Harry Potter is one of the largest franchises in the history of publishing, and a cultural phenomenon to rival Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The book series, which includes seven titles released from 1997 - 2007, has sold over 500 million copies worldwide, going on to become the highest-selling book series in history. Moreover, eight films have been equally as successful, making over eight billion dollars in total. The entire franchise is valued at around $25 billion, making Harry Potter one of the highest-grossing series of all time.
But an often underlooked part of the series is the video games. First released in 2001 as a tie-in to the films, the games started out as a simple cash in on a marketable franchise but soon took on a life of their own, developing their own universe, mechanics, and in-jokes unique to themselves. Along with the eight main series titles that were released, spin-off series such as LEGO Creator, LEGO Harry Potter, and Wonderbook were also developed, alongside an absolute plethora of DVD, mobile, and online titles.
With so many games to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones have actually hard work put into them and which were simply developed to take advantage of young children with a penchant for lightning-shaped scars and pretty owls. In this article, we’ll aim to cover the fifteen main titles in the Harry Potter series including all the ones you know and love and some you may never have even heard of, and rank them from worst to best. Break out the Butterbeer and strap yourself in for a visit to Hogwarts.
15 Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game: Hogwarts Challenge & Harry Potter DVD Game: Wizarding World
If the title of these games wasn’t enough to turn you off, consider that each of them can only be played using that years old remote you own with dodgy signal and unreliable battery. Each of these games features several mini-games you must succeed at before progressing to the next year, and each mini-game is more tedious than the last, with the absolute worst being a spot the difference scene you’d find in any newspaper. Ew.
While we’re on the subject of miscellaneous mini-games, I’d like to take a moment to remember all those mini-games appearing on Harry Potter websites which are no longer with us after a redesign. They may just have been silly Flash animations, but they were so hard to master that you became addicted, and I spent hours of my time playing them. R.I.P.
14 Harry Potter For Kinect
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone born in the 90s who hasn’t wanted to live out their Harry Potter fantasy in real life by connecting with a wand, being sorted into a house and exploring Hogwarts themselves. It’s for this reason that we were so excited by Harry Potter For Kinect, an Xbox 360 title making use of motion sensor technology to put the player physically inside the Harry Potter universe.
Sadly, Harry Potter For Kinect happens to be one of the laziest games ever created. While it covers all of the eight movies, each one is only explored for about twenty minutes through a series of mind-numbingly boring mini-games, which means that huge plot points are entirely skipped over or summarized with a sleep-inducing narration. There’s no plot development, barely any character that isn’t one-dimensional, and a complete lack of narrative arc. Frankly, it’s an embarrassment to the entire franchise.
13 Lego Creator: Harry Potter & Creator: Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
It seems somewhat unfair to critique the Lego Creator series, because both of the games are quite clearly meant for children with too much free time on their hands, too little bedroom space for actual LEGO and no access to the Pokémon games. Precursors to the main LEGO series, the Creator games allow players to inhabit a variety of characters as they haphazardly progress through some semblance of a plot. But each quest in the game is related to a LEGO-styled problem which must be overcome, which leads for example to players having to put together the track for the Hogwarts Express before they can attend the school.
We’ll give this game the benefit of the doubt and say that these mechanics could have been fun to a certain audience at a certain time. But unless you’re a masochist, there’s absolutely no reason why you’d want to pick up these games nowadays.
12 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Deathly Hallows was a turning point for the book series, marking a sudden departure from light into darkness after years of teetering on the edge, and the film adaptation emphasized this even more. Not to be outdone, game developers reworked the entire mechanics of the series from the ground up in order to produce what essentially amounted to a first-person shooter with wands instead of guns.
While the concept of Grand Theft Harry sounds great in theory, it left a lot to be desired in practice. Case in point: the stealth mechanic. Harry uses his Cloak of Invisibility and miscellaneous objects scattered on the map to hide from enemies, which is an ingenious idea, but his cover often gets in the way of his casting, and poor camera angles make battling almost impossible. This one’s a definite miss.
11 Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
Noting the success of Quidditch as a mini-game in the series first two installments, EA released Quidditch World Cup, a whole game based around the machinations of the sport. Players can play as either one of the four Hogwarts house teams featuring all the familiar faces, or as an international team from countries such as the USA, Australia, and Japan.
Sadly, there’s not a lot featured here which you can’t already get in one of the main series games. Features you may find in typical sports games such as scouting out the weather conditions, picking the correct broomsticks and equipment and recruiting new players are all noticeably absent here, making the gameplay quite a repetitive experience. Quidditch World Cup didn’t fail at filling in a few hours of free time when I was younger, but it wouldn’t be the first game I’d go back to.
10 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Released a year after Part 1, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 makes a few noticeable improvements on its predecessor while still failing to 100% make up for its disappointments. The game’s main issue is that it retains the same mechanic as its prequel, and beats it to death in pretty much every level. Each mission consists simply of the player running at the camera while shooting spells at whatever miscellaneous enemy is following them, taking time out only to duck for cover.
On the flipside, the spells themselves are pretty fun and have to be matched to the enemy for maximum impact. There’s also a pretty interesting new feature which allows Harry to apparate (or teleport) from one source of cover to another, which makes for a much more dynamic gameplay when it’s finally introduced towards the end. But Part 2 is far from a great game, and definitely not what the finale deserved.
9 Wonderbook: Book Of Spells & Wonderbook: Book Of Potions
Book of Spells is an oddity of a game, and one that's difficult to rank. Making use of the PlayStation Move and Eye, the game requires the Wonderbook periphery, which players hold to display augmented reality components onscreen. The Wonderbook introduces players to twenty-one spells, giving an outline of how they were created courtesy of J.K. Rowling herself. Players are then taught the spells through a series of wand movements, which makes for some rather repetitive gameplay.
