For as long as there have been video games, there have been developers who have tried to turn popular movies and TV shows into profitable interactive experiences. It’s a video game tradition as old as high scores. In recent years, gamers have actually been treated to a respectable number of great titles adapted from a TV show or movie. That hasn’t always been the case, though. There was a time, in fact, when licensed games were synonymous with the worst the medium had to offer. They weren’t all bad, but the entire practice of adapting a property into a game got a bad reputation because of developers who realized that many consumers will assume a game bearing a certain name retains the quality of the original property.
The history of games based on shows and movies is so long, in fact, that there are quite a few examples of this practice which have slipped through the cracks of time. Some of these games are unknown because they’re based on relatively obscure properties, while others are notable because they’re fairly unknown experiences based on very well-known titles. The only thing each of these games has in common is the way hearing about them will make you say, “Wait, that got turned into a game?!?”
These are 15 TV Shows And Movies You Didn't Know Were Adapted Into Games.
15 White Men Can’t Jump
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that White Men Can’t Jump is a basketball game. It also won't surprise you to hear that it’s a nearly unplayable basketball game. Released in 1995 (three years after the movie debuted) for the Atari Jaguar, White Men Can’t Jump is technically a basketball video game in the sense that it digitally recreates the game of basketball. You’d have a hard time telling that’s what’s happening on-screen, though, given the game’s impossibly blurry graphics and controls that suggest that the in-game characters’ only experience with dribbling involves uncontrollable drool.
So why is it that someone decided to make a game based on White Men Can’t Jump a few years after the movie had been released? Theoretically, it’s because someone was going to make a basketball game anyway and decided to attach a reputable name to the experience. That might have worked if it weren’t for the facts that the game itself is nearly unplayable and that almost nobody owned a Jaguar in the first place.
14 The Lawnmower Man
Here’s another adaptation that at least kind of makes sense. After all, most people who saw 1992’s The Lawnmower Man didn’t walk away from the movie talking about the film’s brilliant reimagining of the Flowers for Algernon story or Pierce Brosnan’s compelling performance. They walked away from it talking about the virtual reality sequences. Naturally, you would expect the game’s developers to simply turn those sequences into a full-length game.
Instead, The Lawnmower Man’s developers decided to manufacture a bizarre continuation of the film in which Dr. Angelo becomes a bonafide action hero. Most of the game’s action consists of the good doctor shooting bikers, machines, and other random enemies that have nothing to do with the movie. If there’s one positive thing you can say about the game, it’s that the few VR-esque sequences in the game actually do add a surprising amount of variety to the experience. There’s even a first-person shooter section! Of course, variety doesn’t mean much when each gameplay bit is laughably awful.
13 3 Ninjas Kick Back
It’s worth noting now that not every game on this list is necessarily bad. Actually, some of them are even better than the property they are based on. 3 Ninjas Kick Back is such a game. Based on the movie of the same name (yes, it’s based on the sequel) 3 Ninjas Kick Back turns the film about three young boys who become ninjas with help from their grandpa into a side-scrolling action/platformer.
Relatively speaking, the game actually isn’t that bad. Its animations are actually fantastic - at least for the era - and the developers did a pretty admirable job translating the film’s most memorable moments into gameplay sequences. Having said that, there’s really no reason to play this game, as there are a hundred other titles from this era that do what 3 Ninjas does and do it better. If you must play it, however, be sure to play this game on the Sega CD in order to enjoy the hilariously awful live-action story segments.
12 The Shield
From a movie that had no business being turned into a halfway decent game, we move to a TV show which could have been turned into a good game if the developers had any idea what they are doing. Released in 2007 for the PlayStation 2 and PC, The Shield video game takes place between the show’s third and fourth seasons. Understanding this time frame is important because most people would swear that The Shield must have been made in 2002, based on the game’s visuals and gameplay design.
The developers behind The Shield tried their hardest to recreate the show’s hard edge style, but it’s a little difficult to take anything that happens here too seriously when most of the characters in this game are designed to resemble some alternative versions of humans that were born without proper facial structure or consistent proportions. Holding a guy’s face to the stove in order to find out where the stash is becomes significantly less dramatic when the guy in question looks like he was born with his face on a stove.
11 From Dusk Till Dawn
You’re probably wondering why it is that you never knew that there was a video game based on From Dusk Till Dawn. After all, who wouldn’t want to fight a bar full of stripper vampires using hand-made weapons? From Dusk Till Dawn could have been a great game. Now, you’ll no doubt have noticed the use of the word “could” in that last sentence. Well, there’s a very good reason for that.
