Top 10 Best Video Game Books - Visually Stunning and Fun to Read

Tags: #SNES ,   #Zelda ,   #Gamer ,   #GiftIdeas ,   #Literature

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2022-12-05 18:00:09

Even though non-fiction video game books have been available for decades, the choice wasn't solid until lately. Yet, now you can pick between hundreds of them, so there's something for everyone. While some are all about history lessons, others focus on stories about specific games or systems. Furthermore, you can choose between the text-heavy literature, those that are all about the illustrations, or something in between. You'll find all of them in our list of the best video game books, as they aren't just fun to read but also feature gorgeous design and hardback covers. Therefore, these books about gaming culture represent a perfect gift for a gamer dear to you. Although, you might want them in your collection too!

10. Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History

Sega Arcade Pop-Up history book
You'll quickly flip through this book, but it still looks stunning (Read-Only Memory)

As we mentioned, all the books on our top ten list are not only fantastic reads, but they are all visually striking. Yet, Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History goes a step further, making it unique. While Sega's arcade history is vibrant, the focus is on just six titles - OutRun, Hang-On, Space Harrier, After Burner, Power Drift, and Thunder Blade. All these are iconic, and this book will let you learn more about them straight from the mouth of the developer Yu Suzuki.

Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History is the most visually striking book on the list

Yet, that striking part we mentioned is all about the pop-up pages recreating the arcade cabinets as 3D objects! While you can appreciate them through words and pictures, this takes things to another level. Some of these cabinets were insanely expensive at the time, and even today, few people can afford them. While this is the book you can easily experience in a day, its uniqueness makes it a splendid buy!

Also check: ARTCADE – The book of Classic Arcade Game Art

9. The Game Console 2.0

The Game Console: A Photographic History from Atari to Xbox book
Learn basics about almost every gaming system ever! (Photo: TopTens archive)

Subtitled "A Photographic History from Atari to Xbox," this book tries to cover as many consoles as possible. This means that it's not only about the most popular systems but the ones that you haven't even heard of. Yet, while PlayStation, N64, or Xbox 360 earn six pages, PC-FX, Apple Pippin, or GX4000 got only one. As you can imagine, the focus here is on the visual side, as the author Evan Amos photographed every console. We can't give enough praise for the quality of his work, as even the oldest and most obscure devices look brand new!

The Game Console 2.0 is the fastest way through complete video game history

As a special treat, Amos even deconstructed many systems and their controllers, so you could examine their insides. It's fascinating to see the messy Sega Saturn mainboard or how the powerful Xbox console resembles a PC. Every system includes basic info and maybe a five-sentence story about its life. Yet, this is the easiest and most visually pleasing way to get through the chronology of video games! Just get a 2.0 revision, as it contains 50 more pages and as many systems.

Also check: Retro Gaming: A Byte-sized History of Video Games

8. The Unofficial SNES Pixel Book

The Unofficial SNES Pixel Book in a slipcase
The only book on our list that comes in a slipcase (Photo: Bitmap Books)

While there are tons of non-fiction books about video games focusing on the visual side, The SNES Pixel Book by Bitmap Books is different. As one of the most beloved consoles, Super Nintendo gave us gorgeous software featuring timeless pixel-art graphics. While the 272 pages aren't enough to cover everything, the authors made a tremendous mix of blockbusters and obscure titles. While we all adore Final Fantasy VI or Super Mario World, it's lovely to also see Wild Guns and Populous.

The Unofficial SNES Pixelbook focuses on the gorgeous pixel art

Yet, this is not a screenshots book! Even though there are plenty of those, you'll also find massive level maps, montages, and cutouts. This will let you enjoy the fine details and appreciate these games even more. Yet, there's still a solid amount of info presented in a fun way. The Unofficial SNES Pixelbook is even more striking and unique as the only book here coming in a slipcase. A must-have for any retro fan!

Also check: SNES/Super Famicom: A Visual Compendium

7. NEOGEO: A Visual History

NEOGEO: A Visual History book
NEOGEO: A Visual History explores the system in details (Photo: Bitmap Books)

As the Holy Grail of retro gaming, Neo Geo deserves much love from book publishers. Yet, NEOGEO: A Visual History is the only one worthy of the system. Almost 400 pages cover the most essential aspects of the console/arcade system, serving some beautiful pictures to illustrate it. While the focus is clearly on the visual side, there are many stories to enjoy here. For example, the writers gave a terrific overview of the Neo Geo hardware while not forgetting the Neo Geo CD.

