If anyone has ever told you to read a book once in a while instead of playing video games non stop, then this list of the best gaming books should scratch your gaming itch while keeping your parent, partner, or brain happy.
But do we ever stop to think about all of the work that went into making our favourite games?
The answer for most people, including myself, is probably not. Once we get stuck into LylatWars or begin button-mashing our way through King of Fighters, we can’t help but get lost in the moment.
That’s where the best gaming books come in. They open up a-whole-nother side of gaming, an insight into the minds of the developers that make the games that have defined our lives.
Table of Contents
1. A Handheld History
Firstly, the accolade of the best gaming book goes to our very own book; A Handheld History!
Yes, Retro Dodo’s new book A Handheld History has received some incredible love over the past few months. We hit our crowdfunding target of reaching $24K in one month in less than 23 hours, a phenomenal feat made possible by you, the Retro Dodo reader and the wider retro gaming world!
From the very first musings of Gunpei Yokoi to the best retro handhelds dropping today, A Handheld History tells the story of the gaming world and how the handheld console came to be as well as what makes it so popular in today’s world.
Take a trip back in time to playing Pokemon Red in bed, Harry Potter on the GBA with a worm light, and the data where AA batteries were more important than remembering your mum’s birthday.
Ok, so I know we’re biased, but look how good the book has turned out too. We’ve worked with some incredible creatives in the field including Jason Bradbury, Mike Driver, and Larry Bundy Jr, bringing you expert opinion, exciting info, and retro gaming goodness no matter where you are.\
We are also shipping a second book in the series which can be pre-ordered here.
2. Game Boy: The Box Art Collection
Next up on our list of the best gaming books is Gameboy: The Box Art Collection from the genius minds over at Bitmap Books.
You’re going to be seeing that name a lot as we go through this article, as Bitmap Books have some of the most stunning gaming compendiums that we’ve ever seen!
Whether you’re a hardcore Game Boy fan or are new to the world of Nintendo, this book will give you everything you need to know about the handheld that defined a generation, and indeed an industry!
With perfectly captured images of the box art that kickstarted the handheld gaming industry and detailed information on the games and characters that have made Nintendo a household name, this collection provides a spellbinding journey into the history of video gaming from the very first page.
Bitmap Books have even gone the extra mile and professionally translated the titles of the Japanese games in this collection into Romaji, something that we’ve never seen in any compendium before now.
At 372 pages long and with a silver protective cover, this is one of the best gaming books we’ve ever come across. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy receiving this as a gift!
3. PACMAN: Birth of an Icon
If you loving playing the best PACMAN games, and have fond memories of the every so nostalgic wacka-wacka noise from the classic arcades, then this book is for you.
Created by Cook & Becker this book is designed to take you back through the past, and dive deep into how PACMAN was birthed, who was behind the yellow ball, and how it changed the game for game developers.
“Full of historical imagery, concept designs, marketing photos and more, the book examines the game’s design philosophy and origins through the artists, designers, developers, and other creative teams who brought PAC-MAN to life”.cook & becker
What I love about this book is that it has been designed with art and research at its forefront. Not only do you have an endless supply of information but also impressive art pieces that merge perfectly with the book across hundreds of pages.
It also comes in a limited edition variant that come with a storage case, a collectors coin and a vinyl, how cool!
4. The GameCube Anthology
My GameCube game collection is huge; I had to buy another console when I was a kid because I burnt the motor in the disc drive out!
It’s safe to say that it’s one of my favourite consoles of all time, and The GameCube Anthology tells me everything I could ever possibly want to know about the portable powerhouse that brought me and my mates so much joy.
This book covers everything from the hardware that made the GameCube tick, right down to the collectables and peripherals that helped to bring gamers from all over the world into the Nintendo-fold.
The GameCube Anthology also presents all 627 titles for this epic machine, including key facts about all the best GameCube games and the ones that fell by the wayside, rating them all out of 5 and giving key facts and figures about release dates, genres, and developers!
We might even see the GameCube Mini in a future update!
5. The Art Of Point And Click Adventure Games – Bitmap Books
Next up on our list of the best gaming books is ‘The Art of Point and Click Adventure Games’, a stunning look into the artwork that made these story-based titles so enthralling and exciting.
If you’re looking for a coffee table book to fool people into thinking you’re a fan of art and not a gaming fanatic, then this is the one for you.
