Thanks to larger budgets, improved graphics, and more pop-culture respectability, video games are catching up with movies in the blockbuster stakes. However, while we’re closer than ever to the merger of cinema and video games, movie tie-ins can often leave a bad taste in your mouth.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the arrival of some truly superb new titles based on classic movies, we thought it was high time that we scraped through our gaming archives to find the games of the movies which truly did justice to their big screen counterparts.
With that in mind, trawl through our gallery to see the best movie video game adaptations of all time… and the worst.
The best: Alien Isolation
Any gamers who prefer Ridley Scott’s 1979 original movie over James Cameron’s action-packed sequel have, at some point, likely thought about how great a survival horror game based on the Alien franchise would be. Alien Isolation is that game. Right down to the authentic sound cues and retro-future look, it captures everything that made the original Alien so terrifying.
Forget hordes of aliens running blindly into your path as with the awful Aliens: Colonial Marines. Here, it’s just one alien, a handful of survivors, and some very big scares. Superb!
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The only arcade game on the list (although it was later ported to home consoles), this title was a childhood favorite of mine.
A gun-based game, it managed a spectacular job of compressing the movie’s best set pieces into a frantic shoot-‘em-up. The graphics may, unsurprisingly, have aged over 20 years, but Terminator 2: Judgment Day still impresses in this capacity — largely due to the scanned sprites used. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Patrick, and Eddie Furlong all reprised their roles for title, which adds an extra bit of authenticity. This remains the best Terminator game of all time.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Set two years after Ghostbusters II, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was described as franchise creator Dan Aykroyd as “essentially the third movie.” He’s not lying either. In addition to using ideas originally designed for the never-made third film, Ghostbusters: The Video Game features a cast reunion including Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson — along with supporting characters like Max von Sydow as Vigo the Carpathian.
The gameplay is pretty outstanding too, with the ghost-trapping feature really putting you in the shoes of everyone’s favorite ghost hunters.
Not to be confused with the mediocre game that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the adaptation of Sam Raimi’s 2004 sequel was everything you could want in a Spider-Man title. Essentially acting as Grand Theft Spidey, the title gave gamers a fully-realized Manhattan to swing and run around — letting everyone's favorite Wall Crawler explore everything a fully realized NYC, down to the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.
Frankly, it was a dazzling achievement for its time and remains impressive today: following the plot of the movie, but also opening up the world to be more than just a playable version of the scenes you’ve already watched on the big screen.
Even in an age of far more advanced First Person Shooters, GoldenEye 007 remains one of my favorites of all time; not just a great movie adaptation, but an almost perfect video game in its own right.
Level designs are varied, controls are great, and the number of unlockables ups replayability considerably. Oh, and it’s got one of the most fun multiplayer modes ever. Xbox Live and PlayStation Network might have taken this idea and run with it, but there was something unmatchably amazing about packing your friends around the same TV for some splitscreen death match fun.
And the worst: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Yes, that snot-green pixel block is indeed supposed to be loveable alien E.T!
Like GoldenEye 007, E.T.’s appearance on this list was inevitable — albeit for very different reasons. While GoldenEye stands as a benchmark for everything video games based on movies can get right, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is an ode to all that can go wrong. Granted, it came out in 1982, when video games were still in their infancy, but that’s no excuse for something which feels this lazy, broken, and mindless.
Critics at the time hated it, and it’s now widely considered the worst video game ever made. To underline the point, Atari made way too many copies of the game, and wound up burying most of them in a New Mexico landfill site. True story.
The Crow: City of Angels
City of Angels was a lame movie sequel to a flawless original, so it stands to reason that its video game adaptation would suck, too. However, it’s also the only official The Crow video game there’s ever been, so whether you’re a fan of the original James O’Barr comics or the Brandon Lee 1994 classic, you’re going to wind up playing this ungodly Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC title from 1997 if you're dead set on playing a game version.
