20 Most Underrated Games Based On Movies and TV Shows

In an industry full of forgettable adaptations, these underrated games based on movies and TV shows deserve a legacy of their own.

Underrated Games Based on Movies and Shows
Photo: WB Games, Atari Interactive, THQ

The history of developers turning major movies and TV shows into video games is full of highs and lows. Sometimes, that adaptation process leads to games that are as big (if not bigger) than the properties they are based on. Other times, that adaptation process results in truly terrible experiences. In all those cases, though, those adaptations go on to enjoy some kind of reputation.

However, not every game based on a movie or TV show gets the legacy it deserves. A combination of factors can easily cause great (or very good) adaptions to fly so far under the radar that even fans of those properties don’t know they exist.

Scarface: The World is Yours

20. Scarface: The World is Yours

1983’s Scarface is a story about the rise and fall of the fictional cocaine kingpin Tony Montana. The movie ends in an epic shootout that he seemingly wins, right up until he takes a shotgun blast to the spine. But what if that never happened?

Scarface: The World is Yours is a “what if” story that imagines what might have happened after the events of the original movie had Tony Montana survived the assault on his home. Long story short, he rebuilds his drug empire and gets a little revenge in the process.

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At its core, Scarface: The World is Yours plays a lot like Grand Theft Auto Vice City or San Andreas. Players can wander around a digital recreation of Miami, shoot rival drug peddlers, and manage Tony Montana’s ever-growing cocaine cartel. That last part ends up being a surprisingly involved part of the experience, as players have to spend much of their time making deals, establishing fronts, and building their reputation as Tony goes from rags to riches again. Scarface: The World is Yours is often absurd, but it captures the culture of the film’s popularity in its own strange way. – Aaron Greenbaum

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

19. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Released in 2002 at the tail end of Buffy’s final season, this adaptation’s popularity almost certainly suffered from dropping its late release date and Xbox exclusivity. Few people bothered to give it a shot, and even the positive reviews at the time seemed to be grading it on a curve based on how terrible it could have been. Yet, this really is one of the Xbox’s better action/adventure titles and certainly one of its best overall early games. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer faithfully recreates the style of the show, but it’s the gameplay that really stands out here. This title’s Tomb Raider-lite puzzle-solving and navigation fit Buffy like a glove, while the melee-focused combat is pleasantly weighty and allows you to feel the thrill of beating down and staking a small army of vampires. Granted, the game is rough around the edges and starts to falter towards the end, but it’s a true gem of its era. – Matthew Byrd

Stranger Things 3: The Game

18. Stranger Things 3: The Game

One of Netflix’s most notable series is the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things. The show has become so popular and synonymous with the streaming service that Netflix contracted studio BonusXP to produce two Stranger Things games that would help christen Netflix’s gaming service. While the first Stranger Things game is a decent free mobile title, the second one is superior.

As its name suggests, Stranger Things 3: The Game is based on the third season of Stranger Things. Much like the first Stranger Things game, this title is a pixelated beat-em-up that lets players control different characters from the game, each with their own strengths and abilities.

Stranger Things 3: The Game is an across-the-board evolution of the formula that the previous Stranger Things video game utilized. This time around, the action is faster, and the game is more open. Moreover, the game just looks better and mimics SNES aesthetics, which is fitting since the previous title looked like an NES game (in a good way). – AG

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Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez

17. Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez

Usually, licensed products tied to Japanese-only shows tend to stay in Japan, as is the case with most Kamen Rider merchandise items. However, Bandai Namco has been trying to get Western audiences hooked on the property as of late, so one of its latest video game tie-ins is excluded from this rule.

Kamen Rider: Memory of Heroez is a fun beat-em-up RPG that harkens back to the PlayStation 2 era. Yes, the game’s levels are linear, but much of the fun comes from the different characters’ multiple forms and the ability to swap between them. No two play alike, and every player will gravitate towards a specific character and form.

Instead of drawing from one Kamen Rider series, Memory of Heroez channels three entries in the franchise: Kamen Rider W, OOO, and Zero-One. Players can control each show’s protagonists and will face their respective enemies. While many other Kamen Rider games try to cram in as many Kamen Riders as possible, Memory of Heroez goes for quality over quantity. – AG

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid

16. Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers might have been around since the 90s, but it has remained steadily popular and has recently seen boosts in popularity thanks to various reboots, spinoffs, and adaptations. The franchise is now home to board games, comic books, and now, a decent competitive video game.

