Video games based on movies have a track record of being bad. They’re often released in the same window as the movie to market it, and the quality of the game is an afterthought. However, some titles manage to market their source material while being well-crafted video games.
Here’s our list of the best video games based on movies (in no particular order). It will include games based directly on a specific film and not games found in the universe of a movie.
Spider-Man 2 Was a Step Forward for Superhero Games
Spider-Man 2 (2004) was released the same week as the movie of the same name. It’s primarily based on the Sam Raimi-directed box office hit sequel, but there are also original elements. For example, storylines based around Black Cat, Shocker, and Mysterio are present in the game. In addition, much of the movie’s cast, like Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina, reprised their roles for the game.
It was one of the first Spider-Man video games to make traversal in a 3D open world work. Previous Spider-Man games had been more confined to 2D and 3D platforming levels. Adding an open world New York City map was a significant step forward for Spider-Man and superhero games.
An upgrade system made web abilities and combat customizable. Players could participate in several activities when not completing storyline missions. This includes children’s balloons and delivering pizzas by swinging across New York City.
Beyond its movie tie-in, Spider-Man 2 is regarded as one of the best Spider-Man games and superhero games of all time. Superhero games are meant to make players feel powerful, and Spider-Man 2 achieved that.
Goldeneye 007 Changed Splitscreen Multiplayer Forever
GoldenEye 007 is one of the most iconic games released on the Nintendo 64. It was released in 1997, during Rare’s heyday on the Nintendo console, nearly two years after the source material was released in theaters. Much like the movie, the game’s plot revolves around going on spy missions to stop the use of a weapon of mass destruction. In addition, many set pieces from the movie, like the Facility, Bunker, and Cradle, can be played in the game.
The title was praised at the time for its gunplay, level design, and NPC animations. However, its multiplayer mode may be the most memorable and impactful part of the James Bond movie adaptation. Up to four players could play various modes in split-screen local play. In addition, it featured levels and characters from the game’s campaign and a host of other playable characters from the James Bond movie catalog, like Oddjob and Jaws. The multiplayer was surprisingly a late addition in the game’s development cycle.
Staying faithful to the source material while incorporating fun gameplay helps cement Goldeneye as one of the best video games based on a movie.
Pitfall! Designer Worked on Ghostbusters
Some movies are just meant to work as video games. The 1984 Ghostbusters adaptation is a shining example. Capturing a ghost works well as a mini-game format, and that’s the leading hook of the Activision title featuring developer David Crane. Crane was the designer for the classic retro game Pitfall!
The game was not in development until after the June 8 release of the movie in 1984. Development took about six weeks with Activision using design elements from a car traversal game they had already been working on called “Car Wars. It was released on nearly a dozen retro platforms, but the Commodore 64 version received the most praise and favorable reviews.
The game’s objective was to travel by car to different locations in New York City to capture ghosts with traps. Players capture ghosts on their way to places as well. Successful captures earn the player money that could be spent on car and equipment upgrades. In the Commodore 64 version, the player receives a code upon completion of the game that enables a New Game Plus mode.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Is One of the Best Video Games Based on a Movie
The video game adaptation of 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was handled by EA Redwood Shores, the studio that would become Visceral Games and develop Dead Space. Glen Schofield served as producer on the game. The developers worked closely with the filmmakers behind Peter Jackson’s box office hit and lent them numerous design assets.
The Return of the King is a hack-and-slash action game where the player takes control of different characters across levels set in the movie’s narrative. Playable characters like Aragorn, Legolas, and Ganfolf each had their own playstyles and combos. An experience point system allowed for combos and abilities to be upgraded.
Few video game adaptations of movies are as connected to the source material as The Return of the King. Besides including levels and assets from the film, there was a special features section of the main menu akin to a DVD. These included interviews and other behind-the-scenes videos with the movie’s cast, who lent their voices to the game. In addition, another video highlights concept art from the movie exclusive to the game at the time.
