There have now been so many positive reviews for the Alien-channelling survival horror game Alien: Isolation - including our five-star appraisal - that we can officially conclude that it is that rarest of beasts: a movie tie-in game that does not shame its progenitor and that deserves, in fact, to be acclaimed in its own right. What other games achieve that status? We're glad you asked! Here are the select few movie tie-ins that stand out as giants amid an underperforming crowd...
Game: Tron 2.0 (2003)
Film: Tron (1982)
Now an almost-forgotten curio, Tron 2.0 was a fascinating attempt to create a canonical gaming sequel to an original movie that, at the time, seemed to have no chance of getting a follow-up in cinemas. Officially endorsed by Tron creator Steven Lisberger, its canonicity (canonicality?) was nullified by Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, who said it definitely wasn’t part of the official storyline of Flynn and company. The game itself has dated horribly, which makes this a now-leftfield pick, but it’s still cool to hear Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan’s voices in their previous roles. But while this was lavished with good reviews at the time of release, it failed to succeed in terms of sales, and Tron 3.0 was never seen. That said, there is a follow-up comic book called Tron: The Ghost In The Machine available, should curiosity overwhelm you.
Game: Aliens Versus Predator 2 (2001)
Films: The Alien franchise (1979-1997), Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990)
Before the impressively awful films of 2004 and 2007, there was a perfectly decent AVP franchise that ticked along very nicely, thank you very much. There were the comics, there was the Atari Jaguar game Alien Vs Predator in 1994, several books, even more action figures and this, arguably the best thing in the history of this or any other universe to have the words “Aliens”, “Versus” and “Predator” next to it. This was the game that allowed you to play as an alien, or as a marine, or as a predator, and have their stories intersect and interact. In the LAN multiplayer, you could play as a corporate mercenary – the “Iron Bears” – and play with even more humongous hardware. Stalking corridors as a Predator was always the most fun, but whichever playable character you chose, you felt more like you were part of either film franchise than the official AVP movies ever managed.
Game: The Thing (2002)
Film: The Thing (1982)
Formats: PS2, PC, Xbox
Endorsed by John Carpenter himself – who even crops up in a cameo – The Thing is a kinda-sequel to the 1982 horror classic. It's the tale of Captain Blake, a member of a U.S. Special Forces team sent to the Antarctic outpost where The Thing goes bump in the night (or day, or whenever it wants really). High production values and a sincere love of its inspiration helped the game rise above some wonky controls and an occasionally iffy fear/trust mechanic, drawing fans in and making them truly believe that some of their squad might transform into an alien. Despite selling over a million copies, a follow-up game was unfortunately canned after the studio behind it, Computer Artworks, closed down in 2004. At least there’s 2011’s cinematic, ahem, The Thing.
Game: The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (2004)
Films: Pitch Black (2000), The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004)
Formats: PC, Xbox 360
Serving as a prequel to both the cult favourite Pitch Black and its somewhat overblown sequel The Chronicles Of Riddick, Escape From Butcher Bay sees Vin Diesel’s ocularly-enhanced maniac Richard B. Riddick creeping and stabbing around a maximum-security prison that – needless to say – no-one has ever escaped from before. Beautifully designed and a lot of fun to play, the game’s biggest flaw was that the screwdriver-to-the-throat action was so short, with the game’s designers sacrificing length for authenticity and a very natty realisation of Riddick’s “eyeshine” ability. A polished version of the game was included in its sequel, The Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena, released in 2009, and that one also has a multiplayer function so you can shiv your friends whenever you fancy it.
