Video games based on 80s movies are seeing a resurgence of late with the announcement of RoboCop and Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game. Other releases have also capitalized on 80s movies including Predator: Hunting Grounds and Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Whilst the quality of these games is questionable, they have also been praised for staying faithful to the source material.
Video game movie tie-ins have a reputation for being notoriously bad. Most people have heard of the catastrophic events following the release of E.T. The Extra-terrestrial in 1982, and the damage it caused to Atari and the video game industry. However, there are some great examples of when developers get it right, creating a game that is faithful to the movie, and also a joy to play. This list will celebrate the cream of the crop and the best video games based on 80s movies.
There is no disputing that Konami was one of the leading arcade developers in the 80s and 90s. They produced hit after hit with titles such as The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and X-Men which were all extremely profitable and adored by fans.
There have been plenty of video games based on the Aliens franchise, but the arcade game developed by Konami stands out. Players control Ellen Ripley and Corporal Hicks as they fight their way to a climactic showdown against the Alien Queen. The game featured fast-paced action and was as badass as the 1986 movie!
Truth be told there were plenty of decent games based on Tim Burton’s blockbuster from 1989. The NES, Sega Genesi,s and Gameboy all had respectable versions of Batman, but arguably one of the best versions appeared on the Commodore Amiga.
Batman the game follows the plot of the movie and has plenty of variety, including platforming, a puzzle level, and the chance to drive the Batmobile and fly the Batwing. Batman was sold as part of a bundle that included other games and a Commodore Amiga. It was known as the ‘Batpack’ and was extremely successful in helping Commodore sell thousands more computers.
8 Die Hard Trilogy
There have been a few games based on the 1988 hit movie Die Hard, which stars Bruce Willis. Special mention should be made to Die Hard Arcade for its over-the-top beat ’em-up action. However, the definitive Die Hard game must be Die Hard Trilogy. Each movie is featured in this package with different gameplay adding plenty of variety for the player.
The first game, Die Hard is a 3rd person shooter which follows John McClane as he battles terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza. The second game takes inspiration from Die Hard 2: Die Harder and is a light gun game, and the third is a driving game taken from scenes in Die Hard With A Vengeance where McClane drives a taxi and must stop bombs from detonating. Value for money is the key phrase that comes to mind with Die Hard Trilogy, with three great games included for the price of one.
7 Kung Fu Master
Believe it or not, Kung Fu Master is loosely based on the 1984 Jackie Chan movie Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels was released as Spartan X in Japan, and so was the video game which was later renamed Kung Fu Master for western audiences.
Wheels on Meals is rightly praised for its mixture of superb martial arts action and comedy displayed by its stars, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao. The fight between Chan and Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez is arguably one of the greatest fights ever committed to screen! Kung Fu Master is an early, but excellent beat ‘em up which is still extremely fun and playable today.
Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent classic RoboCop received some fantastic video game conversions across the arcade and home computers. It’s difficult to pick the best of the bunch as although they are fundamentally the same game with a run-and-gun style, each version has subtle differences. The arcade stands out because of its bright colorful graphics, sampled speech, and sound effects used in the movie.
The Commodore Amiga has all of those but also features a mini-game identikit level which was seen in the movie where Alex Murphy tries to identify his killers. The ZX Spectrum has this but also features a first-person level where RoboCop must shoot a criminal who is holding a hostage. All are superb games and deserve to be sought out by fans of the movie.
5 Super Empire Strikes Back & Super Return Of The Jedi
There have been dozens of Star Wars games over the years, with the Super Star Wars trilogy being some of the best to appear on the console. Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return Of The Jedi gave the player the chance to control their favorite characters as they played through levels taken from the movies.
As well as the run and gun action, there were also levels included that were made famous from the movies, including the Snowspeeder battle on Hoth. These sections took advantage of the Mode 7 graphics from the SNES. These games are extremely difficult, but they also captured the tone and atmosphere of the movies with incredible recreations of the famous John Williams score, as well as superb graphics.
4 Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures
LucasArts Games developed and published some incredible games in the 80s and 90s. The Secret of Monkey Island, Star Wars: X-Wing, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors, are just a few in a resume filled with hit after hit. Their 90s console games (particularly on the SNES) were rightly praised for having awesome music and incredible graphics.
Carrying on with the successful formula LucasArts Games used in the Super Star Wars games, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures gives the player the chance to experience the thrills and spills from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade.
3 Mad Max
Although the original Mad Max was released in 1979 and hinted at a world heading towards ruination, it wasn’t until the sequels The Road Warrior (1981), and Beyond Thunderdome (1985) that audiences saw the full extent of a post-apocalyptic dystopian future.
Even though the 2015 video game Mad Max isn’t directly connected to the original movies, Avalanche Studios did a wonderful job of bringing the dangerous world inhabited by Max Rockatansky to life. Mad Max featured a vast open world that could be explored by vehicle or on foot. The vehicular and hand-to-hand combat felt satisfying and helped immerse the player in an environment where death could come at every turn.
2 Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
The ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson has some history with video games and particularly seemed to have a special relationship with Sega. Appearing in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing Round 2, and both Space Channel 5 games, there were also video games based on the 1988 movie, Moonwalker. There were two versions of Moonwalker released by Sega with one appearing in the arcade, and the other released on Sega Genesis.
The arcade version is an isometric style beat ‘em up whereas the Genesis is a side-scrolling platformer similar to other Sega games such as Shinobi. Although the games are very different, they both share one thing in common. They both have incredible music featuring classic songs Bad and Beat It.
1 The Punisher
It’s fair to say the tales of Frank Castle (AKA The Punisher) haven’t been the easiest to translate to the big (and small) screen. A violent anti-hero whose family were murdered doesn’t necessarily fit in with the mainstream audiences that Marvel target. The first movie incarnation of The Punisher came in 1989 starring Dolph Lundgren. Although the movie didn’t perform well financially, it received praise for its dark and violent tone which is associated with the character.
Despite the arcade version of The Punisher not being based on the 1989 movie, it is one of the best games based on the license! Capcom were masters of making side-scrolling beat ‘em ups with classics including Final Fight and Captain Commando. Bringing The Punisher to life was a no-brainer and is often remembered for its non-stop violent gameplay. It’s just a shame the arcade game wasn’t included in the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle.