They say you shouldn’t beat a dead horse. Well, someone should tell that to whoever licenses out the rights for movies to be made into video games. In the 1980s, video games were becoming a ubiquitous part of home entertainment. Because of this, movies were rapidly gaining more and more video game tie-ins. Was it a cash grab? Sure, it always has been and always will be, but some of these games have left a cultural imprint.
Though it may not always be for the right reasons, there are many memorable video games based on movies. Giving film fans the chance to fill the shoes of their favorite characters if just for a few hours. We can imagine that to be an intoxicating scenario. However, most of these games were rushed to finish and don’t hold up any more than a Pez dispenser from the time. Without further ado, here are the 20 strangest video game adaptations of famous movies.
20 Back to the Future
One of the most beloved film series in movie history deserves a video game of similar stature, no? Apparently not, Back to the Future had a videogame adaptation for the Nintendo Entertainment System which came out in 1989. That’s four whole years after the original movie premiered, you’d think that would be plenty of time to produce a game adaptation that holds a candle to the source material. Yet, the Back to the Future video game is barely even recognizable as such if it weren’t for the cover art, title screen and world map labeled “Hill Valley”.
The object of the game is to collect clocks so that time doesn’t run out as you’re walking up the street. It is more reflective of any random arcade cabinet from the era than it is anything to do with the plot of Back to the Future. Forget about any 8-bit version of “Power of Love”, this game has a very short musical loop that plays on repeat, making it all the more grating to play. The closest this game gets to the film is a segment in a 50s style diner.
19 Bee Movie
Bee Movie is strange enough without mid 2000s video game graphics, this adaptation is faithful to the source material but takes the story of Barry B. Benson to another level. While the game does a great job of retelling the events of the film, it also contains extra, inconsequential plot points to extend gameplay. Players can control Barry’s character as he drives through the hive, flies through the city streets, and takes on all the human adversaries from the movie.
The game is fully voice acted by Jerry Seinfeld as well as most of the original voice cast from the film. Though, at times it seems like sound bites from the movie were directly re-purposed for the game rather than re-recorded. The graphics of the game do a good job depicting the DreamWorks animated characters yet are just a cut below which makes the whole game funny to experience from the get-go.
18 The Karate Kid
A video game adaptation ubiquitously hated by even the biggest fans of the film, Karate Kid has one of the most painstaking video game adaptations ever. The first level takes place at the martial arts tournament and is deceptively easy. What follows is a side scrolling mess that is designed against the player. Video games in the 80s were a lot more difficult since they were designed to farm coins from arcade goers. That trait unfortunately stuck around in the early stages of home consoles and Karate Kid is a perfect example.
You play as Daniel-San, punching and kicking your way across the screen as you must avoid all sorts of obstacles, pitfalls, and enemy fighters. The stage design somewhat resembles the film, as we can make out the palm trees and seagulls of southern California in the 8-bit graphics. The consensus among those who have beaten this game is that it is not worth the time and effort. The parts which are most like the film include a segment catching flies with chopsticks and a wink from Mr. Miyagi if you should complete all four levels.
17 Shrek: Fairy Tale Freakdown
As the title suggests, this video game adaptation of the original Shrek is a parody of WWE’s Smackdown. Despite this, the game is more similar to a tournament fighter like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat than it is to any wrestling game. It has nothing to do with the plot of Shrek but is a good attempt at a game using the visage of our Ogrelord and some of his companions. However, the graphical limitations of the Game Boy Color lead to some hilarious interpretations of the beloved DreamWorks characters. Take for example the title screen: Shrek with a knight in a headlock.
16 Wayne’s World
Excellent! … is not a word we can use to describe the Wayne’s World adaptation for Super Nintendo. For one of the most culturally significant films of the 90s it is hard to believe there wasn’t more effort put into making a good video game. What we got was a basic platformer that’s all around as goofy as the film. However, the level design reflects nothing seen in the original motion picture. Wayne must platform through guitar stores, donut shops, bars, and floating suburban neighborhoods.
