The best way to explain how video games and movies work well together is to look at the movie tie-in game. The best movie-tie-in games are fun trips through popular movie universes, while the worst games are ones we don’t really talk about (or bury in landfills). The movie tie-in game is a fascinating mix of mediums. It is a video game made to go with an upcoming movie or to bring back the spirit of a classic. And there are some that are really good.
What makes a movie tie-in game good isn’t just how well it connects to the movie in question, but how well that connection feels in a game setting: Is it fun to play? Is the story of the campaign strong? Does it make you want to play the game again even after you’ve seen the movie? Is it a creative way to play with a universe that is amazing? Answering these questions (and more) can make the difference between a “meh” movie tie-in game and a “masterpiece.”
This list has the best games based on movies. There are games based on The Matrix, James Bond, Spider-Man, and many more. Many of these games are from the early days of consoles, so get ready to feel a lot of nostalgia. Some of these games came out years after the movie they were based on, but they’re still considered tie-ins because they take place in the same world. So, without any more delay, here are the best movie tie-ins.
Die Hard Trilogy
The Die Hard Trilogy game is based on the first three Die Hard movies, as the name suggests. It has three very different game modes that perfectly match the action and pace of each movie. Die Hard 1 is a third-person shooter set in Nakatomi Plaza (see Warzone, Die Hard Trilogy did it first), Die Harder is an on-rails shooter, and Die Hard with a Vengeance is a driving game where you have to defuse bombs. Even without the movie tie-in, the Die Hard Trilogy would have been a unique game because of how many different things it had to offer. The only bad thing? There is no Bruce Willis.
The 1982 horror movie The Thing by John Carpenter is a standout, so the game had to fill some big, snowy shoes. In some ways, it does. The Thing game is technically a sequel to the movie. Not only did John Carpenter approve of it, but he also has a cameo in it, which makes it an obvious choice for this list. The Thing is a third-person survival shooter where you play as Captain Blake, a US Special Forces soldier sent to the same Antarctic outpost as the movie to find out what the hell happened to the research team. Do I hear grotesque monsters and blood-covered ice? The controls are often hard to use, but The Thing’s cool graphics and exciting action sequences make up for that.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong
Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which lets players take on the roles of both scriptwriter Jack Driscoll and the king of the jungle, earns him another spot on this list. As Driscoll, players use guns and spears from a first-person view, but as King Kong, they use his big fists from a third-person view. Both want to save Ann Darrow, which is pretty obvious. Peter Jackson’s King Kong has a nice user interface that doesn’t have a health metre. It also has beautiful cinematic set pieces that will make you feel like you’re playing a movie. It helps that the actors from the movie play the same roles in the game. This gives the experience a more real feel.
Even though the side-scrolling platformer is based on a Disney movie, this game was not for most kids, or at least not for those of us with bad motor skills. In Disney’s Aladdin, players take control of the main character and go through a story that is similar to the movie that came out the same year. Aladdin can get rid of guards and other bad guys with his scimitar and apples, and a smoky Genie lamp shows him how much health he has left. It looks really nice, with beautiful animation and bright colours. But all I can think about is the horrible carpet escape scene in the middle of the game. I failed at it so many times that my poor elementary school brain was ready to give up. Luckily, the game’s creators knew it was hard, so you could skip it after a few failed attempts. I’m glad Virgin Interactive gave it away for free because that was one of my three wishes.
Enter the Matrix
Now, listen to me. The Matrix: Path of Neo is a great game with faster fighting than its predecessor, but Enter the Matrix has something special about it. Not only does its story take place at the same time as The Matrix Reloaded and feature two supporting characters, Ghost (Anthony Wong) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith), but the Wachowski sisters also directed over an hour of original live-action footage to be used as cutscenes. I remember that the beginning of Enter the Matrix was a cutscene, and I screamed with joy because it felt like I was watching another Matrix movie. For a Matrix fangirl, being able to pick up a controller and play after that cut scene was a really cool and unique thing to do. You can play as either Niobe or Ghost in Enter the Matrix, and each path has a slightly different progression. There is a good hacking system, some fun vehicle levels, and the final boss on Ghost’s path is brutal. Yes, it’s bigger than the Doc Martens you’d wear for a Matrix cosplay, but it’s creative and so cool.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which was based on the first two Peter Jackson movies, came out in 2002. (despite the title). The Two Towers is based on the movies and not the books. You can play as Aragorn, Gimli, or Legolas and hack and slash your way through levels like Helm’s Deep and Weathertop from the first two movies (you can only play Aragorn on that one). Its fast-paced gameplay, combat system, and impressive graphics paved the way for Return of the King, a sequel that was just as fun and came out in 2003.
Best Movie Tie-in Games: Disney’s Hercules
Disney’s Hercules, which was also called Disney’s Action Game Featuring Hercules because… reasons, probably wouldn’t hold up today, but when it came out in 1997, it was one of the best 2D side scrollers. It’s as simple as it gets, but the basics are done well. Hercules has two attacks: his sword and his fist. There are also three different levels of difficulty and different weapon power-ups that can make the character shoot lightning or fireballs.
The game was pretty cool because it also had audio and voice lines from the movie. Each level has a set of HERCULES tokens to collect, which let the player move on to the next level, and four vases to break, which reveal the level’s password. The game is played in one continuous run, so if you die on your way to the final boss, you have to start from the beginning without these helpers.
Best Movie Tie-in Games: X-men Origins: Wolverine
It doesn’t happen often that a movie based on a video game is better than the main movie, but that was the case with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This third-person slash-em-up had all the blood and gore that the mainline movie franchise could never have. You can hack and slash your way through a lot of enemies and watch as your wounds heal in real time or as you are blasted back to your Adamantium skeleton.
Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and even Will.i.am gave their characters’ voices again, giving this movie tie-in an all-star cast. Even though most of the story is the same as in the movie, there are some fun gameplay moments and it’s the most violent Marvel game we’ve seen so far.