Long behind us are the times when video game adaptations of movie blockbusters ruled the world. A few years back there couldn’t have been a movie without a mandatory tie-in video game. Now, the situation’s changed and our favorite movie characters are rarely make it to consoles or PC. Many might say it’s a good thing. As it turns out, even among the torrent of monstrous adaptations of movies such as Bad Boys or Beverly Hills Cop it was possible to find some true gens. The following list presents movie-inspired video games that you may actually recommend to someone without feeling guilty.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
- Developer: Starbreeze Studios, Tigon Studios
- Publisher: Sierra
- Platforms: Xbox, PC
- Release date: 2004
The adventures of Richard B. Riddick simply have to be on the list when we’re talking about the best movie-based games. It’s definitely one of the most interesting FPP titles to be released on the first Microsoft console (and PC).
Escape from Butcher Bay is a prequel to the movie cycle focusing on the criminal with a mysterious past. Riddic first appeared in a horror movie Pitch Black, in which he, along with a group of other characters, was trying to escape a planet full of monsters. Escape from Butcher Bay depicts some earlier exploits from the life of this anti-hero. It focuses on Riddic’s escape from one of the toughest prisons in the galaxy. Starring Vin Diesel as Riddic, the movie also provides some insight into the character’s past.
The gameplay focuses on sneaking and stealth. Escape from Butcher Bay is a FPP game that has us blend into the shadows and take down enemies, who are armed much better than we are. We have a wide array of skills to help us, night vision being the most prominent among them, as it enables us to hunt down our enemies.
One of the biggest assets of the game is the heavy atmosphere of a space penal facility. The first few hours of the game present a truly unique setting. What’s more, The Chronicles of Riddick combines elements of stealth game, FPP game, and adventure game. As a result, we are given great gameplay complemented by interesting plot and memorable locations.
Escape from Butcher Bay saw the release of an expanded remastered version, available to PS3, Xbox and PC users alike. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena enables us to relive the protagonist’s escape from the Butcher Bay prison, and witness some of his later adventures.
- Developer: Westwood Studios
- Publisher: Virgin Interactive
- Platforms: PC
- Release date: 1997
Blade Runner is a cult classic movie based on a novel by Phillip K. Dick, and so far it got two video game adaptations. Let’s focus on the good one, released 15 years after the movie.
Blade Runner for PC is a point-and-click adventure game, in which we play the role of a young police officer, Ray McCoy, tasked with capturing a group of replicants who assault animals. The whole case turns out to be a prologue to a much bigger affair, which eventually leads to our protagoniost being falsely accused of murder. Together with Ray, we explore the mechanisms and operations of the darker side of future Los Angeles.
The video game version of Blade Runner is more than a simple retelling of the movie. Instead, we are given a completely separate storyline, set at roughly the same time as the exploits of Rick Deckard, the main protagonist of the movie. This allows us to meet some characters we’ve seen on screen. At the same time, the game expands our knowledge of the world populated by robots that are almost indistinguishable from human beings.
In its time, Blade Runner impressed the players with its stunning visuals, intriguing puzzles, profound plot that asked the same questions as the movie, and roughly a dozen various endings, depending on whether we decided a character was human or replicant.
The fans of both the movie and the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? novel will be pleased with this game. I wonder if the upcoming movie sequel will see an equally good game adaptation, though...
Blade Runner is not the only game based on the movie inpired by the work of Phillip K. Dick. Other two cases were Total Recall for Nintendo Entertainment System and Minority Report: Everybody Runs, released on PlayStation 2, among other platforms. Unfortunately, both of them were neither as good nor as lucky as Blade Runner, ending up as mediocre titles as best.
- Developer: Rare
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Platforms: Nintendo 64
- Release date: 1997
GoldenEye 007 is probably the best, or at least the best-remembered, video game adaptation of a movie ever created. Many also consider the game to be among the best video games in history.
The plot is based on the 1995 James Bond movie, starring Pierce Brosnan. Her Majesty’s secret agent is the only person able to stop a group of evil-minded criminals from using a powerful electromagnetic weapon. GoldenEye 007 enables us to experience the most thrilling scenes from the 17th Bond movie.
