfulness of lego, and we can’t quite believe how amazing the games actually are. With so many different characters to unlock, you have the freedom to explore Hogwarts as whoever you want – even Voldemort. There’s so much to do and see in the overworld that isn’t even part of the storyline, but it’s just as enjoyable to play. However, the levels themselves are incredibly well-thought out and keep in line with the narrative of every individual book/film. There’s even a need to replay them all multiple times because specific actions require spells and characters you don’t have the first time around. As Lego games go, this truly is one of the best out there.
The Order of the Phoenix
Following “The Goblet of Fire’s” drastic change to the format, “The Order of the Phoenix” takes things back to how they’d been before. However, it does so to a degree that we weren’t expecting. Gone are the annoying loading times between rooms and the potential capture by prefects – now we have a fully fleshed out Hogwarts that is free for us to roam around in. The focus of the fifth game is largely on collectibles. You use magic on things to earn discovery points, which in turn unlock bonuses for Moaning Myrtle’s “secret” room. From games of chess and gobstones to mopping up puddles around the school, the amount of things on offer seems endless. Plus, with so many character quests available throughout the game, you’re never short of things to do. The only major letdowns are the awkwardness of controls when using spells, particularly on the Nintendo Wii version, and the length of time some of the actions take. We can’t think of any other game where sidling along a ledge takes as long as it does here.
The Prisoner of Azkaban
For us, there’s no game greater than “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” It takes everything that “The Chamber of Secrets” brought to the table and improves on it dramatically. The graphics are vastly superior, the storyline more engaging, and the spells amazingly fun to cast. If you don’t spend ages using glacius on your friends and turning them blue, what are you doing with your life? “The Prisoner of Azkaban” introduces the possibility to play as not just Harry, but Ron and Hermione too. Both of these characters have individual discovery quests that aid towards your completion of the game, and they each come with their own abilities. Ron is able to identify walls which can be manipulated, although when it comes to Buckbeak, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Yes, that’s right, you can fly Buckbeak in this game. Doesn’t that beat flying around on a broomstick? Picking between this game and “The Order of the Phoenix” wasn’t easy, but “The Prisoner of Azkaban” wins out for its use of combat. The exploring element is amazing, especially without loading screens, but a Harry Potter game without at least some enemies to fight doesn’t feel right.
There you have it – the ultimate ranking of the Harry Potter video games. We know some of our choices might not sit right with you, but we’re confident we made the right decision. The entirety of our younger years was spent binging on these games, so we think we know what we’re talking about.