Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see movies based on video games. They’ve practically become a genre all their own. But what about video games based on movies? When I was a kid licensed video games were some of the most enjoyable products we could experience. The idea of jumping into the world of your favorite film and controlling the story was an awesome concept. Today I’m going to take a unique approach for Cinema Spotlight and shine some light on the very best games that captured the spirit of the movies. Whether they’re the cartridge games of old or more modern and elaborate products, movie-based video games have become just as famous and infamous as video game movies, but some have become legendary and, in a few cases, even changed the landscape of gaming altogether. These are my picks for the Top 10 Video Games Based on Movies.
Because I am a movie buff not a gamer, this is a list that might rub some people the wrong way if I do it wrong, but I tried to do justice to the legacies of these games as best I could. I even employed the help of my brother, much more a gamer than myself, to help ensure I did things right. With that in mind, I had to be very specific with what games I’d include here.
For the sake of this list I did not consider video games that are more part of a larger franchise than an adaptation connected to a film. I wanted to only consider games that specifically interpreted or continuing events or stories from a big-screen movie. So, video games like “Knights of the Old Republic”, while part of the “Star Wars” franchise, was more of a stand-alone product. Basically, the idea here is that the video game has to be based on or continue the events of specific movies even if they stray from the actual plots of said films.
Alright so with that out of the way lets get to either my most controversial list or one that proves I might actually know what I’m talking about sometimes. Let me know what your favorite movie-based video game is in the comments below. Here we go…
10. Blade Runner”
Based on Ridley Scott’s classic science fiction film of the same name, “Blade Runner” was released in 1997 as a point-and-click PC game that takes the player into the world presented in the film. Taking place in 2019, the same year as the movie, the player takes control of elite detective Ray McCoy and hunts down replicants while exploring many sets from the film and interacting with many secondary characters from the feature as well. The movie’s protagonist Rick Deckard is mentioned and seen, although he is not a playable character, making this game canon with the movie. “Blade Runner” was considered a revolutionary game at the time as one of the first adventure titles to use both 3D character renderings and a game world that worked in real-time which would become a standard in games that followed. Selling over a million units worldwide, “Blade Runner” is still a fondly remembered PC classic that dropped players right into the world of its famous source material.
9. “Alien: Isolation”
Based on another Ridley Scott film “Alien”, the 2014 survival horror game “Alien: Isolation” takes place in the same universe, literally and figuratively, as the 1979 classic. Following a new character Amanda Ripley, the daughter of perennial series heroine Ellen Ripley, “Isolation” puts the focus on stealth and survival capturing the intense nature of its source material and forcing players to experience the pulse-pounding horror the characters felt in the original story. This game was specifically designed to emulate the original film rather than the much more action-oriented sequel “Aliens” making it a more grounded experience than past “Alien” games with a focus on outsmarting a single Xenomorph while using both first- and third-person perspectives to drive home the intensity of certain situations. Praised by critics and appreciated by fans “Alien: Isolation” is certainly a high point in the series’ rocky video game history. It’s legacy lives on today as a Nintendo Switch version is set for release this year.
8. “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”
I know there will be people who wonder why this game instead of “Shadow of Mordor” made this list and the reason is simple. While “Shadow of Mordor” does put players into the world of Middle-earth it is considered a non-canon story placed between the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” stories. When talking about the original cinematic trilogy though “The Two Towers” stands tall as the best screen-to-game adaptation. While criticized for its repetitive fight mechanics and combat, “The Two Towers” received mostly positive reviews upon release for its ability to put players right into the action of the film and successfully replicates the epic scope of the story. The ability to play as different characters of the Fellowship also provides for plenty of replay value making the experience that much more engrossing and engaging. While it might not be the most immersive Middle-earth game to ever be released, “The Two Towers” remains an impressive throwback movie adaptation video game in an era rife with subpar products produced by studios to make a quick extra buck.
8. “Ghostbusters: The Video Game”
It took forever for a proper “Ghostbusters” game to come out but in 2009 fans got their wish as they were recruited as a rookie Ghostbuster in this multi-platform action-adventure game. Set two years after “Ghostbusters II”, the game puts you into the shoes of a Ghostbuster with the original cast of the two movies (Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson) reprising their roles as your mentors. The script was even doctored by Aykroyd and Ramis to ensure the game would fit the tone of the source material making for an experience that some call the true “Ghostbusters III” that we’ve waited years to receive. Villains and secondary characters from the series also reappear as do various locations and props featured in the films while the soundtrack is also revitalized for the game. Nominated for several gaming awards, including an Interactive Achievement Award nod for best adapted story, “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” gave fans the experience they waited so long to enjoy. Later this year the game will receive a remastered release just in time for the 2020 movie sequel to hit the big screen.
