The only thing more fun than playing video games is reading about them, and in the past few years, we've seen the number of game-specific books explode as players seek to learn more about the industry and writers strive to catalogue and analyse what has become one of the world's most popular forms of entertainment. It has gotten to the stage where we've amassed so many tomes at Nintendo Life Towers that we've decided to put together a handy guide to all of the very best books about games money can buy.
As a few of these books are part of wider (and ongoing) series, we've lumped some together in categories based on publisher or author – rest assured, however, we only do this when we're totally sure that each and every book in that range is worth a look. We've also updated this guide for 2019 with some new entries from the likes of Geeks Line, Bitmap Books and Read-Only Memory.
With that out of the way, let's turn the page, shall we?
The NES Encyclopedia
Penned by highly-respected UK games journalist and Nintendo Life contributor Chris Scullion, The NES Encyclopedia aims to catalogue every single game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Yes, Chris really is that crazy. But you know what? He's absolutely pulled it off and this book is the ultimate resource for anyone even the slightest bit interested in the massive NES library of games. Scullion knows when to lay on the knowledge and when to crack a joke, so it's a real joy to read, too.
Please note that some external links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.
Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection
This delightful release from Bitmap Books is a compendium of gorgeous cover artwork, all taken from Japanese Super Famicom releases. Each game's cover is shown via high-quality photography and is accompanied by a short description. This is the perfect coffee table book and a must for all Nintendo fans - especially those who grew up importing weird and wonderful games based purely on their covers alone.
Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History of Video Games
While there are some pretty weighty tomes available that try to exhaustively chart the entire history of the games industry, there's something to be said for a less-heavy approach – and that's exactly what erstwhile Nintendo Life scribe Mike Diver has done with this superb coffee table book. Packed with enlightening nuggets of info and loads and loads of lovely images, Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History of Video Games is the ideal way to quickly get yourself (or a loved one) up to speed on decades of games, systems and much, much more.
The Visual Compendium Collection
Published by Bitmap Books, the Visual Compendium series has covered significant home computers and consoles from gaming history and more recently has focused on the NES and SNES systems. Packed with screenshots, exclusive interviews and in-depth features, the series has become incredibly popular with retro gamers and collectors alike, and the Master System edition is the first to have official approval from a hardware manufacturer, with Sega coming on board to offer exclusive access to key developers.
Hardcore Gaming 101 Series
Hardcore Gaming 101 is one of the longest-running game history websites on the internet and its utterly invaluable analysis of classic games is a real godsend for players who want to brush up on the history of our beloved pastime. A while back the team behind the site decided to repackage some of its web content in the form of physical books, each one packed with text and imagery. The series has covered individual franchises - such as Castlevania - as well as genres, publishers and consoles, and each and every book is worth the asking price several times over. Exceptionally researched yet totally accessible, each and every volume is worthy of a place in your collection. Digital versions are also available.
This is my favorite gaming book: https://www.amazon.com/Okami-Official-Complete-Works-Capcom/dp/1897376022
Here's a video of someone flipping through it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sy5y1Jxy2Q
Absolutely beautiful. Sadly, mine isn't in the best condition after multiple moves and some neglect. Wish it would have been hardcover.
I wish they'd make a proper sequel to this game... so much wasted potential. Easily the best Zelda game that isn’t Zelda.
Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, Enslaved Your Children, Broke Families Apart, Killed Your Wallet, Destroyed All Your Hopes and Dreams, and Shrouded the World into Eternal Damnation.
I WANT ALL OF THESE! Also check out Fusion Retro books, if you're a European 8-bit / 16-bit home computer fan...
Guess quite a few of us still have copies of Game Over that came free with a Nintendo magazine back in the 'noughties in the UK. Was a special reprint but the full book. Great read.
Building up my own Hardcore Gaming 101 physical book collection. They feel almost 'home-made' rather than professional polish in terms of production quality, not a criticism. Gives them a 'for the fans by the fans' spirit. I've thoroughly enjoyed each one I have read so far and learnt so much. Really pleased to see these tomes get a shout-out.
I'd also recommend the various 'bookazine' specials that Retro Gamer magazine have put out. Alas, some are digital exclusives. Again, building up as many of the physical issues as I can.
That's awesome, soon we could be not allowed anymore to actually buy games but we could always buy books about games instead! I'm so deeply disgusted.
Excellent list. I love video game history. I have many of these books but am especially partial to the Bitmap books. HGC101 books are a great value as well.
They should make a book about Robbotto.
'An In-Depth Analysis of Wario Land 4' is a great read for people who are interested in game design
@LuckyLand Why won't we be able to buy games? I'm confused...
