As a rule, whenever a movie studio releases a tie-in videogame to try and sponge some more money from the cinema-going public, it ends disastrously. The second-hand bins at any local videogame shop are littered with old FIFAs and movie tie-ins. They are so bad, they could even have their own dictionary definition … There are, however, some videogames based on movies that are so wonderful, they obliterate the rule and I’m going to celebrate the best 7 … there are only about ten good ones in total, so this is nearly all of them.
To make this list, the game has to be a direct tie-in to the movie and be released with the same promo and box art, etc. They must also have been released at the same time as the movie, with one exception that we will get onto later.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
For any Harry Potter fanatic (like me … and we prefer the term ‘Pot-Heads’) this game was like every Christmas rolled into one. The Harry Potter movie tie-ins have been a mixed bag, which lost its way during the end of the franchise, however early on the games were excellent. The first three and the fifth were immensely fun for any fan of the films and the books as they managed to squeeze in a tonne of references to the source material … including Peeves! … the games were fun to play, packed with fan-service, and exploring a massive Hogwarts was never not spine-tingling!
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
I spoke about this game before on my list of greatest superhero games, but it works for this list, too. What’s really interesting about this tie-in is that the film it came from was utter rubbish. Seriously one of the very worst super-hero films of all time, and yet for some reason it translated extremely well to consoles. It cleverly avoided following the plot of the film too closely and instead focused on Wolverine eviscerating wave after wave of goons … which is, after all, what Wolvey does best.
- Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005)
I wasted many hours playing this game when I was younger as it wasn’t quite like anything else I’d played before. On some levels, it worked like a survival horror game as you traversed Skull Island with rarely any more than a spear and a gun with a few bullets as giant creepy crawlies and dinosaurs threatened to have you for brunch. Because many of the monsters were too big a match for you, you’d need to find other ways to lure them away. You could burn the surrounding bush to scare them off, or catch a smaller dinosaur on the end of your spear and then use it as bait. This game had truly innovative gameplay and I think the movie tie-in label held it back. This game would be considered a classic, if it wasn’t attached to a disappointing (although still good) movie.
- Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
What a game! My brother and I wasted many, many hours playing this game (I’ve been known to crack it out still, every now and then) as we hacked and slashed our way through orcs, Uruk-Hai, Haradrim, ghost zombie things … and a myriad of other Tolkien nasties. Ostensibly, the game was little more than hacking away at hordes of enemies until they stopped coming, but when the game mechanics where this much fun and the game allowed you to play as nearly any of the major characters from the films, you really didn’t care that there wasn’t much else to the game. If you defeated the game, you were allowed to replay any level, as any character, which meant you could easily take on Shelob as Gandalf, or Aragorn … of if you were feeling whimsical: Pippin.
- The Warriors (2005)
This is the odd one out entry as The Warriors movie came out 1979, however the game came out 26 years later. It earns a place on this list, however, because it was still a movie tie-in (with the same promo art and voice actors as the film), it just wasn’t released near the movie … but what a game it is. The game loosely followed the plot of the film and had you engaging in large scale, beat-em-up gang fights like the movie, although there were other sections, as well, like chases, graffiti, and car-jacking. It was also made by rock star, so what more do you need to know?
- Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Another game I spoke about in the list that dealt with the best superhero games, Spider-Man 2 redefined the superhero video-game genre as it was actually really good, whereas a lot of superhero games of the time were a tad crap. The game also innovated on its sandbox genre, allowing us to take Spidey around an explorable New York. The elements of this game can be found in other, later superhero classics, like Arkham City and InFamous. The Spider-Man films redefined the superhero movie genre and the games did the same for their respective field.
- Goldeneye (1997)
And another game I spoke about before! I placed Goldeneye on my list of best first-person shooters of all time, and here it is sitting atop my list for best movie tie-ins … perhaps, it’s just a really good f**king game! Anyone who had a N64 played this game to death, I can promise you that. It doesn’t matter whether you didn’t even like James Bond, this game, along with Pokémon almost defined the last few years of the 20th Century for anyone of the right age. It blended fantastic (for its time) gunplay with an exciting Bond story we’ve all come to love. What really marks this as a classic, however, is that it was really the first time that people realised that first-person shooters would work on consoles, which spawned the highest selling genre on the format to this day.
There was clearly a 12-year period where movie videogame tie-ins seemed to work, because Christ knows there hasn’t really been anything before or since. If you disagree and think the Iron Man game is a classic, then let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog