Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the titles on this list.
Gone are the days when your run-of-the-mill popcorn flick came with a video game adaptation. Why? Well, the truth is that many of those games were mediocre or just outright bad, and after a while the entire film tie-in sub-genre became tainted. Gamers weren’t as interested, and at the same time, studios and publishers were able to make more money developing their own franchises instead of sharing the proceeds from a licensed title. There are still tie-ins from time to time, but not to the same extent there were a few short years ago.
Today, there are a few remaining film franchises that produce video games, but more often than not they’re not direct film adaptations. Instead we see titles like Alien Isolation, which is set in the world of the 1979 film Alien, but isn’t a direct adaptation of any of the films. There are also games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which I recently played through. Jedi: Fallen Order likewise uses Star Wars’ setting but tells an original story.
It’s a shame, because over the years there have been some outstanding video game adaptations of films. I talked about this a little while ago when I put together a list of titles that I’d love to see remastered, but the adaptation of Star Trek: Generations is up there as one of my all-time favourite games.
With all that in mind, here are ten films that I’d love to see adapted as a video game. The usual disclaimer applies: these are not titles that I’m saying will ever be adapted, just titles that I feel could be fun to play through – provided the game was good (and had a suitably high budget!)
Number 1: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Out of all the Star Trek films, First Contact’s relatively action-heavy nature could make for an inspired first-person shooter. The narrow hallways of the Enterprise-E and the menacing threat of the Borg would make for a terrifying combination, and this could even be a game which veers close to the horror genre if developers chose to go down that route. As I said when I wrote about the Borg a little while ago, out of all of Star Trek’s villains, they’re the ones best-suited to a crossover into horror.
There are several ways this could go, including a multiple-protagonist approach which would see players take on the roles of several of the main cast. Or alternatively, the player character could be a nondescript security officer tasked with retaking the lower decks of the Enterprise-E.
First Contact isn’t exclusively a Borg story, though, and the game could be split into different chapters which would include slower-paced missions set on Earth, repairing the Phoenix and preparing for humanity’s first warp flight.
Number 2: Commando (1985)
By coincidence, a video game sharing the title of this action flick was released the same year as the film, and some people still think the game is supposed to be an adaptation – but it’s not! Commando has garnered a cult following that arguably exceeds its status as a competent but otherwise unremarkable title. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a typical “Arnie” performance, and the story is suitably over-the-top.
But I bet players would love stepping into the shoes of Colonel John Matrix and just going postal on wave after wave of kidnappers, terrorists, mercenaries, and all manner of typical eighties action film baddies! This one wouldn’t need to be a massively high-budget production to be successful; any mid-tier action/shooter could be redressed in the style of Commando and be a success. It would work as either a first- or third-person title.
Number 3: Any of the recent Marvel titles
A couple of the earlier films in the MCU received proper video game adaptations, and a couple of others got mobile game tie-ins, but there hasn’t been a major game in the series since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. The new Marvel’s Avengers video game is plagued with issues, and one of the strangest for me is that it didn’t license any of the actors’ likenesses. I’ve heard the game described as feeling like “a cheap knock-off” of the films as a result.
I’m not the biggest fan of Marvel or of comic book films in general, but even I have to admit that they’re big business right now, and should be ideally suited to a proper video game adaptation. Realistically any of the films could work, but what might be even better is a game that lets gamers play through the events of multiple films, perhaps those leading up to Avengers Infinity War and Endgame.
Number 4: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930/1979)
This is really just an excuse to talk about the lack of First World War titles! However, both the original 1930 version and the 1979 remake of All Quiet on the Western Front are great films with strong characters and an emotional story that could be adapted to make a fascinating game.
When looking at war stories, in some respects the “obvious” choice is a first-person shooter – in the vein of Battlefield One, one of the rare shooters to use a First World War setting. But for All Quiet on the Western Front, a real-time tactics game akin to the recent Broken Lines could be great too – that format can work well to tell stories that rely on multiple playable protagonists.
Since Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 – which was a game that led directly to the creation of the first Doom a year later – many war games have used World War II as a setting. There’s nothing wrong with that (though the World War II shooter definitely became stale by the mid-2000s) but the First World War makes for a fascinating, underused setting.
Number 5: Moana (2016)
Disney was one of the last companies to give up on tie-in games, and because their films are aimed at kids, it makes a certain kind of sense that they’d feel able to churn out a basic but playable title to accompany big releases. However, by the time of Moana’s 2016 release even Disney wasn’t interested in tie-ins, and while a free mobile game was cobbled together it’s no substitute for a proper video game adaptation.