NEOGEO: A Visual History is as fascinating as the console itself

Of course, lots of games earned their place here, though don't expect individual reviews. Instead, the talk is mostly about their covers and the beauty of pixel art graphics. This includes the titles from the early SNK days, with some still very playable today. Yet, the book also holds numerous interviews with people from SNK and game developers. Their insight into the system is precious and will make you appreciate it even more. While we hope for more Neo Geo books, this officially licensed one will always stay a great purchase.

Also check: Metal Slug: The Ultimate History 

6. The Games That Weren't

The Games That Weren't book
You probably haven't heard about many of the games featured in the book (Photo: Bitmap Books)

The Games That Weren't give us an incredible insight into the dark side of gaming – the titles that were never published. Yet, you will learn that canceled games are nothing new, as the book covers software from 1975 to 2015. This includes titles from many platforms, ranging from arcades to modern consoles. The in-depth coverage is most impressive here, as 80 titles are spread over almost 650 pages. As you can imagine, this includes lots of exclusive content, and even the concept art, if the screenshots are not available. Also, if the game is playable in some form today, you'll know about it.

The Games That Weren't will be your guide through the forgotten gaming history

As a surprise, there's a section dedicated to systems that never saw the light of the day, including the Atari 2600 predecessor. Finally, expect interviews with legends such as Geoff Crammond, Jon Hare, or Jeff Minter. While reading about your favorite games is always fascinating, those that never made it form the alternative narrative as you wonder what might have happened.

Also check: Video Games You Will Never Play

5. Sega Dreamcast Collected Works

Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works book by Read-Only Memory
Sega was happy to contribute to this book

When you look at the best gaming books, you'll see that every retro Nintendo system is covered numerous times. Yet, the beloved Sega platforms deserved just a few releases. Still, Read-Only Memory pays respect to the tragic Dreamcast, which ended Sega as a hardware company. The authors included some exclusive material with permission from the company, such as photos of manufacturing prototypes or rare hardware.

Sega Dreamcast Collected Works includes exclusive photos from Sega

The interviews with the top developers are even more fascinating, including Yu Suzuki, Naoto Ohshima (Sonic Adventure), and Masayoshi Kikuchi (Jet Set Radio). This book doesn't have the ambition to cover every game for the system, as it focuses on some of the most famous ones. Yet, it succeeds at creating an ultimate Dreamcast story that shouldn't be missed.

Also check: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works

4. A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games

A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games book
This is a massive tribute to JRPG genre (Photo: Bitmap Books)

This book may be a bit controversial because of how it describes JRPG. This means that it considers only role-playing games made in Japan instead of defining them based only on gameplay. Yet, even without those Western-developed JRPGs, this is still a mammoth book, covering titles from 1982 to those you can play on modern systems. This includes the Final Fantasy series but also many obscure ones. Hence, it has more than 600 games spread over 650+ pages. This leads us to another controversy, as the book also covers tactical RPGs such as Jeanne D'Arc, or actions like The Legend of Zelda.

A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games contains all your favorites

While there are plenty of beautiful pixels to look at, the focus is on the story, as every game is covered in detail. Heck, before you even get to them, you'll learn more about the genre's history. With so much content, A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games is the reference book for everyone loving the genre. Also, if a Japanese title has an English fan translation, you'll know about it!

Also check: The CRPG Book: A Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games

3. The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia 

The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia book
Make sure to get the rest of Zelda books, but you can get this one first (Photo: Nintendo)

Nintendo hit the spot with The Legend of Zelda series, which has remained incredibly popular since its birth in 1986. Every game in the series was a system seller, and luckily, we can explore that in the official Nintendo books. While all of them are amazing, The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia is the one you need to buy first. On 320 pages, you'll find tons of information about every official Zelda game, concluding with Twilight Princess HD. Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild is left out, even though the book came out after the game.