With over 540 pages of pixel-art goodness from all of the games that defined this genre, this hardback, sewn-binded book is a real showstopper.
Take an in-depth look at classic titles such as Myst, Full Throttle, Flight of the Amazon Queen, The Secret Of Monkey Island, and many more incredible games.
The Art of Point and Click Adventure Games also has 50 extensive and inclusive interviews with some of the brilliant minds who helped to turn each of these games from a dream into a reality.
It’s a must have for any designer/developers in training out there and a great go-to book for a bit of gaming inspiration on a rainy afternoon.
6. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games
Few books give as detailed an insight into the world of video game production as Blood, Sweat, and Pixels.
Jason Schreier’s writing is both humorous and intriguing, offering up a true tale of the ‘overworked underdogs’ and tech-wizard geniuses behind some of the most popular titles in the history of video gaming.
From classics such as Stardew Valley right through to modern-day games such as Destiny, Uncharted 4, and The Witcher 3, Jason documents true accounts from the people that worked on the games and the battles they had to fight along the way.
Expect K.O hammers disrupting proceedings and titles that almost ripped companies apart in this national bestselling book.
Sometimes the truth hurts!
7. Retro Gaming – A Byte-sized History
Of Video Games
Up next on our list of the best gaming books is Retro Gaming – A Byte-sized History
Of Video Games, another personal favourite of mine that is jam-packed full of facts and interesting information for the nostalgic gamer.
This incredible book covers the complete A to Z of video gaming through the ages…
… so ‘Atari to Zelda’ or ‘Asteroids to Zoo-Cube’, for example!
This self-described ‘compact, comprehensive compendium’ is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the best retro gaming facts.
Relive the exciting highs of your favourite games, laugh or cry at the lows and the ‘could have beens’, and discover some hidden gems that you may never have heard of along the way.
Expect references to Sonic, Link, Jumpan, Keith Courage, and all of the gaming greats. And with over 40 years of gaming crammed inside these pages, you’ll find it incredibly hard to put down.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia
Those of you that have read my articles before will know how much of a Zelda-nerd I am.
Hyrule Historia is one of the best reference books of any game that I have ever bought, and it’s crammed full of lore, character sketches, and information about the ‘Hero of Time’ timeline.
In short; if you know your Skulltulas from your Tektites and can strike a bargain with a Deku Scrub, then this is the book for you.
I can just sit and flick through this book for hours. From the early days of Hyrule right through to an in-depth look at Skyward Sword, Hyrule Histora gives fans a chance to see how their favourite green-garbed hero has developed over the years.
It’s a chance to relive some of the best moments from the franchise and to experience some new comic-book-stye adventures too!
Oh, and it was written and compiled by Shigeru Miyamoto himself too!
9. Women In Gaming: 100 Professionals Of Play
In Jason Schrier’s book ‘Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, he makes the following observations about gender in the video gaming industry:
You’ll probably notice that most of the people who speak in this book are male, which is a depressing (and unintentional) reflection of an industry that has, for decades now, been dominated by men.
If that statement resonates with you, then this inspiring collection of Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play should be right up your street.
From interviews with high-level executives to cosplaying influencers, this book champions the women who are fighting for diversity in a male-orientated world and their stories.
Featuring insightful and empowering essays, bios, and interviews from important figures such as Ashly Burch, Karisma Williams, and Emily Greer, Women in Gaming is a great title and one that will hopefully eradicate gender inequality in gaming for good!
10. The Games That Weren’t – Bitmap Books
We’re back to Bitmap Books for Number 9 on our list of the best gaming books, though this time we’re focusing on ‘The Games That Weren’t’.
We’ve recently learnt a lot about how games can be ‘axed’ with the controversial release of the new Golden Axe game, and this fascinating new book lifts the lid on the stories of the games that were destined for greatness but never got to see the light of day.
Never before have we been given a chance to have such an exclusive look at some of the games that we may well have been playing right at this very moment.
In Bitmap Books largest and most challenging project to date, they have compiled the biggest collection of unreleased titles from the early Atari 2600 days right up to the PS4 releases we will never get to experience.
Read the comments and stories from those involved with making the games alongside detailed accounts of what they were and how they might have played.
This insightful book is sure to answer a few mysteries about the industry and uncover a few truths along the way.
11. The Comic Book Story Of Video Gaming
If you’re looking for an easy-going, funny way to ease into the history of video gaming, then The Comic Book Story Of Video Gaming should be the next item in your online basket.