The aesthetic is peculiar throughout; Wayne has a bobble head and shoots sound waves from his guitar at anthropomorphic enemies pertaining to each level. After fighting a giant donut monster in the second level, he must face none other than Elvis Presley at the end of the third. Wayne seems out of place everywhere since the design of the game is grounded neither in the film nor reality.
One of the best movies ever made by one of the best directors (Stephen Spielberg)… has an extremely poor video game adaptation. Jaws was unfortunately adapted to the Nintendo Entertainment System and suffers from slow paced and repetitive gameplay.
Players control a sailboat and get drawn into random encounters at sea. Then, the player can scuba dive to fight sea creatures. It is a long erroneous slog to leveling up enough to be able to fight Jaws. In the end, the famous shark is stabbed with the front of the boat and the game ends right there.
14 Where the Wild Things Are
The video game adaptation for Where the Wild Things Are is a faithful retelling of the story with extra material to extend play time. Still, the game takes only about 5 hours to complete, making it rather short when compared to the average game from 2010. Max and the Wild Things appear well-designed, however the world they inhabit is rather stale and empty. The game borrows elements from any other adventure game and is a decent 3D adventure for children.
13 Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The beloved live action – cartoon hybrid film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? blends the cast into a fully digital format for its lackluster video game adaptation. Players control the character of private-eye Eddie Valiant. Following along with the original plot, the goal is to look for clues to the mystery throughout locations from the film. There is an over world to drive through, but the controls are nearly impossible to operate. Judge Doom is such an infallible final boss that most players have never seen the end screen.
12 White Man Can’t Jump
White Man Can’t Jump is a total classic in the genre of sports comedy. Starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, the film is aging like wine as a social commentary that was early to the party to talk about race relations in marginalized communities. Despite its social significance, the film ironically heralded a transient yet forgotten basketball game on the forgotten Atari Jaguar console.
Somewhere between the transition from 2D sprites to less polygonal 3D models, the White Man Can’t Jump Basketball game exists, and it’s up to four players. Although that may sound great, the limited 3D spaces don’t work too well as a fast-paced sports game since the camera is always twitching about trying to keep up with the movement. White Man Can’t Jump is receiving a reboot sometime this year, perhaps we’ll receive an updated video game as well.
Adored by audiences of all ages, Elf starring Will Ferrell is a Holiday comedy that proves to stand the test of time year after year. Its light yet extravagantly fun humor especially resonated with children, making it the perfect candidate for a film worthy of adapting to Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance.
The game directly follows the story of the film as players control Buddy on his adventure from Santa’s Workshop to NYC. The play style cleverly changes with the action of the narrative. If Buddy is traveling, the game is a platformer. If he is throwing snowballs, it’s a shooting range game. There is even a game mode dedicated to the infamous elevator button scene from the film.
10 Give My Regards to Broad Street
Give My Regards to Broad Street is a film written by and starring Paul McCartney as himself. While he remains a legendary musician, this film did nothing to advance his film career. The film revolves around McCartney attempting to recover some lost demo tapes in order to put a record together. It received poor reviews overall but serves as a cult classic for the truest of Beatles fans.
A video game adaptation was made for the Commodore 64 which follows the plot of the movie, but you would never know it. The game allows the player to control a car, driving Paul around the city to pick up his band mates. All the while set to a chip tune version of “Band on the Run”. If it weren’t for Paul McCartney’s namesake, there’d be no reason to mention this mild, uneventful game.
9 Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
Based on the movie Michael Jackson Moonwalker and the subsequent arcade cabinet of the same name, this was one of the first video games made for the Sega Genesis. Players take control of Michael Jackson as he moonwalks through each level, fighting bad guys and rescuing children. Chip tune versions of Michael Jackson’s music plays in the background all throughout, making this a quintessential piece of 80s media.
Being a typical beat em up/ platformer game, the only thing that makes it special is the presence of Michael Jackson and his music. The fighting moves are reminiscent of all his real life dance moves. One ultimate attack features Michael coaxing every enemy on screen to join him in a dance to one of his songs, which can change depending on the level. Occasionally a shooting star will go across the stage. If Michael interacts with it, he is transformed into a mech suit and attains temporary invincibility… unexpected yet fitting for a video game starring the King of Pop.