This is truly awful in every conceivable way — from the ugly color pallet to the repetitive bad guy sound bytes (“Hey clown face”), to the uninspired level design, shockingly bad action, and horrendous hit detection. The only thing that can be said vaguely in favor of this game is that its never-ending awfulness presumably does a good job of evoking the same horror that would accompany unwillingly being brought back from the dead.
Photo: Acclaim Entertainment
I’m a massive Paul Verhoeven fan, and couldn’t wait to pick up this video game adaptation of his underrated 1997 film Starship Troopers, back when it arrived on PC in 2005. Following in the wake of stunningly innovative FPS titles like HλLF-LIFE and Halo: Combat Evolved, could Starship Troopers give us a compelling action recreation of the movie’s epic bug hunts, while also incorporating some of the trademark Verhoeven satire?
In a word, no. All your fellow Troopers look the same, none of them can shoot properly, and they all repeat the same dialog over and over. On top of that, the graphics are ugly as sin, the weapons are weirdly balanced, and the title is the textbook example of dumb run-and-gun actioners. Which may be some kind of meta-joke, but I doubt it.
Photo: Empire Interactive
How do you go wrong with a game about giant robots fighting huge, undersea creatures? Try repetitive missions and clunky brawling that feels like you're playing Tekken in treacle while wearing oven gloves. The mech customization features are kind of cool, but they’re not enough to save a title that could have been epic amounts of fun, and fell far short.
Kinect Star Wars
Missed opportunities are rife when it comes to video game adaptations of hit movies. Perhaps no more so, however, than Kinect Star Wars. Fans have been waiting for a motion control game that lets them handle a lightsaber since 1977, which is why this title was so endlessly frustrating. Rather than recreate the most memorable scenes from the movies, instead there’s a generic plot, featuring only a few of the best-known Star Wars characters — none voiced by their original actors.
Controls are inconsistent at best and downright awful at worst, and the whole thing just reeks of not giving a damn. Then, just when you think things are at their worst, you get the "Galactic Dance Off."
Because who needs a good lightsaber battle when you can have ridiculous dance-based mini games?
There are few feelings better in the world than sitting down in front of your latest shiny gadget to watch a great sci-fi movie. With the iPhone 6 launching tomorrow, your choice of shiny gadget has likely already been made. That leaves just one conundrum then: what to watch on it.
Scroll through our gallery for Cult of Mac’s picks of the 6 best modern sci-fi movies to test your new super-sized iPhone in style.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
From recognizing music that’s playing nearby using Shazam to leaping into action just by saying “Hey Siri,” Apple’s virtual assistant has upped the ante for iOS 8 and iPhone 6. What better movie to celebrate, then, than last year’s tremendous sci-fi rom-com Her?
Written, directed and produced by the prodigiously talented Spike Jonze (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Her tells the story of a lonely Los Angeles resident, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who develops a relationship with his Siri-style A.I., voiced by none other than Scarlett Johansson.
It’s an immensely touching, and oddly human, film about relationships — and its smart, soulful look at the meeting point between tech and humanity is straight out of Apple’s playbook.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow
The iPhone 6’s higher resolution display allows 720p high-definition video, which Apple has labelled “Retina HD Display.” So what’s the best movie to pick then to show off its impressive 4.7- or 5.5-inch display to yourself, or else make non-iPhone owning friends green with envy?
As good an answer as any is Edge of Tomorrow, the 2014 Tom Cruise-starring blockbuster given the slightly lame home video re-title Live Die Repeat. It’s a Groundhog Day-inspired sci-fi romp about an average Joe who gets wrapped up in a war with aliens. It’s all great fun, and well worth checking out if you missed it in theaters. Which most people seem to have.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Okay, so HealthKit’s last-minute problems mean that it was unceremoniously pulled from iOS 8’s launch lineup, but with the “quantified self” ethos at the heart of tech’s current obsession with mobile health and lifestyle tracking, who can blame me for going back and revisiting 1997’s Gattaca?