You’ve read the Marvel Origins stories for Wolverine, Black Panther, and Captain America, but did you ever think there would be an origins story for the ‘Godfathers of Gaming’?
This funny and informative comic book from Jonathan Hennessey and illustrator Jack McGowan delivers a bright, vibrant look at the birth of an industry that is now larger than both the music and the movie industries combined!
Jonathan covers all of the pivotal moments in gaming from WWII right through to modern-day smartphone apps like Pokemon Go.
You can learn all about your favourite developers and famous names such as Shigeru Miyamoto, and find out what kind of an effect their creations have had on society.
12. SNES/Super Famicom: A Visual Collection – Bitmap Books
Fans of the best SNES games will be all over this next book like Earthworm Jim at a cow launching festival.
SNES/Super Famicom: A Visual Compendium covers every detail of this classic console’s reign and the games that made it such a success.
With over 500 lithographically printed pages filled to the brim with classic artwork, game facts, cover designs, and much much more, this is one book that you’re going to want to give pride of place in your home.
The NES/Famicom made sure that whichever console came after it would have mighty big set of pixelated shoes to fill, but the SNES/Super Famicom was more than up to the task.
Read quirky anecdotes about this retro legend and discover some of the games that you failed to add to your collection back in the day.
Bitmap Books have created the perfect compendium here for reliving the ‘good old days’!
The artwork in this book is fantastic, and it’s a great alternative to a text-heavy book if you don’t have lots of time on your hands or simply find comic books easier or more enjoyable to read.
13. Console Wars: Sega VS Nintendo – And The Battle That Defined A Generation
Sega Vs Nintendo; the battle of the gaming gods.
Few battles for greatness will ever match the competition between these companies, and Console Wars captures the feel of this ‘vicious, relentless and highly profitable, global corporate war’.
From the playground to the boardroom, Sega Vs Nintendo was the argument that pitted ‘brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the US against Japan’.
Console Wars follows the key players in this gaming rivarly between 1990 – 1996, covering iconic consoles such as the Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, NES, SNES, and the N64.
Read all about the story of one man who inspired a team of underdogs to go up against their very own Goliath, and how their feud gave way to an industry worth 60-billion-dollars.
14. The Game Console
The Game Console is the next exciting read in our list of the best gaming books.
Instead of focusing on one console or franchise, The Game Console documents 86 retro gaming consoles in glorious colour.
I bet you didn’t even know that there were 86 consoles in existence!
The Game Console takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the evolution of the home console unit, starting with the Magnavox Odyssey and ending with modern consoles such as the Wii U and the mighty Xbox One.
You can learn everything about what made your favourite machine tick, along with interesting information about its peripherals and how many units it sold!
15. NEO GEO: A Visual History – Bitmap Books
It’s another Bitmap Books entry here at Number 14 in our list of the best gaming books, and this is one that is sure to interest any fans of the best Neo Geo games!
NEO GEO: A Visual History documents the rise and fall of the first console to bring the thrill and excitement of the arcade into your living room.
Pixel for pixel, these NEO GEO games recreated all of the joystick-twisting, button-mashing action of arcade units from the comfort of your sofa. Now, this exciting book gives gamers the chance to relive the excitement all over again.
NEO GEO: A Visual Compendium is the first officially licensed NEO GEO book written in the english language.
The handpicked images including pixel art and game box designs have all been displayed perfectly alongside key information on the games that ruled the early 90s.
With metallic-gold ink and thread-binding that allows you to leave your book open at your favourite page for all to see, this NEO GEO compendium is a true work of art.
The only thing you need to do now is find a place where you can show it off!
16. SEGA Master System: A Visual Compendium – Bitmap Books
The final book in our list of the greatest and best gaming books of all time is an absolute belter and the perfect title to end this list.
There’s a reason that the SEGA Master System is such a popular console in Brazil still; its a fantastic device with some of the best game storylines and characters going!
This book is a visual feast for both the eyes and brain. Featuring stunning images and backgrounds from classic SEGA titles, SEGA: A Visual Compendium is a one-stop-shop for every classic character, game, and level on this epic console.
At 424-pages long and holding information on over 200 amazing games, this is one book that fans of Sonic, Asterix, and Mickey need in their lives.
All of the pictures, in-depth interviews and feature pieces in this perfectly presented book are housed in a dust jacket and slipcase. It even comes with 3D glasses.
Bitmap Books really do go the extra mile!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.