Look At All The Shakespeare Videogames

AI-generated Shakespeare trying to play a standup arcade video game

For as long as I’ve been into Shakespeare, I’ve wondered about games based on Shakespeare. I own a lot of Shakespeare games, from Bards Against Humanity to Shakespeare Trivial Pursuit. But video games? That’s a different story. It takes a lot of effort to make a video game. You’ve got to decide the style – arcade, RPG, adventure? The platform – PC, console, mobile? And, of course, the game and the plot. How do you translate a Shakespeare play to an enjoyable video game?

Over the years, I’ve written about and played a few. There was supposed to be one of those massive multiplayer worlds called Arden, which would have been amazing, but it was doomed from the start. That was a shame. I just kind of lost the thread over time.


So Many Games

Like a list of movie adaptations, I clicked on this article, assuming that I knew everything it was going to tell me. Nope! I’ve played some of these, but most were new. I also know of a few that didn’t make the list, that I’ll talk about at the end. Let’s go through this, shall we?

  • Something Wicked: A side-scroller based on the battle scenes in Macbeth? Never heard of it, never played it, but sounds like fun.
  • Life Is Strange: Before The Storm: A sequel to Life Is Strange, whatever that is. But it’s based on The Tempest, which has always been a favorite of mine for story fodder, so I’d happily play it if it fell in my lap.
  • Lion King obviously shouldn’t have made the list.
  • Romeo Wherefore Art Thou looked cute — a platformer where you play Romeo trying to find Juliet, I guess? The link included in the article doesn’t work, but fear not, I found one that does! It’s actually difficult, I haven’t made it past level 2 yet.
  • Hamlet Or The Last Game Without MMORPG Features, Shaders, And Product Placement I did get to play this one a little but, but it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t have remembered if I didn’t see the screenshots.
  • Final Fantasy 15 somebody will have to tell me, is there enough Hamlet in this to deserve placement on the list? I’m looking for games that are clearly Shakespeare games, not games Lion King. Then again I gave the benefit of the doubt to Life is Strange so you never know.
  • Haven looks awesome, has anybody played it? A space story with Romeo and Juliet on the run? That sounds like it has potential.
  • To Be Or Not To Be the interactive novel is exactly that. If you’ve read the choose-your-own-adventure book you know how this one is going to go. I’ve read the book, haven’t played the game.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Choice is another interactive text adventure, playable for free here: https://www.choiceofgames.com/midsummer-nights-choice/ It’s also available as a mobile app.
  • Elsinore I feel like I played this one, and I feel like I would have enjoyed it. I love the idea of a time-loop story where Ophelia is trying to save herself and everyone she loves, but keeps failing over and over again.

Don’t Forget These

Recently I worked a little bit with a Redditor who put a game out for Oculus Quest called Bard Sabre. In this one the words of Shakespeare’s famous monologues come hurling at you like objects and you have to knock them down in order, while avoiding the bad guys. The idea is that you’re memorizing the speech while you do it. I thought it had potential, and hope he continues.

‘Speare unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. Hey, it was 2006, and I have been doing this a long long time. This one was a good old fashioned space shooter in the traditional arcade style. Didn’t really have much by way of direct connection to Shakespeare, but in a world where Shakespeare video games were few and far between I’d take what I could get.

Write ‘n Fight is a Mortal Kombat 2d fighter, where the players are all classic authors — including Shakespeare. Want to see whether Shakespeare could take Hemingway in a bare-knuckle brawl? Now you can!

Does anybody know any that we missed? There are a number of lists like this one that focus on the many, many RPG-style console games that retell elements of Shakespeare stories (avenge your father, be with your star-crossed love, etc …), but I can’t speak at all to how much actual Shakespeare is in any of them.

Say It Louder For The People In The Back

Do Shakespeare plays make the perfect rom-com IP?

Thus asks Entertainment Weekly, riding the wave of Shakespeare articles let by the success of Sydney Sweeney’s Anyone But You.

Teenage Shakespeare, oh yeah it's only Teenage Shakespeare
Teenage Shakespeare and his dog, Berry.

This is what I’ve been saying! So glad to see similar thinking. I’ve written several times that I was pleasantly surprised to find the amount of Shakespeare I did in Sweeney’s movie. It’s still a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that I’m probably a generation too old to enjoy. But when its popularity began to skyrocket, there was an obvious reason.

