Hogwarts Legacy is here, and it’s the video game recreation of Harry Potter’s wizarding world that fans have been waiting for. It’s rare that a big-budget, much hyped blockbuster game actually delivers on the buzz surrounding it ahead of launch, but Warner Bros’ action-RPG seems to have done just that.
It’s currently sitting pretty with a score of around 85 on Metacritic (scores vary ever so slightly depending on which platform you’re looking at), and clips of the discoveries and magical moments players are creating with it are flooding social media.
But the Wizarding World hasn’t always had such a fantastical time when it comes to being translated into video game form. That’s perhaps best showcased by the fact that Hogwarts Legacy is the first major Harry Potter game to be released on consoles in 13 years.
Granted, we’ve not had any new films in the franchise in just as many years (and straight, film-to-game cash-in adaptations are thankfully much less common now, which goes some way to explaining why we haven’t had a Fantastic Beasts game), but other major film franchises - Star Wars most notably - still generate standalone, original video game stories.
So what is Potter’s past relationship with video games? Here is everything you need to know.
The first time we saw Harry Potter brought to the world of video gaming actually came through a tie-in with Lego. Of course, we now know that the Lego games’ platformer replications of popular film franchises are some of the most fun two-player experiences out there (more on that later), but Lego Creator: Harry Potter was far from what the Lego games would become.
Instead, it served as an add-on for the Lego Creator base game, a virtual toybox designed as an “evergreen” alternative to the real plastic toy, in which players could create the constructions of their dreams from a near limitless option of computerised components.
The first Harry Potter game ‘proper’ was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a 2001 title based on the film of the same name released for the original PlayStation and PC (and later PS2, the original Xbox and the GameCube) that would begin a mirror series of games based directly on each of the franchise’s big screen offerings.
As was and is often the case with tie-in game adaptations of the time, the game was flat and uninspired, a relatively quickly produced piece of software designed to lure in fans - IGN called it “the digital equivalent of a Ron Weasley hand-me-down.”
As with the film, that game was followed by a sequel in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002 (PS1, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC). The second game fared much better, garnering generally positive reviews for its story, puzzles and virtual reproduction of Quidditch, and even a BAFTA nomination for its soundtrack.
That Quidditch mode was expanded into its own full game the year later with Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, but although the magical sport’s inclusion in Chamber of Secrets won praise, here it wasn’t so welcomed - sluggish controls and shallow gameplay led to a significantly more mixed critical response.
It was fully back aboard the direct film adaptation train in 2004 with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PS2, Xbox, GameCube), and the franchise wouldn’t see an original game for another six years. Before then we had Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PS2, Xbox, GameCube) in 2005, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) in 2007, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) in 2009.
All of them received “mixed or average” reviews. Then, in 2010 everything changed.
Return to 2x2 Brick one
As mentioned, the Lego games - based on popular film franchises - really are some of the best two-player, co-operative puzzle-platforming experiences out there. Perfect for gamers old and young alike, they combine the recognisable characters and locations of blockbuster series with Lego’s charming artstyle, and laid-back forgiving gameplay for a relatively stress-free experience.
In 2011, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1–4 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Nintendo Switch) was unleashed, a delightful, brick-sized recreation of the Wizarding World that let players explore a plasticky Hogwarts, with an emphasis on collecting, exploring and solving puzzles across the events of the first four Harry Potter adventures.
Sure, hardcore fans of the series may lament the fact it took so long to get a decent Harry Potter game, and when it did roll around, it was in virtual Lego form, but honestly, Years 1–4 and its sequel - 2011’s Lego Harry Potter: Years 5–7 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Nintendo Switch) - are two of the best Potter games going, arguably beaten only by Hogwarts Legacy.
Even non-Potter fans are advised to check them out, with the Lego games’ gameplay providing an entertaining romp to see through with a partner whether you’re familiar with the source material or not. That these two games overshadow the poorly received Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) - released in 2010 and 2011 respectively - speaks volumes.
What does the future hold?
Alas, until Hogwarts Legacy came around 12 years later, that’s where Potter’s good video game fortunes began and ended, with only a few ill-fated spin-offs hitting consoles in the intervening years.
There was 2012’s Harry Potter for Kinect (Xbox 360), which attempted to make decent use of Microsoft’s body-tracking Kinect camera (perhaps the tech can be blamed for its failings there), and 2012’s Book of Spells and 2013’s Book of Potions (both PS3) fumbled similarly with the PlayStation 3’s Move wands at a time when everybody wanted a slice of the Nintendo Wii’s motion-controlled gimmickary.
But perhaps all that will change with the release of Hogwarts Legacy. The game is officially the biggest Harry Potter video game launch ever in the UK (early sales figures suggest physical copies - as opposed to digital only ones - are outstripping even heavy hitters like last year’s Elden Ring), and that’s sure to have the execs at Warner Bros. rubbing their hands together with glee.
It seems almost inevitable that a sequel will be greenlit, and while the eventual release of any such follow-up is likely to yet be years away, if the foundations laid by the original can be built upon, expect another welcome return to the Wizarding World for gamers.