Live-Action Movie to Video Games: Are There Any Good Ones?
It’s no secret that movies and video games, despite both being visual mediums, just don’t mix. Video game tie-ins to live-action movies are usually developed under tight deadlines and limited budgets. So, it’s no wonder that the general opinion is that they’re simple cash grabs, especially when this practice has produced some real stink bombs. In fact, we’re convinced that the number of truly good video game tie-ins to live-action movies is so small that you can count them on two hands. To prove it, here’s a list of them all:
No list of excellent video game tie-ins to movies would be complete without Spider-Man 2. It’s usually the first example critics point to – and for good reason. Spider-Man 2’s innovative web-slinging mechanic made traversing its sprawling open-world a joy. Its movement captured the adrenaline rush of speeding between skyscrapers and swinging past iconic Big Apple monuments while remaining intuitive and easy to pick up, with a hidden complexity that allowed for a grace and flair that makes it the subject of endless YouTube clips.
No one element – save for the aforementioned web-slinging – is outstanding or perfect, but Spider-Man 2 is truly a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. The sheer joy of flipping and flying through, around, and over buildings when combined with its excellent, counter-based combat makes for one of the greatest titles of its generation. Its crown as king of Spider-Man games would only be challenged nearly 15 years later.
The Warriors entered development more than 20 years after the release of the film it’s based on. The late 70’s cult classic of the same name was a valiant attempt at a modern urban epic on a low budget. It eventually became known for its gaudy, over-the-top costumes and corny dialogue, so, naturally, it translated perfectly to the video game format.
The video game, following the general plot of the film, retells the tale of The Warriors, an inner-city gang from New York, who is framed for a crime they didn’t commit and must escape from the city’s heart to their home base on Coney Island. Without the time constraints of that medium, the game takes its time to explore the various colorful gangs that inhabit its world and establish further lore about their relationships.
Based on Bully’s winning formula, The Warriors is a blast of a brawler with a unique city to explore full of eccentric and memorable characters. For fans, the time it dedicates to fleshing out the many rival groups that roam its version of New York – the film itself introduces different, strangely-costumed gangs with little explanation – makes it a fantastic, arguably necessary, companion piece to the movie. And guess what? It’s been remade for the PS4, so there’s no reason not to experience it for yourself today.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Both Riddick games bucked the trend of mediocre video game tie-ins to live-action films, and we struggled to decide which game should make this list. Ultimately, we chose Escape to Butcher Bay, the first of the two, for overcoming initial doubts and outperforming expectations, but just to be fair, just assume everything here also applies to Assault on Dark Athena.
Escape from Butcher Bay is a tie-in prequel to the film Pitch Black in the Chronicles of Riddick franchise. It follows the anti-hero Riddick as he attempts to escape from – you guessed it – Butcher Bay. At the time of its release, Escape from Butcher Bay was lauded by critics for its advanced graphics and enjoyable combination of stealth and action gameplay. It would later go on to win multiple Game of the Year awards.
The Riddick franchise, which stars Vin Diesel, is the actor’s personal passion project, and he was heavily involved in the making of this game. It’s a thrilling stealth-action title that inspires favorable comparisons to iconic games such as Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, and Thief. The great thing is it still holds up.
The Godfather is an open-world action game that centers on the Corleone crime family. It follows the plot of the movies, with some creative twisting and stretching of relationships and characters that give us a better look at several background characters of the films. On its surface, The Godfather game is an open-world shooter in the vein of Grand Theft Auto or Mafia, but its emphasis on the business side of things makes it a standout in the genre.
You play as Michael Corleone, the son of the eponymous Godfather, as he navigates his way through the gang and family politics. Its story is expertly told and offers an alternative perspective of many of the most memorable moments of the films. The shooting is bog-standard, but its empire-building mechanics – bullying shop owners for protection money, fighting with rival families for territory – form a compelling game loop that keeps you coming back long after the main plot reaches its end.
Scarface: The World Is Yours
Hey look, it’s another game based on a movie from decades ago. Wonder what it is about old movies that translate so well to modern games?
Scarface is set in an alternate timeline where the main character from the film survives the assassination at the end of the movie. Having lost control of the empire he built from the ground up, he must use all his guile and savage wit to reclaim power.
Unlike the Godfather game, Scarface is a straightforward GTA clone set in a hyper-stylized version of 1980’s Florida. It doesn’t innovate, but the basic mechanics that form its foundation are sound. It’s a solid shooter with a decent plot that ultimately feels like a lovingly-crafted fan project. You can tell its developers had a blast coming up with different ways Tony Montana would exact revenge on Sosa and his goons.
This right was the original gold standard for movie-to-video-game adaptations. Released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64, Goldeneye continues to be remembered fondly by gamers of its generation more than 20 years after its release. It’s so good nobody the title Goldeneye is associated with the video game tie-in and not the campy 1995 James Bond film it’s supposed to be based upon.
Goldeneye 007 is best known for its local deathmatch and is the topic of endless YouTube videos by older gamers waxing nostalgic about a bygone era. Now it serves as a reminder of a time when you’d play split-screen on your TV, hoping that the other kids would uphold the code of honor and not peek at your part of the screen.
The game has seen a resurgence in player interest of late thanks to the rise of the speedrunning community. The discovery of new techniques for optimizing runs has reinvigorated interest, and we’re seeing more and more old players jumping back into Goldeneye 007, and even some young’ uns picking it up for the first time.
There’s a lot of really bad video game tie-ins to live-action movies out there, so when a halfway decent one releases on a major platform it really is like finding a diamond in the rough. Thankfully for fans of consoles and PC, the new trend for video game cash grabs seems to be focused on free-to-play and mobile now so while the quality may be just as bad as ever before, at least you’re not losing any money when you give one a go. Unfortunately, it looks like the translation from movie to video game continues to be a challenge that stumps developers, but these six games prove that it’s not impossible.
What games do you think deserved a spot on this list? Let us know in the comments bellow.