It’s the Shakespeare, stupid.

We Shakespeare geeks have known this for years. 10 Things I Hate About You remains popular 25 years after its release. And not just because Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles knocked it out of the park. It’s the dialogue and the setting and plot that allowed them to do that. When the remodeling shows on the other TV channels talk about renovating houses, they talk about “good bones.” Shakespeare gives today’s screenwriters exactly the good bones to build stories that are new and old at the same time.

The linked article isn’t just a rehash of the same teen Shakespeare adaptations that my readers already know. It’s an actual interview with the writers of 10 Things, Get Over It, and She’s The Man. I love the idea that executives for Get Over It said, “Put in more Shakespeare.”

Speaking of Teen Adaptations

But wait, maybe you are looking for a list of teen Shakespeare adaptations. I can’t be the only one who still clicks on all of them. You know, just to see if something might be different this time. Will they realize that every adaptation doesn’t have to be a romantic comedy? Does it include Lion King? Is Romeo+Juliet their #1?

I’m happy to report that Paste Magazine completely surprised me. Their list includes neither Lion King nor Romeo + Juliet, no Hamlets, and one movie I didn’t even know about! I’ve really got to catch up on some of these.

Not Available In Stores?

I love Shakespeare merchandise. A long time ago I came up with the term “decorating your life” with the things you love. This is kind of like my introvert’s version of manifesting — when people into my sphere of influence they see the Shakespeare and presto, we’ve got something to talk about. I make new friends all the time this way.

I’ve even got some of my own merchandise. After all, you’ve got to rep the product, right? When my daughter speaks at a conference in Detroit this fall, I’m hoping to adorn her in Shakespeare Geekery.

But it is very rare indeed that I find myself in possession of Shakespeare Geek merchandise that I did not make. Check out what Bardfilm got me for my birthday!

A hydroflask with my name on it!
It’s a real one, too! Not a cheap knockoff!

He’s too good to me. It turns out that the Hydroflask people have a very extensive customization option, and boy, did we cover all the options. You pick the size, the cap, the color, the color of the cap, the color of the boot, and what you want to be written on it. We looked at Yeti, which does have similar, but they didn’t seem to have the same options when it came to the straw cap that I prefer. Yeti does offer uploadable graphics, though.

I love it. I never really considered the “boot” on the bottom, but now that it’s here, I know what Shakespeare meant by saying, “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” Have you ever knocked over a metal water bottle on a marble counter? It’s enough to wake the dead. Not anymore! It’s like a ninja water bottle. Nobody hears me coming.

Thanks again to Bardfilm for his generosity. We recently discovered that KJ and I have “known each other” since 2009, when we referenced each other’s blog posts. He’s a kind and generous man who knows way more about Shakespeare than I do. If you’ve read this far, you should immediately check out his site. Kindness should be rewarded.

P.S. – This really does come at the perfect time. At work, we have one of those cool Bevi machines that allow you to create customized water. Lately, I’ve been making caffeinated, sweetened black cherry seltzer. I also found out that you should not put 32oz of seltzer in a garden-variety plastic water bottle — that thing starts bursting at the seams on me. I’d come back to my desk to find my bottle sitting in a puddle of its own making. I don’t expect this new metal one to suffer from such a problem.

King James I Was Gay? How Did I Miss This?

Wikipedia, where I got this image, doesn't say that King James I was gay, though it does have a section on speculation over his personal relationships.

For as long as I’ve been doing this, people have wanted to discuss whether Shakespeare was gay. And Christopher Marlowe (although I think there’s more agreement there). Then there’s the debate about whether half the individual characters in Shakespeare’s works were trying to tell us something. But I seem to have ultimately missed the idea that Queen Elizabeth’s successor, King James I was gay.

I guess there’s some new TV series, Mary & George, that looks more closely at this particular side of history. I’ve only just heard of it; people are starting to write articles that are showing up in my newsfeeds. I don’t have STARZ, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it.

When In Doubt, Ask The Historians

I started googling around for information on the subject and got plenty of hits dating back years. They didn’t all come from “wishful thinking” sites, either. Because, let’s face it, I’m in the blogging business, not the research business; I can’t just grab a link to a random article and say, “Here’s your proof.”

