It would not be an exaggeration to say that people have been entranced by the world of Middle-earth since the mid-1930s. Inaugurated with a short fantasy novel called The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien created literary gold with 1954's The Lord of the Rings. Split into three volumes and published over the course of a year, Frodo's journey to Mordor feels timeless.
In the early 2000s, Peter Jackson accomplished the impossible and successfully adapted Tolkien's books into cinematic form. With the exception of Ralph Bakshi's ambitious but uneven animated film, Jackson was the only other director who believed that such a project could be carried out without producing a total embarrassment. Packed with fantastical creatures and funny Welsh-sounding names, Jackson crafted a saga that can be appreciated equally by those who worship or ignore Tolkien's series. The Lord of the Rings is the living embodiment of the word epic, so any earnest adaptation must be able to translate that sense of scale and wonder captured so effortlessly on the page.
Over the years, many developers have attempted to enter Mordor, but the road is littered with the defeated and broken. Amidst a sea of half-baked cash-ins and cheap mobile strategy titles, a handful of truly fantastic games have graced our presence. There are plenty of contenders for the best Lord of the Rings video game of all time, but which title ranks as the greatest?
Update April 7, 2021 by Mark Sammut: Tolkien's stories are timeless. With each passing year, more and more people fall in love with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, be it through the books or even the movies. Once someone immerses themselves in the source material, they will naturally be left wanting more, and there is no better way to embrace this universe than to actually participate in it. While The Lord of the Rings: Gollum has yet to come out, there are plenty of other LOTR games on the market. A couple of titles have even been released since 2018.
32 The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies – Fight For Middle Earth
Fueled by Peter Jackson's return to Middle-earth, The Hobbit birthed a slew of free-to-play mobile games. Developed and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Fight for Middle-earth failed to improve on any of the series' previous iterations, delivering a thoroughly barebones and frustrating experience that is not worth the data.
Despite looking like a strategy game, Fight for Middle-earth barely allows players to exert any control over the proceedings. Besides the hideous visuals and clunky animation, this free-to-play shovelware has some of the ugliest environments on the android store.
31 The Lord Of The Rings: Legends Of Middle-Earth
If a license is popular enough, the mobile scene will be blessed with a turn-based RPG that presents fans with an opportunity to collect their favorite characters as cards. While this genre is rather overstuffed, titles like One Piece Treasure Cruise offer enough thrills to be worth checking out.
Unfortunately, Kabam's The Lord Of The Rings: Legends Of Middle-Earth sits among the more forgettable entries. Grinding is the genre's cornerstone. If done right, picking up new characters and leveling up old ones can be entertaining. Legends Of Middle-Earth does the opposite of that.
30 Lord Of The Rings: Conquest
Stepping away from the mobile scene, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest took a page from Star Wars: Battlefront, granting the option to follow the path of good or evil. Split into two campaigns, The Final War for Middle-earth sees the Dark Lord reclaiming the ring on route to conquering Middle-earth. As an added bonus, Hugo Weaving narrates both storylines.
Alas, battles are not won on paper, so Conquest's interesting ideas are completely wasted in a game devoid of any real redeemable factors. The sub-par graphics, poor writing, and terrible combat make this among the worst titles to carry the franchise's name.
29 Lords Of The Rings (Text Based Trilogy)
After making a name for itself with 1982's The Hobbit, Beam Software opted to take a crack at The Lord of the Rings. Split into three oddly titled entries, the studio was unable to recapture lightning in a bottle. Whether Beam Software felt overwhelmed by Tolkien's trilogy or just could not get its act together, these entries sustained a noticeable downgrade from their predecessor.
The Hobbit's simple storyline works better as a text adventure, as the plot allows for far greater room to experiment with interesting puzzles. LOTR requires complete focus to effectively adapt the narrative.
28 The Hobbit: Armies Of The Third Age
Building on The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth's solid foundations, Kabam returned with another real-time strategy outing that harbors only small improvement over its predecessor. With three available factions and a solid multiplayer system, The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age delivers a perfectly serviceable experience capable of scratching anyone's Tolkien itch.
