THE CRPG BOOK, from the UK’s Bitmap Books, is the culmination of years of work by over a hundred contributors. It’s one of the most comprehensive histories of CRPGs ever written, and features in-depth review-style writeups of over 400 games, along with essays on the ancient history of role-playing games (going all the way back to the Prussian Empire), the early days of MUDs (multi-user dungeons, the earliest online games), the archaic but impressive PLATO computer system, and the importance of paper manuals and hand-drawn maps.
THE UK-BASED Bitmap Books is steadily becoming one of the foremost chroniclers of everything that falls under the umbrella of “retro gaming”. Their exhaustive, full-color volumes trace various threads running through the history of videogames, and while the majority of their titles are dedicated to a specific console, other volumes cover everything from vintage arcade cabinets to the lost world of game box art.
CLOCKING IN AT 536 pages, NES/Famicom: A Visual Compendium offers a wealth of retro goodness for die-hard gamers, nostalgia seekers, and pixel-art fans alike. In addition to its eye-popping visuals, the book includes features on major developers like Konami and Capcom, extensive box art, interviews with developers from both Japan and the west, and fan tributes both written and visual.
GROWING UP, I had a closer-than-usual relationship with Atari’s games: with a close family member who worked at the then-young Silicon Valley company, I had access to dozens of games, sometimes even in pre-release builds. With most of the games I played existing only on floppy disks, this mind-bending cover art (not to mention any sort of packaging, background info, or instruction manual) was totally absent from the experience. This meant contending not only with the games’ built-in learning curves, but also figuring out the frequently bizarre lore and background stories of the games only through their totemic, rudimentary pixel art.