Game: The Lord Of The Rings – The Battle For Middle-earth (2004)
Films: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Ten years after it was first released, the online servers for The Battle For Middle-earth shut down. This was sad for a number of reasons. One, it made you feel old, and two, you could no longer play the best LOTR tie-in ever made (and that includes the Lego brick-smashers, the recent Battle For Mordor and the fruit machine). The servers severance came because EA’s licence with Peter Jackson and co. ran out, an unfortunate fact that left hundreds of thousands of Tolkien-loving real-time strategists jonesing for just one last Battle For Helm’s Deep. Making the game all the more replayable (back when it was replayable) were the voices of Andy Serkis, John Rhys Davis, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen and more, something other LOTR tie-ins – hello The Lord Of Fhe Rings Online: Riders Of Rohan – cannot claim.
Game: Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003)
Films: The Star Wars franchise (1977)
Formats: Xbox, PC, Mac
Role-playing game gurus BioWare – the guys behind Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and, more recently, Mass Effect – joined forces with LucasArts to create this immersive and engaging tie-in, one that rises head and shoulders above a sea of sub-par Star Wars spin-offs. Tie Fighter and the Super Star Wars series deserve a tip of the cowl, but by and large, the likes of the Game Boy Advance’s Flight Of The Falcon and the PlayStation’s Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi bring both the Dark and Light sides down. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II – The Sith Lords followed in 2004, developed by newcomers Obsidian Entertainment. That didn’t hit quite the same sweet spot, but it's still worth your time especially since, like the original, it's now available on Steam.
Game: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
Film: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
Formats: PC, Amiga, Atari
There aren’t many graphic adventures or point-and-click adventure games in the movie tie-in department, but Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and its not-so-film-related follow-up Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis are the top of the pile. Made by Lucasfilm’s game department, then known as Lucasfilm Games and now called LucasArts, it has the Monkey Island series' silly sense of humour and surprisingly high levels of wit. More replayable than other games in its genre, there were multiple ways to solve riddles or get past guards, and if you cracked them all, you achieved the maximum Indy Quotient (IQ) score. That, by the way, is the kind of comedy you can expect: the “I” in “IQ” standing for Indy. Also, look forward to a midi-version of the Indy fanfare when you get something right: possibly the most satisfying sound in the world.
Game: Dune II (1992)
Film: Dune (1984)
Formats: Amiga, PC
Chances are, you’re not the biggest fan of David Lynch’s cinematic interpretation of Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction novel, which captured the book's weirdness but perhaps not its weight. But there is one reason why you should like it: it inspired real-time strategy games as we know them today. There were others before it – notably The Ancient Art of War, Command HQ and Herzog Zwei – but Dune II took their key concepts and created a beautifully addictive war game, built around an established and fascinating fictional universe. All those fog-of-war / military micro-management / resource-gathering and base-building RTS games that came after it, like Command And Conquer (from Westwood, the same studio that made Dune II) and Warcraft, owe a huge debt to this spicy little number. As long as you can overlook the fact that House Ordos doesn’t exist in the books, it still holds up today.
Game: GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Film: GoldenEye (1995)
Format: Nintendo 64
The greatest Bond tie-in ever made – better than the 007 Monopoly set and the James Bond Jr. animated series – is also one of the greatest multiplayer shooter experiences ever created, and it's one that still stands up today, with even Pierce Brosnan himself playing it with Jimmy Fallon live on TV. But if you do dig out that hunk of purple plastic from your attic and hook it up to your widescreen, remember these two rules: no-one can look at anyone else’s quarter of the telly, and no-one can play as Oddjob, because he’s shorter than everyone else.
Game: Blade Runner (1997)
Film: Blade Runner (1982)
With Harrison Ford’s likeness off-limits, Westwood Studios – also behind the Dune series, as well as Command & Conquer – decided to take the world of Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and tell a story within it. You play Ray McCoy, a rookie android hunter whose tale is as dark and twisted as you’d hope for in a Los Angeles where non-robotic animals are exceedingly rare and humans can’t tell if they’re actually human or not. Billed as "the first real time 3D adventure game", its visual design still holds up today, and with 13 possible conclusions, the replayability is high. Next time you dig out the bumper bible-sized cardboard box that contains the four CD-ROMs it requires, listen out for film-referencing lines like "Deckard, he feels too much, ya' know?” and try not to cry at the ending(s).