Due to being a free-to-play mobile game, any actions require an absurd amount of time to reach completion, allowing Kabam to constantly push its premium currency. Is it terrible? No, but there are better ways to spend an hour.
27 The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – Orc Attack
Developed by Google and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Orc Attack is a browser game that served as an advertisement for Peter Jackson's second entry in The Hobbit trilogy. Among its peers, this 2013 title benefits from some absolutely gorgeous backgrounds and character models, but the gameplay gets old rather quickly.
Besides Middle-earth's Superman, gamers can also play through the levels with Tauriel or Bard, although the combat remains the same regardless of the character. If nothing else, there are a couple of decent paintings hidden inside this mediocre point and click shooter.
26 J. R. R. Tolkien's Riders Of Rohan
A downgrade from 1988's War in Middle Earth, J. R. R. Tolkien's Riders of Rohan rushes through the novels' main plot points, so an encyclopedic understanding of the narrative is expected. Consequently, Beam Software and Papyrus Design Group's simulation is only worth playing for devoted Tolkien fans, but a decent time can be had for anyone willing to seek this one out.
The strategy elements are not half-bad, but the player is required to recreate the exact moments from the book, so the only way to overcome a fight is by following a pre-established plan. Even though this makes sense for a licensed product, a strategy game that lacks personal agency is nothing more than an interactive picture book.
25 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – A Journey through Middle-Earth
Browser games tend to get a bad rap, but there are a fair few decent titles out there. Even if some are worth a look, we would be hard-pressed to describe any as ambitious. At the bare minimum, Google's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – A Journey through Middle-earth warrants praise for being an exception.
Besides a Hero's Journey mode that (poorly) skims through the journey from the viewpoint of some iconic characters from The Hobbit and LOTR, A Journey through Middle-earth permits gamers to experience five major battles from the perspective of both armies.
24 The Hobbit: Kingdoms Of Middle-earth
By 2012, Kabam crafted the perfect recipe for mobile games with complex but addictive strategy mechanics. Barely anything more than a reskin of Arcane Empires or Trojan War, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth rarely deviates from the studio's tired formula.
After picking between Elves or Dwarves, players set out to build a city and raise an army capable of dominating Middle-earth. Kabam's formula works well enough, and The Lord of the Rings' coat of paint is a welcome change of pace, but this release feels like it was designed by a machine.
23 War In Middle Earth
Published in 1988, this surprisingly robust real-time strategy game loyally recreates Tolkien's influential trilogy. Split into massive army battles and smaller-scale character levels, Melbourne House stuffed War in Middle Earth with more than enough content to be worthy of the LOTR name.
A faithful retelling of the storyline, the experience hits a snag in the gameplay department, which lacks much in the way of actual strategy. With countless stats flung at the player, the combat boils down to nothing more than a battle of numbers. In spite of these criticisms, War in Middle Earth remains impressive for its time period.
22 The Lord Of The Rings Volume 1 & 2
Improving with each passing day, technology is always in a state of evolution. In comparison with movies or music, gaming has experienced immeasurable growth over the last two decades. Despite coming out around the same time as Jurassic Park, Interplay Productions' two The Lord of the Rings games feel absolutely prehistoric; however, context is vital for any proper critique.
For its time, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I and Vol. II were ambitious role-playing games that shared similarities with Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda. Putting aside the delayed SNES port that felt outdated right from the start, Interplay Productions almost put together a decent adaption.
21 The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
With Jackson's movies proving to be a resounding success, three licensed games were released to coincide with their respective movies. The only one to not be published by Electronic Arts or feature input from Griptnite Games, 2002's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring's main redeeming factor was the inclusion of elements from the book which failed to make the movie's final cut.
As such, this is almost a must-play for those desperate to get the full scope; nevertheless, if that were the case, we recommend just reading Tolkien's books. While by no means a terrible title, The Fellowship of the Ring is bogged down by repetitive combat.
