These Video Games Were Based On Terrible Movies, Yet They Somehow Turned Out Fantastic
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.
- Photo: X-Men Origins: Wolverine / Raven Software
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.
- Photo: GoldenEye 007 / Rare
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.
- Photo: Star Wars Episode I: Racer / LucasArts
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.
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.
- Photo: Wanted: Weapons of Fate / Grin
When Wanted came out in 2008, fans of the comic enjoyed the film well enough, but it failed to stick in most people's memories. While the film wasn't horrible, the Matrix-style effects didn't play as well on the big screen as they did in the comics (since The Matrix already existed). The movie's detractors called the work dull and unoriginal, with Film Threat's Scott Mendelson describing it as "A movie so shamelessly derivative of so many other movies that it ought to have a work-cited page at the start of the closing credits."
In a rare turn of events, the creators of Wanted: Weapons of Fate decided to take an extra couple months to develop the game, so it released after the film in early 2009. The extra development time paid off, and the result was a high-octane third-person shooter that made the franchise's bullet-bending action feel fluid and natural. When it was first released, critics' biggest complaint was that the game was too short to be priced at $60, but now that used copies sell for less than $10, it's well worth the price of admission.
- Photo: Enter The Matrix / Atari
Enter the Matrix was developed alongside the second and third movies in the series, both of which failed to stand up to the cerebral tone of the original film. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) went from being a philosophical thriller to a no-holds-barred action fest in a manner that was probably better suited to video games in the first place. While the film's CGI battles might have looked cool in the early days of digital animation, today, they don't look that much better than your average PS2 game.
Enter the Matrix is far from a perfect game, but the 2003 title expands on the story of the movies in a way that few tie-ins ever considered. Rather than control the franchise's overpowered heroes, the game stars Ghost and Niobe, two underrated supporting characters who have a decent amount of screen-time in the second and third films. The game's story unfolds concurrently with Reloaded, and sees the player rushing to defend Zion against the impending machine hordes from Revolutions. Enter the Matrix also features some genuinely fun action gameplay, even if it's a little similar to other games of its time.