Before practically every movie released was based on a video game, the video game industry made games based on movies. Occasionally, we still get games based on movies, but the trend was very big in the ’80s and ’90s. It seemed like a given: If you made an action movie, you would have a video game to go along with it. Check out the roundup of games inspired by movies below — there are some pretty obscure ones, but there are a few you have *probably* heard of, too.
Movie-Inspired Video Games
One of the toughest video games that I played as a kid was Top Gun. This game was made by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1987. It had quite the iconic soundtrack, too. I can still remember the loading screens as the F-14 Tomcat went up the elevator to the deck of the aircraft carrier. You were about to become Maverick. Gameplay consisted of dog fights and landing on the aircraft carrier. The dog fights were way easier than landing ever was; I crashed so many times. It was a simple game, but it captured the feeling of the movie quite well.
Jaws was released for the NES in 1987. This game was loosely based on the Jaws series. You were a diver on a boat, and you would battle dangerous sea creatures, such as jellyfish, stingrays, and smaller sharks. Occasionally, you could get a submarine, and it would offer your diver a small bit of protection. However, if you got hit, you would fall out of the submarine and be in diver mode again. Jaws wouldn’t show itself that often. In the end, you had to ram your boat into Jaws to kill it.
The Goonies video game was only available to play on Nintendo VS. System stand-up cabinets. I remember playing The Goonies at a local 7-Eleven store, and I liked playing this game, but it was tough. I remember wishing that I could play this one at home, so I could beat the game without having to spend a ton of quarters.
The Goonies II video game was released for the NES, and in my opinion, it was a far less interesting game. Both games featured Mikey as the hero, but the Goonies II would switch between platform to first-person mode. In first-person mode, Mikey would search rooms for items and clues. The game also introduced an additional Fratelli character, named Cousin Pipsqueak. To win the game, Mikey had to search for — and free — all six Goonies, with Annie being the final one to save.
Movie Tie-In Video Games
Most video games that are released for movies are quick movie tie-ins without the engaging gameplay of other video games, and they often do not take in story points from the movies themselves. There are very few movie tie-in video games that actually offer good play value. A few of the rare exceptions are below.
Goldeneye was a first-person shooter game developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64. It was playing in nearly every dorm room I went into when I was a residence hall director in 1997. Nintendo based the game on the James Bond movie of the same name, which featured Pierce Brosnan in the titular role. The game had a single-player story mode, but the part that everyone played was the multiplayer, split-screen mode. Everyone wanted a turn playing this: It did so well that it sold more than 8 million copies, which was a huge deal for 1997.
Seriously, the LEGO movie video games are awesome because not only do they follow the movies fairly closely, they also include so many funny visual jokes, and the gameplay is very fun. LEGO has worked with TT Games and WB Games to make many different movie franchise games. Part of their staple lineup includes Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit, The LEGO Movie, and Marvel. Each time a new LEGO video game based on a movie comes out, it brings with it new innovations to the gameplay. LEGO even had a short-lived toys-to-life game called LEGO Dimensions, which had levels based on many classic movies, such as Back to the Future, Gremlins, Beetlejuice, the Wizard of Oz, and much more.
Now, here is a game so bad, so utterly terrible, that it nearly wiped out a company. That infamous game was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. E.T. was — and is — such a beloved movie that people continue to enjoy it today. Why not make the story into a video game? The game developer had five and a half weeks to produce the game and bring it to market for the 1982 Christmas season. It was universally panned as one of the worst video games in history. It’s cited as a major contributor to the video game industry crash of 1983. I had the game for Atari. It was bad. Very. Very. Bad.
In 2014, nearly 700,000 unsold and returned E.T. (and other games) cartridges were unearthed in a New Mexico landfill. About 881 of the cartridges ended up being sold by the city for $107,000 — with one cartridge selling for $1500 at auction.
Unfortunately, most movie tie-in video games simply do not capture what is so amazing about the movies they attempt to replicate. Thus, the games hardly ever live up to what fans have pictured. There are rare exceptions to that — and those are the ones you should look for.
What video games based on movies do you enjoy playing?