Ah, the Harry Potter phenomenon. That was a tough one to see coming, wasn’t it? I sure as heck couldn’t have seen myself lining up outside bookstores at midnight before this series came along, let me tell you. There I was back in 2007, though, eagerly waiting to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, super sad that this was the last one.
What a ride it was, though. Still is, as anyone in the fandom will tell you. The hype around the Fantastic Beasts movies is as strong as ever. So are all of the memes, fanfics, and everything else we do when we just cannot let go.
In the gaming world, the Harry Potter franchise has been a bit of a mixed bag. After all, everyone knows that licensed titles have a bit of a… well, awful reputation. The Arkham games, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and the like have helped redeem them a bit, but gamers have long memories, and Superman 64 really was just that bad.
Naturally, there have been games for every novel in the Harry Potter series, released on just about every system in existence (at the time). Some have been great, some less so. Some have stuck to the plot of the related book, some have veered all the way off. Most importantly, some have been completely and utterly bizarre.
What the heck happened to poor old Hagrid’s face in the PS1 days? Why are we playing as Gilderoy Lockhart, of all people? Which game became a strange, magical third-person shooter? Grab your wands and buckle up for 25 Things In The Harry Potter Video Games That Make No Sense.
As a franchise, Harry Potter sure can be dark at times. Even so, its appeal to younger fans is paramount, and things can never get too graphic.
In the video games, then, it was important that Harry had a magical means of repelling opponents without finishing them off. Over the course of the books, we’re introduced to all manner of spells that have this effect, but the games instead introduce an all-new spell: Flipendo.
There are also Flipendo Duo and Flipendo Tria varieties, none of which are ever referred to by name in the source material itself. What we’ve essentially got here is a re-packaged Stupefy, with the handy gameplay side-effect of flipping switches and such.
If you’ve ever read the books, you’ll know that Harry and his friends cast Stupefy all over the place (he even tries it against Voldemort several times), so why make the change?
24 What’s All This Energy Nonsense About?
As we know, mobile games have a tendency to be a little… well, let’s say stingy with our time. They’re designed to be played only for brief intervals at a time, for the most part. Just to be sure you don’t progress too fast, you’ll have energy or mana supplies that quickly deplete, preventing you from taking any meaningful actions until they recharge (unless you pay to have your stocks replenished immediately, of course).
While all of this is nothing new, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery really did take things to mystifying extremes. There was a lot of hype around this Harry Potter mobile title, and the production values are sky high, but lessons consisting of poking tables and examining bookshelves until your energy runs out, over and over? What is that about?
23 The Mystery Of The Every-Flavor Beans
Early in the original Harry Potter stories, our young hero is introduced to the prospect of every-flavor beans. They’re like the jelly beans we enjoy here in the muggle world, but with more extreme flavors. From entirely ordinary flavors like peppermint and fruits to spinach, tripe, and booger, they’re like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You absolutely never know what you’re going to get.
All of which is totally fine, of course. I’ve made my peace with this. What I don’t understand is why gigantic beans are everywhere in the early games. I want to cruise around Hogwarts uninterrupted, thanks, not platform around the place awkwardly collecting jelly beans the size of my torso.
22 What Happened To Hagrid’s Face?
First, there’s something I’ve got to make clear here. The Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone video game launched in 2001. We’re talking about an eighteen-year-old PC, PS1, GBA, and GBC game, here.
Is it fair to snark on the hilarious graphics of an eighteen-year-old PC and PS1 game? No, no it isn’t. Are we going to anyway? You bet your baloney we are.
I mean, come on. Look at Hagrid here. Rather than the kind, wise face of Robbie Coltrane in the movies, he has… well, I don’t know. Is that even a face?
21 More Importantly, What Happened To EVERYONE?
When it comes to sweet, sweet early 3D awfulness, Hagrid is the most notorious character in the Harry Potter lexicon. After all, ‘PS1 Hagrid’ has become a meme in his own right and for good reason: those jagged polygons are so rough around the edges, he could cut glass with his beard.
Let’s not single poor old Hagrid out, though. On the PS1, 99.9% of 3D looked awful. That’s certainly true of the residents of Hogwarts. Nevermind Hagrid, have you seen the state of Draco Malfoy? Or Ron? Or… anybody at all, really. Only Voldemort gets a free pass, and that’s because he’s supposed to look like his face has melted onto the back of somebody else’s (because it has).