I recently read & enjoyed the comic "Tetris: The Games People Play" about the history of Tetris.
Ouch those prices for the Game over books in the US a little beyond what i'd pay lol.
I just got Undisputed Street Fighter recently and I love it a lot! It's jam packed with information and the book is so well made. I also have Dynamite's other book in their gaming series, The Art Of Atari and I recommend that too!
@justin233 you should read more news about how much Nintendo and Miyamoto like subscription services then
I’d highly recommend the Bitmap books’, err, books.
The SFC box art collection is amazing, and started me collecting some SFC games, simply for their awesome boxes. The visual compendiums are also great too. I have the NES and SNES ones, I’m hoping they end up doing ones for the N64 and PS1, although the lack of pixel art might be an issue.
Speaking of N64, the N64 Anthology by Matt Manent is one of the best buys I’ve ever made. Such a well researched and detailed book, containing every single N64 game (I think). It’s amazing.
Final ramblings: strategy guides are great as well if you like the art for games or reading more about the backstory of a game. Piggyback probably do the best with their Authorised Collection range of books. I love the Official Nintendo Player’s guides too. Shame they stopped doing them during the Wii/DS generation.
Would like to drop a recommendation for Clyde Mandelin's Legends Of Localisation series https://www.fangamer.com/collections/legends-of-localization
He compares the Japanese versions of games to their translated counterparts and explains why some of the differences may exist (and wonders in bafflement at some of the more bizarre changes). Good read!
Fiction: Ready Player One. It's much better than the movie, though I really enjoyed the movie as well. It tries a bit too hard in places with the gaming references and obscure '80s trivia, but it's a good piece of dystopian literature.
Non-fiction: Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, by Jeff Ryan. It extensively covers Nintendo's long history, both high and low points, with an emphasis on the Super Mario series. It's a few years out of date, coming out in 2011, and I would have liked to read about the Wii U-3DS era. It did however accurately predict that a Nintendo theme park would one day be built.
Wow thats a lot. Of books! Anyone ever read the console wars which was the battle of the Genesis bs the Snes?? Great book! In fact I understood that one day it would be a movie as per Seth Rogan! 🤔
I would recommend game journalist Jeremy Parish's excellent "Game Boy World" books. He is on a mission to chronologically play and review every GB game released in Japan and the US, and at the same time going through the history of the console and its library. It has resulted in two wonderful volumes so far (available on Amazon). He also has a webpage and a Youtube channel where he publishes his reviews. Great stuff!
Don't really care for Pat the NES Punk, but his Ultimate Guide books are good. NES one already released, and the SNES one is out next year:
Nintendo Magic is a fun read that looks mostly at the Wii era of Nintendo, but also touches a bit on older projects like Game and Watch, and how those shaped the Wii's creation. It was published in Japan originally but it's available in English and certainly a recommended read.
European publisher Pix n' Love Publishing had a great series of books including a fun history of Mario book, and a couple History of Nintendo books with tons of pictures that looked at their earlier products from the past 100 and some years. Sadly it looks like all of their books are out of print right now? Their website mentions a History of Metroid is upcoming though.
Do you recommend the resident evil books? I've been wanting to pick them up for years.
High Score is in the top photo but not mentioned. Its a great visual reference to gaming now in its 3rd edition on Amazon as a digital version.
@LuckyLand I read the same article you probably did. You’re being dramatic.
I can recommend Console Wars with a caveat. It's a very interesting read, but it's written in the style of a novel. Not only would it have been better as a purely historical work, but the author is complete rubbish at the style he's chosen. (It's also not 100% reliable at the history it tries to tell.)
@Sakura7 I've got a copy but it came free with Arcade magazine. They were sort of going for a older gamer/lads mag vibe. I remember them having a load of pictures of Nell McAndrew in her undies on account of her being the new Lara Croft at the time. That's an irrelevant point I'm making but someone's gonna have a nice go on Google images now.
Them prices for Game Over are crazy but it's a great read. NES-era Nintendo was a brutal operation, stamping out anything resembling competition.
Console Wars is worth a read too. From a UK viewpoint where Sega were always ahead of Nintendo it's fascinating to see how much work they put in to overhaul the Big N.
The N64 Anthology is gorgeous as is the Gamecube Anthology from Geeksline I received last week.
excellent round up.... I'm gonna have to spin a wheel!
Really enjoyed the "ultimate history of video games " - very informative and easy to read. Lot of the info in other books seems more easily and freely accessible on the web though.
I just received "SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M)" by Brett Weiss. Excellent stuff there!
