So you’ve just finished watching Geralt grimace his way through eight episodes of Netflix’s new fantasy epic The Witcher. There’s a good chance you want more. Maybe it was the deep world-building that enticed you or all of the monster-hunting. Maybe it was Henry Cavill’s piercing yellow eyes. Either way, you’re in luck: you don’t have to wait for the second season to get more of Geralt. The Witcher is based on a series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which also spawned a series of video games from CD Projekt Red so there is already a lot of The Witcher in the world to dive into. If you’re brand-new to the series, here are the best places to start.
What to read
The obvious place to start would be the very first Witcher novel, Blood of Elves, which kicks off a lengthy storyline that spans six books. But if you’re coming to the books from the TV show, I’d recommend first delving into the short story collections, which predate the novels. There are two of them — The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny — and both feature tales that form the basis for many of the show’s best episodes. The episode “Rare Species,” for instance, is based on the story “The Bounds of Reason” from Sword of Destiny, while the disturbing story “The Witcher” in The Last Wish is the core of the episode “The Betrayer Moon.”
There are differences between the books and the show, of course. The Netflix series also weaves in an overarching story about warring kingdoms and the importance of destiny, which is largely absent from the short stories. But the two complement each other well, and they follow a similar structure, jumping back and forth in time with reckless abandon. In my opinion at least, The Witcher is at its best in this more standalone format, with Geralt investigating a new monster-related tragedy in each story. These two books will give you plenty of that.
What to play
You might be tempted to start from the beginning when it comes to the games. But I’d recommend sticking with the most recent entry in the series. Unlike books, games tend to age poorly, and this is particularly true for RPGs where quality-of-life updates can make older titles a chore to play through. But 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt still feels fantastic today, and it’s the best — and most ambitious — entry in the series. It shifts things toward an open-world structure, and it’s filled with the same morally complex storytelling that makes the TV show so compelling. The two don’t cross over much, though; Netflix’s The Witcher is explicitly based on the books. And despite the three in the title, you don’t need to play the previous games to understand what’s going on.
Now is also the best time to play The Witcher 3. For one thing, the game received two massive expansions, so if you’re just starting, you have a lot of video game in front of you. (The main story lasts dozens of hours on its own.) But it’s also very accessible. It’s available on a huge range of platforms, and it’s frequently on sale. Just yesterday, Wild Hunt launched on Xbox Game Pass, making it free for subscribers to play. It’s even on the Nintendo Switch. While the Switch version suffers from a technical standpoint — the graphics and performance both take a hit on the smaller screen — much like Breath of the Wild and other open-world games, The Witcher 3 benefits greatly from being playable on the go where you can sneak in a quest or two in otherwise idle periods of time.
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