By and large, it’s a safe bet that any video game following in the wake of a film franchise will lack much of its own creative merit, existing as little more than a sad, pixelated piñata. Yet occasionally, with the rarity of a shiny Mewtwo, a developer nails this trickiest of genres. Here's our pick of the ten of the best movie tie-in video games.
The Lion King
Turning Disney’s child-friendly adaptation of Hamlet (yep, it's Shakespeare for kids) into a side-scrolling platform title doesn’t sound like a sure fire hit, yet the talented folk of Virgin Interactive managed to conjure up just that. Players controlled Simba on his journey from cub to adult, starting out with simple jump and roll abilities to more combative slash and throw moves (which, bizarrely, saw the game become easier in later stages). What made The Lion King stand out as a movie tie-in title was its altogether child-unfriendly difficulty – we still can't play the stampede sequence without throwing a wobbly.
More strictly a ‘game-of-the-movie-of-the-book’,Dune II has a legacy as one of the most important RTS games of all time, inspiring the subsequent Command & Conquer series of Westwood Studios. Rather than following the rambling narrative of Paul Atreides from David Lynch’s/Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune II saw players build and command the armies of one of three houses – Atreides, Harkonnen or Ordos – in a battle to take control of the desert world Arrakis. Amazingly complex for its day, Dune II required a mastery of resource management, map exploration and unit control; all necessary skills for world domination, or achieving your D of E gold award.
Arguably one of the finest ‘old’ Bond films, when the plot line invariably involved death rays and satellites, GoldenEye’s legacy was only futhered by Rare’s treatment of the 007 franchise. Sure the graphics have aged to the extent that it’s pretty much unplayable now, and Oddjob couldn’t throw his hat, and Jaws wasn’t able to bite opponents to death, but for many of us this was the game to introduce the simple pleasures of three mates, a crate of beers and an entire night of death matches.
Many titles had tried and failed to capture the joys of effortlessly soaring from building to building as Marvel's friendly neighbourhood web slinger. It took the 2004 game of the film Spider-Man 2 to realise the dream, with a fancy physics system that made roaming around Manhattan an utter delight. While repetitive side missions and a bizarre currency system weren’t endearing qualities (Hero Points had to be collected in order to progress between chapters), Spider-Man 2 is still one of the best ways of donning Peter Parker’s Lycra pyjama suit.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
While Vin Diesel’s second outing as the ocularly enhanced space bad boy failed to set the world alight as a film, its accompanying prequel video game was arguably one of the greatest titles to grace the Xbox. Set in the grim and grizzly prison Butcher Bay, Escape realised the potential of Riddick’s character - indeed, it managed to drag a better performance out of Diesel (who was involved in development of the game) than either Pitch Black or Chronicles. From sneaking up on inmates to brutally plunge a shiv into their ribs, to rampaging around space in a mech, the varied gameplay of this first-person action-come-stealth game should be the benchmark of all movie adapted action titles.
In a game that took less time to complete than the Oscar collector it was based on, taking control of the all-powerful King Kong felt like supervising Donkey Kong on heat, having just washed down a cocktail of steroids and performance enhancing drugs. The collaboration between director Peter Jackson and game designer Michael Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil) managed to make a success of marrying blockbuster action with bewildering mechanics (the game featured no heads-up display). An alternative ending which saw Kong return to his island was also a nice touch.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Wolverine is the coolest superhero ever. Fact. He’s not the strongest, smartest, nor the most powerful, but he is without question the coolest. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the coolest comic book movie tie-in ever. Another fact. It was by no means a classic, with repetitive boss battles and so-so visuals, but building up Wolverine’s rage bar in order to unleash devastating, blood-soaked flurries was far more satisfying than anything the film could muster.
Arriving some 26 years after Walter Hill’s adaptation of Sol Yurick’s The Warriors, Rockstar Games called upon several of the original voice actors to reprise their roles. The resulting top quality beat ‘em up played as a fitting tribute to the cult classic film, allowing players to brawl their way through a storyline that filled out Hill’s version of events. As well as bouts of well-constructed fisticuffs, the game required you to undertake a host of unlawful activities, from stealing car radios to tagging areas with gang graffiti.
Blending Prince of Persia and Disney’s classic 1992 animation, Aladdin was as joyous to play as it was colourful to behold. Sure, throwing apples at opponents wasn’t the most logical of combat systems, but there was no denying that the side-scrolling platformer was brilliantly balanced, far better than your modern day Disney adaptation. We highly recommend getting your hands on one of internet’s many copies and blazing your way through this classic in your lunch hour.
The Lego games
Okay, so this is a bit of a cop-out – but picking one of the Lego titles for inclusion in this list is the Sophie's Choice of gaming. The Lego ‘game of the film’ franchise has delivered so many top quality titles that they arguably deserve a list of their own. The simple break-stuff-to-make-stuff formula never gets old, and those gamers with an inclination to complete games by 100% are always richly catered for. Game developer Traveller’s Tales has created a set of adaptations that are too entertaining to be kept to kids – staying faithful to their source material and incorporating the vast world of Lego into each outing in new and inventive ways. Move over junior, it’s our turn to blow up the Lego Death Star.