It’s no secret that video games and movies just can’t seem to see each other eye-to-eye. As we’ve all noticed by now, movies based on video games often miss the mark. However, video games aren’t the best at staying faithful to the movies they adapt either.
Sometimes when making a movie tie-in, video games stray from the path. Some games will add tons of additional content or radically alter movie events in order to pad out a movie’s action to fit in multiple levels. Some games act as prequels or sequels without any care how that affects the movie’s canon. And some games will go so far out of left field, that one has to wonder why they slapped the movie’s name on the game in the first place. But no matter the reason, games like these are fun to discuss.
So grab your popcorn, and let’s look at 15 Video Games That Are Nothing Like The Movies They're Based On.
15 The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is no stranger to video games; tie-in games were made for each individual entry, and with The Shadow of Mordor and its upcoming sequel, acclaimed games based on the films continue to be made well over a decade since the films were released.
However, none of the games take as many liberties with the plot as The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. In The Third Age, you control a few archetypal heroes made for the game and fight your way across Middle Earth in Final Fantasy-esque turn-based combats. But you don’t just fight random orcs and off-screen villains, you actively participate in pivotal moments in the films.
You know that epic showdown between Gandalf and the Balrog? Well according to The Third Age, the thin Bridge of Khazad-dûm was actually wide enough to fit four people and the final blow was struck by some dwarf named Hadhod. Most egregious of all is the fact that you actually fight the Eye of Sauron as the final boss. Frodo throwing the ring into Mt. Doom and Aragorn attacking the walls of Mordor aren’t the climax, it’s Hadhod and his friends hacking away at an angry fireball.
Basically, The Third Age is playable self-insert fanfiction. To its credit, it's still pretty fun killing orcs and defending Minas Tirith. However, the Witch King dying by a random ranger’s arrow really kind of undercuts his whole “I can be killed by no man” line.
14 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
What else can really be said about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for Atari at this point? It’s commonly known as one of the worst video games ever made, and a commercial failure to boot. It was so bad that it had an active role in driving the video game industry’s 1983 crash, and Atari tried to literally bury this mess by dumping thousands of overproduced game cartridges in a landfill.
Perhaps it could have been salvaged if it stuck closer to the events and pathos of the film, but alas, the E.T. game truncated everything into just wandering around looking for candy and telephone parts. The Atari had limits on what it could do, sure, but there were plenty of other, more exciting ways to capture what happens in the film. There could have been a bike chase level, or at the end, a flying bike level. E.T. could have made for an excellent multiplayer game where Elliot and E.T. share health and resources and need to work together, signifying their growing bond.
Instead, all the game delivered was six levels of moving a little green abomination across the screen and delving into pits. Because everyone’s favorite part of E.T. was when he got stuck at the bottom of a well, right?
13 Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 just can’t catch a break, can it? Being the dreary set-up for its bombastic second half, it often gets criticized as being the weakest film in the series. And true to form, the video game adaptation was by far the most critically panned as well. Either in an attempt to alleviate the slower moments in the film, or in trying to cash in on modern trends, EA and WB Games essentially just made Gears of War with wands.
Instead of wacky adventure games like the previous tie-ins, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One is an unabashed third-person shooter, complete with a cover system and every spell acting like a different kind of bullet. You can pull off headshots for increased damage, and the Confundo spell is even aimed with a sniper point of view.
So, while the first Deathly Hallows film involves Harry, Ron, and Hermione spending a lot of time desperately dodging Death Eaters at all costs, the game has you mowing them down at every turn. After all, why hunt horcruxes when you can 360-no-scope scrubs with an Expelliarmus spell?
12 The Ring: Terror’s Realm
Interestingly enough, The Ring: Terror’s Realm was released in North America in 2000, two years before Ringu was remade for American audiences as The Ring. A tie-in being released before a movie is remade seems like it would circumvent any unfair expectations, right?