Game: The Lion King (1994)
Film: The Lion King (1994)
Formats: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, SNES, Game Boy, PC, Amiga, Game Gear
Like its equally addictive Virgin Interactive Disney movie stablemate Aladdin, this jump-on-things-climb-up-things side-scrolling platformer features animation overseen by the creators of the film itself, as well as bloop-bleep “interpretations” of the big screen score. Surprisingly difficult for a game aimed primarily at six-year-olds, it’s both cuddly-looking and controller-breakingly frustrating if you’re a little ‘un trying to swipe at Scar until you throw him off a cliff into some lava. As an adult, of course, it’s really easy – but then, why are you playing a twenty year old game for tots as an adult? Wait, don’t answer that.
Game: Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)
Films: Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989)
Formats: PC, PS4, XBOX 360
Back on its release, Dan Aykroyd referred to Ghostbusters: The Video game as “essentially the third movie”, and essentially that’s true. Both have gone through torturous development processes, with the idea of the game first pitched in 2006 and several different game studios stepping up to the plate before it jumped out of a ghost trap in 2009. It’s set two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, and features the in-game likenesses and voices of Aykroyd, Ramis, Murray and Hudson (potentially unlike the real Ghostbusters 3, in fairness). There are loads of enjoyable in-jokes, such as achievements called "I Looked Into the Trap, Ray", "I Feel So Funky" and "You Never Studied". The downside of that comparison is that it’s also about the length of a film, with many players feeling shortchanged by that comparatively tiny game time. That said, the sense that you as the rookie player-character – called “Rookie” – are an actual Ghostbuster, busting ghosts with Venkman and co., cannot be beaten, not even by the Commodore 64 1984 edition.
Game: The Warriors (2005)
Films: The Warriors (1979)
Formats: PS2, Xbox, PSP, PS3
Rockstar have a well-deserved reputation for taking older intellectual properties and giving them a joyful boot up the backside. After the success of The Warriors, a sprawling brawl-‘em-up that has players beating the teeth out of many a Baseball Fury, they went on to Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3, both huge successes. The secret behind their gaming do-over of the Walter Hill classic lies in Rockstar’s obvious love of the original film, with so many hat-tips all over their take on dark and dirty ‘70s New York that it feels like a rather violent playground for film fans. Helping things feel extra-real are the returning cast, with Michael Beck (Swan), James Remar (Ajax) and Dorsey Wright (Cleon) all back on board. Even the cover art looks so similar to the original poster, you can barely tell the two apart.
Game: Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Film: Spider-Man 2 (2005)
Formats: PS2, Xbox
Please, no-one mention the travesty that was the dumbed-down and kiddified PC version, because that is not what we mean here. It's the PS2 and Xbox editions which are king, featuring voices from the films – hello there, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, Kirsten Dunst and co. – and the ability to swing around New York and totally ignore the plot (should you so wish). Feeling truly open and free, this sandbox game allowed fans of Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man to genuinely feel like they were Spidey, with the web-slinging mechanic deserving particular praise, because players were able to swoop about New York only if they planted a web at an actual building, and not, as previous games had allowed, somewhere vaguely up in the sky (we're looking at you too, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes).
53 Lego games have been made since 1997, but it wasn't until Lego Harry Potter that the craze for film-affiliated versions really got going. As well as a bricky Boy Who Lived, there have been two Indiana Jones editions, four Star Wars editions, a Pirates Of The Caribbean edition, a Lord Of Rings edition and, of course, a Lego Movie edition, with many other film-ish but not truly film games also part of the family, such as Batman and Marvel Super Heroes. Each has a very similar premise: tell a contracted version of the movie’s plot through different set-pieces, all the while bashing and smashing everything in sight until it bursts into studs. Not high art by any means, but damn good fun.