I don’t really need to tell you that virtually all videogames that come out as promotional tie-ins for movies are awful. Even the ones that should be no-brainers. Like, Iron Man games? Those ought to be great. They are anything but. Games based on franchises from Friday the 13th to Jaws to Robocop have all been atrocious. And there’s a reason for that. People are going to buy games based on the movies they like, whether they’re playable or not.
Which is why it’s amazing when some enterprising developer actually puts some effort into their movie-licensed game and churns out something worthwhile. Below, we provide 10 examples of just such products.
It’s hard to admit, but the truth is, Goldeneye — the original Nintendo 64 one from 1997, not that remake from a couple years ago — hasn’t aged very well over the past 15 years. (In other news, Goldeneye is 15 YEARS OLD.) Characters move super-slowly and the mechanics have been upstaged by virtually every first-person shooter of the past decade-plus. But let’s not forget what Goldeneye really accomplished. While hardcore PC gamers had Quake for their multiplayer FPS fixes, Goldeneye was the first real party game of the genre for console owners. And did they ever party. If you were in a basement and had, N64 and weren’t feeling like Mario Kart, you were playing Goldeneye, and loving it.
Before developers knew all movie games had to be bad, there weren’t any rules that said they had to be. The arcade game that came out alongside the Tron movie in 1982 is in every way an old arcade game: four mini-games repeated a dozen times, at increasing difficulties. Any semblance of a story certainly takes some interpretation, but the games are reasonably fun and it was cool to see an replication the light cycles. There’s a reason Disney trotted it back out online when Legacy came out.
8) The Warriors
If Tron was a good example of how you take a movie and make a game out of it with no story, Rockstar’s 2005 videogame adaptation of Walter Hill’s 1979 classic The Warriors shows how to do it with extra story. Only the last few stages of this Xbox and PS3 brawler (and really what else would it be) cover the events of the film. Everything leading up to it precedes the huge meet-up that kicks off the movie. The brawling is deep, the spray-paint tagging is more fun than it ought to be. It’s a game worthy of The Warriors.
7) Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Let’s ignore for a moment how cool it was to blast hundreds of Terminators with the light gun attached to this 1991 arcade game, with all its awesome feedback. Let’s not talk about the fact that, when you fought the T-1000, you were really taking on the image of Robert Patrick. Let’s not even compare this arcade classic to all the other games, all of them terrible, with this movie’s title on them. Let’s just consider this one piece of information: On the title screen, the game is rated R. For Righteous. Come on!
6) The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Consider this: How often do you hear someone complaining about a videogame adaptation of a movie being too short? Often, any end is a merciful one, but not-enough-game gripes were most players’ problem with this 2004 effort, an Xbox and PC tie-in to The Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black. Developer Starbreeze smartly crafted a prequel to the movies and did it with real panache. This was no by-the-numbers FPS; it added stealth and puzzle solving to the mix in a really appealing way. Having Vin Diesel do a bunch of voice work as the character he played in the films probably helped, too.
5) Spider-Man 2
The 2004 Xbox/PS2/GameCube/PC game adaptation of the first Spider-Man movie wasn’t bad — it was more or less a more-realistic looking version of Activision’s highly enjoyable Spider-Man games for the PlayStation and N64 from a few years before. But the adaptation of Spider-Man 2 was a whole new ballgame, introducing a whole city to explore, a cool webswinging mechanic and random crimes to stop. The story parts are a little too linear and the random crimes repeat a lot, but Spider-Man 2 was a game that made you really feel like you could do anything a spider can.
Sunsoft’s 1990 Batman game for the NES is tied to the first Tim Burton Batman movie in the loosest of ways — a few cutscenes show the car and characters from the movie and the Joker is the last boss — but, really, who cares? This classic action-platforming game is awesome, and plays sort of like an unofficial Ninja Gaiden sequel. Also: It’s hard as hell. I still think about how I could jump better on stage 3, with all those damn turbines. Damn turbines!
3) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
The sprites in this downloadable PSN and Xbox Live beat-’em-up companion to the excellent Scott Pilgrim movie look more like the comic versions of the characters than the movie ones, but it came out at the same time as the 2010 movie, and Scott fights all the evil exes in it, and so I’m counting it. It’s a classic 2-D brawler, a fun time, a great party game,and a nice little challenge, with some rewards for keeping at it. Level up enough and you can tear your way through stage 1 with little trouble. It’s an enjoyable thing.
2) Super Star Wars
Just by virtue of the sheer volume of them in existence, there were bound to be some good Star Wars games, but the franchise has actually acquitted itself pretty well when it comes to games. Two of the best games on the N64 were Star Wars games (Rogue Squadron and Shadows of the Empire, both of which had Hoth levels, of course), Jedi Outcast was pretty great, there’s Knights of the Old Republic, of course, but for me, nothing can beat the Snes series of side-scrollers based on the original trilogy, the best of which was the first one which was released in 1992. Deal with it.
1) Blade Runner
You probably wouldn’t expect much from a point-and-click adventure game based on a movie that had come out 15 years earlier, but the truth is that Westwood’s 1997 Blade Runner PC game did a lot of things games try to do now. Namely, your decisions mattered. And you had a lot of them. Kill characters, take them to jail or set them free. Do a Voight-Kampff test or don’t. Sympathize with the replicants or wipe them out. Your character, Ray McCoy (whose story is sort-of concurrent to Deckard’s in the movie), can react in lots of different ways to the characters he encounters. He can miss clues. He can go off the deep end. Based on what you do in the game, you can get a bunch of different endings, and while the game’s plot has a lot of the same themes as the movie, McCoy’s story plays out pretty differently from Deckard’s. Any Blade Runner fan owes it to his or herself to try it out (if you can find a way to play it).