Well, lowered expectations still didn’t help the reception of Terror’s Realm at all. The game was universally panned and, compared to the films, not at all scary. It didn't help that the game’s plot being nothing like the movie’s. Instead of experiencing the mind-bending horrors of a journalist unraveling the mysteries of the video, you control a CDC agent locked in a facility with the infamous video infecting the place’s computers. Yep, instead of striving to make a psychological, paranormal nail-biter, the developers opted to make a sub-par Resident Evil.
It’s such a shame too, given all the horrors the Ring movies experiment with involving screens and technology, a game properly focused on that could have been a smash hit. As it is, The Ring: Terror’s Realm deserves to drown at the bottom of the well with Samara.
11 The Goonies
Ah, The Goonies. Everyone’s favorite ‘80s adventure-comedy film all about a boy murdering his way through an army of rats with his trusty slingshot and explosive devices.
Or at least, that’s what the Japan-only Famicom game was about. You would control Mikey and guide him through a series of levels, avoiding or killing rats, gathering keys, and rescuing one of the other goonies per level.
There’s no Chunk or Sloth, nor is there any fun to be had with Data, whose gadgets and gizmos would have easily lent themselves to a video game format. The game's creators apparently believed that The Goonies' themes of teamwork and friendship are garbage, and that it’s way more interesting to have Mikey save the day every time. And you better rescue every single one of your friends, because if you don’t, the game puts you right back at the beginning instead of taking you to the final level.
Goonies are never supposed to say die, but they really could have let this one burn up with the Fratellis on the ship.
10 The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is one of those rare adaptations that is a departure from the source material, but is actually improved as a result. Rather than make a straight adaptation of The Chronicles of Riddick, developer Starbreeze Studios opted to make a prequel telling Riddick’s backstory. It opens with our antihero getting thrown in a max security prison, and through a stellar combination of stealth and gunplay, you lead Riddick through his attempts to break out.
How is this a change from the movies? Well, when we see Riddick in Pitch Black, all we know about him is that he’s unparalleled in fighting and problem-solving, has special night vision powers, and is hated by bounty hunters for just how much of a badass he is. Let’s face it: in the movies, Riddick is a definitive Mary Sue character.
But in Butcher Bay, while capable, Riddick displays some complexity by struggling time and time again. He flees into sewer systems and tries to harvest a guard’s eyes to bypass security, but gets captured in the process. It isn’t until his third attempt that he finally breaks out, and through all that struggle and growth witnessed by the player, Riddick’s badassery now feels earned.
Where other video game tie-ins just copy or corrupt a movie’s characters and events, Escape from Butcher Bay elevates its source material with some appreciated complexity and background.
9 Spider-Man (2002)
While not at all a bad game, the Spider-Man tie-in game for the first Sam Raimi movies had its fair share of additions and modifications to the plot in order to pad out the game’s run time. Instead of focusing on Peter coming to terms with his new powers and squaring off against Green Goblin, the Spider-Man game takes a more episodic approach, where you deal with multiple villains before defeating Norman Osborne.
First off, instead of some random burglar, in the game, Uncle Ben’s killer is the leader of a gang hilariously dubbed “the Skulls.” Plus he’s named Spike and totes a sawed-off shotgun, because this is a video game and video games need boss battles. From there, Spider-Man has to fight Shocker and Vulture in rapid succession as the two work together on a joint operation. After that, you have to hunt down Scorpion in the sewers, and after that (if you’re playing the Xbox version), Kraven the Hunter comes out and you need to fight him in the zoo. Only once you’ve gone through a good chunk of Spider-Man’s catalogue of criminals can you actually move forward and fight Green Goblin like in the film.
Oh and did we mention? The game is narrated by Bruce Campbell. Not in any way like the movie, but it’s actually such a treat we wonders why that wasn’t in the movie.
8 Home Alone (2006)
The existence of the 2006 Home Alone game is a head-scratcher in and of itself. It was released sixteen years after the original film, and only in Europe. It came out on the PS2 despite having PS1-quality polygons and late ‘90s flash cartoon art. It didn’t even have the capacity to save progress, only remembering high scores. How did this thing even get made?
