In the past ten years, video games based on movies have changed drastically. Once upon a time, it was normal for publishers to rush games through production to meet a specific release date, looking to cash-in on a movie’s popularity – developers worked to tight deadlines, and, more often than not, created an average (or worse) experience only true fans of the material could enjoy.
Now, though, games based on movies tend to be released on smartphones and tablets, rather than consoles: touchscreen-controlled titles like RoboCop (pictured below), The Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel were released for the mobile market exclusively, with decent results. While the movies these games were based on were big-budget blockbusters, choosing to release smaller, more concise versions reduces costs and gives developers a tighter focus.
This means the console-focused market has less sub-par tie-ins taking up shelf-space, and has allowed developers to produce work of a higher quality from movie licences.
However, not all games based on movies are bad – there are some great ones out there!
Let’s check out ten of our favourites!
Die Hard Trilogy (1996)
Die Hard Trilogy is still one of the most innovative, most exciting, most awesome tie-in games ever made. Developers Probe Entertainment took the unusual approach of making three games in one – each of the three movies (back when Die Hards 4, 5, and the recently-announced 6 were all just a gleam in Bruce Willis’s eye) had its own adventure.
Adding even more value to the package, Probe Entertainment made each one a totally different genre: Die Hard is a 3D third-person run-and-gun game following John McClane as he blasts his way through Nakatomi Plaza, killing terrorists and saving hostages; Die Hard 2: Die Harder (no, really!) is an on-rails shooter, controlled by a gamepad, mouse, or even light-gun depending on the console players had, in the vein of Virtua Cop; Die Hard with a Vengeance was a chaotic driving game, with players racing across New York, defusing bombs and taking down enemies – all from behind the wheel.
Die Hard Trilogy is still great fun today, and no other game based on the series since has come close.
Of course GoldenEye is in our top ten!
Anyone who was old enough to own a Nintendo 64, or know someone who did, would have played GoldenEye at one time or another. This is still a favourite of many gamers today, and the recent remake couldn’t even hope to overshadow the original: GoldenEye sold more than eight million copies around the world, and redefined first-person shooters.
Not only did developers Rare manage to build action-packed, exciting levels that emulated and expanded on the film’s story, they blended fast-paced shooting, stealth, and even driving (remember the tank?) into one amazing package. The single-player was fun, addictive, and endlessly replayable, but most of us remember GoldenEye for its unbeatable multiplayer mode.
There were all kinds of ways to beat your friends: using the golden gun for one-shot kills; covering a wall with remote bombs and then detonating them with a click of your watch; blasting them from afar with a sniper rifle … the game swallowed hours and hours and hours of our time – and we don’t regret a minute of it.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)
As our recent article on Star Wars: Battlefront II proves, we have a real soft spot for this amazing game. Based on all six (so far) movies in the saga, Battlefront II adapted the material brilliantly, building on the hugely-successful original: players could now fight in space, take part in a stronger story-based campaign, and play as various heroes & villains from the franchise.
Released to coincide with the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith, Battlefront II is easily the best of the games in the series (this may change with the reboot heading our way), and really makes the player feel as if they’re taking part in epic battles across such iconic worlds as Hoth, Endor, Kashyyyk, Naboo, and even in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace. Gorgeous stuff.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor earned widespread acclaim last year, but The Return of the King is still one of the best games based on Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaptations of Tolkien’s masterpiece.
Just like The Two Towers before it, The Return of the King is a fast-paced action-adventure, incorporating some subtle RPG character-progression elements. While hardcore hack-and-slash combat is still the focus, players can now interact with environments (throwing spears, launching catapults, setting fire to orcs), and choose from more characters: Gandalf, Sam, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn are all up for grabs to start with, while Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Faramir can all be unlocked later on.
