20 games not quite based on movies

After pumping goodness knows how much time, energy and capital into their baby, the last thing a developer wants is for it to fade into bargain bins unnoticed. You could tie it to a well-loved motion picture, thus ensuring a pre-existing audience… but what if you can’t afford the license? Then it’s time for what charitable reviewers might call “paying homage!” Here are 20 games that are just really, really big fans of their cinematic cousins… copyright be damned.

1. Rastan = Conan the Barbarian

Rare was the movie from the Golden Age of Schwarzenegger that didn’t lend itself to digital re-interpretation. While Conan, Robert E. Howard’s cult sword-and-sorcery hero, may have ended up starring in games of his own, it’s not hard to see what Taito were watching when they came up with Rastan.

Conan battles snake-cults and stars in sex scenes that never make it into the TV cut. Rastan battles snake-men and is notorious for sneaking nips ‘n’ pubes into aSega Master System manual. Um, cheers for that, Taito?

2. Kane and Lynch: Dead Men = Heat

IO Interactive was up front from the get-go about wanting Kane and Lynch: Dead Men to recreate the mood of Michael Mann’s crime epics, like Heat and Collateral. And that’s exactly what the game did.

While Kane and Lynch may have been somewhatnotoriousfor the controversies attending its release and shortcomings, the game’s story of two uneasily paired guys against the world is classic Mann fare. Here’s hoping the sequel, Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, gets closer to fulfilling that promise.

3. Flashback = Total Recall

Both Flashback and Total Recall took their cues from Philip K. Dick’s surreal short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. But Total Recall at least had the decency to license the tale before turning it into a frantic romp through a world of exploding heads and three-boobed hookers.

Both are tales of interplanetary secret agents turned workaday amnesiac schlubs; both won acclaim for their visual effects and depictions of an alien realm. Both feature more violent deaths than every Philip K. Dick story put together. We knows what we likes.

4. Alien Syndrome = Aliens

1986’s Aliens had every ingredient a hit game needed: memorable characters, nasty monsters, and really, really big guns. And while Konami would produce a well-received arcade title with the license, that game bizarrely turned Ripley into a redhead. Clearly the perfect Aliens game still wanted for making!

Bally/Midway’s Xenophobe recreated the movie’s claustrophobic atmosphere, and Sega’s Alien Storm provided the “Golden Axe in Aliens trousers” experience the world was clamouring for. But it was Sega’s other “Alien” game – Alien Syndrome – that most successfully combined the movie’s key elements: confined environs and ridiculous levels of alien carnage. And no redheads.

5. Dead Rising = Dawn of the Dead

As anyone who’s been stuck at a party with a film studies major can tell you, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is less of a horror and more of a trenchant satire of 20th-century capitalism at its most soulless. Who’d make a game based on such a formula?

Above: Oh, very bloody clever

Dead Rising took more of a cue from Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, ditching the commentary and upping the carnage.

Capcom had already rejected Romero’s attempts to make a Resident Evil movie, calling his ideas “silly.” With Dead Rising, they took the basic, mall-full-of-zombies scenario of Dawn of the Dead, and stripped it of everything not involving the words “corpse” and “explosion.”

6. God of War = Clash of the Titans

Read interviews with the artists for any game featuring scimitar-toting skeletons, and the name “Ray Harryhausen” will come up in the first few paragraphs.

But while games from Killer Instinct to Prince of Persia paid respect to the SFX genius, God of War plays like an interactive trip through Harryhausen’s best-known work: Clash of the Titans’ Kraken and Gorgons, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’s Cyclops… and plenty of Jason and the Argonauts’ gosh-darn skeletons.