While video games based on movies have enjoyed a terrible (and not entirely unwarranted) reputation for years, the fact of the matter is that many of those adaptations are actually surprisingly good. At the very least, most of them are noteworthy. After all, notoriety is the advantage you get to enjoy when you adapt a famous property. Every now and then, though, a game based on a popular movie slips through the cracks.
Granted, most of those games you probably never heard of are as obscure as they are because they…well…suck. However, a few of those games deserve more of a reputation than they currently enjoy. Some of those games are simply better than they get credit for, while others are so fundamentally weird that they deserve to be in the conversation simply as oddities.
As you read this article, though, just keep in mind that I’m not including fan-made browser games or any similar titles. Instead, these games enjoyed some kind of retail release that make their oft-forgotten existence that much more confusing.
15. Fight Club
Given that Fight Club is one of the most misinterpreted pieces of popular culture in the last 25 years, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone decided to turn the popular film about toxic masculinity and consumerism (among other things) into a video game. Yet, there’s a lot about this game that is genuinely surprising.
While the 2004 Fight Club video game is really just a pretty standard 3D fighter, that game’s wild disregard of any of the movie’s themes and social commentary really is something to behold. Not only does the game’s story mode ask you to work your way up the Project Mayhem ranks like you’re participating in a Mortal Kombat tournament, but the game’s roster of unlockable fighters includes Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and former president Abraham Lincoln. It would almost be a great parody of the movie if it wasn’t so terrible.
14. Big Trouble in Little China
Speaking of widely misinterpreted movies…
Like too many great John Carpenter movies, Big Trouble in Little China wasn’t really appreciated in its time. The central joke of the movie (the fact that Kurt Russel’s character is a bumbling jerk who thinks he’s a white savior), went over a lot of people’s heads at the time of the film’s 1986 release. Honestly, I don’t think Big Trouble in Little China gets enough love to this day.
Sadly, this 1986 adaptation (which was released for the Commodore 64 and other platforms) also fails to realize the things that made the movie special. It’s a fairly standard side-scrolling action game highlighted by the ability to choose between multiple characters and the fact you weirdly move right to left rather than left to right. Given how good the video game adaptation of The Thing is, I’d love to see a modern developer give this adaptation another shot.
13. The Great Escape
1963’s The Great Escape is quite simply one of the greatest war movies ever made. Based on a true story (mostly), the film follows a group of WW II soldiers who work together to escape a high-security POW camp. It’s not necessarily the first film you’d think of when you’re thinking of movies that should be turned into games, but when viewed in that context, it’s easy enough to see the potential for that concept.
Thankfully, this game does a fairly decent job of realizing that potential. I don’t know why someone approved an adaptation of The Great Escape 40 years after the film’s release, but I do know that this game does a respectable job of using stealth and subterfuge to recreate some of the movie’s best sequences. It’s not perfect, but it was better than it had any right to be.
12. Blues Brothers 2000
In case you didn’t know, 1998’s Blues Brothers 2000 is an unspeakably bad movie. It might just be the worst movie sequel ever made. While it’s generally hard to believe that anyone would want to turn Blues Brothers 2000 into a video game, it’s especially hard to believe that someone released said video game two years after that film’s widely-panned debut.
Blues Brothers 2000 is a fairly standard N64 3D platformer that tries to incorporate a few rhythm sequences to justify the use of the license. It’s actually pretty similar to Banjo-Kazooie in a lot of ways. For as difficult as it is to process the fact that this game even exists, the really strange thing is that it’s not nearly as bad as you’d assume it would be. I mean…it’s still pretty bad, but it easily clears a low bar.
11. Rocky Interactive Horror Show
Interestingly enough, the first game based on The Rocky Horror Picture Show was actually released in 1985. However, that game was based on the stage musical of the same name rather than the movie adaptation. As such, this entry is reserved for 1999’s Rocky Interactive Horror Show which, strangely enough, is actually kind of an adventure game reimagining of that 1985 title.
Even by Rocky Horror standards, that 1999 adventure game is bizarre. It’s basically a knock-off of Maniac Mansion but with even more outlandish humor, even more confounding puzzles, and even more scenes of Christopher Lee dryly explaining how to do the Time Warp dance. Actually, that last part might just be the moment that redeems this game’s entire existence.
While there are many aspects of 1995’s Braveheart that have aged…questionably, it must be said that the potential for that movie to be turned into a fairly good video game is certainly there. To their credit, developer Red Lemon Studios recognized that potential and tried to capitalize on it with this 1999 adaptation that at least tried to turn Braveheart into a grand strategy game.
Unfortunately, the game itself is pretty bad. Even if you’re willing to look past its various technical problems, it soon becomes clear that the developers just weren’t capable of making a game this big and this mechanically ambitious into something that is actually fun to play.
9. The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element was another one of those movies that actually could have been turned into a great video game. After all, the film is filled with creative environments, colorful characters, and even a few incredible weapons. Many modern developers could take that movie and turn it into something fun.
Unfortunately, this 1998 PS1 game reminds us that the 3D action genre didn’t really come into its own until sometime during the sixth generation of gaming. This game’s developers clearly tried to make their biggest ideas for a perfect Fifth Element video game work, but the PS1’s technical shortcomings (and this title’s terrible controls) make it nearly unplayable today.