The X-Men Origins: Wolverine Video Game Was Better Than the Movie
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of the sore spots in Fox’s X-Men movie universe. However, its over-the-top action scenes and bad visual effects translated well to the 2009 video game adaptation. A T-rated version of the game was released on PlayStation 2 and Wii, while the M-rated “Uncaged Edition” was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and had more violence. Being able to give Wolverine more violent combat in an M-rated game is one reason why a video game adaptation felt better than the PG-13 film.
Raven Software developed it, now veterans of the Call of Duty franchise. They had worked on previous superhero titles Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends for publisher Activision.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine shared a lot of gameplay similarities to the hack-and-slash Devil May Cry series and even borrowed a similar muted color palette like the earlier entries in the franchise. It borrowed many of the plots from the 2003 movie, but Raven also took some liberties and incorporated storylines from the Marvel comics. In addition, it included voice acting and likenesses from the movie’s cast, such as Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Is 9 Movies in 1 Game
The developers at Traveller’s Tales are no strangers to adapting movies into video games. As movie tie-in games have become less prevalent over time, the studio has continued churning them out in Lego-form for franchises like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is one of the most content-filled games on this list, as it features storylines from the nine mainline Star Wars movies.
It follows the traditional Lego game format where players smash objects, fight enemies, solve puzzles, and collect studs across different levels to get the highest score. But, of course, it wouldn’t be a Lego game without slapstick and meta-humor, either. Players can start playthroughs from the first episode in each trilogy. A roster of nearly 400 characters gives the game an enormous amount of replay value.
Aladdin On the Genesis Is One of Disney’s Best Games
There were several Disney IP adaptations in the late 80s and early 90s, and Aladdin on the Genesis is one of the standouts. Like The Lion King adaptation, Aladdin was a side-scrolling platformer that followed the events of the 1992 animated film. Sega and Capcom received licenses from Disney to publish the games for Genesis and SNES, which were released within weeks of each other in 1993. The Genesis version saw a better critical reception than its SNES counterpart. The debate continues today as to which version is superior.
Under the supervision of the game’s development team, Disney animators helped provide animations for the game. It was the first video game to use hand-drawn animation. 4 million copies were sold on the Genesis, making it the third-best-selling game on the Sega console behind only Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2.
The Warriors Is One of the Best Video Games Based on a Movie
Next on our list of the best movie video games is The Warriors from Rockstar Toronto. The studio had previously helped with the development of Max Payne. It was first released on PlayStation 2 and Xbox and later saw ports on PSP, PS3, and PS4.
The Warriors are a gang based in Coney Island. Similar to the book’s film adaptation, the player follows the gang as they travel back to Coney Island. Much of the combat in the game is melee-focused with combo options. Players can upgrade their fighting abilities by training at The Warriors’ headquarters and helping citizens through side missions.
Original cast members like Dorsey Wright and James Remar reprise their roles to voice the in-game characters.
Super Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi Let You Play as an Ewok
It makes sense that Lucasfilm Games, formerly known as LucasArts, would develop games based on their Star Wars movies. Super Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi is the third installment in the Super Star Wars series and is a Super Nintendo exclusive. In the 2D platformer, players battle enemies across levels against the backdrop of the 1983 fantasy. There are also gameplay sequences where you ride in vehicles like the Millennium Falcon. Playable characters include Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Wicket the Ewok.
King Kong Did the Peter Jackson Film Justice
Director Peter Jackson worked closely with Ubisoft on their adaptation of his 2005 epic King Kong. Even though EA had developed Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie video game adaptations, media reported that he was unhappy with the tie-in games and wanted to partner with Ubisoft on King Kong after having played Beyond Good and Evil. Rayman creator Michael Ancel worked with Jackson and directed the adaptation.
Players take control as Jack Driscoll and King Kong during the game’s narrative. Jack levels are in first-person with gunplay, while King Kong sequences are in third-person and are more melee-oriented. In addition, King Kong nails its environmental and audio design that recreates the film’s atmosphere. This feat makes it one of the best video games based on a movie.
It follows the film’s storyline and even has an alternate ending that Jackson approved. Jack Black voiced Carl Denham, his character from the movie. He received an award at the Spike Video Game Awards for his performance.
Did we miss any of the best video games based on a movie? Let us know in the comments. You can also check out the inverse of this list and find out which movies based on video games don’t suck.