Some time ago, I wrote an article on movies based on video games. And although I hadn't seen all of them, I came to a pretty solid conclusion: they all suck. Fortunately, the adverse is not always true. Video games based on movies don't always suck. In fact, some of them downright rule. So today, because I feel like doing it, I've decided to run down the top ten best games based on the movies.
Now, before you get into this, I have a very large disclaimer to hand out: I am not a "next-generation" gamer. I prefer those old, clunky, archaic cartridge systems that went the way of the dodo when programmers decided to start throwing everything onto discs. In other words, I haven't really test driven a lot of games on the PS2, X-Box, or GameCube. Therefore, despite how much you might think the latest Matrix or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars game rules, I can't comment on it.
But enough about that. Here are the ten movie-based games that I have played that kick the most ass. I'm sure you'll think I'm wrong, but it is my list. I'm just nice enough to let you read it.
10. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
(Atari 2600, 1983)
Yes, that's supposed to be a chainsaw, you pervert.
The Atari 2600 VCS was the first video game home console to really make a splash in America, and it did so for a variety of reasons. Mattel's Intellivision and Magnavox's Odyssey II may have been more powerful, but they lacked the charm and variety that the 2600 possessed. Part of what fueled the 2600's popularity was its family-friendly nature. Long before the trend of video game violence kicked in, 2600 games were cartoony and kid-friendly. Perhaps that's why the Atari version of this bloody slasher flick became so sought-after. Apparently, retailers refused to stock this title, and parents were very vocal in their protest of the game. Although tame by today's standards, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was pretty violent for its time. You actually played as the villain, Leatherface, and the object was to hack up innocent victims with your trusty power tool. Sounds pretty fucking cool, no? I've only had the opportunity to play this one through the modern marvels of emulation, and it's really kind of a dull game in the long run. But the fact that it was so bold in its time and has become such a rarity in the process earns it a spot on this list.
9. SUPER THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Super Nintendo, 1994)
I thought they only smelled bad...on the outside!
I could write for days just about the Star Wars-based games that wound up being a whole lot of fun. As it stands, three games made my top ten, and that's showing a good bit of restraint. One of the better series of Star Wars games were released for the Super Nintendo in the early 1990's, long before the Star Wars phenomenon was back in full swing. All three of the 'Super' Star Wars games were notorious for being assfuckingly hard, and if you didn't have the patience of a saint, you'd be liable to throw down the controller with a slew of expletives. The best of these three games was Super The Empire Strikes Back, which, once you get past the awkwardly worded title, is a helluva game. Primarily a side scroller, but there are sequences where you have to fly and drive as well. It more or less covers every major scene from the movie. Lots of stills from the film were rendered into the game, giving it some of the best graphics of any SNES game at that time. And outside of the fact that it is difficult as all hell, this one can still keep you entertained for hours.
8. KRULL (Atari 2600, 1983)
As if anyone's actually seen this film to know what's supposed to be happening here.
Krull was a derivative science fiction flick from 1983 that about 25 people saw. Sort of a cross between Star Wars and Clash of the Titans, the film starred a whole bunch of British actors who you've probably never heard of as well as Liam Neeson. Still, its existence led to one of the best games ever released on the Atari 2600 VCS. Where most Atari games had one basic level to complete, this one had a variety of predicaments that you had to guide the hero through, and it was even played in sort of a real-time situation. Along the way, you had to kill monsters, fight giant spiders, break your lady out of her prison, and fight the killer beast. This game was actually one of the first to feature a "boss" that had to be defeated at the end of the story. The icing on the cake is that for the 2600, this thing featured some of the best graphics and sound available at the time. The characters were nicely rendered and well articulated, and some of the tricks used with color and scrolling are pretty advanced for a system as limited as the VCS.
7. TOY STORY (Sega Genesis, 1996)
Here, you get a chance to play with your Woody.
Sega was always a second fiddle console maker. It wasn't necessarily their fault, because their consoles were actually quite good, they just weren't as good as everything else out there. The Dreamcast was trounced by the PS2 and X-Box, and the Sega Master System was perceived as a poor man's Nintendo Entertainment system. Somewhere in between lied a few failures, such as the Game Gear and Sega CD. Sega's best run with a console was the Genesis, a 16-bit machine that predated its closest competitor, the Super Nintendo, by several months. In its waning days, Sega seemed to be winging it, throwing out titles that were less than stellar. But one of their final efforts was this adaptation of Pixar's first feature, Toy Story. Remaining very true to the film, the object was to guide Woody through all sorts of obstacles in order to save his new pal Buzz Lightyear. The animation and graphics in this game were outstanding, not only for the Sega Genesis, but for later systems as well. And, most importantly, it was tons of fun. The gameplay was outstanding, and it was perfect for players of all ages.
6. TRON (Arcade, 1983)
The dude abides. Or he will, if he can ever escape this computer.
It's only fitting that a movie about people being sucked into a computer and forced to play their own live-action video games get a video game of its own. And it would be a sad shame if that video game were to suck balls. Fortunately, Bally/Midway, who were riding pretty high at the time thanks to the popularity of Pac-Man, made a damn fine translation into the interactive market with their Tron arcade game. The game itself was split into four mini-games, all of which had to be conquered to win the game. First, you have to get by the 'grid bugs' and make it into the safe zone. Next, you have to box your opponent in with your light cycle. The next stage involves breaking through blocks to get into the MCP Cone, and finally, there is a tank combat portion of the game. The graphics in Tron are pretty lackluster, especially considering how much better most coin-ops were at the time, but its playability was a different story. At my local arcade, I remember this game having the longest line the majority of the time.