The game introduced an innovation that had rarely been encountered in FPP games up to that moment. We’re talking about stealth mechanics. Defeating enemies with cunning is much more rewarding than confronting them directly. Thanks to the distinctive approach, GoldenEye 007 stood apart from such classics as Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, or Doom.
GoldenEye 007 had done a great service for the development of console FPP games. The title has proven that a genre associated mostly with PC can also work on a console. The game from Rare offered an equally good multiplayer experience – up to four players could face off on a single console. It was an impressive feat at the time and it enabled the game to become a multiplayer hit in American dorms. No other console FPP game was able to even compete with GoldenEye.
The legend of this title live in thanks to the games that it inspired. Both Perfect Dark and the Time Splitters series can be traced back to GoldenEye 007. The iconic game also saw a remake, released on Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.
Pierce Brosnan played Agent 007 in several more video games. Noteworthy among them is Bond 007: Everything or Nothing. This TPP action game focused on a completely original Bond adventure, and several renowned actors, such as Willem Defoe, John Cleese, and Judi Dench, took part in this production. Everything or Nothing turned out to be a decent hit, selling more than 3 million copies.
- Developer: EA Redwood Shores
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Platforms: PS2, Xbox, PC, PSP, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
- Release date: 2006
Among many a movie enthusiast, The Godfather is considered THE best movie ever filmed. Although the same cannot be said of the 2006 video game based on Francis Ford Coppola’s work, The Godfather video game is a rather interesting variation on Grand Theft Auto.
In the game, we play as a young boy whose father was killed during a mob hit. The kid swears revenge on the killers and decides to associate himself with the Corleone family. Our role isn’t just limited to observing the important events of the movie from the young man’s perspective – we get to play our share in them. We are the ones to deliver the iconic horse head to the bed of a certain movie producer, for example. As the game progresses, we climb up the ranks and become a more and more important member of the family.
Gameplay-wise, The Godfather resembles many other open world titles created after the success of GTA III. We are free to engage in story missions and side quests, or simply wreak chaos and destruction on the streets of the city. The game from EA was supplemented with extortion mechanics, allowing us to convince shop keepers to pay us for “protection”. Acting as a true gangster would, we employ numerous means of persuasion to rip off as much money of the clerks as we can get away with without things getting violent.
One of the assets of the game was the fact that most of the movie actors reprised their roles, making the charaters sound and look exactly like their legendary cinematic counterparts.
The Godfather was a pretty good game, and it got a sequel in 2009. Unfortunately, its poor reviews and disappointing sales numbers prevented The Godfather III from ever happening.
The Godfather video game was the last project Marlon Brando took part in. Unfortunatly, the lines recorded by the dying actor, who passed away in 2004, turned out to be mostly unusable. As a result, the digital incarnation of Vito Corleone, except for a few lines, speaks in the voice of another actor – Doug Abrahams.
- Developer: Treyarch
- Publisher: Activision
- Platforms: PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox
- Release date: 2004
Over the last four decades Spider-Man was the star of numerous video games. Most of them were mediocre at best. For a moment it seemed like the guest apperance in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 would be the peak of Spider-Man’s career in digital entertainment. Luckily, the game based on the second movie was a positive surprise to both reviewers and gamers, and possibly even Peter Parker himself.
Spider-Man 2 employs the plot of the movie as a basis for the in-game story, supplemented with the addition of other characters from the Spider-Man universe. This allowed us to encounter such famous enemies of Spider-Man as Electro, Mysterio, or Rhino.
The developers from Treyarch managed to create wonderful movement mechanics. Gliding in the air using the web was madly enjoyable and offered unprecedented freedom. This enabled the players to feel as if they really were Spider-Man. A side Quest system had us assist the residents of New York and prevent petty crimes in our spare time.
