While it's possible to make a good video game based on a licensed property, the vast majority of tie-in games feel like cheap cash-grabs, especially when they're based on blockbuster films. For this reason, it's always surprising to see an absolutely awful movie produce a fantastic video game. When the original film is good, it's easy to believe that the tie-in game will also be fun, but when the source material is rotten, most people don't expect the spin-off to be any better. How the Alien Vs. Predator series managed to spawn several several enjoyable games is a mystery for the ages.
Some of the best licensed video games came from box office flops like The Mummy (2017), or critical failures like GoldenEye (1997). Even if everyone has forgotten the horrible films, some of these games actually introduced innovative mechanics that went on to become industry standards. In a few extreme cases, it's probably more enjoyable to skip the bad movies altogether, as the games' cut-scenes manage to tell their stories in a more interesting manner.
When GoldenEye 007 came out in 1997, it pushed the hardware boundaries of the Nintendo 64, and figured out how to make first-person shooters work on consoles. The game received glowing reviews, and many sources point to it as the origin of the modern video game sniper rifle (where the player presses a button to increase the scope's zoom). Whether it's a round of golden gun with a friend or an all-out death match between siblings, the game will forever rest in the memories of players.
Unfortunately, the movie is something that most James Bond fans would rather forget about. 1995's GoldenEye film attempted to subvert the tropes that made the franchise successful, only to come across as self-weary and timid. Whereas the game broke new ground for the medium, the movie seemed terrified of its own legacy.
#38 on The Best Classic Video Games
The Chronicles of Riddick film may have a cult following, but critically, it enjoys an absolutely abyssmal 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anything that critically panned probably doesn't deserve a spin-off game, yet somehow, 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was green-lit, and more surprisingly, it was fantastic.
In the game, the player controls Riddick as he fights to escape several high security prison wards. There's a rigid social hierarchy within the prison, which makes for plenty of interesting side-quests in addition to the main goal of escaping. The game was so well received that it actually got its own sequel — Assault on Dark Athena — in 2009, though the non-movie related game did not score as well with critics.
When the sequel was released alongside an HD remaster of Butcher Bay, Wired praised the original game for its responsive melee combat, incredible fight choreography, and for making the player feel every bit as bad*ss as Vin Diesel tried to be in the movie. There are also some incredible sneaking mechanics that allow the player to choose how they want to handle the onslaught of enemies.
Paramount Pictures definitely raised the bar on superhero cinema when it released Iron Man in 2008. Unfortunately, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine missed that bar, hard. The story was overbloated, and opted to include fan service at the cost of Wolverine's character development. The game, on the other hand, was praised for its surprisingly complex combat system, and for allowing the player to customize their own Wolverine. The boss fights and level design gave off a dramatic comic book feel that kept players coming back, even if Logan occasionally had to solve puzzles better suited for Laura Croft. Plus, the game nailed Wolverine's healing powers, and watching the character regenerate after taking 30 bullets to the chest was infinitely satisfying.
The Star Wars prequels underwhelmed a lot of fans of the original trilogy, and their focus on exposition-heavy political scenes and ridiculous comic relief characters drew a lot of ire. However, the first film in the prequel trilogy did add one great thing to the franchise, Star Wars Episode 1: Racer.
The 1999 game was for anyone who wanted to join Anakin behind the wheel of his levitating dune buggy while watching The Phantom Menace. The game expanded upon an underdeveloped piece of Star Wars lore (podracing as a competitive sport), and actually played better than many racing franchises of its time. Even today, it's a testament to how much tight controls and a nuanced difficulty curve add to a game.