Sure, a bio-punk story about genetic modification and the perils of a perfect society is a far cry from an iPhone that helps you workout in the gym, but this is still a tremendous sci-fi movie that is more relevant than ever as time goes on. Its dystopian future’s not a world away from the one depicted in Apple’s famous "1984” Macintosh ad, either.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Gravity picked up a ton of awards at this year’s Oscars — including (but not limited to) Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Those three prizes more than qualify this movie for being a great one to try out your new iPhone 6’s speaker quality on. The fact that it is a constantly tense, fantastically performed, and always beautiful movie unlike any other is just icing on an already deliciously weightless cake.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
With its gorgeously rounded form factor, the iPhone 6 is a big, beautiful beast. Which is a bit like the mecha in Guillermo del Toro’s epic 2013 movie Pacific Rim in fact. (Fine, I’m stretching the simile a bit — but don’t let that put you off a fantastic film.) Set just a few years in the future, Pacific Rim tells the story of an Earth at war with giant monsters from a portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To fight them, mankind unites to build giant fighting robots.
The rest, as they say, is history. Or rather future.
I tried to come up with a way of tying Looper into the iPhone 6, but aside from a strained metaphor about planned obsolescence, I really couldn’t. But if you’re after a sci-fi film to leave you feeling as awestruck as Apple’s September 9 unveiling of the iPhone 6 (there we go!) this is absolutely it.
Directed by the talented Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, Looper tells the story of how time travel is used by future criminals who send people back in time to be killed by so-called “loopers.”
It’s way more fun than that garbled description makes it sound, and will go down in history as a sci-fi cult classic. Until it’s killed by its future self, that is.
From flying cars to brain-sucking city simulations, sci-fi movies have given us a ton of possible futures over the years -- some good, others less so. We waded through our collective possible future times to bring you a selection of the best and worst sci-fi has in store for humanity.
Click the gallery above to see where we might wind up.
The good: Star Trek
Pick any version of the show (except possibly Star Trek: Voyager) and you’ve got a sci-fi future we’d love to live in. Unlike a lot of sci-fi, Star Trek has always tended toward a utopian vision of our future selves in which racism, sexism, ageism and, in Captain’s Picard’s case, jokes against male-pattern baldness are all relics of the distant past. There’s also intergalactic travel, a ton of colorful aliens in existence, and the holodeck to unwind on after a hard day’s work. Oh yes, and we get to wear spandex jumpsuits to our heart’s content.
Back to the Future Part II
Granted, the future portrayed in Back to the Future Part II is only Oct. 21, 2015, meaning that a whole lot needs to happen in a very short space of time if we’re going to have a hope of catching up. To be honest, we’d skip most of it, so long as someone would hurry up and invent a hoverboard. Hey, at least Nike is planning to release self-tying Power Laces next year to commemorate the movie.
For a movie full of giant robots, Pacific Rim sure does offer an optimistic vision of the future. I’d happily be a part of it: Humanity responds to (and defeats) a massive external threat by way of international cooperation and technological development. And did I mention this is a future filled with giant robots?
With baddies controlling the oxygen, there’s plenty to dislike about the future presented by Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 Total Recall (aka the only Total Recall movie that matters). On the plus side, if future wives are all as hot as Sharon Stone, we’d happily take our oxygen when and where we could get it.
The real reason Total Recall is a movie future we’d love, though, is because of Rekall, the (sort of) titular company that can provide memory implants of vacations you never had. The fake memories let you spend a week as a secret agent or super-lover, rather than just getting sunburned by the pool. That’s a future we can get on board with. Provided nothing goes wrong, that is.
It’s the only future on this list that’s TV rather than film, but The Jetsons delivers, hands down, the most utopian sci-fi future of them all. Set in the year 2062, The Jetsons depicts a world in which households are aided by elaborate robotic contraptions, holograms and all manner of geeky gadgets and inventions. Oh yes, and flying cars. Lots of flying cars. Perhaps the most alluring part of life in Orbit City is the work week, though: just an hour a day, two days a week. Plus holidays.
The bad: Soylent Green
Spoiler alert: It’s people!
