There was a time in gaming’s long and sordid history when most major films had to have a video game tie-in. And most of them were terrible. So terrible that they almost destroyed gaming (thanks E.T.). We’ve had some that should have worked but were badly made (Fight Club was a wasted opportunity), others that shouldn’t have even been considered (Wayne’s World exists for some reason), and others still that confuse me (Street Fighter: The Movie which is a game of a film of a game). But sometimes game developers, movie makers, and people with cash manage to get their shit together and make something genuinely good. Here are five such examples.
As ever, I must have played these games. Whilst they don’t have to be directly based on a single specific movie, their source material must be clear and there should be a direct link to the movie(s). Whilst researching this I found far more than I expected, so narrowing it down became tricky, but narrowed I have! Read on!
Probably my favourite “classic” Disney film, Aladdin is a retelling of the story of a young boy who finds himself in possession of magic lamp containing a genie who grants him 3 wishes. Aladdin obviously uses it to impress a girl because that’s pretty much always the case in old fashioned stories. Anyway, magic, murder, marriage and everyone lives happily ever after. The ones who survive anyway.
As was the case for most games of this era, Aladdin was a platform game retelling some of the key scenes from the movie. The art and music captured the style of the film perfectly and the tight controls gave use a mechanically solid game. The platforming was fun, with simple sword attacks and ranged moves forming the combat (cutting the guards trousers to make them fall down was a nice touch). Other stages involved magic carpet flights and boss battles to keep the game fresh. It worked surprisingly well (I played the superior Mega Drive version by the way!) and it’s a pity that most other Disney video games couldn’t match the quality here.
So the film wasn’t great. At all. Every character was used badly, Deadpool couldn’t speak(!) and the whole “Origins” movie idea fell at the first hurdle (although I feel it paved the way for First Class). Still, the Wolverine movie series managed to survive somehow, and the tie-in video game was actually tremendous.
Playing as a solid hack n’ slash game, Wolverine follows the plot of the film closely enough but makes it as violent as a game featuring a man with claws in his hands should be. Logan carves through enemies with his claws, dishing out brutal finishers (the helicopter moment from early in the game proved rather memorable for me) with a surprisingly solid set of combos that can be upgraded. Solid controls and fun boss battles keep the game from getting stale (plus the fun Easter eggs that parody other games are enjoyable to find). The visuals are excellent, with chunks of Wolverine being blown away, exposing his skeleton before gradually healing. It’s a well put together package that was far more enjoyable than its source material.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I love this film. I know it’s not great, but I enjoy watching it so much with it’s fun visuals that do a good job of bringing the books to the screen. Michael Cera looks the part and I still like seeing the man who would be Captain America exploding in a skateboard accident. It’s what I would call a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt for liking it.
Feeling very much like River City Ransom, you and up to 3 allies select a character from the story and proceed to fight anyone and everyone that gets in your way. You’ll collect money to spend in shops along the way to strengthen your character (which you’ll need to, it’s pretty tough) before confronting the boss. I found the controls a little loose at times but playing anything that reminds me so Streets of Rage and its ilk is alright by me. Visually it’s great too, using the style of the books combined with a retro graphical style. I’m hoping this one eventually comes to backwards compatibility, but with all the licenses involved I suspect that’s wishful thinking.
Right, this hasn’t aged brilliantly (especially as far as visuals are concerned) but it’s story and experience are a wonderful extension of the Star Wars universe. This doesn’t tie into a specific movie, and tells its own set of stories but it’s a great tale of galactic battle, subterfuge and FLYING ALONGSIDE DARTH VADER. Sorry, I got overexcited there.
Game’s like this are less common these days. It’s a narrative driven (with multiple branches in fact) space combat simulation. You need to manage your TIE fighter’s (or bomber, interceptor amongst other craft) resources to be as effective as possible whilst you crush the Rebel alliance. The controls were excellent (assuming you used a joystick) and the missions varied. The graphics do not hold up well, though the sense of scale you get as you fly beside a star destroyer is impressive. It’s a shame we’re unlikely to see many (if any) Star Wars games in the future, as a modernised version of this could work very well.
What can I say about this movie? You all know it, you probably love it, and you’ve probably seen it more times that you’ve had hot dinners. It’s amazing that there have been so many shoddy games to come from the franchise considering how easily it should translate. From the fairly shonky Commodore 64/NES/etc. game, to the horrifially overpriced 2016 spin-off, there have been very few good games in the series.
Thankfully, the 20099 release fixed that, with an original story (purported to be Ghostbusters 3 in essence) in which you play a new character alongside the original cast. The story was fairly standard, with ghosts having taken over the city meaning someone’s gonna call the Ghostbusters. You would control your character, exploring environments (some surprisingly creepy) with your PK meter to find and catch ghosts. Combat came down to weakening ghosts with your proton blaster (or alternative weapon) before slamming them into a trap. It all worked really rather well with solid controls and good visuals to go with the fun gameplay. I loved that crossing the streams with your teammates caused you to get knocked back. There was even a really rather good mutliplayer mode that died way before its time because it wasn’t Call of Duty.
As ever, there are a few honourable mentions. I didn’t put Goldeneye above as I feel it has not aged very well at all. Whilst the single player is still great, with a ton of content, the multiplayer feels pretty shoddy with a horrible framrate. I suppose I didn’t know any better at the time. Blade Runner is a great and, for its time, very inventive adventure game with multiple endings. Alien: Isolation is an excellent survival horror game in which you feel under constant threat; it’s just a shame that it goes on a bit too long and becomes a slog towards the end. Spiderman 2 deserves a mention for its fantastic swinging mechanics that developes are still trying to live up to to this day. Finally, a game I rarely see mentioned: Starship Troopers which was a rather fun RTS game that received a lot less attention than it deserved.
Have I missed any? Are there any movie-based games that you think deserve their time in the sun? Let me know, I’d love to give them a look!