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
There were actually a few popular ‘70s and ‘80s horror movies that were eventually turned into Atari games. While they’re all bizarre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre holds a special place in my heart. Not only was it one of the few horror games available for a popular platform in 1982, but it actually lets you control Leatherface and hunt down victims rather than try to stop the slasher.
To be clear, this game is unspeakably bad and pretty much irredeemable from any critical standpoint. However, it does deserve some credit for presenting a bold and visceral vision for the future of horror games at a time when most stores refused to carry such games out of principle.
7. Mission Impossible
Unlike some of the games on this list, the weirdest thing about this game isn’t the fact it exists. No, the weirdest thing about this game is the fact that so few people remember it or even knew that it existed in the first place.
This 1998 N64 game (which was only loosely based on the 1996 movie of the same name) is not nearly as good as GoldenEye 007 or Metal Gear Solid, but its espionage gameplay deserved a little more love than it got. Honestly, this title could be considered a kind of preview of what the Hitman series would eventually become. If developer Infogrames had only been able to solve this title’s various technical problems, they may have had a hit on their hands.
While there were actually quite a few games based on Disney movies released through the ‘90s, most of those games were based on more modern Disney movies, and most of them were actually pretty good. Fantasia was a fascinating exception to both of those rules.
This 1991 Sega Genesis exclusive lacks the charm, visual flair, and tight gameplay that elevated so many other Disney titles of that era. This game had to be rushed out the door due to its shady liscensing agreement (which is really a story for another day…) and it shows. The music in this game sounds like a depressed fart, the animation is a masterclass in how to get fired as an animator, and the game is absurdly difficult for all the wrong reasons.
5. From Dusk Till Dawn
It’s always a little sad to learn that there was a game based on 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn. After all, if there was a game based on that movie that was anywhere near as good as it could be, you probably would have heard about it by now. The fact you haven’t must mean that it was pretty bad.
Yet, “pretty bad” is just about the most generous way you could think to describe this game. I’ll admit that there’s a special kind of “so bad, it’s good’ quality to this game’s dialog and acting, but it’s kind of hard to enjoy all of that on any level when you’ve got to put up with some especially bad early 2000s FPS gameplay.
4. Reservoir Dogs
It’s a Quentin Tarintino double feature!
There was a brief period in the mid-2000s when developers were trying to get their hands on the rights to whatever violent properties they could find in order to capitalize on Grand Theft Auto’s success. It’s the era that gave us those games based on The Godfather and Scarface, and it’s also the era that gave us this misguided attempt to turn Reservoir Dogs into a Max Payne-like third-person action game.
While this game isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been (which is kind of a compliment, I suppose), it’s ultimately an especially forgettable action game released at the arguable height of especially forgettable action games. If anything, this game works best as a collection of a lot of the bad and half-hearted gameplay, writing, and design ideas that were popular at the time.
There are few trends in gaming history more embarrassing than that time when certain Atari developers tried to sell porn games to the desperate masses of the pre-internet era. Mind you, I’m not morally opposed to the idea. It’s just that the Atari was barely capable of rendering dots much less a human form recognizable enough to offer a pornographic experience of any merit. That conveniently brings us to Porky’s.
When this 1983 game isn’t asking you to cross a highway during Frogger-like action sequences, it’s sending you into the girl’s shower room so that you can climb ladders in order to retrieve the parts needed to build a bomb. Like the move it’s based on, this game is an insufferable relic of a time when a little bit of nudity could help justify a ton of terrible decisions. Unlike the Porky’s movie, this game thankfully vanished before it could do more damage.
2. Little Nicky
Little Nicky is a curious entry in Adam Sandler’s career. After a string of successful comedies of various quality, Sandler used his star power to sell a movie about the devil’s son trying to prevent his brothers from taking over Earth. Though admittedly a big swing, the film annoyed even Adam Sandler devotees and eventually bombed at the box office. It’s one of those things that people instantly wanted to forget. So, someone naturally made a video game about it.
Credit where credit is due, this 2000 Game Boy Color game is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. What it is, though, is a painfully generic platformer with some pretty good graphics and a strange opening sequence featuring a guy spying on an undressing woman before getting killed by a kid with a slingshot. It’s wild.
1. Beverly Hills Cop
This 2006 Beverly Hills Cop video game was once described by Jeff Gerstmann as “the 9/11 of video games.” That’s obviously harsh, but it does a nice job of getting to the heart of what just might be the absolute worst video game ever made.
First off, it must be said that this Beverly Hills Cop adaptation stars what appears to be a giant bald white guy (his form and skin tone often change due to various technical problems) in the role of Axel Foley. It’s obvious that Eddie Murphy wanted no part of this first-person shooter game (who did?) but…really? Were the developers so angry at the fact that they couldn’t get Eddie Murphy that they intentionally designed a character that looks nothing like Eddie Murphy?
Even if this game featured Eddie Murphy and all the charm and humor that comes with him, its gameplay would still put it in the running for that aforementioned “worst game ever” award. I mean, what other FPS lets you avoid 95% of enemy damage simply by ducking? Of course, the only good joke in this game is on anyone who actually tries to play it without utilizing that exploit. They’re the ones that will have to put up with this title’s abysmal hit detection, painful sound design, and unfathomable visuals without the advantage of being able to beat this monstrosity in under an hour.