Considering all of the money behind massive movie franchises, reception to video game tie-ins for these properties tend to be...mixed. Whether they’re adapting a critically acclaimed blockbuster or an underperforming flop, it’s usually a safe assumption that licensed games will be poorly designed and rushed compared to other games on the market, if they’re not downright abysmal. And yet, as true as this observation is, there is always the occasional, brilliant exception. Goldeneye 007 invented the modern first-person shooter, and the Batman: Arkham games have been met with overwhelming acclaim. It’s difficult to tell which licensed game will be the next to blow everyone’s expectations away, but there are plenty of movies and franchises that would make worthy candidates.
The ground rules: the movie or franchise itself doesn’t necessarily have to be particularly good, but there must be something about it that would lend itself well to a video game. At the same time, this list will not include licenses that have already been blessed with fantastic video games, like Batman, Star Wars, and James Bond — the point is to consider the great games that could be, not celebrate the games that we have. With that out of the way, here are the top fourteen movies and movie franchises that deserve an amazing video game treatment.
14 John Wick
There isn’t much in the way of film-noir styled video games these days. The only recent examples of note are the third installment of Rockstar’s Max Payne series, LA Noire (also developed by Rockstar), and Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us episodic series. There’s a niche that desperately needs filling, and a video game adaptation (or spin-off) of John Wick could be the start of a new trend towards noir style and imagery in video games.
Keanu Reeves' (who seems to have finally landed himself a franchise worth latching onto) John Wick character has years of an unexplored past as a master assassin, and a stealth/third-person shooter hybrid set during these years could prove to be a sleeper hit with a gaming public that doesn’t know how much it’s missing noir. With the sequel due out next February, it's a bit late to rush a game adaptation into production, but if plans for additional sequels pan out, this could be an excellent way to flush out the character a bit more while capitalizing on his popularity.
13 The Raid
One of the most effortless adaptations on this list, The Raid’s basic story of “there’s some dudes in a place, beat them senseless” is a very familiar one to video games. Consequently, it’s also one that’s hard to ruin — Scott Pilgrim vs the World made a fantastic downloadable 2D brawler with a conservative budget, and the indie scene is crawling with developers that would love to make a contemporary Final Fight or Streets of Rage-esque experience.
A more ambitious (but equally worthwhile) take could be a Godhand-style 3D brawler, which takes advantage of the relatively simple setting of the Raid films by instead focusing on a deep combat system rather than constructing long, complicated levels. Whatever form it takes, any game that stays true to the love of punching that defined the two films has the potential to be a great time.
Like The Raid, Dredd’s core plot — "there’s some dudes in a place, blow them apart with futuristic weaponry” — lends itself very well to video games. And like The Raid, there are plenty of directions to take a video game treatment.
A first-person shooter that lets players inhabit the perspective of Judge Dredd as he blows away criminals, degenerates, and anyone else that gets in his way would certainly be entertaining, especially if developers made full use of the insane arsenal of exploding and incendiary ammunition, and the insane gunfights that could play out in the endlessly dense setting of the megablocks. An old-school approach would be cool too — Judge Dredd blasting his way through 2-D levels like Contra or Metal Slug would be a lot of fun, and the perspective that genre allows could let players replicate the amazing fire reflection shot that worked so well in the movie. If developers could work the slo mo drug from the movie into the game, that would be icing on the cake.
11 Indiana Jones
There’s no shortage of imitators of the famed archeologist in video games, with Nathan Drake’s adventures in Uncharted and Lara Croft’s in Tomb Raider both springing to mind. But both of these franchises are set in the modern era, meaning they leave behind the Indy’s pulpy aesthetic, easily hateable Nazis, and sense of adventure afforded by primitive technology.
All an Indiana Jones game would have to do to be great was use the same fighting, exploring, and puzzle-solving mechanics as Uncharted or Tomb Raider, but throw in the charm of traveling by biplane and dodging sinister SS lieutenants. That, and let the player whip stuff. Whipping nazis to death, whipping things down from high shelves where Indy can reach it, using the whip to swing across gaps, it doesn’t matter — whips are great. And who knows, given how excited he is to return to the character on the big screen, perhaps Harrison Ford himself would be interested in providing the voice for Indy.
10 Men In Black
The Men in Black movies are an excellent example of a franchise that places all of its focus on the wrong elements. The first film remains a classic, but the second and third installments chose to ignore the impossibly large universe they’d created in favor of telling very similar stories with the exact same cast and character dynamics, right down to reusing the same ensemble of wacky aliens.
A Men In Black game probably wouldn’t have the clout to call in Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones for voice work, which is actually a huge advantage. It would force the developers to do to the Men In Black universe what the movies should have done: explore and expand it beyond the same group of creatures in New York. A Mass Effect-style game featuring a new agent leading a team of aliens around the world to investigate a new threat — but with the deadpan humor and cosmic scale of the films — would, at the very least, be an admirable attempt to tap into the potential of the Men In Black universe.
At the very least, this idea seems like a safer bet than the head-scratching upcoming crossover with the Jump Street boys.
9 Cabin in the Woods
A few years ago, nailing down exactly how a Cabin in the Woods game would play would be tricky; the genre-deconstructing horror-comedy doesn’t initially seem friendly to any well-known video game formats.
Fortunately, Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn handily answers this question, creating a template for a Cabin in the Woods game to follow in the form of an adventure-horror hybrid, where the player switches between characters and makes decisions that determine who will survive the night. All Cabin in the Woods would need to do to stand out is cleverly integrate the details of its setting — framing character switching as employees focusing on another part of the scenario, for example, or bringing in the insane variety of monsters, ghosts, mutants, and murderers the Facility has at its disposal. This feels like a home run to us.