Soylent Green takes place in a futuristic world in which overpopulation and the depletion of resources has resulted in a massive global crisis. People live a luxury-free existence, subsisting on processed food rations called Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow. That’s until a new, more-nutritious variant comes along. It’s supposedly made of high-energy plankton, but ... well, you get the message. When state-assisted suicide and the occasional pot of strawberry jelly are all you can look forward to, you know things aren’t good.
Before he made the excellent Silicon Valley, Mike Judge made Idiocracy, in which Luke Wilson’s Corporal Joe Bauers and a prostitute named Rita get frozen in a suspended-animation experiment supposed to last just a year. Instead, they awake 500 years later to find a world in which the average IQ has dropped dramatically. Politics has turned into a WWE-style charade, the most popular show on TV is called Ow! My Balls and the news is delivered by “Hot Naked Chicks.”
Wait, are we sure this is even set in the future?
Like many movie dystopias, the 23-century world depicted by Logan’s Run starts off looking pretty great. Everyone’s young and attractive, and everything is geared around hedonism and wish fulfillment — all in a futuristic wonderland full of hovercrafts and robot manservants.
When the other shoe drops it’s one of cinema's’ great gut-punches: Everyone in this world dies at 30. At that age, the tiny crystal everyone carries with them at all times turns black, and you’re tracked down to be either reborn or horribly murdered. This is where the movie’s title comes from, since running is the only way to possibly escape. It's one of those scenarios that sounds fine and dandy when you’re a teenager, years away from turning 30. For the rest of us it’s a pretty horrific proposition.
The Matrix is another dystopia that doesn’t appear all that bad in the beginning. As the film reveals, machines got smart enough during the 21st century to take on mankind. When humans stopped the machines from having access to solar energy, the machines turned instead to harvesting humans' bioelectricity as a substitute power source. To do this, and to keep people placid, the machines trapped them in "the Matrix," a mass simulation of the world as it was in the year 1999.
While this means that the majority of people live perfectly acceptable lives, unaware that any of this is going on, two things strike me as terrible about the universe depicted in The Matrix. One: Presumably, a world perpetually stuck in 1999 never gets the iPhone or iPad. Two: Keanu Reeves is the savior of this universe? Chalk up another one for the dystopian pile.
The concept of a world in which people are forced to kill each other as part of some mass-entertainment game pops up in sci-fi movies ranging from swinging '60s Italian thriller The 10th Victim (seriously, check it out!) to The Running Man to the Hunger Games series. While I was massively tempted to include The Hunger Games as my pick here, I’m instead opting for Battle Royale, the ultra-brutal 2000 Japanese action-thriller directed by Kinji Fukasaku.
In Battle Royale, one school class is chosen each year to participate in a massive island-based “game” during which students must kill each other until only one remains. This is done with the aid of weapons (one per student) that can range from a gun or crossbow down to a paper fan. Students must also travel from area to area to avoid "danger zones” (which result in immediate death). And if they refuse to cooperate? They get killed by way of an explosive collar,
As dystopian futures go, one in which adults kill children (or force them to kill each other) in order to maintain control ranks pretty high on the “places we wouldn’t want to live” scale.
It’s a slippery slope when it comes to fan trailers (seriously, type the word “trailer” next to any possible future sequel on YouTube and see how many hits come up!) but this is pretty awesome.
If you were a fan of the recent Godzilla reboot, along with last summer’s superb Pacific Rim — which featured giant mechs battling monsters from below — then you’ll likely love Paczilla: a fun mash-up by YouTube user MOVIECLIPS Trailers. The well-edited trailer gives an idea of what it would look like if Gipsy Danger and the other Jaegers came to the rescue when the monsters of the Godzilla universe began stomping on cities.
Pacific Rim doesn’t hit theaters until Friday, July 12th, but if you want to rage battle against Guillermo del Toro’s Kaiju monsters on your own the official tie-in game is now available on the App Store.
The new action fighting game gives players access to five of the weaponized robots in the movie called Jaegers, to do battle against the powerful Kaiju monsters. You can choose Story Mode to play 30 different levels that kind of follow the movie, or Survival Mode and see how many waves of Kaiju you can defeat while upgrading the tech of your Jaeger.