Though not known by many, Peter Jackson originally wanted to direct The Hobbit even before his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Originally planned as a trilogy in 1995 that would begin with The Hobbit, and ultimately follow with two films based upon The Lord of the Rings, Jackson's idea fell through due to rights issues with The Hobbit.
However, after failing to work out locations on King Kong, a film he planned to direct after The Hobbit fell through, Jackson decided to directly tackle The Lord of the Rings. After years in development, the trilogy was released over the course of three years, and has gone down in cinema history as a modern classic.
Since then Jackson of course has made The Hobbit into a trilogy, with the final chapter being released in theatres this December. However, before Smaug reigns fire upon Laketown and the Necromancer finishes assembling his army, here are 4 Middle-Earth games to play in preparation for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
The first genre that comes to mind when you think about a videogame set within Middle-Earth is a Role-Playing Game, right? It's the perfect setting for a big, open-world adventure! From various different diverse regions, countless cities housing different races and plenty of opportunities for wild adventures, why isn't there a Middle-Earth videogame in the same vein as Skyrim?
While we'll most likely have wallow in self pity for all entirety because of that- and because Warner Bros. killed The Middle-Earth Role-Playing Project!- there is one Middle-Earth videogame that at least tries to give us something similar. Developed by EA Redwood Shores and released in 2004 is The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, one of the best Middle-Earth videogames available.
Coming across as if Final Fantasy and The Lord of the Rings had a baby, The Third Age places you in the role of a fellowship of warriors tasked to secretly follow and protect the fellowship; the group that aimed to bring Frodo and the One Ring to Mordor. Boasting a great cast of characters, superbly replicated film locations and a story that often intersects with the film trilogy (the fight against the Balrog is fantastic!), The Third Age is a Middle-Earth videogame done right.
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II
Another genre that was just waiting for the Middle-Earth treatment was Real-Time Strategy. While this genre doesn't exactly cater to us gamers that want to freely explore the many regions of Middle-Earth and interact with all its folk, it does give way for one of Middle-Earth's other prevalent element- battles! From the Fall of Khazad-Dûm, The Battle of the Five Armies, Fall of Arnor and, of course, The War of the Ring, the history of Middle-Earth has been laden with epic and large scale battles.
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II takes place during The War of the Ring, but whereas its predecessor focused directly on events that happened during the film trilogy, this entry focuses on the War in the North, a war the films overlooked.
With the ability to play two entire campaigns from both sides of the conflict, and gameplay that can go from small, up-close-and-personal battles to huge, sweeping conflicts, The Battle for Middle-Earth II isn't just a great Middle-Earth videogame, but a great videogame, period.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This is the only game on our list that hasn't been released yet, but between now and the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, we'll have gotten our mitts on it. This upcoming title takes place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and places you in the role of Talion, a ranger of Gondor who, after his family is killed by Sauron's armies, vows to go beyond the Black Gates into Mordor to exact his revenge.
However, Talion isn't just a regular Gondorian, as he has the ability to transform into a Wraith-like being, which gives him the ability to slow down time, among other abilities. Looking like it's taking more than a few pages from Assassin's Creed's book, Shadow of Mordor is the only Middle-Earth videogame being released before the next (and final) Hobbit film.
While we're hoping its open-world elements are substantial, it's already looking pretty incredible so far. All of this on top of the fact that Gollum is at hand now as a sidekick of sorts, makes Shadow of Mordor one to look out for.
The Lord of the Rings Online
It may not be a Middle-Earth version of Skyrim, but with The Lord of the Rings Online you get pretty much the entire world of Middle-Earth to explore. Released in 2007 and now completely free to download and play, The Lord of the Rings Online may be one of the countless MMO's in existence, but it also happens to be one of the best.
Aside from the quite typical MMO combat at hand, the world of Middle-Earth has been beautifully designed here and lets the player explore 25 different regions, each with their own storyline and dynamic content. There's nothing quite like chilling out in The Shire with some friends after a long battle, or venturing to Rivendell to stock up on some new Elven gear before the next skirmish.
There's also a good few expansion packs released too. Compared to many free-to-play MMO's, which go stagnant after a couple of months, it looks like The Lord of the Rings Online is going to be sticking around for quite some time.