The premise of the From Dusk Till Dawn game is based on the idea that Seth Gecko gets sent to prison for crimes his brother committed. Soon enough, vampires invade this prison, and Seth is tasked with clearing them out. So far so good, but From Dusk Till Dawn falls apart when you actually play the game. First of all, you’ve never seen video game animation, character design, and voice acting this bad. If you showed this game to a time traveler from the 1800s, they’d be relieved that technology hasn’t advanced too quickly. Of course, it doesn’t help that the game features some of the worst shooting gameplay you’ll ever experience.
10 Manos: The Hands of Fate
This entry begins our brief block of all-time bad movies that were turned into video games anyway. For those who don’t know, Manos: The Hands of Fate achieved a degree of infamy after it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. Why would anyone ever make a game based on such a film? To make fun of it, of course!
Yes, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a parody game, and a pretty brilliant one at that. It follows the events of the film and turns the movie’s few precious moments of genuine content into a retro platformer. The game greatly exaggerates the movie’s most memorable scenes and turns them into an old-school, somewhat broken, and incredibly difficult NES-style platformer. It’s a fairly brilliant parody of both classic NES games and the movie itself. In any case, it’s certainly better than the movie its based on.
9 Plan 9 From Outer Space
Rounding out our block of all-time awful movies that received video game adaptations is Plan 9 From Outer Space. Much like Manos, the Plan 9 video game is not meant to be taken seriously. The developers knew exactly what they were adapting, and they weren’t trying to treat the movie like a blockbuster. Actually, their take on the property is arguably one of the most conceptually brilliant adaptations the gaming world has ever seen.
The Plan 9 game is a meta experience based on the premise that Bela Lugosi’s body double from the film has stolen all of the movie’s original prints, and you must find them. To do so, you’ll have to participate in a classic point and click adventure. That means solving puzzles, interviewing witnesses, and enduring quite a few dialog segments. What makes this game so clever is the way that it treats the movie as both a movie and a series of factual events. It treats the film as a cult classic and attempts to emulate its unexplainable appeal. It's a far greater adaptation than Plan 9 deserved.
8 Beverly Hills Cop
Actually, there are a couple of Beverly Hills Cops games you probably didn’t know existed. While they’re both pretty different, they are forever united by their source material and just how bad they truly are. The first Beverly Hills Cop game was released in 1990 for such popular gaming devices as the Commodore 64, Atari ST, AmigaOS, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, DOS, and BBC Micro. Those who owned those lesser known gaming devices were treated to a top-down/side-scrolling shooter that tries as hard as Beverly Hills Cop III to entertain you - and fails just as miserably.
Even that game must bow down to the throne of awfulness that the PlayStation 2 version of Beverly Hills Cop currently occupies. The PS2 iteration turns the popular franchise into a first-person shooter. At least that’s what we think is happening. It’s a little difficult to call this an action game when the main character moves slower than a concrete block in a sea of molasses. Speaking of physical improbabilities, why is it that most of the characters in this game sink through the floor when they try to complete their animation cycle? There also doesn’t actually seem to be any rhyme or reason behind why your character dies, which is always a lovely feature. Thankfully, the game’s release never spread beyond Europe.
7 Little Nicky
Little Nicky is one of those films that your brain just refuses to remember. Whenever you hear about the comedy in which Adam Sandler plays the son of Satan, you probably go, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that movie,” and then immediately proceed to forget about it again. First off, why is it that Little Nicky of all Adam Sandler movies was turned into a game? Why couldn’t we get a parody golf game based on Happy Gilmore or a Tamagotchi-style Big Daddy game?
Also, why is it that Little Nicky was only released for the Game Boy Color? How big can the cross-section of gamers that owned a Game Boy Color and loved Little Nicky really be? Those reasonable questions aside, it must be said that Little Nicky for the Game Boy Color is actually a fairly decent game. Granted, it’s a pretty standard platformer, but given the game’s bizarre pedigree, it certainly could have been much worse.
6 The Thing
Ironically enough, the surest real-life test for revealing who might potentially be infected by a Thing-like alien is to ask people whether or not they like the movie The Thing. Anyone who doesn’t is surely just a host for an interstellar parasite. That being the case, how can it be that someone went to the effort to make a movie based on The Thing and so few people have ever heard of it? You might think the answer has something to do with the game being unplayable. Surprisingly, that’s not the case.