5. GHOSTBUSTERS (Commodore 64, 1985)
I hear if you use the name "Lefty", you get buttloads of cash.
Who you gonna call? The movie that asked this immortal question would be one of many in the 1980's to be adapted into a video game, and fortunately, it was a good one. Activision produced this game for a multitude of platforms, including the NES and the Atari 2600 (and later, the Sega Master System.) The best version by far was available on the Commodore 64 home computer/gaming machine, including features stripped from the cartridge versions. The Ghostbusters game was pretty complex for its time: not only did you have to use your skill to capture the ghosts and defeat the bosses, you also had to manage your finances. You had to purchase all your own equipment, from your traps to your weapons to your vehicles. The game was pretty multifaceted, too. There was a driving portion, there was the ghost-nabbing portion, and there was a lot of strategy involved. And while it was a fairly easy game to beat, it had enough diversity to give it plenty of play value. The game was punctuated by a fairly advanced (for the time) rendering of the infamous theme song, with a bouncing ball guiding you through the lyrics.
4. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Atari 2600, 1981)
"Using the Force" involves making your snowspeeder flash for 30 seconds, apparently.
The mighty Star Wars rears its ugly head for the second time on this list, and this time, it's old school. It's interesting to note that The Empire Strikes Back, widely regarded as the best film in the Star Wars trilogy, also produced some of its best games. Odd case of art imitating life, I guess. Anyway, in this simple side-scroller, the object is for Luke Skywalker to pilot his snowspeeder to take down a bunch of Imperial Walkers. That's it. There are not dozens of stages worth of colorful characters to meet. There's just hot snowspeeder on AT-AT action. And it doesn't even involve knocking the walkers down with your tow line! How could something so simple wind up on a list where I have sung the praises of games of this era for their complexity? Simple. Fun quotient. As a lad, I could play this thing for hours at a time. Knock one AT-AT down, another appears. Watch them get faster. Run at that breakneck speed. Try to revive yourself in a valley. Use the force! Hell, it's still fun even in my old age.
3. BATMAN (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1989)
None of that George Clooney/Val Kilmer nonsense going on here.
The Nintendo Entertainment System is considered the benchmark of console games by many gamers. It's the barometer by which all other systems are measured. Yet, somehow, despite the countless titles available for the system, despite the nearly decade-long run it enjoyed as a viable gaming system in America, the NES only managed to crank out one title worthy of making this top ten list. A couple came close, including the NES adaptation of Friday the 13th, but only Batman made the list. Based on the 1989 Summer Blockbuster starring Michael Keaton, this game tested the limits of what the NES could do, and sometimes blew you away with the results. Employing the same dark imagery that Tim Burton's film did, and utilizing some innovative gameplay techniques, the game challenged you to guide the caped crusader through Gotham City in order to free Vicki Vale from the clutches of the diabolical Joker. Along the way, there were a slew of obstacles to try and stop you. Good for hours of entertainment, and it still holds up today.
2. STAR WARS TRILOGY (Arcade, 1998)
Wars, nothing but Star Wars...not near but far wars!
Of all the Star Wars video game adaptations to come down the road in the past couple of decades, one shines the brightest. And while I'm sure I'll get all kinds of people yelling at me for leaving off one of the two dozen or so console and PC games that they think should make the list (Rogue Squadron, Battlefront, Shadows of the Empire, etc...) I will still stand firm on this one. The Star Wars Trilogy arcade game is simply the most fun game involving the Holy Trilogy ever manufactured. Why? Because it ties every major battle in the original trilogy together, can be played through in a reasonable period of time, has incredible graphics and sound, does not require a gaming expert to master, and with its giant screen and surrounding experience, it practically achieves the full effect of video game perfection. Take out the Death Star! Knock down some Imperial Walkers! Chase down some Biker Scouts! Battle with Boba Fett and Darth Vader in bonus stages! It's all here, and it'll suck you in.
1. GOLDENEYE (Nintendo 64, 1997)
If anybody does choose Oddjob in multiplayer mode, they're a cheating bitch.
Without a doubt, one title stands out as the greatest video game to ever be based on a movie. A console exclusive for the Nintendo 64 system, Goldeneye was more than just a James Bond-inspired first person shooter. It was a whole new lease on life for multiplayer games. Based on the first Bond movie to star Pierce Brosnan as agent 007, Goldeneye was already a top-notch game in its single-player form. Make your way through scores of missions, each one right out of the film itself. In fact, seeing the film was actually crucial to figuring out how to accomplish certain tasks. And while any old schmuck could pass a level with the bare minimums, the game kept you challenged by offering incentives to go back and unlock all kinds of secret features by bettering your time and completing secondary objectives. But if you've only played this amazing game in one-player mode, then you haven't even begun to experience its power. Goldeneye allows you to match up against up to three other players, trying to hunt each other down in countless different scenarios. Want to use automatic weapons? Missile launchers? Remote mines? The 'Golden Gun'? Just knives? Feel free! Want to duke it out in the library? The basement? The caverns? Hell, you want to just set it at random? It's all there! But best of all is the character selection. Sure, you can play as James Bond or Xenia Onotopp or Boris or Natalya from the titular Bond flick. But wouldn't you rather play as Jaws, or Oddjob, or Baron Samedi? Thanks to the amazing versatility of this game, you can do just that. There's no arguing it. Goldeneye rocks. Nearly a decade after its release, it's still one of the best multiplayer games ever created.