The Ultimate History of Video Games
'Exhaustive' is a word often used incorrectly to describe books which try and chart the entire history of video gaming, but it certainly applies to gaming historian Steven L. Kent's seminal work. One of the most quoted books on video games, this really does cover everything; from exclusive interviews to detailed research, Kent hits all the right notes to present a full-bodied narrative of video gaming's genesis, referencing companies such as Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Namco, Electronic Arts and many more besides. If you want to learn as much about gaming as possible from a single book, this is a solid choice.
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If you're keen on reading about the epic battle between Sega and Nintendo, then Blake J. Harris' 2014 book Console Wars sits alongside David Sheff's Game Over as an essential look at this amazing period in video game history. Harris speaks to the people who made it happen - most notably Sega CEO Tom Kalinske, who is the focal point of the book's novel-like narrative - to document the stunning rise and fall of Sega. The beginning of the tale sees the company struggling in the shadow of Nintendo, before releasing the Genesis and - thanks to Kalinske's canny leadership and the incredible talent of the team he assembled at Sega of America - beating Nintendo in the US. It's a story of ups and downs which is superbly retold by Harris; Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg plan to make a movie based on it.
Oh, and while we're here, Harris' second book is well worth a look too; it's a detailed account of how VR rose from the dead thanks to the efforts of Oculus, and has all the twists and turns of a spy novel. It's a doozy.
Dark Souls: Beyond the Grave Volume 1
This incredibly detailed breakdown of Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 is the perfect companion piece to Dark Souls: Remastered. Not only does it catalogue the creation and development of these cult titles, it also picks apart in painstaking detail the lore, settings and characters which make them so appealing. The lack of imagery is a bit of a disappointment (this isn't an official publication) but the knowledge contained within more than makes up for that.
On The Origin Of Pokémon: Kanto Edition
Recently funded via Kickstarter, On The Origin: Kanto Edition is an unofficial guide which aims to show the influences and inspirations behind each and every Generation 1 Pokémon. As well as showcasing original artwork, the book links in each 'mon with the myths and legends which inspired them – as well as making the connection with real-world beasts. It's a fascinating look at some of the gaming world's most recognisable characters and feels every inch like an official publication – which is about the highest praise we could possibly offer.
The Sega Arcade Revolution
Given how small the arcade sector is these days, it's easy to forget how influential companies like Sega were during the gold rush of the '80s, where titles like After Burner, OutRun, Space Harrier and Golden Axe guzzled spare change like there was no tomorrow. Ken Horowitz does a fantastic job of charting Sega's arcade history, beginning with its origins as a company shipping mechanical amusement machines to US military bases right up to the bitter end, when the company merged with Sammy and its arcade fortunes took a backseat to third-party publishing. Horowitz focuses on 62 seminal coin-op releases from Sega's history which outline how the industry evolved; if you've recently enjoyed the amazing Sega 3D Classics line on the 3DS, this will certainly be of interest.