20 The Lord Of The Rings: Middle-Earth Defense
This is it - the first LOTR mobile game. Published in 2010, The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense remains the best and brightest of this mostly underwhelming subset of adaptations. Banking on the tower defense craze, Glu Mobile wisely simplified many of the basic mechanics associated with the genre.
In some ways, Middle-earth Defense serves as a fantastic tutorial for anyone seeking to dip their toes into this popular game style. Split into 18 different stages, it is beyond satisfying to see Gandalf wipe out waves of orcs and dragons.
19 The Lord Of The Rings: Journeys In Middle-earth
Journeys in Middle-earth is not a LOTR video game but a companion app for the board game with the same name. The app's role is to basically serve as a Dungeon Master, so it is an important part of the overall experience.
An adventure game split into an array of quests, The Lord Of The Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth is one of those rare board games that can be effectively played solo. While not for everyone, those interested in board games should consider checking this project out.
18 The Lord Of The Rings: Aragorn's Quest
Unless the developer is willing to make some concessions, fitting all three books into one package would be an absolutely daunting task. Told from the perspective of a fatherly Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest recounts the actions of Gondor's future king during the War of the Ring.
Narrating from Aragorn's meeting with the Hobbits in Bree to the climactic battle at the gates of Mordor, Headstrong Games put together a highlight reel based on Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's novels. With only five moves available to the players, the combat is slightly too simplistic to elevate Aragorn's Quest to anything more than a passable waste of time.
17 The Lord Of The Rings: War Of The Ring
Real-time strategy seems to be the genre of choice for Tolkien's universe, but many titles struggle to find the right balance between authenticity and gameplay. Liquid Entertainment proved its might with 2001's phenomenal Battle Realms, so the studio should have been the perfect fit for The Lord of the Rings. While War of the Ring is decent enough, the studio did not take enough liberties with the license.
Split into a good and evil campaign, the former includes a wide range of allies hailing from the likes of Gondor and Rohan, but the individual groups tend to lack unit variety. As it stands, War of the Ring is neither a great adaptation nor a memorable strategy game.
16 The Lord Of The Rings: War In The North
In a daring move, Snowblind Studios decided to stage a Middle-earth adventure around three nobodies who feature in neither Tolkien's novels or Jackson's films. Running parallel to Sauron's siege on Rohan and Gondor, players are tasked with protecting Nordinbad from a formidable Black Númenórean.
With the exception of a couple of cameos, War in the North mostly does its own thing, but the hack and slash title cannot shake the feeling that this story is nothing more than unnecessary filler. Released in close conjunction with Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, War in the North quietly slipped through the cracks.
15 The Hobbit (2003)
If you are going to copy an intellectual property, then The Legend of Zelda is a solid place to start. Released in 2o03 but completely unrelated to Jackson's trilogy, The Hobbit is a moderately fun 3D action-adventure game which relies too exhaustively on imitating its indisputable inspiration. Controlling Bilbao, players undertake a series of quests in their journey to defeat Smaug.
With a heavier focus on platforming over action, The Hobbit is way too derivative for its own good and falls short of even some of the worst entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise.
14 The Lord Of The Rings: Adventure Card Game
Ever since debuting in 2011, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has been a staple of the Living Card Game genre. With the game proving popular, it was only a matter of time before a digital version became a reality, and The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game earned its full release in 2019.
Although not quite as complex as its tabletop counterpart, Adventure Card Game presents a detailed and fun look into Tolkien's universe. The co-op game pits you against Sauron's forces, and the available decks dive far deeper into the lore than just the films. This release is the best LOTR video card game by default.
13 The Lord Of The Rings: Tactics
Even if Sony pretends that the PlayStation Vita does not exist, both of the company's handheld consoles house an array of forgotten gems worth playing. Just to be clear, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics is hardly some neglected masterpiece deserving of adoration, but EA published an adequate turn-based role-playing game anchored in Middle-earth.
Battles are carried out on a grid system that rewards taking a more tactical approach than just occasionally downing a health potion, but the PlayStation Portable's limited hardware could only withstand a small number of units at any given moment. Despite failing to capture the source material's sense of scale, Tactics is still pretty decent.
ALGS, masters of the Multiview