That is, unless Reddit’s famous Ask Historians group has tackled the question. I love this group. They’re legit historians who hold themselves up to a particular academic standard. They don’t editorialize or go off on hypotheticals. They only tell it like it is when they have documentation to back it up. They even helped me research the whole Starlings / Shakespeare connection years before these folks got all the credit.

So, let’s see what they had to say about King James, shall we?

TL;DR Too Long, Didn’t Read

How many people clicked on that link? How many people read it all? That’s the only real problem with that group. This is the internet. People don’t want an academic answer to their question, with citations. They just want the answer. So, let me see if I can sum it up. I’m not promising I won’t use AI to help me with this.

(A) The article starts with a reminder that terminology is essential as it changes over the years. The word homosexual is not even recorded until 1890. So we are left to search for terms like sodomy, which was a different and very specific (criminal) thing. Other, broader terms were also used, but more in the sense of leading a sinful life. None are very confident indicators of what we would think of today as sexual identity.

(B) Independent of what term you apply, evidence does exist that King James was sexually attracted to both men and women. The article goes on to identify the “candidates,” with detailed documentation about why people have come to think as they do.


It seems to be that there’s no real debate, other than perhaps what terminology is fair. I trust the word of the historians on Reddit (mostly because they cite all their sources, even if I never do go check those). King James I likely had romantic relationships with men. Whether or not it’s fair to reduce that down to King James I was gay, that’s a different story.

I Don’t Think Shakespeare is the Cringe Part

Saying something is cringe is cringe, old man.

Bea, Anyone But You

This interview with Will Gluck, director of Much Ado About Nothing adaptation Anyone But You, caught my attention for all the wrong reasons. The director “breaks his silence” over the “Shakespeare cringe scenes.”

AI generated image of Shakespeare in the bath tub.

Shakespeare is the cringe part? Really? This is a movie that’s gone viral on TikTok for images of girls trying to hide their boyfriends’ eyes during the completely gratuitous shower scene. If you’re Gen X like myself, you no doubt remember the gratuitous topless scenes of movies in the 1980s. People don’t typically remember that even John Hughes’ PG-rated hit Sixteen Candles (1984) had a ridiculously bad one where the stars watch the popular girl shower for no reason other than to check that box for the marketing department.

Then there’s the scene of the random guy in the outdoor shower washing … well, everything. While engaging in conversation with another guy.

Or Glen Powell, our Benedick character, panicking about something, stripping off all his clothes, and then throwing them *off a cliff* as his first reaction.

There’s a lot in this movie to cringe at. Part of the opening scene is the classic “went to the restroom and got sprayed by the sink so now people are going to think I peed myself” trope. There’s not a great deal of effort put into these scenes.

But the Shakespeare scenes are cringeworthy? I was ready to throw hands in a comment section, let me tell you.

Luckily, the director is on the right side for this one.

All the cringe scenes in this movie are taken directly from William Shakespeare. The tropes that all the romantic comedies have now, he started it back in sixteen-whatever. That’s where they began. So, yes, you’ve seen it millions of times, but this was honoring the goofiness of that.

I feel like this guy gets it. I was pleasantly surprised by how the Shakespeare references were dropped into what is otherwise, as noted, a pretty by-the-numbers R-rated romantic comedy. At the time, I wrote, ” banking mostly on Sydney-Sweeney-in-a-bathing-suit popularity, but once you’re in your seat, it’s not afraid to say, Ha! This is actually Shakespeare!” and I definitely think this confirms it. I was very surprised when it started breaking records, and people started talking about how this could represent a resurgence for the genre. Gee, I wonder what the secret sauce might be. Is it the gratuitous shower scene? We have the internet now, that’s not as exciting as it once was. Same for the two guys that get nearly naked – if that’s what you want to see, there are plenty of other places to see it.

It’s the Shakespeare, stupid. The Shakespeare structure doesn’t make this movie cringe-worthy. It’s what makes this movie successful. Some of the dialogue is actually Shakespeare, and many of the parts that aren’t are just modern language updates. The irony that the direct tributes to the man are the ones that modern audiences are saying “meh” to bothers me greatly. But then again, a very long list of Gen Z stuff bothers me (and most of Gen X), too, so we should keep things in perspective. If spoon-feeding people Shakespeare against a backdrop of hoping they get to see Sydney Sweeney in the shower is what it takes, well, then let’s keep doing that.