This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Despite mesmerizing us with their characters, worlds, and lore in their own respective mediums, video games based on pre-existing franchises have had a rocky history. Yes, by this point there have almost certainly been more bad licensed games than there are good ones, but the tide is slowly turning, with developers nowadays given more time to channel our favorite fiction into enjoyable interactive experiences that perfectly encapsulate the source material. We explore some of the best of them…
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
2015 | CD Projekt Red
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be the greatest video game adaptation of a book ever made. Based on the book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the game continues the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher (monster hunter) who must find his adopted daughter, Ciri, a long lost witcher who is being hunted by supernatural beings from a parallel dimension. Geralt also encounters past lovers, old friends, and new allies, as well as plenty of monsters to slay on his way to the game’s explosive finale.
The game is perfect in almost every way, but most notable is the living, breathing game world these characters inhabit. It’s almost impossible to be bored by The Witcher 3, which is jam-packed with tons of quests and other activities to occupy your time with. One could even say there’s too much to do in the game. While you should come for the epic main storyline, you will undoubtedly revel in the shorter stories told throughout the game. This is a true classic you need to play, especially if you’re looking forward to the Netflix TV series.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
2003 | BioWare
While this BioWare RPG masterpiece bears more than a little inspiration from the Star Wars movies, Knights of the Old Republic is actually based on a Dark Horse comic book called Tales of the Jedi, a series that ran from 1993 to 1998 penned by Tom Veitch and Kevin J. Anderson. Unlike most of the Expanded Universe of its time, Tales of the Jedi covered an era set thousands of years before the film saga when Jedi and Sith had huge numbers and waged wars against each other.
Knights of the Old Republic takes place after the events of the comic but has numerous references to the stories and characters from the series. But even if you haven’t read Tales of the Jedi, Knights of the Old Republic is a must-play for all Star Wars fans (and RPG lovers). Its riveting story, epic original score, memorable characters, and fun turn-based combat make this one of the best Star Wars games ever made. You won’t forget Revan, Darth Malak, Bastila Shan, or the rest of these characters any time soon.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
2012 | Telltale Games
Like the comics by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard and the AMC series before it, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead packs an emotional punch that will leave you lost for words by the time the credits roll. True to its source material, the series tells a story about family and the lengths to which people will go to survive when there’s no longer an incentive to be a good, law-abiding person.
At the heart of this moral conundrum is Clementine, whom we first meet as a little girl searching for her parents. Throughout the four seasons of this zombie drama, we get to watch Clem evolve from a defenseless kid to a hardened survivor with her own people to protect. The first (and arguably best) season chronicles her time with Lee Everett, the man who becomes her guardian in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak. The two meet other survivors (both good and bad) along the way and have to make decisions for the good of the group, choices that may ultimately doom them.
This truly affecting story is a must for fans of the show and comics as well as those who simply love point-and-click adventures with great characters!
Call of Cthulhu
2018 | Cyanide
Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu is an excellent distillation of the mythos that make H.P. Lovecraft such a pivotal part of the history of horror fiction to this day. While it’s technically based on the pen-and-paper role-playing game of the same name from the ‘80s, it’s Lovecraft’s writing, especially the short story “The Call of Cthulhu,” that provides the backbone for this journey into madness. With careful attention to every detail of Lovecraft’s horrific fictional version of New England, Cyanide recreates the mythos and turns them into a modern nightmare.
You play as Edward Pierce, a disheveled private investigator with a drinking problem and a dark past. Tasked with solving the mysterious death of a family in 1920s Massachusetts, Pierce must travel to the unsettling Darkwater Island to search for clues. What he discovers is much more terrifying than he could have possibly imagined. Pierce’s adventure soon turns into a surreal run-in with an evil cult and monsters from beyond this earthly realm. With a mixture of exploration, detective work, branching dialogue and skills trees, and an excellent sanity mechanic, Call of Cthulhu does right by the stories that continue to influence horror fiction today.
We have to also give an honorable mention to 2005’s Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, another excellent game based on Lovecraft’s work, primarily the novella “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” Another great story about a detective’s rendezvous with true terror.