20 Devil’s Snare? It Should Be Called Devil’s Snore
I know, I know. The first rule of making a joke is, if you have to explain it, it’s not funny. Still, I’ve written that headline now, and I’m darned if I’m going to go back and change it now. I’m on a roll, friends.
Anyway, yes. As we’ve seen, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is designed to ensure that you won’t get anywhere fast (not for free, anyway). The dastardly microtransaction system became infamous for one incident in particular: that moment when your character becomes tangled in the devil’s snare plant.
To free yourself, you must perform actions which expend energy, which… you see where this is going. For your energy to recharge naturally, you’ll have to wait while your character helplessly struggles with the plant on-screen. WHO thought this was okay?
19 Playing As Lockhart, Just Because
In the whole Harry Potter series, Gilderoy Lockhart is probably the character I’ve struggled to digest the most. Do I like him? Do I not? Is he really a ‘villain,’ as such, or just misguided? Did he deserve his sad (book) fate?
I can’t answer any of these questions. The only thing I’m sure of about this guy is that he’s not the Hogwarts professor I’d want on my side in a fight. Did you SEE McGonagall at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, for instance? Heck, my money’s on her against Godzilla and all the Avengers combined.
Sadly, for some odd reason, Lockhart is a party member in the Game Boy Color edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
18 It Uses The WHAT Cable? I’d Forgotten That Was A Thing!
If you’re a Pokémon player of a certain age, like myself, you’ll probably remember the Link Cable. Wireless technology just wasn’t a thing in gaming in the late nineties, and this was Nintendo’s inspired solution to that.
Some years later, a more advanced doohickey was developed, which allowed for link play between Game Boy Advance and GameCube systems. Titles like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles made good use of this tech, but very few other titles did.
Inexplicably, though, the GC-GBA link pops up in Chamber of Secrets.
Linking the games causes a secret area to open in the Hogwarts grounds in the GBA game, and another in the entrance hall in the GameCube edition. You don’t get a great deal for doing this (exclusive chocolate frog card, a little puzzle minigame), but there it is all the same.
17 What Is This, Metal Gear Solid?
As a child, I was instantly engrossed by Sorcerer’s Stone right from the first couple of pages. This is partly because I was into reading in a big way and partly because there was a lot of excitement in that book. There aren’t many novels that bring you battles with huge trolls in the middle of a boarding school, but this one delivered.
There’s also a lot of downtime, though. For one thing, the narrative skips through the hours Harry spends trying to find the Mirror of Erised again, or generally skulking around in the corridors at night.
These night-time wanderings are not something I’d want to play through in a video game adaption, but there they were. Questionable stealth sections, in which you have to avoid the prefects in the corridors. I never understood why these were a thing, and not only because I was terrible at them.
16 Why Was Order of the Phoenix So Darn Bad?
Naturally, as the game series went on, the consoles and tech powering them became ever more advanced. You’d think, then, that each game would be a cut above the one that came before.
As we’ve reported before, though, the later Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a bit of a mess. Freedom to explore a relatively-good-looking rendition of Hogwarts castle alone should’ve made it a winner, but despite Rowling’s own involvement and guidance, it was a bit of a damp squib. HOW could this have gone so wrong?
While the gameplay’s very average and far too easy, the main criticism here is the storytelling. The developers tried far too hard to cram various plot points in, and it shows.
15 A Third-Person ‘Shooter?’
The fantastical world of Harry Potter just got darker and darker as the series drove on. From the introduction of the Dementors (Grim Reaper-esque beings who breathe like Darth Vader having an asthma attack) to the revival of Voldemort, these were dark times indeed.
They were supposed to be, after all. The whole series is about Harry accepting and ‘growing into’ his destiny, remember?
The games followed this theme, too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 did away with all the action platforming and hit us with a full-fledged magical third-person shooter.
14 Sounds Great, Shame About The Execution
As I say, video game adaptions have a super-bad rap. They’re often quick, lazy, uninspired titles, intended as nothing more than an easy way to cash in on a popular movie or book.
