Hogwarts: A History – The Highs And Lows Of Harry Potter Gaming Before Hogwarts Legacy
At Sony’s PS5 price reveal stream, Hogwarts Legacy was announced. A new RPG set in the 1800s, this game developed by Avalanche Software will allow gamers to explore the Hogwarts they know in a time where all the rules are yet to be written.
The game will release in 2021 for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/ Series S. So, in preparation of the game, we wanted to dive into the history of Harry Potter games and remember the good, the bad and the garden gnomes of the franchise.
A note that this article will focus primarily on console versions of the games. From The Philosopher’s Stone through to The Goblet of Fire especially, these games were released on multiple platforms, with significant differences between each console. Largely, however, these games were similar enough to offer summative comments on.
Before Hogwarts Legacy, there was The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
The original Potter game in all its pixelated glory. 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone established much of what made the early games in the series great. For a start, you got to be Harry, exploring Hogwarts for the first time!
The game established a fun way to learn spells: various classes had challenge levels wherein you’d enter a dungeon and would have to use the new spell to get out. This took various forms, with the challenges changing depending on the class, and became a mainstay of the series for the coming two games. Quidditch was also introduced as was collecting Bertie Botts every flavour beans as a form of in-game currency, both of which continued in the coming games.
The graphics of the Playstation One version of the game have become stuff of legend, with Hagrid and Draco cruelly subjected to memes today. But, at the time, that didn’t matter to me: all I cared about was shooting Flipendo (not even a real spell in the books) at anything and everything. For the opportunities it provided young gamers, this adaptation was magical, and it set the foundations for the coming years.
Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The golden age of Harry Potter games, in my opinion, came with the adaptations of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. These games retained the charm and structure of Philosopher’s Stone but improved on it. Alongside the regular classes were various side quests – such as retrieving lost items – and you always had to be aware of your house points.
Stealth was also a major aspect of Chamber of Secrets: the days at Hogwarts were split into day and night time sessions, with classes in the former and sneaking around the castle in the latter. Some of the evening escapades included going to the restricted section of the library or even out to the greenhouses, and to get there you had to make your way past any number of roving Hogwarts prefects.
Prisoner of Azkaban provided gamers with the chance to swap between the trio, with Harry, Ron and Hermione each having a particular skill set and specific spells at their disposal. The puzzle-solving elements were expanded through this new feature and, largely, it is easy to consider this adaptation as the best of the Harry Potter games so far.
A shout out is also due to Harry Potter Quidditch World Cup (2003), which allowed you to play as the various teams from both the four Hogwarts houses and from international countries. It also provided me with one of the few instances where I could honestly say on the school playground, “yeah, I play sports games…”
Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire (2005)
Oh dear – this 2005 misfire replaced the open-world frame that the series was so successfully developing with individual levels and a linear progression scheme. The graphics were updated, removing the childish charm of the series for a monotonous, dark game. Throughout the levels were a number Triwizard Shields, which had to be collected to progress through the game, forcing levels to be replayed again and again. Clunky, repetitive and boring, you might need a memory charm to help you forget this one.
The Order of the Phoenix (2007) and Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Taking the aesthetic realism of Goblet of Fire and applying it to the open-world expansiveness of the older games, these two games marked a step forward somewhat in what is an uneven series.
Gamers could explore a Hogwarts that was accurate to that seen in the movies. Duel your enemies (or that one Hufflepuff that looked at you funny in the corridor), take classes to prepare for your exams, and find every secret hidden in the castle – these were all features that appealed to Potter fans.
The character models in both games are a bit ugly, some aspects of the storytelling is awkward and the gameplay can be repetitive. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has you running about the school completing side quests for members of Dumbledore’s Army, but that’s also part of the game’s charm. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be happy just spending time in Hogwarts.
Much the same was found in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: you ran around the school casting spells and gathering collectables. The only difference between this and The Order of the Phoenix was that it was a lot shorter. This did everything you would expect of the game franchise at this point – it was fun but forgettable.
Deathly Hallows Part One (2010) and Two (2011)
Ah, yes, Call of Harry. Just as Harry leaves Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows, so too did the adaptation of the first part of this concluding series have to come to terms with the fact that players could no longer run around the castle. Instead, EA decided the best option would be a third-person shooter game where waves of Death Eaters and Snatchers would attack you in various environments. I present Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One.
Fighting in a field. Check. Fighting in an old nuclear power plant. Check. Fighting in the Ministry of Magic. Check. All very Harry Potter. Granted the material posed challenges to the developers, but at this point, one might have questioned if the, ahem, magic had gone out of Harry Potter games.
The final adaptation of the movie franchise came in 2011 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, which was another shooter game, but this time set mostly in the battle for Hogwarts. You could play as eight characters, from Professor McGonagall (badass) to Seamus Finnigan (“BOOM”) as they fought their way through Hogwarts. This was a fun, unadventurous conclusion to the adaptations – we’d all have loved to have been at the battle for Hogwarts, and this lets you see it from various angles. Hopefully Hogwarts Legacy will continue with the developments in the combat made by these later games – Part Two had a list of spells that offered some differentiation, such as using impedimenta, which homes in on groups of enemies – alongside the open-world aspect that made the earlier ones so much more enjoyable.
A dishonourable mention goes to 2012’s Harry Potter for Kinect. Awful.
LEGO Harry Potter vs Hogwarts Legacy
It would be remiss of this article not to briefly touch on LEGO Harry Potter. The first LEGO Harry Potter game came not, however, in 2010 with Years 1-4 but in 2001 with LEGO Creator: Harry Potter. As you can imagine, this early PC instalment was bizarre, clunky and difficult by virtue of its design.
With the later games, however, Harry Potter was subject to the humour and charm of the LEGO games that had already tackled well-known franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman. This continued in 2011 when Years 5-7 were released. Enjoyable and silly, these games provided the opportunity to explore all of Hogwarts as over 200 playable characters in Years 5-7 (Years 1-4 had 167), who ranged from Ernie Prang, driver of the Night Buss, to Ronald Weasley, and everyone in between. Want to be Argus Filch and run around Hogwarts scaring students? Go for it. Ready to face Voldemort as Fang, Hagrid’s canine companion? Best of luck. The LEGO games have always excelled in their sandbox-style gameplay, and these games were no exception.
Hogwarts Legacy has the opportunity to offer fans something that has been only in glimpses through the games so far: that is, a detailed, innovative way of exploring Hogwarts (and the magical world) in its entirety with a combat system and other abilities that feels magical. More recent games – such as Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a mobile game – have yet to break away from the romanticism of the film franchise, but Legacy’s setting in the late 1800s sets it free from the tether of the boy who lived: “live the unwritten” is the game’s current slogan. The Harry Potter series has seen a mixed bag of game adaptations, but Hogwarts Legacy has the potential to provide the definitive wizarding world game. Hopefully, it won’t disappoint. Mischief Managed.
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