Top 10 Best Games Based on Summer Blockbusters
Movie tie-in games used to be a dime a dozen, routinely clogging up our summer schedules with dross based upon the latest action films which would routinely generate a reasonable amount of money, but would also somewhat sully the reputations of the properties they were based upon. However, with the game and film industry now having seemingly both come to the conclusion that the best games are the ones not forced along the production line by movie execs, we’re thankfully starting to see the end of woeful games following in the vein of Catwoman, Enter the Matrix and *shudder* E.T.
However, that’s not to say that every movie tie-in game has been of poor quality, with there having been some notable exceptions over the years that have exceeded expectations. As we’re now officially heading into summer, we thought we’d take a look back at the top 10 best games based on summer blockbusters. Here are the games we believe stand head and shoulders above the rest when it came to providing adaptations of some of our favorite summer movies:
10. Jaws Unleashed
After many failed attempts at creating an enjoyable game based upon Steven Spielberg’s inaugural summer blockbuster Jaws, eventually some bright spark at developer Appaloosa Interactive considered that playing as those on the receiving end of the bloodthirsty Great White’s savage attacks doesn’t make for a particularly compelling video game, instead choosing to place players in the, er, fins of the ferocious fish in Jaws Unleashed.
Jaws Unleashed isn’t a particularly accomplished game, nor is it in any way faithful to its source material, but it does provide the only enjoyable Jaws video game experience thus far. Tasking players with essentially murdering as many people as possible in as gruesome a fashion as they see fit, Jaws Unleashed does away with the suspense and drama of the original film in favor of cheap thrills and gore, with it having attracted something of a cult appreciation in the process. Though it wasn’t well-received upon its release, the sheer ludicrousness of its concept has helped Jaws Unleashed become known as a memorably odd release from the PS2 era, like a 3D Ecco the Dolphin only with more flesh-eating and fewer aliens.
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure may have the misfortune of naturally being positioned against fellow Indy point ‘n’ click adventure Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis, a wholly better game that isn’t on this list as a result of it being a standalone tale not directly tied to the classic film series, but it’s still a good game in its own right.
Developed by LucasArts (then known as Lucasfilm Games) for DOS, the Amiga and the Atari ST, The Last Crusade was innovative for its time given that it allowed players to solve puzzles in a variety of different ways, with it offering multiple paths towards victory that granted an unprecedented level of player agency. The game may have committed the cardinal sin of providing an adaptation of The Last Crusade without including Sean Connery’s Scottish drawl, but nevertheless it was a solid adventure that did a great deal with its license.
8. Jurassic Park
The Sega Genesis and SNES adaptation of Jurassic Park had two very important distinctions: firstly, it was the only genuinely good game based upon Steven Spielberg’s 1993 monster movie, and secondly, it had the greatest “Sega Intro” in the history of video games. Seriously, it’s a T-Rex growling the company’s name. How do you beat that?
Jurassic Park was a side-scrolling action platformer that actually provided some decent scares back in its day, what with it providing faithful pixelated representations of the dinosaurs featured in the film, while upping the number of them considerably in order to give protagonist Dr. Alan Grant more things to tranquillize (the game thankfully stayed true to the character by not transforming him into a gun-wielding dino murderer). The odd occasions in which the T-Rex would pop up out of nowhere were genuinely terrifying, even if the concept of a dinosaur of that size being able to adequately pull off a jump scare is questionable in hindsight.
Developer BlueSky Software clearly put a lot of effort into providing an enjoyable game for Jurassic Park fans, with them even recognizing the stars of the show by allowing players to play through the game as one of the velociraptors, which culminated in an odd boss battle with a bomb-throwing Dr. Grant standing atop a T-Rex skeleton.
7. Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Star Wars Episode I: Racer is one of three games on this list that ended up being better than the movie it was based upon, taking one of very few stand-out scenes from The Phantom Menace and making an entire game out of it, which actually wound up being far more thrilling than the film’s hopelessly dull tale of trade disputes and Midi-chlorian counts.
