You might have noticed that games made from blockbuster movies just aren’t as common as they used to be. Perhaps the gaming industry has finally realized that movie-based games, more often than not, are an insult to the genre. Sure, you could have an Ant-Man game for the Ps4, but by this point you can’t expect a licensed tie-in game to give you anything close to the cinematic experience.
It’s not that all licensed games are terrible. Just… most of them. They were either rushed into production to sync up with the movie release, made by people who don’t have a clue what they were supposed to be basing the game on or simply trying to limp by on the strength of the license. The story mode might be four hours long (tops) and the pixels clearly visible…but it’s Ant-Man! Who doesn’t want to be Ant-Man, am I right?
That said, here are some of the worst; those games based on films that tried to trick gullible moviegoers into playing their half-baked experience…and apart from sticking the official poster on the box, failed at everything else.
Jurassic Park: Trespasser (1998)
Jurassic Park: Trespasser is up there with the Atari version of E.T. in terms of notoriety. It promised to revolutionize gaming, had major names attached (Steven Spielberg, Richard Attenborough) and was generally ambitious in all the ways it probably shouldn’t have been.
Aiming for hyper-realism in a way no game had ever attempted, what gamers instead received was Dropping Stuff Simulator 1998. Players control Anne, who has the amazing ability to smack dinosaurs around with thousand-pound steel rods but will let go of everything she’s holding after a slight bump against a wall. Despite being remembered as ambitious and still sort-of revolutionary, the game was panned by critics for many other reasons, such as poor voice acting, generic landscapes, boring puzzles and just not being the Jurassic Park-esque dinosaur romp it was supposed to be.
Total Recall (1990)
We can’t exactly blame old-school video game consoles for not giving us lush, photorealistic graphics. Still, the developers of Total Recall for the NES probably could’ve tried a bit harder on this one, which expected gamers to see the above “generic green shirt guy” as Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bunch of short, leotard-clad circus acrobats as his fearsome opponents. Just like the movie!
The rest of the game tries valiantly to include iconic scenes from the film, but with the graphic limitations and the aforementioned generic player character, the game collapses into beat ‘em up mediocrity that just as easily could’ve been any other title.
With such fine source material, how could this one go wrong?
By being just the worst, of course… or at least a terribly generic adventure game that you’d only play if you’re a die-hard fan of the movie. And then you have bigger problems.
The game gives you the exciting option of switching Catwoman from running on two legs to running on four, along with an incredibly inaccurate whip attack and about three martial arts moves that make it look like your heroine’s limbs are made of wood. It doesn’t help that more or less every fight in the game looks exactly the same: bad guy appears, run in circles, flip kick, whip lash, repeat until they stop getting back up.
Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows – Parts I and II (2010 and 2011)
Harry Potter games have varied in quality throughout the eight-movie run, but the two climactic Deathly Hallows games stand out as some of the worst.
On the plus side, the games use a cover system, making the player about five times smarter than most of the characters in the movie. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay was a hodgepodge mix of Gears of War and Grand Theft Auto, swapping magical effects for OHK headshots and storytelling for canon-breaking cutscenes that look pretty awful.
Deathly Hallows – Part II is more of the same, except with somehow even dopier, more repetitive AI (hope you like fighting the same three Death Eaters for five straight hours) and a lack of coherent story, despite being based on one of the bestselling books of all time. Maybe the developers should’ve skimmed a few pages first.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
This one’s disappointing, considering that Spider-Man 2 gave you the run of the whole of New York and was generally massive fun, if a bit flawed. Spider-Man 3 might not be the worst video game ever made, but it somehow took a step backwards and featured glitches galore that often ruined the gameplay. Random citizens will often walk through buildings like it ain’t a thing, and the voice acting was all over the place. Spider-Man’s quips grew stale after a few minutes of playing, and the cut scenes looked like they were animated in the 90s.
If you were expecting the game to make up for the film’s many mistakes, you’d be sorely disappointed. But at the very least, they didn’t make the Saturday Night Fever strut scene playable. Unless it’s an Easter egg.
Transformers: The Game (2007)
Transformers: The Game was a bad game all on its own, regardless of the film it was based on. If it had been released under the title Big Transforming Killbots, reviewers would’ve pointed out the repetitive missions (drive to a place. Drive to another place), poor graphics and near-impossible driving mechanics.
