8 films that have most influenced videogames

Which are the movies that have most influenced the look and feel of videogames? Here are Ryan's suggestions...

Hollywood’s angry with its public. Sick of all the illegal downloads and the pesky statistics that repeatedly say videogames are making more money, the moguls of Tinseltown have forced us to wear magical glasses while we watch their films. Ugly, plastic spectacles that make cinema goers look like welders, and force people who already wear spectacles to wear another pair of spectacles over the top of them, pushing the spectacles underneath into the skin around their nose and ears in particularly uncomfortable fashion.

Hollywood executives go on about how 3D movies are the future, and how one day 2D films will be about as fashionable as basket weaving, but I don’t believe them.

La-La land is losing its grip on popular culture, and it’s not happy. So, in a final, parting shot of defiance, the sinister studio execs are forcing us all to pay an extra four quid to wear shades in the dark that give us headaches, cause the bridges of our noses to grow sore and make the screen look washed out.

Anyway, on the subject of films, here’s a list of eight films that have influenced the way games have looked and played over the past thirty or so years – and there’s not a pair of 3D specs in sight…

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Star Wars (1977)

An obvious inclusion, since, for better or worse, George Lucas’ colossal franchise single-handedly transformed Hollywood cinema. Without Star Wars, Space Invaders would have been a very different game, and even three decidedly uneven prequels have done little to dim the original trilogy’s influence. Hints of it can be seen in everything from Platinum Games’ epic DS space opera, Infinite Space, to No More Heroes‘ light sabre. Sorry, beam katana.


The Warriors (1979)

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Not a film commonly mentioned in recent years, Walter Hill’s violent movie about rival late-70s gangs has its grimy prints all over the scrolling beat ’em ups of the following decade. The brawling street punks of Renegade (the localised version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, which exchanged Japanese students for Warriors-inspired thugs), Double Dragon and Final Fight all bear its hallmarks. The film even got a (largely forgettable) videogame adaptation of its own, with the belated adaptation of the same name released in 2007.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Urgently scripted, masterfully shot and sparkling with energy, Raiders is arguably the greatest of Indy’s adventures. The franchise may have spawned over a dozen official tie-ins of uneven quality (my vote for best Indy game goes to Fate Of Atlantis. Lucas and Spielberg should have adapted this for the cinema rather than the dire Crystal Skull script), but the most authentic cliffhanger moments have been created by games inspired by the series.

It’s hard to believe the tribulations of Rick Dangerous, Nathan Drake or Lara Croft would have been quite the same without this classic of 80s Hollywood cinema.


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Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott’s timelessly beautiful dystopia has done more to shape the look of future cities in movies and games than any film since Metropolis. Blade Runner‘s sprawling future LA, a rain swept, decrepit Babylon full of freaks and neon, has influenced countless games, from first-person shooter Perfect Dark to adventures such as Beneath A Steel Sky.

Like several other games on this list, Blade Runner has been subject to more than one video game adaptation over the past 27 years, but it was Bullfrog’s proto-sandbox Syndicate classic, with its acres of anonymous city and cold-hearted violence, that came closest to capturing the spirit of Scott’s seminal film.


The Thing (1982)

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The Thing may be close to 30 years old now, but the shockwaves of Rob Bottin’s wildly imaginative special effects have been widely felt across film and comics as well as videogames. The mutating critters of the early 90s anime Wicked City (or YōjÅ« Toshi, as it’s known in its native country), for example, bear more than a passing resemblance to Bottin’s horrific masterwork.

It’s videogames, however, that owe the greatest debt to The Thing, with titles such as Alien Storm and later entries of the Resident Evil series all owing a clear debt to the film’s grotesque, shape-shifting alien.


Scarface (1983)

Brian DePalma’s brutal reworking of Howard Hawks’ classic 30s gangster film of the same name worked as a scathing satire of Reagan-era excess and greed.

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Scarface‘s influence on videogames isn’t necessarily as blatant as other games on this list, but the hedonistic, selfish rise to power of coked-up anti-hero Tony Montana has numerous parallels with the equally mordant Grand Theft Auto series.


Aliens (1986)

Few other films have done more to shape the look of science fiction shooters than James Cameron’s 1986 classic Aliens, with shades of that film’s drop ships, macho space marines and hulking ordnance evident in everything from Contra via Gears Of War to Halo 3.

In fact, Cameron’s Avatar is a timely example of the cyclical nature of stylistic influence, with the look of that film bearing faint echoes of Master Chief’s adventures as much as his own 80s masterpiece.

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The Matrix (1999)

For a film so clearly inspired by videogames and other pop culture, it’s ironic that The Matrix has had such a profound influence on game designers, but then, this is probably proof of just how well the Wachowski Brothers understood their target audience.

Where most other films on this list have influenced movies in terms of storytelling and visual style, The Matrix is perhaps the only film that has directly informed the way games are played. And while it wasn’t the first movie to use bullet time – a form of it appeared in Blade a year before, and the technique has roots that date back to the Victorian-era photography of Eadweard Muybridge – The Matrix‘s bravura, swirling fights with fists and guns would ultimately spawn an interactive version of the technique in games such as Max Payne, Fallout 3, Prince Of Persia and Bayonetta.

Add your own suggestions in the comments…!

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