Essentially an F-Zero game set within the Star Wars universe, Episode I: Racer allowed players to take control of all of those forgettable podracing aliens from the film (and Anakin Skywalker) across a series of tracks on planets that had mostly never been seen before, making it feel like less of a Star Wars game and more of a standalone racer that had the license slapped on it as an afterthought. However, considering the downturn in quality the Star Wars saga experienced as a result of the prequels, we should perhaps be thankful that LucasArts didn’t seek too much inspiration from the source material and instead solely focused upon delivering a good racing game.
6. Mad Max
The most recent entry on this list, Mad Max was a kinda-sorta-but-not-really adaptation of Mad Max: Fury Road, but the lack of faith shown towards its movie counterpart wasn’t a result of a lack of effort. Director George Miller had actually helped conceptualize a Fury Road tie-in video game as far back as 2008, though this idea was passed through the hands of two separate development teams before it eventually landed in the lap of Avalanche Studios, with it then transforming into its own standalone Mad Max game that released a few months following Miller’s critically-acclaimed sequel.
Though many were disheartened to discover that the likes of Furiosa nor Immortan Joe’s wives didn’t appear in the game, the sand-covered, open-world environment that Avalanche had created was undoubtedly the star of the presentation, with spontaneous weather hazards and gorgeous visual details helping to make this very literal sandbox far more enjoyable to traverse through than you’d expect, considering the inherent barrenness of the setting. Avalanche also nailed the car combat, providing high-octane and visceral chases across its sprawling land mass, while its hand-to-hand combat borrowed liberally from the Batman: Arkham series while also applying an added layer of violence atop it.
Unfortunately, Mad Max released during an inopportune time in which many other, better open-world games were also doing the rounds, though its inability to compete with the likes of The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain shouldn’t stand to detract from what is an enjoyable adaptation of a beloved franchise.
5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Forget the terrible PS One The Lost World tie-in game: the arcade shooter was where the real fun was to be had. With its arcade machine placing players inside an enclosed booth, The Lost World managed to success where its film counterpart failed, with Steven Spielberg’s sequel failing to reproduce that sense of wonder evoked by Jurassic Park, instead relying almost solely upon elaborate action set-pieces.
A wafer thin plot, dull cast of characters and endless action may have been perfectly reasonable in a 1997 arcade game, but it didn’t make for a particularly good film. Inevitably, the game managed to carve out a greater legacy than the movie, with it remaining a staple of arcades years following its release.
4. Super Star Wars
Though there were many challenging games released around the SNES era, Super Star Wars and its two subsequent sequels were unforgivably difficult, even when placed alongside their contemporaries. This is a game which features a level that is legitimately impossible to advance beyond unless you confront its boss fight with your health bar almost fully in tact, with many of the Cantina stage’s Kalhar Boss Monster’s most powerful attacks being completely unpreventable. This is frustrating, of course, yet Super Star Wars still more than earns its spot at number four on the list. Why? Because back then, this didn’t particularly matter.
Before the days where an excruciatingly high difficulty curve in a game either prompts hundreds of players to swarm its Metacritic user reviews with negative comments or, on the other hand, encourages players who believe themselves to possess a superior level of skill to tell those who are struggling to “git gud,” if a game was tough to beat we accepted it, continued to play it and lived with the frustration. Though Super Star Wars wasn’t a particularly fair game, in 1992 we could look beyond these flaws and appreciate where co-developers LucasArts and Sculpted Software got it right, such as its 16-bit recreation of John Williams’ iconic score and the high level of variety in its gameplay.
Predominantly a run and gun game, Super Star Wars interjected these more traditional side-scrolling levels with stages that utilized the Super Nintendo’s “Mode 7” technology, allowing players to glide through Tatooine in a landspeeder and perform the Death Star run in an X-Wing all using the console’s impressive (for its time) faux 3D technology. With it receiving a PS4 port back in 2015, the game still looks, sounds and plays great even if in retrospect it could have really done with a save or at the very least a checkpoint system. You caused the destruction of many a SNES controller back in the day, Super Star Wars, but we still love you.
