Some of the best movies of the past few decades, particularly those that are action-heavy, have an accompanying video game. While the movies stand on their own, the games wouldn’t pass muster without the association. Most of these games are rushed into production, causing glitches, lousy controls, weak A.I. − the problems with licensed games run the gamut of the worst kind of criticism.
Most licensed games tend to rely too heavily on the reputation of the brand name, cynically preying on fan fondness for a particular property. The company most guilty of this was LJN, which specialized in games based off well-known franchises. Some were hardly even age appropriate, but still targeted the preteen audience that managed to sneak into the latest Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees outing.
There are, however, exceptions to the rule. While it’s difficult to name more than a handful of such video games that managed to rise above mediocrity, there are at least a few recommendations that are entirely playable and, daresay, enjoyable. Some of these are, miraculously, salvaged from the worst Hollywood has to offer.
Here are 15 Great Video Games Based On Terrible Movies.
15. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
There are countless games based on the X-Men comic books, cartoon shows, and films, but most of them are severely lacking. Ironically, the best game of the X-Men franchise comes from one of the worst films.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was famously leaked online before all the effects were completed. With or without the finished CGI, the film was miserably received. Some complained that it created a complex new mythology, which clashed with what had come before. Ryan Reynolds hated what they did to his beloved character so much that he actively lobbied and pushed for a proper Deadpool film.
X-Men Origins the game, however, gave comic book fans something they had been clamoring for since Bryan Singer’s first film: Wolverine got the R-rated treatment. While Logan finally delivered in theaters on that promise, the game beat Fox to it.
X-Men Origins is shockingly gory, with Wolverine tearing villains in half, ripping their heads off, shoving them into spinning helicopter blades, and more. The game even has a level where you fight a giant sentinel before they were introduced cinematically in Days of Future Past.
Stallone movies of the ’80s and ’90s range from terrible to somewhat decent. Cliffhanger falls on the latter end of that spectrum, largely due to a crazed, yet fun John Lithgow performance as villain Eric Qualen. The stunts, as well as Lithgow’s performance, are so completely over-the-top they’re downright hilarious.
Naturally, such an action-heavy film was bound to get a video game. Cliffhanger the game turned out to be one of the better beat ’em ups for Sega and Super Nintendo. It’s not without its flaws, however. The difficulty level, particularly during an avalanche sequence, is off the charts – especially in comparison to the fairly simple walk-and-punch mechanics the rest of the game adopts. The game still manages to be highly enjoyable to many fans.
13. Demolition Man
Demolition Man has the distinct honor of being one of the few futuristic films of the ’90s to accurately predict the future – at least vaguely. It predicts the rise and dominance of fast food restaurants, internet pornography, Denis Leary’s underground success, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to political office, among other things.
Future celebrity Jack Black also appears as an extra. It even manages to accurately predict killer Scott Petersen – his name is on a list of prisoners Wesley Snipes’ madman plans to unfreeze.
As far as video game adaptations go, it’s one of the best of its era. The graphics, particularly for 16-bit, are impressive. The levels are split between a dark, noir-ish visual style, and top-down view Smash TV-esque slaughterhouses. Even the dialogue extracts from the film sound good.
12. Saw/Saw II
When Saw first came out, it was hailed as a new turning point in horror. As part of a larger series, however, it feels like a silly set up to a never-ending series of increasingly convoluted films. That all began with Saw II, which doesn’t hold up well either in the long run.
The two games, however, hold up surprisingly well. In both, you play a member of the Tapp family – David (Danny Glover) and his son, respectively – held captive by Jigsaw.The two games inhabit the same grungy atmosphere of the films. As far as survival horror goes, it’s often fun, though the puzzle-solving ranges from incredibly easy to almost impossible without some kind of guide. If they were even just a little more simple, a third game would be welcome.
11. Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd is a film that suffered due to internal strife. After the script was completed, a constant tug of war overtone plagued the entire production. Director Danny Cannon pushed for a more violent, satirical tone in line with the 2000 A.D. comics, from which the character was born. Sylvester Stallone and the studio saw it more as an action comedy. It was submitted to the MPAA five times before finally getting an R-rating (Stallone wanted a PG-13).
