The 10 Most Unlikely Video Games Based on Movies and TV Shows

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 6:00 am


You know what show could make for a really good video game? Supernatural. You could play as Dean or Sam Winchester, driving around the country in a badass Impala, stopping off in various small towns to battle demons, werewolves, shape-shifters and other creepy-crawlies. The show has an elaborate, twisty mythology, epic fight scenes and nine seasons-worth of crazy-ass monsters to choose from. But there is no Supernatural game, and as of this writing there's been no word that anybody is working on one.

Or how about Babylon 5, the classic, complex, cheap-o sci-fi saga celebrating its 20th anniversary this year? (I know. We are old.) Can you believe there has never been an official Babylon 5 game? The series ran for 5 very busy seasons, spawned spin-offs, TV movies, dozens of books and comics, and won shelves full of Hugos and Emmys. There's never been a Babylon 5 video game, though.

But hey, we did get a Grey's Anatomy game. Because somebody somewhere wanted to play that, I guess. Here's our list of some of the most unlikely games based on movies and TV shows. As you explore these bizarre games, remember: somebody made these instead of ever making a console title based on the Stargate TV franchise. (Three live-action series and a Saturday morning cartoon, and the best you're gonna get is some rinky-dink mobile game.)

10. Grey's Anatomy: The Video Game

Yes indeed, that show your Aunt Gladys likes got its own game in 2009. It's actually surprisingly good, with a thrilling plot, spectacular graphics and bold, innovative gameplay.

No, just kidding. It's actually a baffling, boring mess that mostly focuses on the complicated personal lives of the show's angsty doctors. And it looks like this:

Maybe the game perfectly captures the feel of the show. I don't know, because I am not your Aunt Gladys. But damn, that sure is one terrifying-looking Dr. McDreamy.

Thrill to such minigames as Setting Priorities, Distancing Yourself and Finding Comfort! (Seriously, those are actual minigames in this thing.) Now, I'm not one of those knuckle-dragging, aggro gamers who thinks games need to be all about the shooty-shooty and blowing stuff up real good. Games are a developing art form, and there is room for subtlety and complex, adult storytelling. But for Christ's sake, "Finding Comfort" should never be your goal in a video game! This game stops just short of a Stare Pensively Out the Window While Sipping Tea and Listening to Rilo Kiley minigame.

So, lots of awkward CGI flirting, lots of mopey navel-gazing, and occasionally you have to do something medical and kind of gross. But not fun gross. Just cold, clinical, renal surgery gross.

Again: if you want to slay demons as Dean Winchester, you're outta luck. But if you want to Find Comfort at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, it's time to fire up the Wii!

9. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

1978's Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a modestly amusing little cult movie, but the fact that it's even mediocre is rather impressive. The premise - tomatoes come to life and attack people - would seem too thin to support a 3-minute sketch, let alone an entire feature film. The filmmakers got a not-completely-unwatchable movie out of 87 minutes of sophomoric jokes about folks getting killed by tomatoes, and that really should have been the end of that.

But it wasn't. There were three sequels (one of them featuring a young George Clooney, in his most embarrassing role that did not involve rubber bat-nipples), a supremely unlikely Saturday morning cartoon series... and three Attack of the Killer Tomatoes video games.

The second one, a 1991 NES release based on the TV cartoon, doesn't seem to have made much of a splash. Here's a 2:02 clip, which runs about 2 minutes too long:

When people get starry-eyed with nostalgia for the video games of yesteryear, they're probably not remembering games like that one.

But the first Killer Tomatoes game, an 8-bit affair released in 1986 for the Sinclair Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and MSX, scored surprisingly great reviews. "Global has created a tie-in far better than the original deserved, and far better than many superior films have received," raved Your Sinclair, while ZX Computing said that "Killer Tomatoes is quite a complex, and very professionally produced game that should keep you occupied for quite a while."

Admittedly I've never played the game myself, but I'm going to go ahead and say that if an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes video game is keeping you occupied for "quite a while", maybe you need to take a long, hard look at your life choices.

8. The City of Lost Children

If you've never seen Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 1995 dark fantasy film The City of Lost Children, go do so now. Right now! Even if you are reading this at work, tell your boss you ate some bad clams or something, go home and Netflix the hell out of The City of Lost Children. Even if your boss doesn't believe you and leaving work right now will get you fired, do it anyway. You will thank me later.

The film is a little steampunk masterpiece, full of wonderfully strange happenings and character and set designs that will make your eyeballs very happy. It is also a freaky, low-budget, French-language cult movie, and as such it's most definitely not a movie you'd expect to see adapted into a game for the original Playstation.

So you can imagine my shock when I found just such a game for rent at the local Blockbuster, circa 2001.

But while many of the unlikely games on this list are terrible, this one is actually pretty intriguing in its own weird, turtle-paced way. The dark, dream-like story has its own creepy fascination, and the graphics hold up surprisingly well for a 1st-generation Playstation title. (Just fire up the original Tomb Raider sometime to see how badly the graphics of PS1 games can fail to live up to your memories of them.) It's not a game you'll treasure forever, but it's a very cool little world to wander around in for a while.

7. The Three Stooges

Three Stooges shorts follow a rather rigid formula: the boys are given some straightforward job, like painting a house or something, they proceed to make a horrible mess of it, and there's a lot of eyeball gouging, woo-woo-woo-ing and nyuck-nyuck-nyuck-ing. You've got three incompetent nitwits who fail to accomplish even the simplest goals, abuse each other a lot and make silly noises.

The 1989 Three Stooges home computer game didn't get made because anybody thought that these knuckleheads belonged in a video game. It got made because some corporation had acquired the Three Stooges brand, and the boys down in marketing thought that a video game could be a good way to re-introduce the property to the under-15 demographic.

The resulting game is peculiar, molasses-slow and kind of hideous to modern eyes, but reviews of the time weren't bad. Compute! wrote that The Three Stooges was "one of the high points of the season", stating that the game "looks like the Stooges, sounds like the Stooges ... and most important, feels like the Stooges."

Perhaps the game is more fun, or is at least a little less awful, if you're a Stooges fan. I must admit that I am not. Now, if this was an Iggy and the Stooges game, I'd play the hell out of that shit. (Your proto-punk superpowers could include having a TV Eye, the ability to transform into a Streetwalkin' Cheetah, and, uh, doing a whole lot of heroin. Call me, EA!)

6. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

Nothing about Monty Python seems like a natural fit for video games, but 1997's game based on Monty Python's The Meaning of Life was actually the fourth (and so far final) attempt to base a game on the work of the classic, surrealistic UK comedy troupe. At least Monty Python and the Holy Grail had a plot of sorts for the Quest for the Holy Grail game to follow. The Meaning of Life was a loose, anarchic sketch comedy, with the only linking device being that all of the sketches were based on stages of life - birth, death, etc.

The game looks and plays a lot like a really Flash-heavy Monty Python fan website, circa 2003 or so. There's a lot of vaguely Terry Gilliam-ish animation, sometimes quite well-done, and sometimes just awkward and sad. (Entire scenes from the film are acted out by photo cut-outs of John Cleese and Graham Chapman with flappy cartoon mouths, and the effect gets old even faster than it sounds.)

This clip features a video press kit from the days of the game's original release, and it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

So, yeah. It's not great, but it's better than being the victim of a live organ transplant.

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