The relationship between video games and movies is a bit more tumultuous than it used to be. I mean, it was always tumultuous, since nine times out of ten video games based on movies were hot garbage. But now most developers don’t try, with most grab and go licensed software landing on mobile devices. It’s a sad, but inevitable conclusion to years of digital thuggery. However, that doesn’t mean every movie video game was bad. There were decent games over the years, and even the occasional gem. Here are ten examples of good games based on movies both young and old.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game
Partially based on the Oni Press comic book series, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is also partially based on the movie, which it shares a title with. With pixel art from the legendary Paul Robertson, no other video game looks like this. At least no other mass-market video game does, especially one published by Ubisoft. A beat em up explicitly inspired by River City Ransom , up to four players could run around beating up baddies, leveling up their stats in shops, and of course fighting ridiculous boss battles against Ramona’s evil exes.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Semi-obscure Vin Diesel sci-fi series Riddick , which barely had two movies at the time, wasn’t exactly a prime candidate for a big video game. Yet somehow two of them happened, and people loved them. Considering how surprisingly good Butcher Bay was, it’s no surprise a sequel was eventually released. But perhaps more surprising was the brazen inclusion of the first game as well, which was especially wild considering the sequel was on different console hardware.
I wasn’t really into shooters at the time, but there was no denying the power of GoldenEye 007 . A game that developer Rare was basically duct-taping together until the last possible minute, this game revolutionized the genre. Most of that was due to Grant Kirkhope’s rad soundtrack, and of course the extensive, four-player multiplayer suite. Having a split-screen shooter that supported four players locally was just unheard of at the time, and Nintendo delivered.
Spider-Man games are a dime a dozen, but the cultural flashpoint brought on by Sam Raimi’s movie trilogy will probably never be matched in genuine energy. This includes the video game adaptations, the second of which is still revered as one of the most important games of its time. It hasn’t aged super well, but its intense physics systems powering players’ ability to swing around New York City were (and in some ways still are) mind-blowing. No game has done it the same way since and, while they all have their ups and downs, Spider-Man 2 did it first.
Rockstar is generally in the business of making games it really wishes would be considered as “good” as movies are. But at one point, Rockstar went full pretense and actually grabbed the license to a classic movie. The Warriors was quite well-received in how it works alongside the movie’s fiction, and was more or less a GTA -ish deal in the same way Manhunt was. It’s not my thing, but is definitely a game people look back on as a worthwhile diversion from what Rockstar usually did.
Star Wars: The Arcade Game
It’s easy to forget that video games are basically magic sometimes. So many come out and get discussed to death that it’s hard to let them just wash over you when you’re so dialed in. But the first time I sat down in Star Wars: The Arcade Game, I had my brain evacuated for me. Despite how old and “primitive” it is, sitting down in the cockpit of an X-Wing and grabbing the controls of the ugly wireframe Atari graphics is an unmatched experience. It helps that, while the visuals don’t really hold up, the feeling of the controls (especially with the original hardware) hold up to any game today.
Sunsoft’s Batman might be one of the weirdest movie adaptations ever, but that’s part of what makes it so awesome. The game has cutscenes (NES style of course) that match it with the events of the movie. Everything in-between, however, is more like a bootleg Mega Man X game with a purple Batman sprite smashed in over X. I mean that in the best way possible. Batman fights all kinds of robot and ninja people (it isn’t really clear), fires various weapons, wall-jumps, and eventually straight murders the Joker at the end. Like, it happens much more directly than in the movie. It’s a real time, folks.
The Mummy Demastered
WayForward is a spunky developer that has grown over the years on the merit of its old school style. While it has spent more time than many respected devs on licensed material, it has used those projects to fund its original works, such as the Shantae series. A more recent movie title, The Mummy Demastered took chicken you-know-what and turned it into chicken salad. The movie was forgotten as quickly as it landed, but this neat title takes the whole Metroidvania thing and adds a few twists. That and some truly amazing pixel art and animations makes this small game worth acknowledging a bad movie.
Yes, it’s the Super Nintendo version. While you can get a fancy package of Virgin’s various Aladdin adaptations right now, the real shame of that package is how it must exclude the Capcom version. Designed by industry legend Shinji Mikami, Capcom’s Aladdin focuses more on original art and solid gameplay over Virgin’s focus on blockbuster fidelity and actual Disney animation. The result is a game that actually works as a game, and not just a floppy platformer with cool graphics and music.
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 know all about Manos , which many have referred to as the literal worst movie ever made. Scrambled together by a man who had no business trying to make a movie, Manos is a cult legend. It also happens to be public domain, so a couple of devs who had joked about making a Manos game realized they could just… go ahead and do it. So they did! Not only is it made to resemble a NES game, it’s also designed like a licensed NES game, meaning it takes elements from the movie and turns them into nonsensical platforming obstacles. It sets out to do something specific and acheives that goal perfectly.