With stunning graphics, music from the movie’s score, and even the stars providing the voice-work, The Return of the King captures all the excitement of the film’s battles.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The game based on the first Spider-Man movie was average, with linear levels and no street-based shenanigans. With Spider-Man 2, though, developers Treyarch gave players a whole new experience for their PS2, Xbox, and Game Cube adaptation of the sequel: for the first time, players could take control of Spidey in an open Manhattan – finally swinging from the streets to rooftops, and even catching a ride to the Statue of Liberty via a well-timed web-swing from a passing helicopter.
There’s way too much to this game to cover here, but it’s still one of the best to feature Spidey: with plenty of action, story-based missions, challenges, random crimes, and even pizza-delivery jobs, players have oodles of stuff to keep them occupied.
Blade Runner (1997)
Blade Runner is a unique movie: love it or hate it, Ridley Scott created a distinctive world in his film – and the belated tie-in game did an amazing job of recreating it.
Released a long time after the movie, 1997’s Blade Runner game was set during the same timeframe. However, instead of playing as Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, players took on the role of a new Blade Runner, tasked with tracking down a second team of replicants.
The game featured many of the movie’s locations, and captured the rainy, polluted, neon-soaked Los Angeles perfectly. The game was lapped-up by fans, and scooped multiple awards; while there have been many requests for a re-release, the original source code for the game is apparently lost – so we’re sadly unlikely to see this resurface.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
As one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s (and maybe of all time), Ghostbusters is still massively popular today. While the reboot is heading to the big screen next year, the third movie many fans want to see is unlikely to ever happen – along with the awesome comic-book series published by IDW, 2009’s video game is fans’ only chance to keep up with Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zeddemore.
Still, if it’s basically the third movie, then Ghostbusters: The Video Game will do just fine!
This is a brilliant continuation of the first two movies, featuring amazing graphics, that irresistible theme music, and the actors’ likenesses & voice-work. Rather than playing as one of the original four, players step into the shoes of a rookie ghostbuster, assigned to work with the team and try out new experimental technology.
Terminal Reality did a brilliant job of capturing the humour, the atmosphere, and the ghost-busting itself: firing off a proton stream, using traps, and sliding down the firehouse’s pole all feels exactly like it should.
Alien: Isolation (2014)
There have been plenty of games based on the Aliens movies, but how many have actually been worth playing? Alien Trilogy on the PS1/Saturn was decent, and the Aliens VS Predator games have generally been excellent – but there have been a few duds, too.
While games usually throw hundreds of xenomorphs at the player, and feature plenty of heavy-duty gunfire, Alien: Isolation stripped all of this away. Set around fifteen years after Ridley Scott’s original movie, the game puts players in control of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s butt-kicking heroine. She heads out to find her missing mother, and encounters a single alien – from which point, the aim is to stay alive by running, hiding, and being smart.
Alien: Isolation uses the same old-school designs as the original movie, and captures the creepy atmosphere perfectly.
The Thing (2002)
John Captenter’s The Thing is a movie about fear, and the belated game tie-in did a fantastic job of incorporating this into the experience: not only did it recreate the sense of isolation and the hideous aliens, but it also uses a ‘fear/trust’ system.
Depending on how scared NPCs are, they may or may not follow the orders the player gives them: characters can use blood-test kits to prove they’re human, but trust will deplete if the player accidentally shoots them or takes their ammo.
Players never quite know when a teammate will transform into an alien, and the limited ammo makes beating the game a real challenge. While it might not have been the most obvious choice for a game adaptation, The Thing is one of the most impressive movie-based titles – even if it was ridiculously hard!
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004)
Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick is not just a badass – he’s a badass with in-built night-vision. How scary is that?!
While The Chronicles of Riddick might not exactly have been the best movie ever made, this tie-in game drew high praise from players and critics back in 2004. Set in Riddick’s slightly younger years, Escape from Butcher Bay follows his attempts to break out of the notorious Butcher Bay maximum-security prison, using stealth, cunning, and plenty of weapons (from knuckle-dusters to assault rifles).
The game was re-released in 2009 (with a few enhancements), alongside an expansion: Assault on Dark Athena.
So, you’ve seen ten of our favourite games based on movies – which are yours? Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know!
Thanks for reading – we’ll catch you next time!