When movies become video games...
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?
Photo: Photo: LucasArts