At the start of July, Terminator 2: Judgement Day will be 25 years old. When the movie was released way back in 1991, it was a huge hit with audiences, raking in a then-unbelievable $54m within five days of screening. It provided all the excitement, likeable characters, and sci-fi thrills of the first film, but on a bigger scale – and it’s rightly regarded as a classic.
In the 30-plus years since the Terminator first strode naked onto cinema screens, plenty of video-game tie-ins and spin-offs have been made. To be fair, some of these are terrible, but some are actually pretty good.
So, to mark the upcoming anniversary of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest sequels ever made (right up there with Jim Cameron’s other iconic follow-up, the almighty Aliens), let’s take a look at the best and worst Terminator games ever made …
- 1 Turning Metal Mothers into Junk: The Best Terminator Games
- 2 The Terminator
- 3 T2: The Arcade Game
- 4 RoboCop Versus The Terminator
- 5 Future Shock
- 6 Dawn of Fate
- 7 Terminator 3: The Redemption
- 8 The Terminator (NES)
- 9 Terminator 2
- 10 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
- 11 Terminator 3: War of the Machines
- 12 Terminator Salvation
Turning Metal Mothers into Junk: The Best Terminator Games
In theory, making a great Terminator game should be easy. The core concept alone (humanity’s battle against an all-knowing AI and its army of robotic killers) offers a huge range of freedom. Some developers have taken this and run with it, translating scenes from the movies into quality gaming experiences.
While this adaptation of the first movie was released across multiple consoles, its Sega Genesis and Mega-CD versions are the best. Short and sweet as the film itself, The Terminator puts players in the presumably-musty shoes of Kyle Reese, the selfless soldier who travels through time to protect the woman he’s always loved but never met whilst fathering the son he’ll go on to idolise in the future without actually knowing he’s said idol’s dad.
Playing as Reese, players move from the dark future ruled by SkyNet to the neon-soaked LA of 1984, taking down cyborgs, hunter-killers, punks, cops, and, finally, the T-800 itself. It’s fast-paced, challenging, and faithful to the film: just check out the awesome level set in the Tech Noir club, which looks exactly as it should.
The Mega-CD version was slightly different to the Genesis release, with new levels but an identical structure. Any fan of the franchise should check out either of these versions for some retro fun.
T2: The Arcade Game
This game was a staple of gaming arcades in the 90s, and it’s a stone-cold classic. This was an on-rails shooter in the traditional style, with levels moving almost too fast to keep up with, and endless hordes of enemies bearing down on you.
The visuals were mind-blowing at the time, and still work well, particularly the early levels set in the post-apocalyptic future; these capture the films’ dusky skies, crumbling walls, and twisted ruins beautifully. Trying to get through the entire game is still a challenge, especially with that infamous third level – trying to keep John Connor alive and his truck intact hasn’t gotten any easier over the years.
RoboCop Versus The Terminator
Based on the awesome comic-book mini-series by Frank Miller and Walt Simonson, RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a timeless platform-shooter. The Sega Genesis version is undoubtedly the best – while the SNES release had brief scenes to explain the story between levels, its gameplay was less polished, without the chunky sprites or smoothness.
The Genesis version was noteworthy for its extreme violence at the time, with gun-toting scumbags exploding into bloody messes whenever RoboCop blows them away. This is still worth a play today (and check out the comics if you get a chance, too).
This little-known DOS game, developed by Bethesda Softworks back in 1995, is incredibly impressive. Once again starring Kyle Reese, Future Shock follows his escape from an extermination camp and early career with the resistance. Widely-praised on its release, this first-person shooter was no mere Doom clone: it captures the scorched landscape of post-nuclear-war LA brilliantly, with great visuals and sound.
This is the kind of Terminator game that would work beautifully with today’s technology, so fingers crossed for a remake or belated sequel!
Dawn of Fate
This game is hit and miss, but it’s one of the more ambitious Terminator titles released over the years. Set in the days leading up to Kyle Reese’s trip through time, Dawn of Fate follows the man himself, as well as two of his comrades, as they fight their way to SkyNet’s central core and the time displacement device.
While the fixed cameras and melee combat would have been better left out, the atmosphere is authentic to the feel of the films’ grim futuristic sequences, and the storyline’s equally faithful.
Terminator 3: The Redemption
The first tie-in game based on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a pretty terrible thing. Luckily, a year later, Atari released a second tie-in: the aptly-named The Redemption.
While the first game was a dull FPS mixed with clumsy one-on-one fighting stages, The Redemption is a fast-paced, frantic, super-challenging third-person adventure, featuring a nice mix of on-foot and vehicle-based levels. The first levels, in which the T-800 battles through futuristic LA, is an amazing start, with the action jumping from cars to helicopters, with some close-combat too.
One of the best things in the game? The ‘Arnie’ button, which allows players to drop one-liners at will.
It Doesn’t Feel Pity, or Remorse: The Worst Terminator Games
Over the years, developers have put together games not even the biggest Terminator fan could enjoy. Whether this is down to unfair deadlines, a lack of resources, or simply poor work, the end result is equally atrocious for players.
Here are a few games you might want to drop into a pit of molten steel.
The Terminator (NES)
While The Terminator on the Sega Genesis and Mega-CD were both great value for money, the NES version was unlikely to offer anything in the way of value … or fun.
This was a pretty bog standard platforming shooter, seeing players jump from one floating platform to another, blasting ghost-like T-800 endoskeletons, and having to contend with a frustrating soundtrack you’ll want to mute.
It’s not the worst game ever made, but it’s far from good.
T2: The Arcade Game might be a worthy adaptation of Terminator 2, but this dismal SNES release is staggeringly-bad.
Combining dull side-scrolling shooting and laughable driving, this game was panned when it came out, and time hasn’t exactly been kind to it.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
This adaptation of the ill-judged third film should never have existed: if only some brave soul from the future had come back and stopped the developers from unleashing this poor-quality product onto buyers.
The graphics are bland and, frankly, would have looked more at home on the PS1 than the PS2. The shooting, arsenal of weapons, and structure is all uninspired – it shouldn’t be possible to make a boring Terminator game, but this is proof it can happen.
As well as the flat FPS ‘action’, gameplay also involves third-person combat between Arnie’s T-800 and the statuesque T-X; these sequences are sluggish, irritating, and mind-numbing.
Terminator 3: War of the Machines
Another poor, poor game churned out to tie-in with T3, War of the Machines is a shameful take on Battlefield 1942. In theory, this should be a fantastic title, but instead it’s a lame experience made worse by the prospect of what could have been.
Players can choose to fight for the terminators or the resistance, in single-player or multiplayer modes. This is definitely a game you should never, ever pay money for, no matter how cheap it may be.
Even if it’s free, just say no.
Like the film it’s based on, this game is a squandered opportunity. With the graphics and mechanics available at the time, Terminator Salvation could have been a gutsy, hardcore adventure like Gears of War, only with T-800s.
Gears of War was clearly a major influence, as proven by the cover mechanics, but there was none of the excitement. Instead, this was a weak shooter which had just one saving grace: its simple achievements and trophies made for easy gamer points.
The entire game could be beat in just a few hours, and there was no reason to play through it again.
What are the best and worst Terminator games you’ve ever played? Let us know!