You’ve got to admire everything Deathly Hallows Part 1 tried to do here, then. Matching the darker tone of the original novel with an action and combat-based title? That’s some chutzpah, right there.
A Harry Potter TPS that sees you vanquishing Death Eaters, Snatchers, and a variety of magical beasts from the series? How could any fan say no to that? More importantly, how could the devs mess it up?
Somehow, they did. Players and critics have considered this one as average as they come, and some haven’t been that kind. It’s the repetitive gameplay that really lets it down.
13 How Was Book Of Spells So Good?
Sometimes, it’s just baffling that an excellent concept for a game can go so wrong. The finished package just doesn’t deliver what was promised, and it’s a real shame. Just to balance out the karma in the universe, though, sometimes the reverse is true.
You’d forgive fans for not having the highest of hopes for Book of Spells, a PlayStation Move AR title released in 2012. It reeked tech demo/cash-in from the off but was actually fantastic fun. I don’t know how they pulled this one off.
PlayStation Move (and Eye) enabled spellcasting lessons that actually work? Now that really is magic.
12 What Went Wrong With Harry Potter For Kinect?
Book of Spells seems all the more miraculous when compared to similar concepts, such as Harry Potter For Kinect.
Now, over the Xbox brand’s lifetime, the Kinect has… well, it’s safe to say that’s it’s not exactly been a must-have peripheral (other than during that brief period that it was a mandatory pack-in with Xbox One, but we won’t talk about that). Like a lot of niche control systems, it’s been shoehorned into various games where it doesn’t belong, and efforts designed specifically for it haven’t worked too well at all.
Harry Potter For Kinect was one such game. Simple fun in short doses, but shonky controls, questionable minigames, and lack of depth are its downfall.
11 Aren’t You Supposed To Be In Hiding?
Now, there haven’t been many new Harry Potter games of late, have there? There’s a simple explanation for this, of course: the last movie was released way back in 2011. Has that stopped the fandom, though? Not one bit.
The Fantastic Beasts series is still going super strong, though (The Crimes of Grindelwald just hit theatres last November), so the magical world remains at the forefront of every Potterhead’s thoughts.
One upcoming title we do know of is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, a curious mobile game. All we’ve seen so far is a brief teaser trailer, but it’s enough to raise some real questions. Mainly, this one: aren’t the magical and muggle worlds getting a little too close here? The whole point is that this can’t happen.
10 Making Potions Class Fun? Impossible!
So, yes. It was a longshot indeed that Book of Spells would turn out to both function well with the PlayStation Move/PlayStation Eye/Wonderbook and be quite a fun game in its own right, but there it is. Miracles do happen.
The fact that Book of Potions proved to be pretty good too (while improving on the first release in terms of interactivity and gameplay), really makes zero sense at all.
I mean, this is potions class we’re talking about. Throughout the series, Rowling goes to great pains to remind us all just how much Harry hated his potions classes (even if that was all Snape’s fault).
9 Wait, The Invisibility Cloak Needs To ‘Recharge’ Now?
The adaption of The Deathly Hallows, as we’ve seen, took a much more action-heavy approach to the series. With its cover system and constant battles, it was part Harry Potter and part Gears of War (if you can imagine such a bizarre combination). Repetitive as the gameplay may have been, it was a bold stab at something new.
The developers did make some unfortunate decisions, though, as we know. Here’s another one that’s always befuddled me: Why the heck does Harry’s invisibility cloak (itself an infallible Hallow) have to recharge?
In their review, Eurogamer explained the kind of fun you can expect from this mechanic:
“Harry's cloak is inexplicably rechargeable, meaning that you're forced to stand stock still in the middle of a crowd of hostile wizards whilst a little triangle in the bottom-left of the screen recharges at an incredibly slow pace.”
Umm… why’s this a thing, again?
8 Can We Explore Hogwarts Or Not?
Do you remember the first time you played Super Mario 64? Yes, it’s another bad example of early 3D (looking so bad it makes you want to close your eyes), but we’re not talking about hindsight here. We’re talking about that monumental moment we first got to run around the grounds of Peach’s castle in full 3D.
It was that exact same feeling with Hogwarts castle. The trouble with the games was, they could never decide if they wanted to be free roam or not. Sometimes, we’re just here so we can explore the castle, but the games are linear or exploration-based seemingly at random. Sometimes, obvious hardware limitations are the cause, but sometimes not.