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a fighting game that features all of the standard features modern fighting fans are used to. Controls do their job, and players have plenty of combos to lay enemies low. The game doesn’t quite measure up to the likes of Street Fighter, but it’s far more involved than you would think, especially for a budget title.

As you probably guessed, Battle for the Grid relies on a roster of heroes and villains drawn from numerous Power Rangers seasons, as well as the Power Rangers comics. The OG Power Rangers cast gets the most attention, but the developers released quite a few DLC surprises, including Street Fighter’s Ryu and Chin-Li. – AG

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Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights

15. Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights

Though it always feels strange to say this when recommending a video game, Night of a 100 Frights’ gameplay is the weakest element of the overall experience. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s pretty much what you think of when you think of when you think of basic platformers from 2002. To be fair, much of that basicness can be attributed to the fact this was clearly aimed at younger players. 

However, I actually think some adults will get the most out of this title. Why? Well, Night of 100 Frights is actually a glorious tribute to the 1960s TV series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Not only does this game recreate many of the best monsters and moments from that TV show, but it even adds a few new ideas that would have fit that stylish series perfectly (most notably, Tim Curry as the villainous Mastermind). It’s one of the most loving tributes to a nostalgic TV series gaming has ever gifted us with. – MB

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

14. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

After the success of the initial X-Men movies, 20th Century Fox wanted to create a series of prequels that told the origins of the series’ various characters. Naturally, they started with Wolverine (once again played by Hugh Jackman). The first movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, killed this plan thanks to its box office shortcomings and negative critical reception. From that pretty terrible movie, though, we still got a surprisingly great game

X-Men Origins: Wolverine the video game is a rough retelling of the movie’s narrative that strays heavily from the film’s story to introduce its own areas and plot points. However, the game’s greatest strength is its action and presentation. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fast and brutal hack-and-slash game in the vein of God of War (the 2005 original, not the 2018 soft reboot). Its bevy of combos and a large roster of enemies ensure that the tie-in’s combat never feels old. Plus, thanks to its M rating, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is as bloody as a Wolverine story should be. – AG

Tron 2.0

13. Tron 2.0

Tron 2.0 is actually a (now non-canonical) sequel to the 1982 film. Honestly, that’s probably part of the reason why this title went somewhat overlooked in 2003. Tron has always been a divisive movie, and there wasn’t exactly an army of people clamoring for an accurate recreation of the Tron film experience at that time. Mind you, that didn’t stop the legendary team at Monolith Productions from delivering just that. 

While Tron 2.0’s strange visual style raised a couple of eyebrows at the time of its release, it’s now easy to recognize them as a dead-on tribute to one of the most unique and influential computer visual experiences in film history. More importantly, Tron 2.0’s gameplay perfectly recreates the spirit of the movie without sacrificing the fundamentally fun FPS style of this era. The game’s RPG-lite elements allow you to grow your character in a film-friendly way, you often need to interact with enemies and environments brimming with appropriate technobabble, and there are even Light Cycle minigames. It’s one of the best things to ever come from the Tron franchise. – MB

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Jurassic World Evolution

12. Jurassic World Evolution

The thrills of the Jurassic Park films often came from watching people run from dinosaurs rather than watching people run amusement parks. As such, most Jurassic Park games focus on the films’ action elements. However, Evolution taps into the strange appeal of creating a functioning zoo full of cretaceous creatures.

Jurassic World Evolution (and its sequel, Jurassic World Evolution 2) is a park sim title. It allows players to essentially build a park as they would in games like RollerCoaster Tycoon. Instead of maintaining roller coasters, though, Evolution tasks you with maintaining freakin’ dinosaurs.

Like the best park sims, Jurassic World Evolution provides plenty of tiny details that will keep management game fans engrossed for hours. Players can even go all Dr. Frankenstein on their dinosaurs’ DNA sequences and create unique creatures that draw in crowds. Like all sim games, things eventually go wrong in Jurassic World Evolution, and when they do, the attractions tend to eat tourists. But that’s all part of the fun, really. – AG


11. Animaniacs (SNES)

Good games based on TV shows are relatively rare. Good games based on kids’ shows are harder to find than that. Good games based on kids’ shows developed during the SNES era…well, you get the point. You have every reason to approach Animaniacs with low expectations, especially since it’s based on one of the weirdest, most creative, and most beloved kids’ shows of its era.

