Were the 1990s responsible for the truism that there’s never been a decent game based on a movie (or film as us Brits prefer to say). There certainly wasn’t that many great examples, but the Retrobear has dug through them to pull out the best and the worst. Enjoy.

Originally Posted to GameFancier.com on July 23rd 2010

Hudson Hawk (Amiga Screen)

Hudson Hawk (Amiga Screen)

By the 1990′s film companies had begun to see the appeal in licensing their titles and making computer games based on them. They also saw the bottom line readies that could be made from it and thus we entered a period where most of the major film titles of that decade were turned into game equivalents. Matter not that most of them were total shit, think of the money! The computer industry had been whoring itself before, prior to the 1983 crash, now it was the film industry that was turning tricks to maximise profits.

So let’s look at the good and the bad of the 1990′s (Please note – these are based on my own gaming experiences and will not reflect mass opinion in the slightest. If you agree with me be it on your own head) :

The Good

Hudson Hawk (1991, Various) – A rare case of good game, shame about the film. A good, solid and challenging platform game from Ocean and probably the best game featuring Bruce Willis to date.

Alien3 (1991, Various) – A creepy, dark and atmospheric game, with favourable mentions going to the Mega Drive and the hard to find C64 version of the game. As good as it got until Alien Trilogy came along.

Aladdin (1993, Various) – Graphically superb at the time and a very playable game from Disney. It looks like the film and is as good as the film. Disney would go on to repeat the formula with The Lion King, The Jungle Book and errr, Pinocchio.

Toy Story SNES

Toy Story (SNES)

Toy Story (1995, Various) – See above, but a very good game in its own right. Disney got a little lazy with the platform format after The Lion King, but Toy Story was a little different and a cracking game in its own right. Also, graphically excellent for the time.

Die Hard Trilogy (1996, Various) – All 3 films, all done differently and brilliantly. My favourite level has to be Die Hard 2 and the Operation Wolf-style gameplay. Then (and now) officially the best game starring Bruce Willis.

Goldeneye (1997, N64) – Ok so this wasn’t released to tie in with the film, but it re-invented the FPS game to new levels. Not everyone’s cup of tea and some of the controls are a bit iffy when you play it now, but for a long time a benchmark game and a true gaming classic.

Now you might be expecting some sort of “middle ground” list here, as in games that were good but not that good or too bad to be classed as either. The answer to that is yes, there probably were a lot of games like that. However, considering the sheer amount of games produced in that time, I simply haven’t played enough or even believe such a level exists. Therefore the rest of this list is going to be devoted to the bad.

The Bad

Dirty Harry (1990, NES) – Remember that bit in the film were Clint Eastwood battles snakes? No, neither do I, but he does here. Horrible, horrible mess of a game which starts well with some sampled speech then goes rapidly downhill fast. Buy a gun and blow this to smithereens. Or shoot snakes with it.

The Hunt for Red October (1990, Various) – Submarine scrolling shooter. Awful in every respect and you’ll be abandoning ship in no time.

Home Alone/Home Alone 2 (1990/2, SNES) – I can’t think of a word to describe these games. Atrocious in every sense of the word and it’s got Macaulay Culkin in it. Remember that bit where he screams? You’ll hear it every few minutes in this abysmal platform game that should be left well alone.

Fantasia (1991, Mega Drive) – Sega try and cash in on the success of Castle Of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse. They failed to bring in someone to play test the game.

The Last Action Hero (1992, Various) – Widely regarded as a cinematic and gaming turkey. You can’t get past the first screen. Appealing, if you like torture of the very painful nature.

Cliffhanger (1992, Various) – In fact you might as well see the above and chuck in The Lawnmower Man (1993, SNES), because to me they are all the same f**king game – unplayable, messy, cash-in piles of poop which must be flushed away.

You know if I carry on and list the remaining bad games from this decade this column could run and run and run into a number of weeks. More fool us, the gaming public, for parting with our money in return for the lowest common denominator out there – the film tie-in. Seen the film? Then you’ll love the game! Will we? I doubt it, after all most film games follow the same patterns:

  1. Try and create a main character who is a smaller, recognisable(ish) version of the film’s lead.
  2. Turn it into a platform game.
  3. Watch the cash roll in.

Of course with Goldeneye and Die Hard Trilogy we got things a little differently and I always say variation is good for the soul. Is it or was it a lack of imagination? After all they made a driving game version of Days of Thunder. No wait that was both a shit game and film. Well at least that wasn’t turned into a platform game where you had to collect parts of a car.

The bottom line is if it was a game of a film in the 1990′s, it was mostly crap. Nearly all the games, save for the main sprites, backgrounds and tasks, where exactly the same. Back then you were paying up to £40 for a cartridge and £25 for a disc in a huge box. We might pay the same now but we expect more for our money. Back then, we had the carbon copy approach of shoving out a game in the hope that the name on the box would result in the revenue required. How many of these games made money? Plenty probably, but that’s no excuse for lazy programming and a cookie cutter approach to the gaming market.

I need a lie down. Till the next time – Your move, creep.