The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia completes the trilogy of Zelda books

Yet, what's in here is very impressive, as it covers pretty much everything to know about the series. This includes Hyrule and other lands, main heroes and villains, and different races you meet. The book also pays attention to the equipment and even the evolution of the world maps throughout the series. The archives section is dedicated to each game, and it features development documents. Finally, there's an in-depth interview with The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma.

Also check: The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

2. Super Nintendo Anthology Gold Edition

Super Nintendo Anthology Gold Edition book
Everything, and we mean everything you need to know about the SNES (Photo: Geeks Line)

There are tons of Super Nintendo books, but none can rival Super Nintendo Anthology Gold Edition! On over 500 pages, you'll find absolutely everything you need to know about the beloved console. This includes the system's chronology, starting decades before it was released. Yet, that's only the beginning, as you'll learn all about the console's hardware on over 100 pages. Do expect detailed stories about the audio and graphical capabilities, but also accessory reviews.

Super Nintendo Anthology Gold Edition contains almost everything from the soldout Ultimate Edition, but it's way cheaper

Finally, over 350 pages are dedicated to games published for the system. What makes this book special is that it's the only one covering almost a thousand Japanese-only games. Naturally, the most relevant ones like Star Ocean, International Superstar Soccer Deluxe, or Mortal Kombat got a whole page. In contrast, others received only a few sentences and a single screenshot. While Game Geeks' books about gaming culture are generally incredibly detailed, Super Nintendo Anthology Gold Edition is their best work so far!

Also check: NES Anthology, N64 Anthology, GameCube Anthology, PC Engine/FX Anthology  

1. Undisputed Street Fighter

Undisputed Street Fighter book
Your ultimate guide to everything Street Fighter!

Capcom's Street Fighter II redefined gaming by revolutionizing the fighting genre. Everywhere on Earth, you could see people competing against each other in the official, worldwide tournaments. Undisputed Street Fighter covers the game's impact on the rise of pro gaming, but it doesn't forget anything else. After the in-depth history section, you will dive deep into stories connected to the series, including merchandise, comics, and movies.

Undisputed Street Fighter is the ultimate book about the ultimate fighting game series

Yet, most of the book is dedicated to all fighters in the series, including Street Fighter V. Naturally, icons like Ryo and Ken got much more space than someone like Elena or Abel. While there are newer Street Fighter books, this one offers the best content. If you love fighting games, you need it!

Also check: Street Fighter World Warrior Encyclopedia – Arcade Edition HC

As a perfect combination of great design and fun content, all these best video game books in our top ten deserve a place in your collection. Alternatively, they are the perfect gift for gamers, especially older ones. Likewise, consider the alternatives we listed, as they are also excellent choices. As the new books keep coming, we'll make sure to refresh this list when needed!

Do you have some gaming books in your collection? Which one is your favorite? Let us know down below!

Cover photo: TopTens archive



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Zeith Says:

Geeks-Line books are excellent, but they often have problems with translations, that's very unprofessional. I have the revised version of their SNES Anthology, and it still contains the same basic errors.

November 23 at 03:55:46 PM

Zolt Says:

This can be pretty expensive hobby, but I enjoy buying and reading these books. I'm still waiting for a Mortal Kombat book.

August 11 at 09:15:18 AM

RetroMike Says:

I bought a few of those, but I also highly recommend "Go Straight" from Bitmap Books. It's in style of their RPG books, but even better.

August 10 at 10:08:52 AM

Julian Says:

I watched an online review and these foldouts look amazing. Can't wait to grab it.

August 16 at 08:12:41 AM

DecentTerminator Says:

I have almost all Geeks Line books - I'm only missing the PC Engine one, but I'll grab it soon. They are very detailed and review every game for the system. The only exception is PlayStation Anthology which lacks reviews. Yet, there are over 4000 games for the PSX, so I have no idea how they would do it anyway.

July 29 at 09:41:07 AM

Lowry Says:

I'm currently reading A Guide to Japanese Role Playing Games and it's fascinating, even though I played like 10 RPGs in my life. Now I found a few more to try.

July 25 at 01:24:05 PM

Julian Says:

I finished reading it. It is fascinating, although sometimes the overview doesn't mention should I play the game or not.

August 16 at 08:12:05 AM

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