8 The Godfather
Loosely based on the events of The Godfather, The Godfather: Don’s edition is a videogame adaptation of the renown Martin Scorsese mob classics. The gameplay mimics games like Grand Theft Auto which involve free roam driving and initiating combat with NPCs. Players take control of a fully customizable character who is the son of someone Don Corleone murders in the beginning of the game. Dialogue in the game is fully voice acted by some of the original cast including Marlon Brando.
7 The Cat in the Hat
Already strange enough, Cat in the Hat starring Michael Myers has a video game adaptation that resembles a fever dream even more than it’s motion picture predecessor. The polygonal graphics make for hypnotic environments with eerie looking creatures to inhabit them. It was already odd to see Suessian creatures and architecture translated into live-action, turning that into a game with PS2 era graphics makes it all the more off-putting.
There is a scene in the beginning of the film where Cat jump scares the kids. The suspense and discomfort of that scene is present throughout this entire game. It suffers from sparse repetitive music and poorly dubbed voice acting that adds to the eerie environment. Have fun chasing Alec Baldwin around the kid’s house, level to level.
6 Dragonball Evolution
When Dragonball Evolution hit the big screen, fans were disappointed by the lack luster live-action adaptation of their favorite anime. Not falling too far from the tree is the similarly detested video game adaptation of that movie. Both the film and the game garnered harsh reviews that were critical of the finished products. The game is a literal re-skin of the already popular Dragon Ball Budokai games. The only difference is less creative ultimate attacks and unnecessarily long scrolls of text between fights that persist retelling the stale plot of the film.
5 Alice in Wonderland
Aside from the obvious attributes of its psychedelic source material, this Alice in Wonderland video game adaptation is strange for how surprisingly well-made it is. Taking nearly 10 months to make, this game pushed the Game Boy Color to its limits with one of a kind fluid psychedelic animation that was not seen on the system before or after.
Gameplay follows Alice through her adventure in wonderland as seen in the 1940s animated classic though, certain plot points are embellished for the sake of extending the game. Of all the Nintendo games licensed by Disney in the early 2000s, this is one of the best.
4 Mean Girls
Likely the rarest game on the list, the Nintendo DS adaptation of Mean Girls is one of the internet’s greatest mysteries. Very few copies of the game are known to exist and can rarely be found listed online. Developed in a time when Nintendo was trying to market to more girl gamers, this game was first released in Europe to abysmal sales. It is theorized that distribution was canceled after a luke warm European response, so the game was never seen in the Americas. It was also released at the height of Lindsay Lohan’s problematic era, she wasn’t even on the game’s box art.
3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Long before the days of Hogwarts Legacy, there was a first attempt at a 3D Harry Potter game in the form of the PS1 adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The game features a semi traversable Hogwarts and a small list of spells that Harry can use along his journey. It is primarily a 3D adventure game with some sections of difficult platforming. Notably, it is the first video game to feature broomstick flying and Quidditch. A relic by today’s standards that holds up for how good you can tell the intentions were. However, the squished graphics and eerie soundscape make the game genuinely creepy at all the appropriate moments.
2 Ghost Busters
One of the most prized intellectual properties of the 1980s, Ghostbusters was a phenomenon. It must have been exciting for kids in the 80s to hear a Ghostbusters game would be releasing for Nintendo. Unfortunately, what came out was a game that hardly resembled Ghostbusters at all and was nearly impossible to play to completion. Capturing ghosts yields money that players can use to purchase items that make the game easier to play. However, there is a required strategy to purchasing the items that is impossible to know playing the game for the first time around.
The locus of much mystery surrounding the downfall of Atari, the video game adaptation of Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. is considered the worst commercial failure in video game history. The game’s development was rushed to meet holiday deadlines and though it made it to stores in time, critics had a field day tearing the title apart and consumers weren’t happy either. E.T. was too difficult to play, it had no story, the direction was vague. One cool thing it had going for it was a totally randomized level layout for each new playthrough, but even that added to the game’s difficulty. Before Atari threw in the towel, they reportedly dumped 14,000 copies of E.T. into a New Mexico landfill. The truth was uncovered on the topic in the 2014 documentary Atari: Game Over.