Before Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Lego Lord of the Rings, one Lord of the Rings-based game existed that was, and still is, arguably one of the all-time best video games based on a movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
One of the stand-out qualities from the LOTR trilogy is their ability to provide epic-scale battles that were immersive, visually-stunning, and riveting. As a kid, I loved watching these fights unfold and our heroes narrowly escaping their doom with their fighting skills.
Thankfully, the trilogy had two fantastic action games that were movie tie-ins and put fans in the heat of some of the movies’ greatest battles. First, there was The Two Towers that released in 2002, which set the bar for hack and slash movie tie-in games. Its sequel, The Return of the King, released one year later (2003) on PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC and the Game Boy Advance, took the best from its predecessor, and made it even better.
Following the plot of the third LOTR movie beat for beat, the Return of the King video game had fans play as the iconic protagonists from the movies including Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn, Frodo, and even Faramir. Nearly every character had their own set of abilities and flashy combos that could be upgraded and enhanced with experience points. Having this RPG mechanic in a hack and slash game made fights extremely fun and rewarding while adding tons of replayability for the stages in the game. For some, fighting against massive hordes of Orcs, Uruk-hai and Trolls may seem tedious, but the characters’ play styles were varied enough to make replaying stages actually enjoyable. Also, stages were bigger and more interactive than The Two Towers, giving players a wealth of options of how to take down Sauron’s and Saruman’s armies.
Add in a great soundtrack with some tracks used from the movies, some cool special features like interviews and unlockables, and solid graphics (for the time), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is definitively one of the best movie tie-in games ever made.
Sony and EA, if you two so happen to be reading this, please bring The Two Towers and The Return of the King to PS2 classics on PS4. Give me trophies, give me HD graphics!