However, the game takes the screw-up even further by inserting its own version of the film’s plot. It follows the original in broad strokes, derailing at random points for gameplay purposes. Most of these changes involve having the Autobots blowing everything in sight to smithereens to accomplish their mission, because protecting the humans takes a back seat to gamer enjoyment. To make matters worse, there are no repercussions for this; unleashing your inner Michael Bay on the human world won’t get you so much as a smack on the wrist. So in the end…all Transformers are the bad guys?
Batman Forever (1995)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the entirety of Batman Forever is just Jim Carey cackling in a green leotard with an occasional shot of… some other people. Batman Forever for the NES, on the other hand, is just another awkward platform beat-em-up featuring a playable Batman so clumsy he could probably lose a fight to Adam West.
Aside from having horrible controls and backgrounds, the game was also panned for its difficulty, which often sees Batman and Robin overcome by such fearsome enemies as “lead pipe guy” and “lucha libre wrestler.” You can glide and hurl batarangs, but both functions are next to useless. It’s a level of helplessness akin to watching early-career Chris O’Donnell trying to act.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Jurassic Park makes the list yet again, with the game adaptation of The Lost World promising yet another dino-fest and coming up short. Despite giving players the opportunity to play as a T-Rex (sometimes), the game was a ruthlessly hard platformer that suffered from a set of fiendish controls that made jumping up to a two-foot-high platform an arduous chore.
The game has 30 levels, but never thinks to offer you the basic courtesy of a save point. This was a PlayStation game, by the way; not a black and white Gameboy title. Saving your game was definitely an option in 1997.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
Aliens: Colonial Marines was technically a sequel game, taking place after the events of Aliens 3. However, upon its initial release, the game became notorious for featuring some of the worst AI ever seen, with Xenomorphs that toddled right past you like they were looking for their keys in the dark. This wasn’t even the worst of the bugs, which often had aliens freezing in mid-air or getting their heads stuck in ceilings. Given that the whole thing had terrible graphics to begin with, you lose the fear-factor when your terrifying prey is jittering with his butt sticking out of a wall.
Colonial Marines also fell down in the story department, with a very brief campaign mode and a shallow plot that played fast and loose with canon. Like Jurassic Park: Trespasser, the game promised a great deal before its release, and proved to be a gigantic disappointment afterwards.
007 Legends (2012)
When you think of a James Bond game, Goldeneye probably comes to mind. 007 Legends was not that game. It tried to tie all the Bond movies together in a journey spanning multiple films, nostalgia and all. What was delivered was a one-track generic shooter that does its absolute best to ruin all the best 007 moments while ripping off Call of Duty’s combat system, of all things.
Somehow, the act of blazing your way through infinite henchmen, stealing top-secret intel and blazing your way through infinite henchmen again is turned stale, since it was the goal of almost every single mission. Throw in a few lame, quicktime-based boss fights and a thoroughly buggy multiplayer, and you’ve got a Bond game that seems to be doing its best to ruin the franchise. But hey, Skyfall DLC!
The Wizard of Oz (1993)
At first glance, the SNES version of The Wizard of Oz sounds like pure, concentrated awesome. Not content to follow the original plot, the game arms Dorothy with a laser-blasting magic wand, Prince of Persia-style jumping prowess and the power to brutally kick her enemies to death. Remember kids, ruby slippers don’t show the blood.
Unfortunately, the game suffered from all the typical pitfalls of the era, including jump controls that were sheer frustration to get right. Gamers watched as they repeatedly send Dorothy to her death in a raging river, one of the game’s many invisible pitfalls.
Top Gun (1987)
Not many games have to gall to not only force the player to land a plane, but also make it really, really hard. Most of the time, your challenge amounts to ‘press X to land’. Not so with Top Gun for the NES. Experience all the thrills of going on a mission in utter silence (there was no in-game soundtrack), only to utterly fail when it comes to the all-important landing, which involved controlling both the angle and the speed; incorrect landings could see you shooting straight over the side and into the ocean, which isn’t quite how you want your mission to end.