Spider-Man turned out to be a great marriage of superhero game and open-world setting pulled straight from the Grand Theft Auto series. The mix seemed flawlessly balanced – the fans were convinced that Treyarch had found the perfect recipe for the adventures of Peter Parker. The game based on Spider-Man 3 proved them wrong, however. What was supposed to be a better, perfected version of Spider-Man 2 came out as a messed up lump of bad ideas. Sadly, no Spider-Man game released since was able to repeat the succes of the second part.
The first ever game starring Spider-Man was released on Atari 2600 as early as in 1982. The game had us climb skyscrapers and disarm bombs planted by The Green Goblin. It’s one of the first comic-based video game adaptations ever made.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- Developer: EA Redwood Shores
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Platforms: GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC
- Release date: 2003
The studio currently known as Visceral Games has several video game adaptations under its belt. Aside from the aforementioned The Godfather, this EA-associated team had also created a decent Bond game based on the movie From Russia With Love. However, their greatest achievement, aside from Dead Space, is the adaptation of the third chapter of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
The Return of the King offers a story based on the plot of the third and (partially) second movie of the cycle. The game is divided into three separate campaigns, depicting the paths of Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a simple action game with a bit of RPG elements. The gameplay revolves around beating the opponents that stand in our way. The combat system may not be as elaborate as the one in Davil May Cry, but each of the characters has a set of unique combos and the ability to parry enemy attacks.
The game’s biggest asset is the co-op mode. It is thanks to this addition that a simple brawler becomes a game that can devour hours of your time. Two players defeat dozens of enemies together, having more fun that with most other games available on consoles or PC.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King achieved a notable commercial success and got high ratings from reviewers. Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, however, was not pleased with his cooperation with EA. The creator felt as if the publisher disregarded his input during the development process. This resulted in his decision to entrust the development of King Kong, another game based on his movie, to Ubisoft. He chose the French company mainly because of Michael Ancel and his brilliant Beyond Good & Evil, which Jackson very much enjoyed.
Die Hard Arcade
- Developer: AM1
- Publisher: Sega
- Platforms: automaty, Sega Saturn
- Release date: 1996
There are two particular movies that scream Christmas to every millennial. These are Home Alone and Die Hard. Both pictures prompted several video game adaptations, but only the latter was blessed with two solid games. Die Hard Trilogy and Die Hard Arcade are two fine examples illustrating how a movie franchise should be transferred into the realm of games.
Die Hard Arcade was a beat ‘em up reminiscent of Fighting Force or Gekido. In this game, we played as John McClane – the protagonist of the Die Hard movies. His mission was to rescue the president’s daughter, who was captured by terrorists. John collects grenade launchers from restrooms and punches many a man in the face – all that to make America lawful again. If you appreciate a rich story, you’re definitely looking at a wrong address – this game was designed for those who enjoy beating up bad guys.
It’s a truly solid title; a point in case proving that walking beat ‘em ups in 3D are actually not a bad idea. It also brought about a certain feature which changed video games forever. It was the first game to use Quick-Time Events. During some cut scenes, players had their reflexes tested and needed to press the right button – if they succeeded, John could avoid taking damage. Currently despised by many players, this feature seemed a real fresh idea back in 1996.
Die Hard Arcade was originally a coin-operated game. Since it became immensely popular among players frequenting arcade saloons, the game was eventually released for Sega Saturn home console. Time has obviously not been gentle for this little gem, but if you ever happen to spot a Die Hard Arcade machine, don’t hesitate to spare a coin and give it a spin.
Die Hard Arcade may not entirely fit into this list. The Japanese original was called Dynamite Deka and had little to do with the movie. However, the protagonist was similar to Bruce Willis, and some inspiration drawn from the location of the first movie was clearly visible. This allowed the publishers to merge the game with the Die Hard series in Western markets.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Developer: Raven Software
- Publisher: Activision
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
- Release date: 2009
In the game, we play the part of the most recognizable member of the X-Men crew. The opening sequence of the game features a group of commandos chasing Logan – of course the soldiers don’t stand a chance against the Wolverine. From the very first minute, the game tells us exactly what it’s about. Logan has a jolly good time tossing his enemies all over the place, breaking their necks and piercing them with different objects currently at hand. X-Men Origins: Wolverine delivered a level of brutality that many players had been expecting since the first X-Men picture. The plot is a blend of the movie’s script and original ideas of the developers from Raven Software, so there’s plenty of new stuff here in addition to characters and stories you saw in cinema.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a game inspired by titles such as God of War or Devil May Cry, which means that it’s focused on action and hundreds of encounters with different enemies. For their kills, players are awarded XP, which can be used to enhance Logan’s abilities.