8 Sucker Punch
Put simply, Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch is a mess. The rules separating the asylum-burlesque-action anime realities are poorly defined and confusing, the dialogue is stilted, and however well-meaning the film’s supposed “feminist message” is, its execution left much to be desired. The one thing about Sucker Punch that was well done were the fight scenes, which varied dramatically in setting, weaponry, and what the bizarrely clad asylum inmates/burlesque dancers/katana and gun-wielding schoolgirls fought.
A Sucker Punch video game could would provide some much needed clarity by ditching the other two elements and focusing on the action, which, given to the right hands (Platinum Games’ Bayonetta proves they’re experts at quasi-feminist, quasi-exploitative, hyper-stylized action) could result in a thrill-ride of an experience.
7 Any/All Pixar Properties
Once one of the most prolific genres in the medium, 3D platforming games are now something of a rarity, with only Mario, Ratchet & Clank, and the occasional indie game remaining in any significant capacity. 3D platformers can offer some amazing experiences, and while Pixar has had some serviceable platformers made of its properties in the past, there’s yet to be one that rivals the quality of the movies themselves.
The lush jungles of Up, the devastated Earth and sleek spaceships of Wall-E, the abstract imagery of Inside Out — all would make for amazing settings for a platformer, and the whimsical nature of the movies makes fun platformer challenges far less of a challenge to justify than they would be in different stories.
6 Harry Potter
Ironically, the problem with most Harry Potter games has tended to be Harry Potter himself. Aside from the odd game based on quidditch, most Harry Potter games settle for merely adapting the exact events of the movies, thusly ignoring the massive potential of the Harry Potter universe. There’s a reason that people get so invested in Sorting Hat quizzes that feature algorithms assigning them to houses they don't want to be a part of — people love Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but they also love the world that they live in, and want to be a part of it themselves.
A Harry Potter game that follows the example of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by setting itself within the Harry Potter universe but telling its own story, would be a breath of fresh air to aspiring witches and wizards everywhere.
5 Star Trek
Star Trek is the closest of any franchise on this list to having the game that it deserves, with Star Trek Online having the right general idea — let players explore the galaxy as the captain of their own ship — but the execution falling flat. The MMO lacked the production values and energy that the new films have, but if its successor can bring some of that energy to the table while retaining the larger scope and focus on exploration, it could be a fantastic sojourn into the surprisingly underused setting of outer space.
A Beastie Boys-heavy soundtrack would be optional.
4 Kill Bill
Of all of Quentin Tarantino’s eight films, Kill Bill has by far the most potential as an amazing video game. For starters, it’s the most action-heavy, meaning a direct adaptation would be a comparatively simple process — who hasn’t looked at that incredible fight scene against the Crazy 88s and wondered what it would be like to play something that amazing?
But The Bride’s past as a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad implies a whole host of insane fights and adventures that could be explored in a crazy action game. Obviously, such an approach runs the risk of taking the mystery out of the movies (the story behind moments like “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids” might not be as interesting as we think they are) but the prospect of carving through goons as The Bride and possibly fighting alongside the other Deadly Vipers? That’s too enticing to pass up.
3 Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim already has a decent downloadable fighter, focusing only on the robots and monsters that appear specifically in the events of the movie. But Pacific Rim’s setting is far deeper than most people think, as the film is set at the very end of a years-long war with the kaiju that mankind has spent most of its diminishing resources slowly losing. As cool as robots fighting monsters is, games like X-COM show that there’s merit in (and powerful demand for) a more strategic take on material traditionally dominated by the action genre.
Giving the player Stacker Pentecost’s role of leading the Jaeger program, and forcing them to make tough decisions about which cities to defend and what weaponry mankind should develop, would be a fascinating take on Pacific Rim that could actually improve the movie by creating more empathy for the impossible choices Idris Elba’s character was forced to make.
2 Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow’s alternate title of Live, Die, Repeat, while less eye-catching than the title of source material All You Need Is Kill, nevertheless perfectly encapsulates the philosophical core of the type of video game it should aspire to be. If the enthusiastic critical acclaim and high sales numbers of Dark Souls 3 is anything to go by, there’s a hunger for challenging, engrossing games that demand gamers to learn them rather than simply pick them up and play.
A Dark Souls-style Edge of Tomorrow game could bring a similar level of difficulty by forcing players to slowly learn the course of action that will lead them to defeat the aliens, while bringing a near-future sci-fi aesthetic that instantly makes it stand out from the medieval-inspired setting of the Souls games. A straight adaptation of the film’s story could work, but letting players inhabit Emily Blunt’s machete-wielding “full-metal bitch” during the battle that led up to the events of the movie? That would be something special.
With a sequel to the acclaimed Tom Cruise vehicle on the way, now is the perfect time to greenlight this project.
1 Marvel Cinematic Universe
The last entry of this list is, by far, the most obvious and necessary. Given the meteoric success of Marvel’s movies and the sheer wealth of possibilities afforded by the large variety of diverse characters and settings, it’s nothing short of astounding that someone hasn’t taken any of these movies and made a killer video game companion. The transition from superhero action film to superhero action game seems so simple and straightforward that one wonders if there’s some behind-the-scenes corporate intrigue blocking such projects from coming into fruition. Why else would Disney and Marvel wait?
A Hulk-centric destructible sandbox, a Star Fox-style rails shooter but with a raccoon as the pilot, a Metal Gear Solid inspired stealth adventure starring Black Widow, a dogfighting sim with Iron Man serving as the jet — the possibilities are endless. Warner Brothers eventually realized they were sitting on a goldmine, and when they finally managed to find a good developer and concept for a Batman game, the results were nothing less than spectacular. Marvel, on the other hand, is sitting on dozens of goldmines. All they need to do is get started.
Now that Marvel's dominance has spread across screens both big and small, the next logical step is to take over the video game industry.