A Robocop video game sounds like the perfect opportunity to create a generic shooter. That seemed to be the guiding principle for the 2003 game, which was cobbled together with sub-par graphics that were years behind, the most unbearable voice acting work outside of a fan-dub and ridiculously long levels with no opportunity to save. Also, Robocop will practically keel over if a bullet so much as ricochets in his direction, not exactly what you’d expect from a man in a metal suit known for being a stone cold killer.
And this was if the game actually loaded at all; many players found that their versions were unplayable due to game simply not loading. Given the overall quality of Robocop, this was probably the game console telling them to go and play outside.
Thor: God of Thunder (2011)
We may never get Ant-Man, but we do have Thor: God of Thunder to tide the comic book fans over. Unfortunately, the makers of the game managed to take a hammer-wielding, lightning-blasting legendary figure of Norse mythology and turned him into a one-button wonder. This one button is all you’ll really need to smash your way through poorly-animated legions of generic warriors.
The game looks terrible and lacks any of the fun or visual splendor that made the film great to watch. Buggy controls destroy any enjoyment you might’ve received from tossing your enemies around with Thunder god magic, while the game is coated in glitches and bugs. The Mighty Thor is less impressive when his sprite is sinking into the ground for no reason.
Most Shrek Games
If you think about it, a series of Shrek games might have worked on their own. You’ve got a cast of interesting characters with varied skills, a whole fairy-tale universe to draw upon and plenty of landscapes to explore.
Sadly, the games were sprung from the movie franchise… and most of them lack the magic of their big screen inspiration. The games range from passable to plain execrable, but special attention must go to the fact that there are no less than four racing games, all of which are shameless rip-offs of Mario Kart, though notably lacking the whimsicality or decent graphics.
Since Wreck-it-Ralph was an actual video game movie – as in, a movie based around video games – you’d have thought that they’d try to do justice to the game itself. Sadly, it ended up being just another case of a half-baked tie-in, a mostly unremarkable platformer released for Wii, DS and 3DS that tried to be retro and ended up as simply tedious.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
This is the ultimate example and possibly the one that started it all: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. As one of the first video game tie-ins ever made, the game was cobbled together in just over five weeks in time for a Christmas release. The graphics were shocking (even for 1982), the tasks repetitive and most of the gameplay involved falling into holes. It might have been initially successful, but consumers quickly caught on and the game became so reviled it pushed Atari in debt, and is credited with causing the 1983 video game crash.
Back to the Future (1989)
You can actually watch gameplay videos of Back to the Future for the NES, and it’s probably listed somewhere in a medical journal as a cure for insomnia. The player must guide Marty McFly (probably) up the screen, grabbing clocks and avoiding all those random bee swarms and girls with hula-hoops that were so prevalent in the movie. The music loops every few seconds and the plot is almost non-existent.
To make matters worse, Probably-Marty dies after a single hit from absolutely anything, meaning that a glancing blow from a deadly hula-hoop will send you right back to the beginning. Not that there’s an actual visual difference between the beginning and the end of the level, but still.
Star Wars (1987)
Every movie game takes some liberties with story. Namco’s Star Wars, only ever released in Japan, is perhaps the prime example. You play as a raven-haired Luke Skywalker as he jets around the galaxy in the Millennium Falcon (yes, Luke is flying it) saving his friends from places they definitely never found themselves in the original movie. Also, you have multiple duels with Darth Vader, who takes his cues from the early Mario games and transforms into a random animal every time he’s beaten.
On top of all this, the game is made unnecessarily hard by Luke dying after a single hit, his lightsaber being next to useless and the endless spike pits that are all too easy to tumble into. It’s probably best that this one stayed in Japan.
Street Fighter: The Movie (1995)
Games adapted from movies might have a pretty poor reputation, but movies adapted from games are often even worse off. 1994’s Street Fighter was pretty awful. Somehow, we then ended up with Street Fighter: The Movie game, if you can wrap your head around the concept.
This allowed you take all the bland, poorly-acted characters from the movie and play as them in a video game that’s somehow much worse than the actual franchise it was based on. What’s more, the developers didn’t go for the cheap and easy option of simply using the Street Fighter engine, but tried to come up with a new system that simply wasn’t ready in time. Street Fighter: The Movie (the game) looked terrible and played even worse, though since gamers already had an actual proper franchise to be playing, no one really cared.
Did we miss any truly terrible movie games? Let us know in the comments!