Thankfully, Animaniacs exceeds every possible expectation. Developed by Konami at a time when that meant quite a lot, Animaniacs is a colorful, creative, and surprisingly clever 2D action platformer that manages to outshine some considerable console competition. Manage to get past its punishing difficulty (I said it’s a Konami SNES game), and you’ll fall in love with its incredible humor, fantastic character-swapping mechanics, lovely levels, and a constant influx of movie references that make the Animaniacs show look modest by comparison. It’s a gem of the console’s catalog. – MB

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

10. Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Before Legendary Pictures revived King Kong (and made him fight Godzilla once again), Peter Jackson tried his hand at remaking the classic story of a giant gorilla rampaging in New York City. The movie was lauded for its special effects and performances, and it also received one of the better movie tie-ins of all time

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Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a retelling of the original film that switches between first-person shooting segments and third-person action sections. During the first-person areas, players control the human Jack Driscoll, but when the game switches to third-person, gamers get to go ape as the game’s titular titanic monster, King Kong.

While Peter Jackson’s King Kong isn’t quite the looker it used to be (even if it’s still visually impressive for its era), it still boasts plenty of pulse-pounding action setpieces and gorgeous vistas. Moreover, the game world feels alive thanks to endemic creatures that organically react to baits, traps, and bushfires players create. – AG

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

9. Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Long before Ghostbusters: Afterlife tried to continue the original dualogy’s story (let’s just pretend that Ghostbusters 2016 doesn’t exist), some of the minds behind the original films actually produced an honorary Ghostbusters 3. Rather than try to get the aging cast together for another big-screen adventure, though, they decided to turn the story into a video game.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a third-person shooter that casts players in the role of the newest member of the Ghostbusters team: The Rookie. Gameplaywise, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is essentially a Gears of War clone, but instead of shooting enemies with bullets, you shoot them with charged particle beams and wrangle them into ghost traps.

While combat is solid and fun, it’s the presentation and narrative elements that make Ghostbusters: The Video Game so special. The movie’s main cast reprised their roles, and all the jokes land because the movies’ writers returned to pen the game’s story and dialogue. Plenty of Ghostbusters games are out there, but Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the only one where busting makes you feel good. – AG

John Wick Hex

8. John Wick Hex

Truth be told, I can see why John Wick Hex went largely overlooked when it was released in 2019. After all, when most people envision a John Wick video game, they probably picture something like Max Payne rather than the surprisingly involved strategy title this ended up being. If you fundamentally can’t get into what this game is trying to do, you’re probably going to have a bad time. 

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If you accept it for what it is, though, then you’ll find that John Wick Hex is an excellent strategy game in its own right. The game essentially tasks you with recreating those spectacular John Wick action sequences one strategic move at a time. While that approach makes it much more difficult to live the “power fantasy” of being John Wick, actually managing to get through this game’s toughest challenges in John Wick style feels absolutely incredible. Anyone into XCOM-like action strategy games should give this a second look. – MB

Terminator Resistance

7. Terminator Resistance

For most of its run, the game studio Teyon flew under most radars. The company didn’t attract any real attention until 2014 when it released the abysmal Rambo: The Video Game. However, Teyon’s staff have learned from their mistakes, as demonstrated by Terminator Resistance.

Instead of drawing from any one Terminator film, Terminator Resistance borrows from numerous entries in the franchise in general (though it emphasizes the segments that take place in a future overrun by Skynet robots). The game also acts as a prequel of sorts, as depending on player choices, the main character will directly contribute to events that lead into the first Terminator film’s time traveling.

Terminator Resistance is an open-world FPS full of side activities and missions. As players explore, they will engage in stealth and shootouts, collect weapons, and grind levels. The end result is a solid Far Cry-like experience, but instead of taking out guerillas, you’re shooting T-800s. The whole thing works so much better than it should. – AG

Star Trek: Elite Force 2

6. Star Trek: Elite Force 2

The Star Trek series is all about exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and civilizations. So it’s no surprise that the Federation’s chief weapon is diplomacy. However, not all alien races are open to peaceful negotiations, so you sometimes need a good phaser weapon by your side. At least that’s the aspect of the series that Elite Force 2 focuses on to great success.

In the early 2000s, Activision published two games based on the Star Trek Voyager series: Star Trek: Elite Force and Star Trek: Elite Force 2. While both games are good, Elite Force 2 is the superior experience thanks to its graphics and story.