7. “The Warriors”
Funny story. Years ago, I worked at a small shop selling video games and movies and “The Warriors” was a sought-after gem we kept locked away in a case of valuable games. There’s a reason why it remains so valuable. “The Warriors”, a 2005 release based on the 1979 film of the same name, is considered a significant achievement that revitalized the brawler genre eventually becoming a critically beloved adaptation. The game allows the player to take control of different Warriors including Cleon, Swan, Ajax and Rembrandt as they fight their way through several missions within the world established by the movie. Beginning three months prior to the events of the film and eventually tying into the Warriors’ mission to return home, “The Warriors” puts fans right into the narrative of the feature with the original cast returning to offer their talents making it an even more authentic experience. With a deep fighting engine and a world that’s designed to make you feel like you’re truly in 1970s New York City, “The Warriors” has earned its reputation as one of the 2000s most respectable movie video games.
6. “Disney’s Aladdin” (Genesis Version)
Back in the day Disney had plenty of games based on their Renaissance classics. “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King” both had side-scrolling games released during the 90s but it’s the “Aladdin” game that has become the most famous and respected over time. Famously this is a case where the Super Nintendo version lost out to the superior Sega Genesis release which served as an immersive (for the time) exploration of Agrabah and other settings from the 1992 film. Utilizing scenes, characters and even music from the movie to absolute perfection with some nice touches of detail like Aladdin using a sword added in for some spice, the Genesis version of this game is still today considered a side-scrolling classic and its one of the few early movie video games that continues to hold a devoted following. It eventually became one of the bestselling games on the Genesis selling over four million copies and is often considered one of the system’s best in general. It has since been ported to several more systems, but the Genesis version remains a staple of 90s video game culture.
5. “Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader”
While “Knights of the Old Republic” is an amazing video game set in the “Star Wars” universe it didn’t qualify for the specifications of this list. So, I turned toc“Rogue Squadron” which serves as a fun offering set between the first two “Star Wars” movies. The sequel game however, “Rogue Leader”, not only builds on its predecessor’s mechanics and concept but puts players right smack into the middle of some of the most famous battles of the entire original trilogy. Through ten missions the player tries to defeat the Galactic Empire experiencing several iconic moments in an intense and immersive experience that still holds up today. Critically lauded upon its release and often considered among the greatest “Star Wars” and Gamecube titles (being released at the system’s launch) “Rogue Squadron” is a nostalgic must play for any “Star Wars” fan. Even its successor, “Rebel Strike”, was unable to recapture the same movie-to-game magic that “Rogue Leader” perfected.
4. “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay”
Taking place after the events of “Pitch Black” but before “The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Escape from Butcher Bay” is directly responsible for helping further develop one of Vin Diesel’s most iconic characters to the point where this game’s success has influenced the character’s popularity on the big screen and in pop culture. A first-person stealth game, “Escape from Butcher Bay” won several awards after its debut including a few as a movie adaptation and was critically beloved for its graphics and use of stealth in its gameplay mechanics. What makes this game special is that it’s a rare case where a game directly based on or tying into a movie franchise has become a legitimate and lasting part of the series proper. “Escape from Butcher Bay” may as well be an interactive fourth movie in the series at this point and is still fondly remembered by fans of the franchise who likely own an original Xbox just for the joy of experiencing this game over and over again.
3. “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor”
2. “Spider-Man 2”
Let’s stay in 2004 with a game based on the second entry in Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” series. Release on several consoles, this open-world game was often considered one of if not THE best Spider-Man video game up until the Playstation 4 title from 2018. This critically acclaimed movie adaptation presented a sandbox-style design that allowed players to travel an expansive New York City swinging from building to building and taking on some of Spider-Man’s biggest villains. Some might challenge whether this game even belongs on this list though because it strays from the film’s story so much, but it actually simply expands on it adding new characters and villains and new challenges to create an exciting larger scale Spider-Man experience while eventually coming back to the Doctor Octopus story of the film. “Spider-Man 2” took the ideas of the movie and expanded upon them creating a game that is arguably superior and more enjoyable than its still-celebrated source material.
1. “GoldenEye 007”
Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just a casual player, whether you’re a cinephile or just an occasional moviegoer, few could ever doubt this game’s deserving place at the top spot here. “GoldenEye 007” is a legendary first-person shooter based on the 1995 James Bond film of the same name and is quite possibly the most celebrated third-party video game to ever be released on the N64. Considered to be one of the most innovative and important first-person shooters in video game history and still today a fun party game, “GoldenEye” puts you right into the shoes of Bond as he takes on 00-agent Alex Trevelyan in missions inspired by the events of the movie. Receiving near-perfect scores from many reviewers and selling more than eight million units worldwide (making it the N64’s third bestselling game) “GoldenEye 007” has established itself as not only possibly the greatest licensed movie games of all time but one of the most important and celebrated video games ever released as well. That is a reputation you just can’t deny and one that earns it top billing on yet another list today.