Even today, almost a century after The Hobbit's first publication, JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth setting is still going strong. In particular, The Lord of the Rings remains a name to be reckoned with in the fantasy realm, and creators and businesses alike are still mining it for inspiration to this day. FromSoftware and fantasy author GRR Martin's Elden Ring is taking clear Lord of the Rings inspiration, and Amazon has been preparing a Lord of the Rings television show set slightly before the famous movie and book trilogy. LotR products and influence exist in every direction one looks, and they show no signs of slowing their march.
Even within its massive legacy, The Lord of the Rings has a long history of video game adaptations. Numerous games for many consoles have been inspired by Tolkien's works, dating all the way back to a text adventure Hobbit game in the early '80s. These days, when one thinks about Lord of the Rings games, their mind goes to the Warner Bros. published titles Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, two stealth-action open-world games well-known for their innovative Nemesis system. An up-to-date fan would also recall that a Gollum-focused title is on its way. However, older fans may have much more nostalgic fondness for the old Xbox and PlayStation 2 movie tie-ins, which stand head and shoulders above many other movie games.
The Lord of the Rings Had Some Impressive Movie Games
When speaking of the impressiveness of the old Lord of the Rings licensed games for sixth-generation consoles, most people go straight to Electronic Arts' adaptations of The Two Towers and The Return of the King. These games are both hack-and-slash titles adapting elements from their respective films—and not their source novels. This is due to Vivendi Universal Games, in partnership with Tolkien Enterprises, being the then-rights holder to the video game adaptations of Tolkien's literary works, while EA held the rights to the video game adaptations of the New Line Cinema films. Still, these games worked with what they had and even included some of the first "seamless" transitions (by 2002 and 2003 standards) between movie footage and gameplay.
Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring game, which only came out a month before EA's Two Towers adaptation, was a lot less well-received. Setting the two beside each other, it is immediately apparent that the WXP-developed Fellowship looked worse. It also didn't play as well as its two PS2 successors, garnering many more complaints about shallow and repetitive combat than they. Although Fellowship of the Ring was a financial success, selling over one million copies, both of EA's games sold millions more, and a Vivendi-published sequel to Fellowship was canceled a year after the first game's release. The Fellowship of the Ring stands as the standard mediocre movie tie-in game (even though it's actually a book tie-in), while The Two Towers and The Return of the King soared to greater heights. Still, they do form a complete movie trilogy game adaptation and are probably the most impressive one out there.
The Lord of the Rings Movie Games Could Use Some Polish
Because of that, The Lord of the Rings games deserve a remaster just as a few other licensed games do. Better framerates and resolutions are just the start, though these old games could certainly use them. Their textures could also use some improvements. Fellowship of the Ring in particular is in dire need of a facelift, as it wasn't terribly good-looking even at the time, but they could all benefit. Indeed, because The Two Towers and The Return of the King sold themselves as having seamless transitions between movie clips and gameplay, both sides of the equation need improvements. The player character models should be re-done in a way similar to those in the recent Final Fantasy 8 Remastered release, and higher quality versions of clips should be inserted. That way, some of the feelings these games were going for can be maintained.
The gameplay itself could also use some polishing up. It's a major ask for new control schemes to be added into such old games, but Two Towers and Return of the King don't need any. It's Fellowship of the Ring that could do with taking some lessons from the other games. Considering that it is an action-adventure title instead of a hack-and-slash, it has its own strengths, but perhaps some equivalent to the fantastic parrying mechanic in the EA games could be backported. Otherwise, anything that can make these games as smooth as possible to play should be implemented. And most importantly, The Return of the King's co-op play should be maintained. If it can be expanded to include online play and levels that did not initially support more than one player, all the better.
It's The Perfect Time for More Lord of the Rings
One of the biggest reasons fans would want these games in a remastered collection is to have them available on modern consoles again. Fellowship got a Windows port a few months after its console launch, and The Return of the King had a Windows skew immediately, but those came long enough ago that modern computers may have trouble running them. The Two Towers and The Return of the King are hidden gems, and while Fellowship has the potential to be boring for some, its massive amount of voice acting and attention to accurate adaptation is quite impressive.
These games would be the perfect cherry on top of the multimedia renaissance Middle-earth is going through right now. Once Amazon's The Lord of the Rings show and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum come out in 2022, people will be clamoring for Lord of the Rings once again. The only real issue is that one company or another would need to secure the rights to actually re-release these games, and EA may not be inclined to cooperate. Still, the fans can always hope that these interesting pieces of The Lord of the Rings' past can return in the modern age.