It goes without saying that the game has a paper-thin connection to the movie too. The main character is named Kevin, the two burglar enemies roughly resemble Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, and you have to defend your house from them, but that’s really it.
There’s nothing to do with Christmas anywhere, at any point. No other movie characters, like Fuller or the old man with the shovel, make an appearance. You don’t even get to make any of the favorite paint can or doorknob traps inside your home. All you do is lock all the entrances and try to dwindle the burglars’ health bars.
It’s such a lazy production and a bore to play; you probably can’t make it past ten minutes without wanting to clap your hands on your face and scream like Macaulay Culkin.
7 Jaws Unleashed
The ending of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is one of the most iconic final scenes in all of cinema. On a sinking vessel, Martin Brody takes a final shot at a gas tank in the shark’s mouth, and the monster explodes!
Except, according to the game Jaws Unleashed, the great white shark secretly survived and came back 30 years later. In the game, you actually take control of the titular monster and carve a path of destruction and fear as you devour everything you can in the waters around Amity Island. It’s simple fun, sure, but it sullies the final moments of its source material.
The game also features Michael Brody, the son of Martin, as a marine biologist who wants to capture Jaws and study him. It seems a bit odd that someone would want to study the ocean after their dad was nearly killed by a fearsome shark, and odder still that they would want to then study the very same shark. But hey, it’s part of the Jaws franchise, so there needs to be a Brody in it somewhere, even it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
To the younger Brody’s credit, at the end of the game he tries to blow Jaws up as well, but the shark survives that one too. So based on Jaws Unleashed, sharks are just immortal. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
6 Charlie’s Angels
The Diaz-Barrymore-Liu Charlie’s Angels films aren’t exactly the best action films, but they're good fun. However, the Charlie’s Angels video game was a complete and utter dumpster fire.
First off, rather than follow the events of the first film or the sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, the game is a sequel story in which the Angels investigate someone stealing national monuments. It literally opens with someone turning off all the lights in New York City for three seconds, and in that time, making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Now, the Charlie’s Angels movies didn’t have the most realistic plots in the world, but at least they weren’t at "saturday morning cartoon" levels of absurdity.
And the silliness doesn’t end there. The actual game consists of running through linear levels as each of the Angels while everyone in sight – even random passers-by in their bathing suits – all try to beat the crap out of you. The Angels in the movies are a force for good, who are experts at stealth and crime fighting. But unfortunately, their video game depicts them as such social pariahs that every citizen who sees them has to stop what they’re doing and start throwing punches.
5 Kingdom Hearts
In Kingdom Hearts, Mickey is no simple mouse; he's a king, and he's gone missing. Goofy and Donald aren’t just silly anthropomorphic animals going about their day; they are instead, respectively, a warrior and frustratingly ineffective magician.
You join forces with Ariel in Atlantica and defeat Ursula without ever involving the surface world or Prince Eric. You visit Olympus from Hercules to discover that Hades is corrupting Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, and other Final Fantasy folk like Aerith and Leon pop up throughout the game. Disney characters from different franchises cross paths, like in the Hollow Bastion level, where you team up with the Beast to try and take down Maleficent. Oh, and all the Disney villains you fight are all corrupted by the same convoluted dark force known as “the Heartless.”
The end result is an awesome romp through the familiar as well as the bizarre that is loved by fans to this day, despite all the changes it makes to their favorite Disney films. But seriously though, why couldn’t they change Donald into a better wizard?
4 Fight Club
If you watched the movie Fight Club and your first thought was “I want to be in a fight club now,” then you kind of missed the point of Fight Club. However, there were apparently enough people who missed the point, because five years after the film’s release, Fight Club the video game came out, and it’s only about the fighting.
The game is an underwhelming Tekken clone, whose only real distinguishing feature is its attempt to capture the gritty tone of the film by showing blood spattering everywhere and x-raying the characters to show bones cracking. The stupidly short story mode tells the tale of a guy known only as “Hero” who fights his way up into the top ranks of Tyler Durden’s organization.