Raven Software made sure that the protagonist was closer to the comic book original, hence the game’s brutality. The wealth of possible ways to neutralize enemies is to many players the game’s main draw.
What probably stands out the most in case of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as compared to the remaining adaptations, is that the game is thought to be much better than the movie. It can be used to vent off all the mental anguish caused by witnessing the picture that almost compromised the whole franchise. By and large, video games are only supplementary to Hollywood’s blockbusters – this time, however, arguably the only good thing about the movie was that it prompted the production of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Raven Software smuggled in a couple if interesting Easter eggs from other games and different production. On one of the maps, the players can see the famous hatch from the LOST series. In other locations, it’s possible to find a sword from the Warcraft universe or the cake from Portal.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Developer: BioWare
- Publisher: LucasArts
- Platforms: Xbox, PC, Android, iOS
- Release date: 2003
The Star Wars franchise obviously generated a slew of great games. Discussing all of them would probably triple the volume of this article and the matter still wouldn’t be exhausted. But if I were to choose the one ultimate Star Wars video game (which I just did), I’d go for Knights of the Old Republic every time.
The game takes place thousands of years before the events from the movies, so the players are able to roam the galaxy still unmarked by the conflict between Sith and Jedi. In KotOR we create a character and control their actions. On the path to their fate, the protagonist will visit different planets and assemble a considerable party. The game is famous for its story and plot twists; everything is incredibly immersive, allowing the players to feel as if they were really shaping the universe of Star Wars.
The gameplay is all about the quests. The decisions made by the player determine whether their character ends up as a hero of the Jedi Order or a villainous evil-doer of the Dark Side. Another great feature of this game was the combat system, much more dynamic than in any previous game by BioWare. It allowed people who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in an RPG to enjoy this title.
Knights of the Old Republic became a benchmark for all western console RPGs for a long, long time. There wouldn’t be Mass Effect without KotOR. The game, thanks to its captivating plot and amazing gameplay, is listed as one of the best titles of the 2000s.
Among the myriad of video games set in the Star Wars universe, there are two more that deserve a mention; that would be Rogue Squadron and Jedi Knight. The former allowed players to take control over numerous starfighters and participate in clashes between the Rebels and the Empire. The latter was a series of FPP/TPP games that told the story of Kyle Katarn. Both games proved that the universe was able to produce something a lot better than the horrible beat’em-ups such as Masters of Teräs Käsi.
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
- Developer: Traveller’s Tales
- Publisher: LucasArts
- Platforms: X360, PS2, PS3, PSP, PC, Wii, NDS
- Release date: 2008
Traveller’s Tales have well over a dozen games based on movie franchises in their back catalogue. From Star Wars through The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, each of these games was a real treat, and deciding which one was the best probably depends on individual preferences regarding the movies. We’re putting LEGO Indiana Jones on our list mostly because lately there’s been a shortage of decent games about the world’s most famous archeologist.
Every LEGO offers straightforward entertainment; solving riddles and defeating enemies are two focal points of the gameplay. Characters and environments are stylized to look as if they were made from Lego blocks. What’s more, the game often requires that the player destroys a structure and builds something new with the obtained materials, thus overcoming a given obstacle.
LEGO Indiana Jones offers a rendition of the coolest moments of the well-known movie trilogy from the ‘80s. The iconic scenes were recreated with virtual Lego blocks, and at the same time enriched with plenty of humor, thanks to which the game is suitable for both younger and older players.
