There is, without a doubt, a definite stigma attached to game adaptations of films. From early 8-bit systems, to beautifully rendered next generation consoles, Hollywood has often struggled to translate to this medium.
Regardless of your years, even the most casual game player will have experienced the horror of game adaptations. From early platform sacrilege such as Back To The Future, through multiplatform catastrophes like Last Action Hero, to modern car wrecks like Saw, the words “game tie-in” have oft meant “waste of time and money”.
The upshot of this is that even half decent film games get a good reputation very fast. Naming good adaptations is like shooting fish in a barrel. So let me take you through a list of 10 games which I feel did justice to their filmic inspiration.
1. Toy Story 3
Disney put games out like they are going out of fashion. The ever giving teat of paternal bankrolls ensures that pretty much any kids game will, at the very least, break even. These games are notoriously monotonous and lax, the very epitome of laziness. So when Toy Story 3 rocked up on PS3 and Xbox 360, it was an immense surprise to play something which was actually quite fun. The “toy box” mode was a stroke of genius. This mode allowed gamers to take of the role of Andy, and to create an imaginary world within which they could manipulate and ‘toy around’ with the world’s favourite cowboy and company. It was a fitting tribute to a superb film trilogy.
2. Blade Runner
There was two game versions of Ridley Scott’s genre defining masterpiece. The first commodore 64 version came and went in 1985, and was considered a pile of doo-doo. But in 1997, Westwood Studios released a PC only point and click spin off of Deckard’s story. Set in the same universe of replicants and sky high adverts for Japanese noodles, Blade Runner told the story of Ray McCoy and his struggle to hunt down and destroy a group of rogue bioengineered beings. The Broken Sword style story telling was matched with ridiculously sophisticated puzzles and mind melts. Despite this, the game really captured the tone and spirit of Blade Runner, and made great use of some very well known gadgets. “You’re in the desert and you see a turtle…”
3. The Chronicle of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Starbreeze Studios created something of a rare gem in there prequel to 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. Butcher Bay was one of those rare occasions when the tie-in was actually better than the film which inspired it. The mixture of stealth, violence and first-person immersion proved a winning mix, and the game went on to become one of the most celebrated Xbox games of all time. Even now, I can still remember the initial joy of “eye shine” mode…the first and only time I ever wanted to be Vin Diesel.
Technically, one might call Moonwalker an ‘experience’ rather than a game. In combination with the film and soundtrack, the Sega version of the game proves as a supplementary magic carpet, furthering the journey into Wacko Jacko’s psyche. There were about three or four variations of game tie-ins, but the best by far is the Sega Mega Drive version. It’s a pretty average fixture, yet it somehow harnesses all the glory of retro gaming. It is limited, yet addictive. Basic yet eye catching. There is some ill advised ironies in that the games purpose is to seek out children, but let’s leave that well alone. Truth be told, the death by dance feature is the cornerstone of the game’s brilliance, and it’s fitting that such a random film produced an equally random game. But even now, when the 16-bit Michael flicks a coin, sending it into that jukebox, and a midi version of Smooth Criminal plays, I’m 6-years-old all over again.
5. Die Hard Trilogy
How do you immerse gamers in the world of John McClane? You make a top notch best-of gaming collection for Playstation. Die Hard 1 was the “third person” action/adventure. Players got to blast their way through Nakatomi Plaza whilst yelling “welcome to the party, pal”. Die Hard 2 gave us entry into an airport riddled with terrorists, via the means of a first-person shooter. Then Die Hard 3 was our driving simulator, complete with Samuel L. Jackson sound bites and a special icon that let us tail EMTs. It was the complete package, and even now, carries a ranking of 86%. “Yippee ki yay…”
6. The Godfather
A film that was all about crossing generational gaps eventually became a game which tried to cross every gaming platform available. Released on old and new consoles, The Godfather was a standout attempt at bringing an iconic film series into the gaming world. Players took on the role of a jobbing thug, who gets to rise up through the ‘family’, and encounters famous Corleones along the way. A primitive feature of buying and whacking your way into power, gave things a unique and relatively engaging edge. The Godfather wasn’t a game which set any benchmarks, but it was pretty good fun, and although It borrowed some popular elements, it proved that Grand Theft Auto wasn’t the only way to make a game about gangsters.
7. Alien vs Predator
Over the years there have been many incarnations and combinations of Alien and Predator games. The specific pairing of Alien vs Predator has been done on Nintendo, Atari, Arcade, and more recently on PS3 and Xbox 360. But one version stands above the rest, and that is the highly influential PC version of 1999. Players got to choose between being Xenomorphs, Predators or Marines. Each style of character provided unique benefits, limitations and gaming styles. It introduced a whole new generation to these fan favourites, and kicked started a trend of lame Paul Anderson films. Not only that, but it was truly terrifying to play. For the first time since the 80’s these characters had become terrifying once more.
8. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb
It was the reason to jump from PS2 to Xbox, with the latter being released a full 5 months before the former. Not only this, but it turned out that the PS2 version sucked. Cited as taking place between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom, this long gestated spin-off was lauded by Indy fans the world over. It delivered an engrossing real world environment, and felt like the definitive example of merging film with game. The developers captured a Spielbergian quality, and transported gamers into a familiar world of cracking whips, brown fedoras and Nazi soldiers. Airs of Tomb Raider were prevalent throughout, but then again, airs of Indiana Jones were prevalent throughout Tomb Raider.
Did you really think I’d miss this one out? It is the third highest grossing N64 game in history – beaten only by two offerings from a certain moustachioed plumber. The combination of detailed first person shoot em’ up, endless Easter eggs and a game changing multiplayer, earned Rare a bucket load of trophies and a massive fan base. Players literally got to become Bond, as they worked through levels identical to the film, and took on some of Ian Fleming’s most legendary bad guys. Every Bond game since has struggled to out shine their predecessor, and an inevitable next generation update finally came out this year. Although the film of Goldeneye has been subsequently bested by pretty much every other outing since, its N64 tie-in remains a landmark in gaming history.
It seemed too pretentious of me to complete this list. So I am leaving the final choice up to you. If you could pick one film tie-in to add to this list, what would it be? Are you partial to the Blair Witch games? Or do you rave about the PS3 version of Ghostbusters? Maybe you prefer the Aladdin game to actual film? Or is The Thing more of your sort of… thing? One fact is for sure, I don’t expect anyone to suggest Universal Studios Theme Park Adventures. Get those suggestions flowing.