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Gameplay-wise, Elite Force 2 (and by extension the original Elite Force) is a Quake clone in the best way possible thanks to its solid roster of enemies and weapons. Just replace the Strogg with the Borg and assault rifles with type-3 phasers and you’ll get the picture. Thanks to the game’s writing and voice cast, Elite Force 2 feels like an interactive, bona fide Star Trek episode. Granted, it would be an episode that focuses heavily on action, but a solid episode nonetheless. – AG

The Thing

5. The Thing

John Carpenter’s The Thing ends on the perfect note. The two remaining characters are marooned in Antarctica, freezing to death and unsure if the other is still human. Viewers don’t know either, which ties into the overarching theme of paranoia. But what if that ambiguous ending was only the beginning of the story?

2002’s The Thing, developed by Computer Artworks, is a third-person horror game that acts as a sequel to, and captures the magic of, the movie of the same name. Much of the game involves exploring the Antarctic outpost, shooting alien creatures, and solving simple puzzles with the aid of allies. However, nobody in The Thing is ever quite what they seem.

Just like the film, paranoia is baked into the Thing game’s DNA. Players have to maintain NPC trust and stress through to make sure they don’t turn the protagonist, but who’s to say you didn’t just hand a flamethrower to Thing in disguise? You never know for sure, which makes The Thing work so well as a horror game. – AG

Transformers: Devastation

4. Transformers: Devastation

In the mid-2010s, Activision gave PlatinumGames the license to work on three licensed games, the first of which was based on The Legend of Korra. This game fell short of developer PlatinumGames standards, but the second attempt, Transformers: Devastation, was much closer to what fans of the studio have come to expect.

Transformers: Devastation is a colorful love letter to the classic G1 Transformers cartoon. The story is your classic tale about Autobots waging their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons, but the focus is all on presentation and action.

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The world of Transformers: Devastation pops thanks to its vibrant cel-shaded graphics, and a surprising number of G1 Transformers actors reprise their roles. As far as combat is concerned, the game adopts the combo-centric, dodge-heavy fighting style of Bayonetta, which is a huge compliment. Combined with an absolutely rocking soundtrack, Transformers: Devastation is one of the fastest-paced licensed games you will ever play. – AG

Mad Max

3. Mad Max

In 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road wowed audiences and demonstrated that you can make a gripping and compelling narrative out of what is essentially one big chase scene. How could any video game tie in live up to that legacy? By not even trying to connect to it, that’s how.

Despite being released the same year as Mad Max: Fury Road, Mad Max the video game is inspired by the world of Mad Max rather than any particular movie. The main character isn’t trying to save the world; he just wants to build a car that will let him live peacefully in a legendary land. Quite frankly, that’s the most realistic goal anyone has ever had in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max video game is an open-world adventure across the blasted lands of post-apocalyptic Australia. As players explore, they raid enemy bases and upgrade their cars for different tasks. The ways this title blends compelling and impactful gameplay elements into nearly every element of its open world ultimately elevates it above much bigger open-world titles. The game is one big destruction derby but with harpoons and shotguns. – AG

The Mummy Demastered

2. The Mummy Demastered

While tie-in games based on movies are generally bad, their quality is usually proportional to the movie’s quality: The worse the movie, the worse the game. The Mummy Demastered begs to differ.

The Mummy Demastered is a pixelated Metroidvania game based on the abysmal 2017 The Mummy movie that was supposed to jump-start Universal Studios’ Dark Universe series. While players still run and gun through the minions of the movie’s main villain, Ahmanet, the developers at Wayforward turned that concept into a novel and fun adventure.

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Instead of playing as Tom Cruise…er, Nick Morton…gamers control a faceless soldier, and whenever they die, they drop all their upgrades and weapons. At that point, they turn into a zombie that players have to kill in order to retrieve everything. This mechanic (and the brilliant Meteroidvania design elements) turns The Mummy Demastered into a tense and enjoyable game that surpasses its source material. – AG

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

In 2010, Universal Pictures released a live-action adaptation of the hit graphic novel Scott Pilgrim. To celebrate the film, Ubisoft released a tie-in game that, due to an unfortunate license lapse, disappeared from the internet for six years. But now it’s back and better than ever.

While Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game shares its name with the movie, the game’s art style is ripped straight from the source material comic, which was the perfect design choice since the graphic novel is full of video game references. Also, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game’s soundtrack is arguably the most eclectic chiptunes soundtrack you’ve ever heard.

Gameplaywise, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a love letter to side-scrolling beat-em-ups. Action is as fluid as it is punishing, and the game is best played with friends. And yes, couch co-op is fully supported. – AG