Top 10 Unlikely Movie Games

by Jeff Marchiafava on May 03, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Making a video game based on a movie is a tricky business. Even films that you think would be perfect for a video game adaptation - like, say, RoboCop or The Matrix - can turn into unmitigated disasters. But this isn't a list of great films that resulted in disappointing video games. These are 10 movie-based games we're surprised someone was crazy enough to attempt in the first place.

If you're a regular reader of the site, you probably already know all about Beastly. This modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast follows the romantic entanglement of two high school students played by Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer. I have no idea who those people are, probably because I've already gone through puberty.

Anyway, the guy suffers from nonsensical disfigurements and face tattoos, which I'm guessing were caused by a witch's spell because he was a jerk or something. The rest of the movie is about the two teenagers overcoming their prejudices and realizing that real beauty is on the inside - the perfect premise for a video game.

How did the video game turn out? I could try to explain it...or you can watch Reiner and Phil play through the entire game in 70 minutes. Yikes.


White Men Can't Jump
This comedy/drama from the early '90s focuses on the evolving relationship between white college basketball player-turned hustler Billy Hoyle (played by Woody Harrelson), and black streetballer-turned partner Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes). As the unlikely duo team up to hustle unsuspecting players and ultimately run afoul of mobsters, they overcome their racial differences and forge a lasting friendship.

How did the Jaguar game based on the film capture the intricacies of the plot and characters? It didn't. Instead, High Voltage Software threw everything but the title out the window and delivered shoddy 2-on-2 basketball. At least the game delivered a comparable amount of laughs - though most of them resulted from how bad the game was.


Frank Herbert's award-winning sci-fi novel received a surreal film adaptation thanks its director and screen writer, David Lynch. Although the game is mainly based on the novel, it contained footage from the movie, as well as voice acting - a rare feat for games of the era. These innovations didn't make the basic premise of the story - a political conflict over a spice mining operation on planet Arrakis - seem any more conducive to a video game. Although Dune received mixed reviews from critics, future RTS games based on the series fared much better. The only thing I remember from the movie is that Kyle MacLachlan could use his voice as a weapon, which seemed pretty ridiculous at the time, but Bethesda thinks it's cool, so what the heck do I know.

The Untouchables
I don't know about you, but when I think of potential subjects for great video games, the first thing that comes to mind is Prohibition. Ocean Software took Brian De Palma's gritty depiction of the bootlegging racket of the 1920s and turned it into a cartoony side-scrolling shooter. Despite boiling down the movie into a series of drawn out shooting sequences, the game's ending retains some semblance of historical accuracy, with Al Capone being sentenced to 10 years in prison for tax evasion. Prohibition and tax evasion? Exciting stuff.

Bram Stoker's Dracula
The Castlevania series has proven that slaying vampires is a popular premise for video games. But making a kid-friendly game based on Francis Ford Coppola's disturbingly violent movie adaptation of a 100+ year-old literary work seems like more of a burden than starting from scratch. The worst part about this video game adaptation is that it actually could have been good as an adventure game, given the deduction-based puzzles found in the book (for more thoughts on what could have been, check out Tim Turi's blog). Instead the game plays like a cheesy Castlevania ripoff, with you slashing your way through an endless stream of cellar rodents, flying bats, and nonsensical boss fights.

The Godfather: The Game
The Godfather didn't make this list because it's a bad idea per se - we're just surprised Electronic Arts managed to get everyone on board to make it happen. Not only did EA score the rights to make a game based on the film (without the knowledge of Francis Ford Coppola, who later denounced the project), but James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Abe Vigoda all provided voice acting and their likenesses for the project. Marlon Brando also appears in the game, though due to his failing health the dialogue he recorded was scrapped for an imitator. Al Pacino is the only main cast member missing, thanks to an exclusivity contract he signed for Scarface. Not the best decision Pacino has ever made.


Little Nicky
Holy crap. We don't even know how Adam Sandler got the go-ahead to make Little Nicky the movie - who actually thought making a Game Boy Color title based on this flop was a good idea? The only scenario I can imagine that would result in this game getting made is if someone actually convinced Satan's emo son to use his demonic brainwashing powers on whomever greenlights projects at Ubisoft.

The Blues Brothers
Considering the other titles on this list, we're not actually surprised that someone would make a video game based on a musical comedy based on a blues band that derived from an SNL skit. The Blues Brothers video game came out in 1991, just 11 short years after the movie it was based on, proving there's no expiration date on a bad idea. The Blues Brother looks a lot like Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers, only instead of dodging robotic dogs, you bludgeon old ladies and police officers with crates. As if that wasn't bad enough, developer Titus Software felt compelled to make another Blues Brothers game based on the movie sequel, Blues Brothers 2000. It also wasn't good.

The Lawnmower Man
The Lawnmower Man
was a psychedelic film about a scientist (Pierce Brosnan) who turns his mentally handicapped gardener into a genius via an experimental virtual reality program. Eventually the gardener gains super human powers, drives his hot neighbor insane with terrifying cyber sex, and kills a priest. A video game adaptation was inevitable.

There are two versions of The Lawnmower Man video game. The PC and Sega CD version of the game is an interactive movie based on the CG sequences from the movie, which were revolutionary at the time and hilariously bad nowadays (they were also made by Angel Studios, now known as Rockstar San Diego). The SNES, Sega Genesis, and Game Boy versions of the game are side-scrolling shooters which, as you can probably guess, take some serious liberties with the source material.  

No Escape
I recently stumbled upon this 1994 sci-fi film on Netflix's Instant View. It stars Ray Liotta, Kevin Dillon, and Winston from Ghostbusters (Ernie Hudson). The movie takes place on a prison island in 2022, and is kind of a mix between Escape from Alcatraz and Lord of the Flies. No Escape received the typical side-scrolling shooter treatment on the SNES and Genesis, and although I kind of enjoyed the film for its melodrama and action sequences, I have a hard time believing someone was so passionate about it that they made it into a video game. Despite the lackluster reception, No Escape was worth it just for this awesome rendition of Ernie Hudson:

Ernie Hudson knows you can't use feathers to defend yourself from outsiders!

Honorable Mention: Street Fighter: The Movie
Street Fighter was such a great video game series that Universal made it into a movie. But what kind of nutjob had the idea to make a video game based on the movie, that's based on the video game?! I think that's what the old monkey from The Lion King was singing about in that "Circle of Life" song. Perhaps a more apt cartoon comparison would be Talespin, since that's what this cyclical nightmare was stuck in, with each iteration sucking worse than the one before it. Still, none of them were as bad as Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

Did we forget about a surprising movie game? Share it in the comments below.