3. Spider-Man 2
The best Spider-Man movie also spawned the best Spider-Man video game, with Spider-Man 2 finally offering us the opportunity to web swing through a living, breathing New York City, and as such represented the closest we’d came at that point to properly assuming the role of the comic book hero.
The open-world setting of Spider-Man 2 contributed a great deal to its popularity, with players happy to simply swing around and climb walls even if there wasn’t a great deal of other activities to do in its pretty barren setting. Fortunately the variety in the missions handed to the player kept things moving, appropriating the Grand Theft Auto formula sans the ultra violence and with a superhero placed at the forefront of the presentation, rather than a criminal sociopath.
With Spider-Man 2 developer Treyarch had seemingly established a winning formula for a Spider-Man video game that, somehow, hasn’t been replicated quite as successfully ever since. Like the movie it was based upon, the Spider-Man 3 game was a woeful disappointment while film tie-ins The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 both ventured back into open-world environments, but failed to meaningfully improve upon the features previously included in a decade-old game. Marvel has brought us several decent Spider-Man games since Spider-Man 2, including Treyarch’s belated successor to the game Ultimate Spider-Man, but none have had the same lasting impact on Spider-fans.
2. Batman: The Video Game
Upon its release in 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman movie was the first to bring an accurate representation of the caped crusader from the comic books to theaters. Though Burton took some liberties with the source material – far more than would be deemed acceptable by today’s audience of Batman fans – the film raised the bar for how both Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter-ego should be portrayed on the silver screen, carving out a path for Batman: The Animated Series, Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy and setting a new measurement of success for superhero films in general.
Just as Batman 1989 was an anomaly, so too was the video game based upon it, with the accurately titled Batman: The Video Game being praised for being both a movie tie-in and also not terrible. In fact, not only was Batman: The Video Game not terrible, it was actually pretty damn good, with it providing a great NES-era interpretation of Batman’s various abilities. Combining Ninja Gaiden-esque wall-jumping with combat that incorporated more-or-less every gadget in the Bats’ utility belt, alongside the tried and tested gameplay mechanic “continuously punching dudes in their mouths,”developer Sunsoft also made good use of the NES’ limited color palette by giving the game a much darker visual tone, which was befitting of the Batman license though quite atypical for its era.
Only the third Batman game to ever be released following the 8-bit PC titles Batman and Batman: The Caped Crusader, Sunsoft’s platformer may have somewhat embellished the plot of the film given its inclusion of villains such as Killer Moth, the Electrocutioner and Deadshot (Sunsoft even had to hastily swap the final game’s boss fight against little-known DC baddie Firebug for The Joker, given the already overwhelming amount of disparities between it and the movie), but regardless it was still an excellent official tie-in game and therefore deserves its place on this list.
1. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
The top entry on this list is a game created off the back one of the more forgettable summer blockbusters, with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay blowing its movie counterpart out of the water. Considering that game adaptations are typically known for being more ostentatious than the films they are based upon, Escape From Butcher Bay defied convention by drastically reducing its scale, with it taking place inside the titular Butcher Bay prison rather than the sprawling space setting of The Chronicles of Riddick.
Known for boasting some of the most impressive voice work in any video game, Escape From Butcher Bay recruited video game fan Vin Diesel to reprise the role of Riddick, with its gameplay combining a mixture of first-person shooting and stealth as the player attempts to fight their way out of the hellish correctional facility. With no HUD to speak of, Escape From Butcher Bay tasked players with relying on their wits and visual cues in order to survive, requiring them to make use of the shadows in order to navigate their way around enemies, skulking around the prison’s claustrophobic corridors all rendered with incredible attention to detail, making it one of the best-looking games of its era.
While The Chronicles of Riddick may have been a sub-par sci-fi click that wound up preventing Riddick from becoming the next major movie action hero, Escape From Butcher Bay received many more accolades including both a Golden Joystick Award and a VGA. One of the greatest tie-in games ever, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is also the very best game based on a summer blockbuster… even though the blockbuster in question wasn’t very good.