The movie is one of Stallone’s worst. While remaining mostly unfaithful to the comic (and removing Dredd’s helmet), it also decided that Rob Schneider was an acceptable comic relief.
That said, it did manage to produce a decent video game – a simple run and gun platformer that had Dredd arresting and killing enemies. If you choose to arrest, a flying platform appears to bring the enemies to jail. Most impressive are the backgrounds, which range between digitized sets from the film and sets based directly on the comics.
10. Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
The Lego games are incredibly simple, yet always playable. They manage to capture the same kind of giddy joy a child feels when he’s building a Millennium Falcon or USS Enterprise out of blocks.
The first Lego Indiana Jones only covers the first three films in the series, allowing players to recreate their favourite moments from Raiders, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade with small, yellow blockheads. With little left uncovered, the second installation in the series is forced to cover all of the embarrassing moments of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Yet, unlike the film, the game manages to actually extract joy from the ridiculous storyline.
9. Star Wars: Episode I Racer
There’s little to say about The Phantom Menace that hasn’t been dragged out into the spotlight, dissected, consumed, and regurgitated. Of the many things that fans of the Star Wars franchise despised was the unnecessarily long pod race sequence, particularly due to Jake Lloyd’s reactions.
There have been Star Wars games since before home consoles existed – games based on certain scenes, games set in the expanded universe, games that are direct translations of the films, and games based on characters that only appear in a few scenes.
For the Nintendo 64 generation, Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer was one of the few things about The Phantom Menace that almost made the two plus hours worthwhile. It’s a terrific racing game, using all 64 bits to its advantage. The level design is stunningly gorgeous and the visualization of the speeds you attain are second to only the best racers out there.
8. Alien Vs. Predator
Alien Vs. Predator has existed since at least 1989, when a Dark Horse comic book was released. In 1990 Predator 2 hit theatres. The film’s climax takes place on the Predator’s ship, and in the background, on a wall of skull trophies is clearly a Xenomorph head. From there, public imagination ran wild. Four years later, Alien Vs. Predator hit the arcades – a standard button mashing beat ’em up fondly remembered by children of the 90s.
Then, of course, the film came out. Director Paul W.S. Anderson was no stranger to adapting video games into films. Alien Vs. Predator was critically panned, but managed to be the highest grossing film in either the Alien or Predator franchise. Apart from its tame PG-13 rating, it’s surprisingly boring for a movie about two monsters fighting.
7. Alien 3: The Gun
Of the many films in David Fincher’s directorial career, there is only one real misstep. Alien 3 was given to Fincher due to the success of his music videos. It was an exciting prospect for a first time director. But studio interference, nonstop rewrites, and budget cuts, as well as Sigourney Weaver’s reluctance to continue with the franchise, severely compromised Fincher’s vision.
Scripts ranging from a wooden planet full of monks to William Gibson’s famous draft were rejected, though aspects of each later found their way into subsequent sequels.
However, Alien 3: The Gun was a must-have at arcades in theatres and local arcades in the ’90s. It is a basic arcade shooter, but the graphics and intensity put it at least on par with the equally popular T2: The Arcade Game.
6. Predator 2
Predator 2 was an interesting experiment. In a lot of ways, its Los Angeles setting was the next logical step in the franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger disagreed, however, and refused to return as Dutch Schaeffer. That role eventually was rewritten for Gary Busey, an anonymous hunter of the alien creature.
Predator 2 fails in its execution, however, opting to set itself in the near future. Its tone deafness only gets worse upon closer inspection, loading its cast of characters with racial stereotypes and casting TV shock-jock Morton Downey Jr. in a cameo.
The game, released for Sega Genesis, is a pleasant surprise. Its graphics are impressive, assuming a top-down Smash TV perspective as your Lieutenant. Harrigan (Danny Glover) runs through L.A. war zones rescuing hostages. It’s also faithfully gory.
