As I Lay Dying: Move over, Oregon Trail: Why have a game centered on crossing the Wild West in a covered wagon when you can play as the Bundren family trying to transport their dead matriarch to Jefferson, Mississippi? While it may be impossible reproduce Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness narration in a game format, players of all ages can have fun with a variety of in-game puzzles, including building a coffin, burning down a barn, and typing “My mother is a fish” over and over and over again.
Hamlet: The game version of one of the Bard’s most famous works (available for PS3, Xbox and Windows PC) spares us all the Prince of Denmark’s namby-pamby moral dilemmas and cuts right to the not-so-proverbial chase, i.e. ruthlessly hunting down everyone responsible for his father’s death. Be sure to upgrade to the quad-barrel explosive crossbow before facing mid-level bosses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or they’ll defeat you with their Flipping Coin Attack. A hidden in-game Easter Egg lets you use an AK-47 for the big final battle with Laertes and Claudius.
Nineteen Eighty-Four: Winston Smith, downtrodden no more! In this first-person-shooter “reimagining” of a classic, the worker drone breaks free of the dreaded Room 101 and takes on an empire. Muscled up to truly Schwarzenegger-esque proportions for a 21st century audience, and armed with enough guns to make the protagonist of the “Doom” game series look like a doddering pansy, Smith shows how a socialist oligarchy and thoughtcrime ought to be dismantled…with lots and lots of bullets and rocket-fire.
Ulysses: This eighteen-episode MMO (that’s massive multiplayer online game, for you non-World of Warcraft fans out there) lets you choose one of several characters from James Joyce’s most famous work as your personal avatar for navigating the streets of Dublin on 16 June 1904, including Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, Buck Mulligan and Blazes Boylan. Each episode, be it “The Oxen of the Sun” or “Circe,” offers the opportunity to clad your character in either period dress or else something truly outlandish, like a rhinestone-studded leather teddy. (Game release pending lawsuit with the Joyce estate.)
Une Saison En Enfer: Who needs Rambo when you can have Rimbaud? Plunge into hell with everybody’s favorite hallucinogen-chugging French poet to battle The Infernal Spouse, the tortures of the damned, and a creeping sense that all hope is lost… with one of five weapons including Verlaine’s Hopelessly Inaccurate Pistol. (Gamer tip: If your hit-points become depleted, hit X, Y, Y, X in order to activate ‘Enfant Terrible’ mode, which will render you temporarily invincible but totally uncoordinated.)