My other favorite might be "Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library (1985-1995)" by Pat Contri.
@Quarth Jeremy Parish's books are really good. I wholeheartedly recommend them.
No Family Computer 1983-1994? That's my most wanted book ever.
I recently picked up the Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive book volume 1! I am excited to see all these retro gaming books. Awesome stuff!😃👏
I've read parts of Console Wars and the way it's written makes it worse. Too much of a fanboy style to look past. Ironically, I think a book focusing on Tom Kalinske and his accomplishments and clashes with Sega Japan could be really great if written in a straightforward way without blatant bias.
I actually have the ROM Genesis book and the N64, PS1, and GCN anthologies on the way and I'm excited to go through them.
I'm still trying to get my hands on the rest of the Darkhorse Zelda trilogy, since the 2nd book was amazing. But some of these are quite intriguing as well.
@ryando yea you're right it was Arcade. Mag only ran for something like 24 issues but have all the issues. Yea there seemed to be Nell every issue but it was so much fun. They once had a massive article on non-Final Fantasy RPGs making me aware of really awesome obscure titles in those pre internet days.
@Aloth And the good part is: if you don't want to buy them, you can still take part of the reviews via Youtube.
@Sakura7 Yep, I do. Super Play or one of its Future relatives!
For Vita fans:
If you want a well written book on the history of Sega it exists. Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA: Enhanced Edition By By Sam Pettus. Suprised it's not mentioned here. Factually correct and compelling. It makes a perfect companion to Game Over. Much better than the oddly written Console Wars. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Service-Games-Rise-Fall-Enhanced/dp/1494288354/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535059070&sr=8-1&keywords=service+games
This is fantastic. Thanks for introducing me to all of these.
Regarding “Console Wars”, just a fore warning that the book is heavily dramatised and many Amazon reviewers (correctly in my view) were left with the impression that the author has produced something closer to a script to a movie than perhaps a book that sticks strictly to fact. In particular there’s a number of dramatic conversations that are played out that almost certainly didn’t happen in the way it was put to page.
It’s an ok read, but it wasn’t particularly my style. The book also felt like it was trying to paint Sega as good guys and Nintendo as the big baddies (again with the dramatisation) in what was really a more grey scenario, so to that end the book came off as heavily biased.
Might still be worth a read, just keep in mind it feels at times like a novel more so than the non-fiction book one may expect going in.
I do highly recommend Masters of Doom also. Just wish it covered even more of that history...the books quite old at this point. Would have loved for it to go past the Quake 2 engine works more and to get perspective on online only Quake 3 (don’t think it was covered) as well as Epics ascent to the powerhouse in terms of FPS engines and how that relates to John Carmacks disinterest in creating tool sets for third parties.
Probably room for a sequel covering lower points like Quake 4, Quake Wars, Rage and then the resurgence that was Doom 2016. That and the Bethesda acquisition.
@justin233 Okami is one of my favorite games of all time! I'm so grateful that I managed to pick up the Official Complete works back in September of last year. I had a gut feeling that the price of the artbook would spike along side the rerelease of the game so I got it around $32.
Turns out I was right to worry because now it current goes for around $78 on amazon us.
@Oat Lucky us! I LOVE this game... like maybe more than any Zelda. I bought my copy of the book way back in the Wii years.
@Lroy Do you have the Castlevania one? I’m considering getting it if it’s good.
Game Over is also available for Kindle (in the US at least): https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0060AY98I/
I really enjoyed "Blood, Sweat and Pixels", about recent AAA game development, by Jason Shreier of Kotaku fame.
Actually, now I recall the most interesting parts of said book were about less-than-AAA development (Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley).
Would love to read all of these! Undisputed Street Fighter is great.
Man, my books never make these lists! I guess I'm kind of underground...
@justin233 I love Okami so much (it's better than Breath of the Wild in my honest opinion). I had been putting off getting the artbook for years but finally decided to last year when the price dropped a bit.
@thesubcon3 Positively criminal. Your Complete SNES is essential. My early 90's book "The Good, The Bad, and the Bogus" wasn't included either. Shame
@Robzilla I don't have that one yet but fully intend to buy it further down the line.
I'm sorry, but David Sheff's "Game Over" most definitely does NOT "fetch a handsome price on the secondary market", it runs about $4 for a copy of ANY printing. You guys don't buy used books very much, do you?
The Bitmap Brothers book from RoM is also excellent book!
And I bought when I saw the review here
I would also reccomend 1001 games you need to play before you die!
And also the Geeks Line game books:
The PlayStation Anthology, The N64 Anthology and The Gamecube Anthology!
