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20 games not quite based on movies

15. Battletoads = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

When archaeologists dig up the stuff kids were into in the late ’80s/early ’90s, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll make of it. We’re referring, of course, to the period during which everything for the hip ‘n’ funky pre-teen was obliged to feature mutant animals, preferably of the amphibious and/or reptilian genus.

Now, we are well aware that the ’Toads were intended as a funky-fresh parody of Turtlemania. But if you make a game with characters called Zitz, Rash and Pimple, who battle evil pigs from Planet Ragnarok, you damn well better make it rubbish. Because if it happens to go down as one of the most badass challenges of its era, people are going to look back in 18 years and wonder what the hell you were on about.

16. Contra = Predator

Released within months of each other, Konami made the most of the similarities to Predator when marketing Contra. Promotional art depicts the characters resembling Schwarzenegger and Rambo star Sylvester Stallone; the NES version even places the action in Predator’s South American jungles.

Just as Predator progressed from guerrilla shenanigans to sci-fi laser battles, Contra ended up in the bowels of a freaky-deaky alien biofortress. But while Contra was followed by such sequels as Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra 4, Predator fans had to make do with the decidedly patchy Predator 2 and AvP. Boo.

17. Donkey Kong = King Kong

History is unclear as to how Shigeru Miyamoto wound up with his mischievous monkey’s manky moniker: a mishearing of “Monkey Kong”? Japlish for “stubborn gorilla?” A botched translation from Japanese slang to dodge American copyright? We just don’t know.

However, the similarities between Kongs Donkey and King is on record. Miyamoto stated the game was influenced by King Kong, among other tales, and in fact the game brought a lawsuit from Universal Studios (which Nintendo won by proving that Universal had no claim to the public-domain Kong). Where Donkey Kong differs, of course, is its star – Mario went on to become as iconic as any character in King Kong, including the big ape himself.

18. Sly Spy = James Bond

While 1989 saw Timothy Dalton’s attempts at reinvigorating the James Bond movie franchise faltering, Data East wisely sidestepped the thorny “who’s the best Bond?” discussion by amalgamating them to create Sly Spy.

Above: Yes, we had to settle on Roger Moore for the pic. We mean no disrespect to Connery devotees

Sly Spy had the toughness of Connery, the face of the one-shot Lazenby, and the natty dress sense of Moore. He also picked up lawyer-bait powerups like the “Golden Gun,” and fought favorite Bond baddies Jaws and Oddjob. And yet James Bond continues to draw the crowds, while Sly Spy will only ever be played by people who meant to pick up the game about that light-fingered racoon.

19. Smash TV = The Running Man

The basic idea of The Running Man – men forced to hunt and kill each other in the name of entertainment – is perfect videogame fodder. While games like Manhunt would revisit the idea, Smash TV had already distilled the formula into twitch-gaming bliss.

The killer-game-show formula lends itself readily to wiseass commercial commentary, but both The Running Man and Smash TV go light on the postmodern snark; if that’s your bag, try the original Stephen King story. But be warned, it contains a disappointing lack of double-point bonus rounds.

20. Tomb Raider = Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Lara Croft/Indiana Jones similarity is openly admitted by Toby Gard, the Core Design staffer commonly credited with creating the character. You might say the biggest difference between the two – joke approaching! – boils down to not one but two things.

Above: HA HA HA

Besides borrowing plenty of the lead character’s attitude, Tomb Raider recreates the Indy films’ rugged, swashbuckling take on archaeology, nefarious baddies and high-stakes treasure-hunting. Not to mention the diminishing returns on the sequels.

Apr 23, 2010

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