The LEGO games can be completed in a cooperation mode – here, Traveller’s Tales’ games unleash their full potential. These titles are cleverly designed; cooperation with another player makes things a whole lot easier, and a whole lot more fun.
Another advantage of these games is that they can provide quality entertainment for the whole family. They don’t require a lot of perseverance or manual skills; even people unaccustomed to playing video games ought to overcome the challenges posed by LEGO Indiana Jones.
Traveller’s Tales’ games are some of the best family adventure productions. They allow us to relive the most legendary movie scenes seasoned with some good humor, which makes the whole experience all the more enjoyable.
There’s a hidden character that can be unlocked in LEGO Indiana Jones. That’s Han Solo. Similarly, Indiana Jones hides somewhere in LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. As you surely remember, Harrison Ford was played both Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
- Developer: Terminal Reality
- Publisher: Atari
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
- Release date: 2009
Ghostbusters is a real cult classic. A crowd of dedicated fans waited for a long time for someone to continue the story of the four New Yorkers working in the phantom repelling business. Not many people expected it to be a video game, though.
In the game, we become a new member of the team. The mission of the player, who joins the four original Ghostbusters, is to keep the streets of New York clear of all kinds of phantoms. We get a chance to revisit the locations from the two movies and to roam another dimension, inhabited by supernatural beings.
The most prominent feature of Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the voice acting. The four original characters are voiced by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis, which brings the game to another level: you can really feel like you’re involved in another adventure of the Ghostbusters. The dialogues strike the same chords as the movies did – it’s the same mood that made Ghostbusters one of the best comedy franchises ever.
Unfortunately, Ghostbusters: The Video Game didn’t receive a sequel. Instead, we got a series of games of dubious quality, topped off by 2016 Ghostbusters – a miserable failure and one of the lowest-scoring games of 2016.
A bit of trivia: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, screenwriters and at the same time actors playing two of the four Ghostbusters, acknowledged Ghostbusters: The Video Game as a canonical, third part of the series.
- Developer: Computer Artworks
- Publisher: Black Label Games
- Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC
- Release date: 2002
The Thing is the ultimate testament to John Carpenter’s horror mastery. The movie about an extraterrestrial doppelganger is a universally acclaimed picture, revered by thousands of fans. Twenty years after the release of Carpenter’s movie came a sequel – The Thing video game.
The game begins just a couple of days after the movie’s conclusion. A group of soldiers are sent to investigate an American-Norwegian outpost in Antarctica. What they find are piles of bodies; recordings of the protagonist of the movie, in which he mentions the monster; and something that appears to be a space ship. The attempt to unveil the truth leads to an encounter with the monster that’s able to imitate any human being.
What I found to be the best element of the game were the mechanics of relations with other characters: we couldn’t be 100% sure as to who’s a real person and who’s the monster until we ran some blood tests. Thanks to this simple solution, the players could never feel totally secure.
The Thing is one of the most interesting games that were ever released on PC and consoles. Numerous interesting mechanics made this game stand out from the crowd of lukewarm survival horrors. Unfortunately, the sequel never came, and other developers didn’t follow up on the solutions from The Thing.
The movie by John Carpenter is famous for its open ending. For years and years on, the fans have been trying to figure out whether the monster was actually killed or not. There’s a whole bunch of theories regarding the final scenes of the The Thing. The director himself obviously never revealed the secret. The game offers one possible explanation, showing the fate of both the characters from the movie and the monster itself.
Few final words
For the sake of closure, let me point out that games referencing movie franchises seem to be better than adaptations which merely copy the stories already known from the silver screen. Sequels or spin-offs only loosely based on original pictures invariably turn out much more original and captivating than recreating famous scenes. Among the torrent of mediocre titles, one could easily find games that have the legs to stack up to “regular” video games. The Chronicles of Riddick, KotOR or GoldenEye 007 are productions that deserve to be seen as classics regardless of the player’s affection (or lack thereof) towards the source material.
Have you played all the games from our list? Maybe you think we’ve missed something? What’s your take on movie adaptations in general? Let us know!