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Shakespeare references in games


, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

As Ryan North’s Kickstarter collaboration To Be or Not To Be launches on iOS and Android after a Mac, Linux and PC debut, we survey four other games that feature William Shakespeare’s works or legacy in one form or another.

Hamlet, or the last game without MMORPG features, shaders, and product placement (2010)
Android, iOS, Windows PC

Hamlet, Ophelia, and a guitar-playing Claudius star in this inventive point & click puzzle adventure, but the player’s way in is not as one of the principal cast but a time-travelling experimental scientist who accidentally squashes Hamlet flat upon landing and has to set about making things right. Russian developer mif2000 is now working on The Franz Kafka Videogame in a suitably surreal style.

Arden: The World of William Shakespeare (2007)
Windows PC

Developed at Indiana University and initially intended to be a Massively Multiplayer Online game, a World of Warcraft in the era of the Bard, its purpose was to be an economic behaviour simulation. Eventually, it was released as an optional free download for fantasy role-playing game Neverwinter Nights (now available from GOG.com), its US$ 250,000 MacArthur Fellowship funding miniscule in comparison to commercial titles.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
PlayStation 4

Chinese-American literature buff and secret service intelligence analyst Mei Ling has had three major appearances throughout the Metal Gear Solid series and half a dozen other cameos, the online component of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots would have her quote a line from Shakespeare’s Richard II; “The tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony. Where words are spent, they are seldom spent in vain.”

Final Fantasy IX (2000)
PlayStation One, PlayStation Network download

The extremely well-received Final Fantasy IX was also extremely liberal in its homages to Stratford-upon-Avon’s most famous playwright. In terms of naming convention there’s army general Beatrix (Much Ado About Nothing) who, thanks to a misdelivered note, ends up in a romance with a rival captain; bandit group/theatre troupe members Cinna and Marcus (Julius Caesar), court jesters Thorn and Zorn have been linked to Rozencrantz and Guildenstern (Hamlet), princely Puck shares his name with the sprite from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the player’s party even takes part in a stage play written by one Lord Avon, “I Want to Be Your Canary,” featuring a character called King Leo (King Lear).

The To Be or Not To Be site can be found at gamebookadventures.com/gamebooks/to-be-or-not-to-be

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