Project Mayhem, questions of fatherhood and masculinity – these are all afterthoughts to punching a never-ending line of shirtless dudes. The game even ends with a fight with Tyler Durden/Jack himself. After all, the inner struggle of Jack isn’t what’s important here; it’s fighting more dudes.
Oh, and Fred Durst is an unlockable character, despite having nothing to do with anything. Because nothing screams “nuanced analyses of consumerism’s effects on masculinity” like breaking the ribs of the frontman of Limp Bizkit.
3 Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr
On the outset, the Blair Witch seems like a perfect fit for a survival horror game, and with the focus on Rustin Parr (the alluded-to serial killer in the film who had children wait in a corner to be killed), Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr seemed like it was ready to also explore new facets of the film’s lore. But while it has Blair Witch in the title, the game was actually a sequel to an entirely different game called Nocturne.
Nocturne was a survival horror game where you controlled a character only known as The Stranger and investigated paranormal activities involving werewolves and zombies. In Blair Witch Volume 1, you controlled a minor character from Nocturne named Doc Holliday, and wouldn’t you know it, but the werewolves, zombies, and The Stranger all showed up in this game too. The Blair Witch herself wasn’t even in the game! For some baffling reason, the game reveals that it isn’t the witch influencing Rustin Parr-- it’s some random demon named Hecaitomix.
Not caring about the source material is one thing, but Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr cranked up the apathy to the point of being a full-on deception. And the fact that they got away with that is probably the greatest horror of all.
2 Peter Jackson’s King Kong
Peter Jackson’s King Kong had a fair amount of hype around it, as it offered you the chance to play as the great ape himself and wrestle T-Rexs to the ground in glorious HD, and on that front it delivered.
Unfortunately, the levels where you play as Kong only make up about a third of the game. The majority of it is spent as Adrien Brody’s Jack Driscoll, gunning your way across Skull Island as if Jack was Turok the Dinosaur Hunter instead of an unfortunate screenwriter. Seriously, the game would have you believe that Jack was capable of manning the entire expedition on his own, with a mastery of every weapon he came across (including using dinosaur bones as spears) and the cunning to solve centuries old puzzles in the ruins built by island natives.
But the pièce de résistance has to be that Jack is so cool, that can he save Kong’s life and actually change the movie’s ending. If you got a high enough score, and survived long enough as Kong during the last level where you fend of the airplanes at the top of the Empire State Building, then Jack Driscoll swoops in on a bi-plane like the Red Barron and proceeds to shoot down the other planes. This allows Kong to climb down and return home to Skull Island.
So in the end, it was beauty that saved the beast. The beauty of an absurdly perfect Adrien Brody.
1 Star Wars (1987)
The Japan-exclusive Famicom Star Wars game came out ten years after the release of the beloved film – well after it had been utterly ingrained into pop culture. The plot of Luke Skywalker rescuing Princess Leia and blowing up the Death Star was well known, the many quips of Han Solo and Obi-Wan constantly quoted. And yet, in this game, when you fight Darth Vader... he transforms into a giant scorpion.
Wait, what? Yes, on top of the fact that Luke never actually fights with his lightsaber in the first film, Darth Vader turns out to have a cabal of identical shape-shifter apprentices. The first time you encounter one, he becomes a scorpion after your first hit, and in later stages, a bat and shark. Did the developers assume that Darth’s machine suit meant he was a Transformer or something?
There are other oddities too; entire sequences done underwater or on unseen ice planets. In the fight with giant-bat-Vader, the back wall has a picture of an Egyptian pharaoh on it for some reason. And funnily enough, at the end Chewbacca actually gets his medal while Han Solo is left without an award.
The weirdness is actually made weirder by how much the game gets right. You’re assailed by stormtroopers and Tusken raiders, you shoot down tie-fighters in the Millennium Falcon, you make the Death Star trench run. There was a direct effort to recreate Star Wars here. There was just also an effort to change a lot in very strange ways.
Can you think of other video game tie-ins that are nothing like the movie's they're based on? Let us know in the comments!