The Thing is designed around an incredibly innovative fear/trust system that requires you to maintain the trust of your comrades while also trying to discern who amongst your party might be the infected. This leads to some utterly fascinating scenarios which perfectly recreate the movie’s greatest thrills. Granted, The Thing’s shooter sections are fairly generic, but this is an incredible interactive love letter to the classic horror film.
Timecop has become something of a poster child for generic ‘90s action films. The Jean-Claude Van Damme...err...we’ll go with “classic” is really just a rundown of the genre’s worst cliches bolstered by Van Damme’s athleticism and a wonderfully ridiculous sci-fi plot. Before the game ever became a beloved awful movie, however, it was just another generic action film that stealthily received a video game adaptation.
Interestingly enough, that adaptation would go on to establish its own legacy of awfulness. Released for the Super Nintendo in 1995, the developers of TimeCop seem intent on trying to replicate the PlayStation’s graphics. The result is a game that stutters like no console title ever has, which is really a problem when you factor in the game’s thematically appropriate but utterly disastrous time limit feature. The vast majority of levels are actually just the same series of static images repeated ad nausea, and the action is even worse. In recent years, this game has become a favorite of speedrunners who love to explore the game’s unapologetic awfulness.
4 The Office
The Office was a comedy hit that forever changed how networks and creators approached the television comedy genre. As great as that show was, we’re willing to bet that roughly nobody looked at it and thought “wow, what an incredible video game this would make!” As you’ve probably figured out by now, though, that’s never actually stopped anyone from making a game based on a movie or TV show.
The Office was released in 2007 for the PC by a developer and publisher who specialize in forgettable licensed titles. So how does one turn mundane office work into an exciting video game experience? Well, if this game is any indication, they don’t. The Office is basically a reskinned take on the Diner Dash series. That means that you complete a series of monotonous office-themed tasks under a time limit until you mentally snap. In that respect, it’s actually a lot like working in a real office. The only things this game has in common with the show are its cover art, vaguely familiar character designs, and the inclusion of a “prank meter” which is the closest the developers come to replicating the show's humor. Yes, the game is that sad.
Back in the '80s, game developers became briefly infatuated with the idea of publishing mature rated titles for the Atari. These games were basically porn, which is all the more amusing to consider when you remember that the Atari didn’t have the processing power to accurately render a clear blue sky, much less the human anatomy. The most famous of these game is undoubtedly Custer’s Last Stand, but that is far from the only “mature" game released for the Atari.
It’s actually hard to say whether Porky’s should be considered an entrant into that particular genre, simply because it’s hard to discern just what is happening in the game at all. The only scene in the movie the developers seem to be aware of is the famous shower sequence, which is lovingly recreated as well as the Atari can possibly recreate such a thing. The rest of the game is an almost indecipherable collection of gameplay concepts strung together to form a plot involving the destruction of Porky’s bar.
2 Little Britain
Even those who love Little Britain have to admit that it’s not for everyone. It’s a very British sketch comedy series where most of the sketches feature a recurring cast of characters. The show emphasizes a very specific style of humor, meaning that those who find no joy in such humor will find that they experience physical pains while watching the show. If you’re a fan of the Little Britain show and want to know what those pains feel like, simply play the Little Britain game.
Little Britain for the PlayStation 2 is widely considered to be one of the worst licensed video games ever made. It’s less of an actual game and more of a collection of minigames that each star a popular character from the show. These games all revolve around a single gameplay concept - usually a rip-off of another popular game - and yet, they are almost impossible to actually play. How can a game that largely operates off of two buttons be so broken? Nothing here works like it should. It’s bad enough to make a mini-game that has you vomit on people for points, but how do you make a vomiting mini-game with such bad controls?
1 Home Improvement
Even if you love Home Improvement, you have to admit that there really isn't much about the show that suggests it could be turned into a halfway decent video game. There’s also absolutely nothing about the show which suggests that it could be turned into an action game of any quality. Who is Tim Taylor going to fight? Bob Vila robots?
Sadly, Bob Vila robots would have been more in-line with the actual show than what we got here. Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! - as it would prefer to be known - follows Tim Taylor as he tries to reclaim the newest line of Binford tools. This quest takes him to some utterly bizarre places such as the prehistoric era and ancient Egypt, where he battles dinosaurs and mummies, respectively. There are only four levels in the game, but those who played it will probably swear that it was much longer. That’s because it’s almost impossible to successfully navigate this title’s broken controls and bewildering level design. Still, this game does feature Tim Taylor shooting dinosaurs with a nail gun. Even Home Improvement’s eighth season wasn’t that ridiculous.
What other video game adaptations have you played that you're sure no one has ever heard of? Let us know in the comments.