Ever since Frodo Baggins lucked his way into inheriting a cursed piece of jewelry, The Lord of the Rings has been prime material for video game adaptations. The majority of these games have been based on the Peter Jackson-directed film trilogy, with The Hobbit prequels also getting time to shine on various platforms. Some of these games have been great tie-ins to terrific films, others have been about as fun to play as tag with a Nazgul.
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But in the fires of Mount GameSpot, we’ve found the best Lord of the Rings games. These are our picks for the 10 most preciousss games of Middle-earth. We think all of these are worth playing even today, but there have definitely been some clunkers in The Lord of the Rings franchise. Here’s to hoping that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is good enough to join this list when it releases in September.
1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
The third time was the charm, as Return of the King nailed a perfect balance between action, adventure, and cutting-edge visuals for its time. With some proper star power cycled into the mix–yes that really is Sir Ian McKellen voicing Gandalf–Return of the King helped end the LOTR film and video game trilogy with a gigantic bang in 2003.
2. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
The Fellowship of the Ring’s tie-in game was largely seen as middling, but for the sequel, The Two Towers massively improved on its predecessor to create a more enjoyable journey. It wasn’t perfect, but a competent combat system, great voice-acting, and impressive graphics made the middle-child of the LOTR saga surprisingly memorable.
Read our The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers review.
3. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
An original tale set in the wastelands of Middle-earth, Shadow of Mordor’s claim to fame was its brilliant Nemesis System, which created a dynamic choice-based system that altered the world around you based on your actions. The combat was magnificent, bending wild beasts to your will so that you could have an army on standby was great, and going after an Orc that had been a thorn in your side made Monolith’s first foray in Tolkien territory an instant-classic.
Read our Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor review.
4. Lego Lord of the RIngs
There are three constants in life: Taxes, death, and Lego adapting a film property into a quirky game that features plenty of brick-busting action. Lego Lord of the Rings didn’t stray away from its successful formula, as this adaptation kept the film plot beats intact and added a wholesome layer of goofy charm to the adventures of the Fellowship.
Read our Lego Lord of the Rings review.
5. The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth
Whether it was the battle of Helm’s Deep or the clash on the Pellenor Fields, Lord of the Rings has always had some of the best large-scale warfare that was begging for a real-time strategy adaptation. Battle for Middle-earth largely succeeded at bringing those conflicts to life, with systems and ideas that would later be used in its sequel.
Read our Battle for Middle-earth review.
6. The Lord of the Rings Online
In an age where MMOs were more popular and varied than ever, it only made sense that Lord of the Rings should join that scene. Rewarding in the character development department and absolutely grand in the number of locations that could be visited, LOTR Online created a magical experience for fans who logged into the Middle-earth servers. 15 years later, LOTR Online still has an accurate title, as it’s still available to play online.
Read our Lord of the Rings Online review.
7. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
While Shadow of Mordor was a tight and compact sandbox, Shadow of War presented a much larger and epic world to explore while expanding on everything that made the original game so beloved. The Nemesis system made your personal antagonist deadlier than ever, combat was stylish, and the ability to wage actual large-scale war while expanding your territory added some interesting wrinkles to the gameplay loop.
Read our Middle-earth: Shadow of War review.
8. The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
What if Final Fantasy X was given a Lord of the Rings makeover? You’d get The Third Age, a fun and competent role-playing game from 2004. Loosely adapting the film trilogy, The Third Age looked great and functioned as an entry-level RPG that younger fans of the films could easily dive into.
Read our Lord of the Rings: The Third Age review.
9. Lego The Hobbit
A compilation of the first two Hobbit films, this Lego game tie-in pretty much stuck to its strengths. It was goofy, charming, and squarely aimed at kids and fans who’d appreciate the more slapstick take on the beloved Lord of the Rings characters.
Read our Lego: The Hobbit review.
10. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
With Lord of the Rings readying a return to cinemas with 2012’s The Hobbit adaptation, War in the North took advantage of that buzz to craft an original Middle-earth tale. A reliable adventure, War in the North might not have been game of the year material but its rock-solid combat, polished controls, and surprisingly great co-op made it comfort food for a few weekends.