Book of Potions, released a year later, follows pretty much the same formula, although there are some improvements made. The book itself is more interactive, and the gameplay is a little more varied, with players now chopping up ingredients and stirring cauldrons. There might not be too much to recommend to anyone over the age of twelve, but diehard fans of the series will no doubt love all the new canonical information.
8 Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
Goblet of Fire is probably the Harry Potter book most suited to being adapted into a video game, which is why it's so disappointing that it turned out just okay. With the three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament framing the story - involving riding a broomstick to steal an egg from a dragon, diving underwater to rescue your friend from evil mermaids and participating in a maze full of evil beasts and possessed champions - there’s plenty of material to work with. Sadly, none of it is utilised well.
The most frustrating thing about the game is how easy it is compared to past games, when the plot necessitates that it should be more challenging. In other titles, players trade off story for open-world adventure, but the maps in this game are much more linear than normal, and the battle mechanics are oversimplified. It’s still a decent game, but not as good as it should have been.
7 Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone
The first game in the series, Philosopher's Stone plays out largely like a title trying to find its way in the world. If you didn’t think this after playing it, you’d realize when they re-released it after only two years with brand new voice actors and reworked models. But if you can ignore the clumsy exposition and awkward characterizations there’s lots of fun to be had, thanks in large part to some surprisingly well thought out dungeons and some weirdly stressful combat. If you’re a fan of Quidditch, you’ll be pleased to know that they do it justice and it makes for a great mini-game. And if nothing else, it gave us Flipendo.
Sidenote: If you haven’t played the Gameboy Color adaptation of Philosopher's Stone, you’re seriously missing out. That game was quite legitimately one of my favourites for the console and provided hours of fun.
6 Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Chamber of Secrets largely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, which is code for saying that it’s a loveable mess. Fair warning: from this game on, nothing will make any sense to you if you haven’t at least seen the movie it was based on. The game skips chunks of plot, and replaces it with duelling mini-games, sigh.
But for all its failings, there’s something surprisingly fun about Chamber of Secrets. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia talking, but I find the childish quests and silly dialogue kinda hilarious in a corny way. My personal favourite scene is when the player collects a number of Bertie Botts Beans and is magically transported to a room full of Beans, which Ron promptly goes wild over. Like the game, the scene is incredibly dumb but fun nonetheless.
5 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
The popularity of the LEGO series of games has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because I never played with the bricks too much growing up, but I find the idea of simplifying entire three-dimensional characters down into tiny yellow people banal and unexciting.
Which is why I was surprised to find that after you get over the Simpsons-esque color palette and super irritating voice acting in LEGO Harry Potter, you’ll actually find a game with a surprising attention to detail. It also has an affectionate sense of humor that fans of the series will find irresistible. Years 5-7 is the second of two titles, and along with introducing a lot of new locations to the series it also explores some pretty dark themes which are kinda hard to do with comical LEGO figures. But it’s still one of the better games in the series, and a huge improvement from the last few main series titles.
4 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
The first of the two LEGO Harry Potter games, Years 1-4 has essentially the same pros and cons as the second game, but with the benefit of being a little more fresh and forward-thinking on its release day compared to its sequel.
For new players, the most exciting thing about Years 1-4 has to be the map. The LEGO series has the largest open-world of any Harry Potter game to date, and you can easily get lost roaming the many floors and staircases of the school or exploring the huge grounds surrounding it. Bar an MMO adaptation of the series, this game has to be the closest we’ll come to actually immersing ourselves in the Hogwarts experience entirely. Just make sure you pick up the console edition of the game, because the handheld versions simplify a lot of the open world that made the game so great.
3 Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Order Of The Phoenix is the fifth game in the series, and by this point, it's clear the games have truly found their niche. This one capitalizes on all that worked in previous installments, while making several additions to make the experience as immersive as possible. HUD displays are a thing of the past here, with on-screen controls given the Avada Kedavra treatment, and the mini-map replaced by the Marauder's Map, your wizarding GPS system. This immersion is aided by the setting, which provides the biggest, most explorable version of Hogwarts to date.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though: the plot here is again wondrously under-utilised, which means that the majority of the fun comes from side-quests you pick up on your map. Battles are also a little clunky and repetitive. But if exploring Hogwarts is your main goal, you might want to check this one out.
2 Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
Half-Blood Prince is the sequel to Order Of The Phoenix, and it essentially plays out like a more advanced version of that game. At this point, there’s so much convoluted plot to follow that EA has just given up entirely, so the game plays out more like an open-world adventure set at Hogwarts than a strict playthrough of the film's story. That’s fine by us, because the games invitation to collect 150 Hogwarts crests hidden around the world gives an achievement to work towards and leads players to places they might not even have known existed, such as the heights of the Owlery or the corners of the Forbidden Forest.
Apart from the plot, the game’s main drawback is its graphics system, which cheapens a lot of the scenery and makes some of the character expressions frankly laughable. But Half-Blood Prince is still one of the most successful entries in the franchise.
1 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Prisoner of Azkaban is the third game in the series, and follows Harry’s adventures around Hogwarts as he learns the truth about Sirius Black and new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Lupin. The game is more open-world than those before it, with a larger castle and grounds that can be explored at will and plenty of mini-games to enjoy.
However, the most fun thing about Prisoner is a fun and surprisingly forward-thinking mechanic that allows players to switch between the characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Each has different abilities, spells, and pets that they can use to their advantage, and each has to be used to progress through certain dungeons. Switching between characters so much may sound like an odious task, but it actually provides a lot more variety to the gameplay during the more repetitive moments.