@thesubcon3 we just need to keep spreading the word, you do great work!
I wrote a moderately well received video game book once. Recently, I co-authored a new book - Hardcore Gaming 101 book fans with a taste for horror should keep an eye out for it.
I was disappointed to see that my book, the 800+ page Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry, was not included either. The first edition of Phoenix was the first-ever comprehensive book on videogame history ever written. And the third edition was named by Game Informer as the #2 videogame book of all time.
Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry https://www.amazon.com/dp/1539031292/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_WwrGBb9NH2EK2
@justin233 Yeah. LuckyLand is being so dramatic, it's laughable to see him act this way.
Worlds of Power Ninja Gaiden was one of my favorites as a kid. Hell, I would love to own a copy now as an adult just to see if it holds up well.
Got the SNES / Super Famicom visual compendium and Super Famicom Box Art Collection for Christmas, and they're ... alright. Some nice visuals. Not a patch on the ROM Mega Drive book, which is one of the best books I ever bought.
I usually get Prima books but since they are going out of business that is a shame though....
You list all these books and forget the greatest of them all the Neo Geo Visual History.
"The Game Console: A Photographic History from Atari to Xbox" is a great coffee table book with loads of high quality photos of classic and current consoles. It's a great study for how the technology and aesthetics
Also The Boss Fight Books Series is a great collections of essays and reflections on individual games. I particularly enjoyed the ones for Earthbound and Bible Adventures.
Woah I own a copy of Game Over, had no idea it fetched so much...it is the cheapest version though unfortunately after checking, so really not that great...still cool though
Amazon affiliated links. Yay?
Do the books come with all the pages on the inside? With those code-in-a-box games around you can never be sure, you know
@justin233 I hope you have affiliate links for those.
Me: Mmkay, you have plenty of unread books. No more books for awhile!
Also Me: Clicks into article about books with affiliate links Crap....
No Pat Contri? The Ultimate Guide to the NES Library is fantastic
Also I can't recommend Game Over and Console Wars enough
So far this year the best ones have been the non-art-based books like..
Masters of Doom, Dungeon Hacks, The Micro Kids, and Ready Player One
List is meaningless as you didn't include Nerd Cubed's new book.
Special mention to NBA Jam - The Book which literally just came out!
I still stand by my comment, #20.
I find Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Blackbeard: The Lost Journal to be an excellent addition to any book collection. Clocking in at 147 pages of interesting journal entries and beautiful artwork, definitely worth a pickup for fans of the series.
Still ignoring Pat Contri's book I see. His SNES book comes out this month. Please don't ignore that one.
I would love to see a similar article about art books! Lots of obscure yet amazing art books could be highlighted.
Some awesome looking books here. I own Scully's NES Encyclopedia and would heartily reccomend to anyone with even a passing interest. Meticulously researched and full of his hilariously dry humour
This is really a nice feature! I'm a huge fan of the hardcore gaming 101 books and website, even though they leave out some of my favorites! Why isn't one of the wipEout games mentioned somewhere in the 200 best games book?! wipEout HD and Omega collection are incredible racing games! I can see why they put F-Zero games above wipEout games, but at least mention wipEout HD.
Thanks for the broad coverage of game books!
@Pazuzu666 I can't see anything wrong with that.
Console wars was a great read folks! Now where’s the movie Rogan??
This is the second time you've printed the same line about Game Over "fetching a handsome price on the secondhand market". It's still not true. Amazon is not how you look for secondhand books. Try this:
It's four dollars with free shipping (US).
Glad to see the excellent Chris Scullion's superb NES encyclopedia top of the list. Well worth it!
Guys, check out this fab nostalgic read!
The Micro Kids: An 80s Adventure
Everything by Bitmap Books (although I haven't quite got over the lack of the Wonder Boy games in the Master System Visual Compendium).
@Euler I will second your recommendation of Super Mario. It was interesting to hear how Nintendo started in the industry, and I would second that I wish he would do a followup to it.
If anyone didn't know, Pat Contri (a.k.a., Pat the NES Punk) wrote a couple himself, one for the NES and one for the SNES.
I thought this was the best fictional books based off of video games.
IDK if these count but I adore these
Surprised to see Schriers book missing from this list. Another must read in my opinion, although that covers specific games opposed to entire console libraries. Also the Boss Fight books series have some fantastic deep dives into various games/series
Tobias Bjarneby is a game journalist from Sweden (the best according to me) and he and another guy called Mattias Frost Karlsson wrote a nice book in Swedish called "8 bitar" (8 bits). http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22173227-8-bitar
Tap here to load 92 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...