Moana’s adventure narrative perfectly suits an action/adventure title, as she travels from island to island on her boat to save her people. A 3D platformer with puzzle elements would also work, in the vein of a classic title like Banjo-Kazooie. The world of Moana offers a lot of different environments, including different islands and the realm of monsters, meaning a good variety of levels should be available.
Number 6: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
Based on an earlier television special, The Quatermass Xperiment is a fascinating example of mid-century horror/sci-fi, and features a plot in which an alien organism infects an astronaut. The infected man escapes, and the titular Professor Quatermass must work to find him before it’s too late. This setup would make for an exciting horror/adventure title, in which players would not only have to track down the mutating monster, but would have to find clues to figure out what’s happening and what to do about it.
The original film was in black-and-white, and I love the idea of having both a colour and monochrome version of the game to allow players to choose what kind of experience they want to have. I’m not the biggest fan of black-and-white in a general sense, but in some properties it works very well, and it’s something that has only ever been attempted in a handful of modern games.
Number 7: Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Recent titles like this year’s comic Maneater demonstrate that there’s still a market for shark-horror games, and 1999’s Deep Blue Sea is one of the better shark films of recent years. A game adaptation would be a marriage made in heaven then, surely?
If you’ve played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, you may remember an underwater base on the ocean planet Manaan that served as one of the game’s levels. It was creepy and claustrophobic as players had to contend with not only the wildlife outside, but flooded sections and crazy inhabitants of the base. Deep Blue Sea, being set on an underwater facility, lends itself to that kind of gameplay too, and players could navigate the base and the waters outside while trying to fend off the hungry, overly-aggressive sharks.
Number 8: Star Trek II, III, and IV (1982-86)
The Wrath of Khan remains for many Trekkies the high-water mark of both the Star Trek film series and of all stories featuring The Original Series’ cast. It also formed the first part of a trilogy of films that told one expanded story, and in many ways, a game that only adapted The Wrath of Khan would be leaving out the rest of that story.
The Wrath of Khan would obviously be the best and most exciting part, and could feature the Battle of the Mutara Nebula as its climactic boss fight. Ship-to-ship combat has been tried in a number of Star Trek games, and in my opinion getting this aspect of the game right would be the biggest challenge – but one that would have the biggest payoff if it was successful.
The Search for Spock could have levels including stealing the Enterprise, which could make for a fun stealth section, as well as sabotaging the USS Excelsior, and The Voyage Home would not only let players pilot a Kingon Bird-of-Prey but would also feature a fun and nostalgic ’80s setting. I love this idea, and producing a fun adventure title from this trilogy would be amazing.
Number 9: Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet is an absolute classic of the science fiction genre, and arguably inspired franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars to a degree. The fictional world it created, with the planet Altair IV and the starship C-57D has never been revisited – though the film has been referenced and paid homage to many times.
This is one film where the plot could be directly adapted, but also we could see a broader game world based on the setting that it created. When you consider the success of the Fallout franchise with its ’50s-esque retro-futuristic aesthetic, there’s clearly a market for the visual style of Forbidden Planet in the gaming realm.
Number 10: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
James Bond films tend to have stories that are well-suited to a stealth/action title. The Nintendo 64 game Goldeneye is a classic example of how Bond can work as a video game. While other attempts to make Bond games have been overshadowed by Goldeneye in some respects, there are several creditable titles that have been released.
For Your Eyes Only might be my favourite Bond film – though there’s certainly room for others, like License to Kill! The storyline is a Bond classic – the secret agent must retrieve a stolen piece of technology that could fall into enemy hands. Roger Moore’s Bond visits a number of exotic locales, gets to drive some classic cars, and of course has an array of fancy gadgets at his disposal. All of which would make for an exciting and fun video game!
So that’s it. Ten films which probably don’t need a video game adaptation – but could absolutely be given one regardless! In a way I can understand why the tie-in video game has disappeared, and while many players won’t be terribly upset or won’t care, there are many recent titles which, had they been released fifteen years earlier, could have been accompanied by a solid video game.
The titles I’ve put on this list are from a variety of eras, including some from well before video games existed! But as we continue to see with titles like Friday the 13th and the aforementioned Alien Isolation, going back to older films isn’t something game developers should be afraid of. Trying to make an unabashed classic into a modern game may draw criticism from some quarters, but if the game is good when it ultimately releases, practically all of that criticism will melt away and the game will find an audience.
This list was just for fun, and to give a few examples of titles that could – but almost certainly won’t – be made into video games.
All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio and/or distributor. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.