2018 | Insomniac
We were very tempted to give the nod to the excellent Spider-Man 2 video game adaptation or the underrated Spider-Man (2000) from Neversoft, but it’s hard to argue against Marvel’s Spider-Man, one of the best games based on comics ever made. From the webslinging to fast-paced combat to the modern takes on some of Spidey’s most beloved bad guys, there’s so much to love in this open-world adventure that pits Marvel’s greatest hero against the Sinister Six, a band of villains bent on destroying the spider-themed nuisance once and for all.
Marvel’s Spider-Man often feels like a celebration of all of the Spidey stories that have come before, from the classic work of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to more modern stuff by Brian Michael Bendis and Dan Slott, and fans will revel in the sheer amount of content that pays homage to that world. There are even quite a few Spidey suits to choose from! If there’s one modern superhero video game you should be playing, it’s this one.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
2009 | Rocksteady
Superhero games had always struggled to live up to the first part of that moniker until the release of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. A fully 3D Metroidvania which allowed players to don the famed cape and cowl and effectively “Become the Batman” as it were, the game is a great example of what happens when a licensed game is handled by a team that genuinely cares and pays close attention to what it’s based on. Thumbing through 70 years’ worth of Batman comics is a tough job, but someone had to do it!
In addition to the great characterization of the Dark Knight himself, his respective rogues gallery is what makes this rendition of Gotham’s infamous prison a joy to explore, investigate, and fight through. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill deliver outstanding performances as Batman and the Joker respectively – picking up where they both left off in the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. And all this is layered on top of a counter-heavy combat system which has since gone on to influence most combat-driven AAA games today. Fighting thugs in Arkham Asylum is brutal, as it should be when playing as Batman, but this doesn’t come at the expense of depth thanks to a suite of Bat-gadgets. Sadly, no shark repellent, though.
2015 | Avalanche Studios
Mad Max is not only an excellent adaptation of George Miller’s cruel post-apocalyptic world, it’s a brilliant open-world game for those who want something a bit different from today’s more grindy video game worlds. While there are a fair number of fetch quests, enemy strongholds to invade, and other minutiae that have become the standard of the genre, Mad Max’s focus on vehicular combat really helps it stand out from the competition. From the very beginning, you’re introduced to the Magnum Opus, a customizable muscle car death machine that will become your most powerful tool for surviving the wasteland.
So integral is the Magnum Opus that much of the story revolves around building up the vehicle in order to challenge Scabrous Scrotus, the psychotic tyrant of a refinery known as Gas Town and son of the grotesque Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. (Oh yeah, this game is a prequel to Miller’s award-winning third Max film.) There are plenty of weapons and modifications for the Magnum Opus, including a flamethrower and a grapple that lets you pull bandits right out of their cars, sending them flying to a rocky death. Along the way, you’ll meet plenty of colorful characters, including the hunchbacked mechanic, Chumbucket, who accompanies you on your journey through the end of the world.
2002 | Computer Artworks
This forgotten third-person shooter developed by Computer Artworks happens to be one of the finest horror titles released in the early 2000s. With The Thing, John Carpenter fans are treated to a worthy sequel to the cult monster movie, which itself is a remake of an adaptation of a novella called “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, the father of modern science-fiction. What makes this game special isn’t that it’s an adaptation of any one version of the story but is instead a sequel to it.
The Thing takes place after the events of the Carpenter film, as two Special Forces teams arrive in Antarctica to investigate what happened to both the American and Norwegian outposts. You play as Captain Blake, the man in charge of the operation on the ground, and the guy who will become the evil alien’s newest prey. Blake commands a squad of up to four NPCs, soldiers with their own specific roles in the field, and you can control them using basic squad commands.
Most impressive is the game’s Fear/Trust system, which measures paranoia within your team — a clever nod to the psychological aspects of the movie. If your teammates suspect that the alien has infected you, they will stop following your orders and even attempt to exterminate you. Fear can also make squad members kill themselves or attack others. To make matters worse, players can become infected after coming into contact with other alien creatures, which means that you’ll have to constantly watch your back around the other humans…
This is a game that really understands what made its source material so great.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
2001 | Factor 5
If you want a Star Wars game that perfectly captures moments from the Original Trilogy, look no further than Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, a space combat game that puts you in the cockpits of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles. The game opens with the daring Death Star attack, a three-part mission that includes the iconic trench run as well as your first encounter with Darth Vader. Pull off this last-ditch effort to thwart the Empire before it obliterates the Rebellion and you’ll be treated to quite a few original missions as well the Battle of Hoth, Battle of Endor, and the Millennium Falcon’s death-defying escape through an asteroid field from The Empire Strikes Back.