If you take too long, the predator’s triangular laser beem begins chasing you. Should you pass it, you explode in incredibly violent fashion – severed limbs and even eyeballs flying directly at the camera.
5. Alien: Resurrection
Like its predecessor, Alien: Resurrection had a troubled journey from page to screen. The script from Joss Whedon went through numerous rewrites. Whedon’s draft included a final act set on earth, which never appears in the film. The writer was especially unsatisfied with the final result, claiming that, while much of his script was filmed, it was cast, framed, and executed entirely wrong.
Critics were especially harsh, with Ebert naming it one of the worst films of 1997.
The Playstation game at least got the atmosphere correct. It took three years and two scrapped versions before it was finally released in 2000. Though it was met with criticism for its difficulty and controls, it has since experienced a re-appraisal. The game’s controls have become standard for most first-person shooters today.
4. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
No one could have expected Riddick, Vin Diesel’s notorious intergalactic warrior, to become the lynchpin of a franchise. In his first appearance, Dick B. Riddick (yes, that’s his full name) felt like just another character who could potentially wind up as cannon fodder in David Twohy’s Pitch Black. By the end of the film, it was clear he was the lead character. Through sheer force of Diesel and Twohy’s will, the character headlined a total of four films and two video games.
The Chronicles of Riddick was savaged by critics, but its game adaption, Escape from Butcher Bay, has received nothing but praise. As a mixture of Half-Life and Splinter Cell, it has been called one of the best games of the X-Box era. The only complaint players seem to have is that the game is simply too short for its own good – prompting the equally enjoyable expanded remake Assault on Dark Athena.
3. Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man has along history of video games, but video games didn’t advance technologically to get the web-swinger right until Spider-Man 2. Sam Raimi’s film has been called The Empire Strikes Back of superhero movies, and the sandbox game for PS2, Xbox, and PC is a laudable adaptation/expansion of the film’s story. Better still, the game managed to nail the natural flow one should feel while swinging from web to web around New York City.
Spider-Man 3, both the film and game, are seen as a step back from the greatness of the second film. Raimi was criticized for shoving too many villains and plot threads into the film, mistreating Venom, and diving too deeply into comic-book silliness.
The game’s swinging may not have the fluidity of its predecessor, but it is still a step up from its source material. The Wii version is particularly inventive, utilizing the nunchuck and remote to its full advantage.
2. Lego Jurassic World
After Jurassic Park, the expectations for a sequel were sky high. Steven Spielberg was returning as a director years after he swore off sequels as “a cheap carny trick.” The return of Jeff Goldblum as his breakout character Ian Malcolm was also welcome news.
When The Lost World was released, however, the media and audiences were struck with Phantom Menace-level disappointment. Spielberg has since admitted he did the project strictly for money – the first indication that the franchise was nothing but a giant cash grab after the first film.
Lego Jurassic World, at least, continues the enjoyable series’ streak of inventive video games based on terrible films. While five of the 20 levels are inspired by scenes from the first film, the other 15 cover the rest of the disappointing franchise. It even includes some new voice work from the cast of Jurassic World and Peter Stormare, who played Dieter Stark in The Lost World.
1. Quantum of Solace
Of the Daniel Craig Bond films, Quantum of Solace was the biggest disappointment. Following the excellent re-invention of Casino Royale, expectations were considerably high for a follow up.
Solace‘s plot was mediocre, with a convoluted scheme to manipulate the Bolivian water supply, and everything carried over from the previous film is either ignored or wrapped up quickly and quietly. It doesn’t help that Solace sits directly between two of the best Bond films in recent years. Its short runtime makes it feel less like a movie and more like an unpleasant but necessary bridge between Royale and Skyfall.
It’s no wonder that the game, a third person shooter, focuses its plot less on the actions in Solace and more on flashbacks set during the previous film. The shooting action is fun, running on seemingly the same engine as the excellent PS2 Bond game Everything or Nothing.
What did you think of these video games? Can you think of any others that were based on terrible movies? Let us know in the comments.