7 Shouldn’t The Quidditch World Cup Be A Little More Exciting?
If you’re familiar with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, you’ll know that the Quidditch World Cup can be one heck of a thrilling event to watch. Granted, other events sort of take over in the aftermath of the match, but still… professional Quidditch is just as exciting as the dangerous games the house teams play at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup the game, however, doesn’t come near to replicating that in my eyes. It’s serviceable enough and is quite nice visually, but the slow, clunky, and awkward gameplay? How did they even arrive at that? It’s a bit of a mystery.
6 So… It’s A Magical Pokémon GO?
The Harry Potter franchise is a world-conquering pop culture phenomenon, there’s no doubt about that. That’s great and all, obviously, but it can also lead to rampant money-grubbing. You can plaster a big name on anything and it’ll sell, after all.
As of right now, then, we just don’t know what to expect from Wizards Unite. The concept’s a little shonky, perhaps, but there’s a lot of hype around it and its ‘2019’ release date.
I just hope the finding-magical-artifacts-in-the-muggle-world thing doesn’t make it too blatant a retread of Pokémon GO.
Let’s also hope that they start by keeping those dastardly microtransactions to a minimum.
5 Wasn’t There… A Story, Or Something?
Now, when it comes to this, maybe it’s unfair to gripe at the Harry Potter games in particular. Video game adaptions always tend to be a little lighter on story than the source material. Gameplay is paramount here, after all, you’re not passively watching or reading.
With the Harry Potter games, though, it’s not just a matter of the story taking a backseat. They just can’t decide whether to stick with the story not. Each installment was ported to a variety of platforms, and there were often huge differences between the content of each version. Some were super faithful to the books, others diverged wildly. Where’s the consistency?
4 Familiars Cost HOW Much?
I’m sorry to keep snarking on you, Hogwarts Mystery, I really am. It’s just… you’re so inherently snarkable.
Free-to-play games can be a dangerous thing, can’t they? Like a free sample or a demo, you’re given just enough to get you on board, before the grasping hands of Fagin and his young accomplices start reaching for your cash. Generally, you can start playing for free, but you won’t get far.
We already know all of this, though. What you may not know is that, as we reported last July, familiars have been released for Hogwarts Mystery. They’re typical magical pet fare (owl, cat, toad, and rat), and are largely cosmetic. They sleep in your dorm and can follow you around the school, but that’s really their only function beyond giving you an energy boost.
Naturally, you’ve got to spend some in-game currency to get yourself a pet. They cost from 160-320 gems, and gems cost $4.99 for a pack of 130 at the time of the familiars’ release.
Something just doesn’t quite add up here.
3 I Don’t Remember The Triwizard Tournament Being This Bland
Now, Goblet of Fire is my favorite installment of the series. I adore the book and the movie alike (even if great characters like Ludo Bagman were ruthlessly cut from the latter). The best part of both, for me, has to be the individual tasks of the Triwizard Tournament.
Imagine how super sad I was to play through the tasks in the game, then. They’re just so woefully bland. In the battle with the dragon, for instance, Harry’s supposed to be terrified that it’s about to bite him several times. Instead, he’s flying through rings like it’s Baby’s First Flight sim, and collecting beans to increase his speed.
2 Hmm… I Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before
So, yes. I dig Goblet of Fire, I definitely do. The neat pacing of the whole thing (thanks to the first, second and third tasks spread throughout the school year), the setup for Ron and Hermione’s later relationship, the dramatic reveal at the end… the story itself was just pure class.
The game itself was full of missteps, though. Another design decision that has always baffled me was the need to repeat levels over and over.
I’m not sure that’s a great idea in any linear game, and I had zero time for collecting those darn Triwizard shields. It’s just a bizarre idea.
1 Now That’s What I Call Storytelling
For a whole generation, Harry Potter was the series that got us into reading. That’s a monumental achievement on J.K. Rowling’s part. This world is magical in every sense of the word, there’s no doubt about that.
Rowling has become world-renowned for her ability to spin a wonderful tale, but it’s sad that the games just don’t live up to that. Why are the voiced lines so limited and repetitive? The commentators of Quidditch World Cup just become insufferable after a few matches.