Rogue Squadron II also features plenty of ships from the movies as well as a…1969 Buick Electra! Want to fly Boba Fett’s Slave I? Check. How about the sleek Naboo starfighter from The Phantom Menace? Sure. You can even fly Vader’s TIE Advanced to crush the Rebellion on Yavin. This game is just pure fun.
2014 | Creative Assembly
After the utter disappointment fans of 20th Century Fox’s Alien movies had experienced with 2013’s Colonial Marines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that any chance of a decent (let alone good) game based on the franchise was next to zero. That changed just a year later, however, with the release of Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation, a game that would deliberately shy away from the more action-orientated aspects of the succeeding films to instead successfully replicate the sense of horror and dread first evoked in Ridley Scott’s original “Jaws in Space” masterwork. Stepping into the shoes of Ripley’s estranged daughter, Amanda, Isolation went back to basics and put you on the defensive against just one Xenomorph.
Taking place on a large spaceport known as Sevastopol Station, the setting absolutely nails the retro-futuristic aesthetic presented in the first Alien movie, fully aligning with the whole “truckers in space” idea which makes the location not just dank and unsettling, but also believable to explore. All these original sensibilities are reinforced by the fact that you’re unable to harm the iconic creature stalking you, instead having to rely on your extremely ineffective flamethrower to catch a moment of breath or simply make a mad dash to the next save point. Alien: Isolation is a first-person horror that forces you to be calm, calculating, and patient. Marvelous!
1997 | Rare
Despite arriving on Nintendo 64 nearly two years after the James Bond movie it was based on, even this wouldn’t stop the lives of ’90s players being shaken and stirred forever with the release of GoldenEye 007. While the game’s campaign does a decent job of recreating the film’s sequence of events (even if Pierce Brosnan’s likeness hasn’t aged particularly well), it’s without a doubt in its multiplayer that GoldenEye 007 impressed and made its mark on the first-person shooter landscape forever.
This was the game that popularized the concept of split-screen local multiplayer on home consoles, taking a genre previously thought best suited to PC and bringing such high-stakes competition into the living room. GoldenEye 007 featured a good mix of game modes all inspired by other Bond movies – You Only Live Twice, Licence to Kill, The Man with the Golden Gun – in addition to an extensive character roster that’s not so much GoldenEye-exclusive as it is a celebration of the franchise’s then 30-year history. Of course, you’d know you were playing with true friends when no one selected the much shorter and harder to hit Oddjob.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
2018 | Arc System Works
Years of fighting games based on the Dragon Ball universe were leading to this: Dragon Ball FighterZ, a pitch-perfect adaptation of the combat featured in the shows, movies, and manga. Ths 2D fighting game pits all of Dragon Ball’s most famous heroes and villains against each other in a whole new story featuring the titular Dragon Balls and the mystical Shenron, the Androids, the Red Ribbon Army, and even Beerus, the God of Destruction.
Dragon Ball FighterZ also features an all-new character designed by series creator Akira Toriyama, Android 21, whom you’ll fall in love with by the end of the story. There’s plenty to love in this fighting game, especially if you’re a fan of the more over-the-top aspects of Dragon Ball (e.g. Goku’s Super Saiyan Blue transformation).
South Park: The Stick of Truth
2014 | Obsidian Entertainment
A licensed game plagued with numerous delays and an extremely problematic development cycle, imagine our surprise to find that South Park: The Stick of Truth was actually quite brilliant when it released back in March 2014. Primarily a turn-based RPG which sees you constantly swap-in and swap-out a familiar cast of characters, The Stick of Truth perfectly encapsulates the TV show’s intentionally offensive humor, whether it’s in how you attack (farting is a genuine method), the various makeshift weapons, or a story which sees you stumble across everything including an alien conspiracy, Paris Hilton, and Nazi zombies.
What makes The Stick of Truth truly shine is that, due to its paper-like art style, while playing you eventually get the feeling you’re interacting within an actual South Park episode. As your own player-created character, simply referred to by others as “the new kid,” you’ll join the gang on an adventure that suitably gets so outlandish by the end you’ll forget how you got there. The game was developed under the guise of the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone who, despite a fairly basic battle system, did an excellent job of translating the South Park tone and feel to a video game.