The Game (1997)
The Players: Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a rich but bored investment banker looking for something to give his life meaning.
The Rules: If the players knew that, there wouldn’t be much point in playing. Actually, if they knew they were playing a game at all there probably wouldn’t be much point.
How To Win: Learn to appreciate your life. And try not to actually kill anyone.
Spy Kids 3D: Game Over
The Players: Juni (Daryl Sabara) and Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega), plus anyone else daft enough to stumble into an unwinnable virtual reality game.
The Rules: There’s only one rule for playing Game Over: win, at all costs. The problem is that Level 5 is specifically designed to be unwinnable; the whole thing is less of a game than a trap created by the evil Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone).
How To Win: You can’t, but you can get someone to just switch it off and escape that way. It’s a kids’ film, so the stakes maybe aren’t as high as they could be.
13 Game Of Death (2006)
The Players: Phuchit Puengnathong (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) has just been fired, dumped, and had his car repossessed, so he’s the perfect candidate for a secret underground game of humiliation – and death.
The Rules: Do as you’re told, and don’t get caught. While the game starts out easy – the first challenge is to kill a fly – it quickly escalates to faeces-eating, assault and murder.
How To Win: Be prepared to do anything, no matter how painful, disgusting, or illegal. And try not to care too much about your friends and family.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
The Players: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes: Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), Roxy Richter (Ma Whitman), Kyle (Shota Saito) and Ken (Keita Saito) Katayanagi, and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).
The Rules: Fight to the death.
How To Win: It’s pretty simple – just beat your opponent. Various power-ups and extra lives are available.
The Players: Kyle (Ethan Embry), Zach (Chance Quinn), Jamie (Cassidy Rae), Ali (Nassira Nicola), Dwight (Tim Griffin) – and Evolver.
The Rules: The game here is basically just laser tag. The twist is that your opponent is a robot that levels up (or ‘evolves’) every time it loses, to make the game harder. And more deadly.
How To Win: It’s probably better to just quit early on, while the robot’s still using non-lethal ammunition.
The Players: Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce), plus Alan Parrish (Robin Williams).
The Rules: Roll the dice, move your token around the board, and the first person to get to the end of the board wins. The hard part starts when you get sucked into the world of the game, where wild animals roam free and even the weather is out to kill you.
How To Win: Just get to the end of the board.
The Players: Eight nameless candidates, all looking for a job.
The Rules: Don’t talk to the invigilator, don’t spoil your paper, and don’t leave the room. Okay, this is technically more of an exam than a game, and it all sounds very straightforward, but pretty much anything can turn deadly if the people involved are desperate enough.
How To Win: Pay attention, stick to the rules, and wait for the clock to count down. Easy.
Ghost Game (2006)
The Players: Eleven reality TV show contestants who are either brave or desperate enough to want to stay overnight in a haunted museum for the chance at winning a cash prize.
The Rules: Stay one night in the former S-11 prison camp, which has since been turned into a war museum. To make that into a game, the TV show’s producers have set a series of traps – and there might be a few ghosts involved, too.
How To Win: Try not to make the ghosts too angry and hope for the best.
The Player: Michael Brower (Edward Furlong) is a horror movie-loving outcast, so when he’s offered a game that involves killing people at the behest of an evil clown, obviously he’s keen to get involved.
The Rules: Work your way through the game by killing people. That’s pretty much it.
How To Win: It’s not really a game you can “win.” Try not to get caught playing it, though.
Kill Theory (2009)
The Players: A group of teenagers – Brent (Teddy Dunn), Amber (Ryanne Duzich), Michael (Patrick Flueger), Jennifer (Agnes Bruckner), Alex (Taryn Manning), Freddy (Daniel Franzese), Carlos (Theo Rossi), Paul (Edwin Hodge) and Riley (Carly Pope) – get together to celebrate their upcoming graduation, but find themselves drawn into a lethal game with a masked madman instead.
The Rules: It’s a pretty straightforward kill-or-be-killed scenario: the teens are told that only one of them can survive, and if they don’t kill one another, the man in the mask will do it for them.
How To Win: Kill your friends. Or you could kill the guy in the mask. You’re probably going to have to kill someone, though.
The Players: Alex Manning (Megan Ward) and other teenagers who hang out at the Dante’s Inferno arcade.
The Rules: The slightly nonsensically named Arcade game is billed as ‘the ultimate video game’; it’s a kind of virtual reality game where players are pitted against a villain, also called Arcade. It’s almost like the writers thought maybe arcade games were dangerous.
How To Win: It’s probably best not to play at all.
The 10th Victim (1965)
The Players: Anyone with violent tendencies who fancies trying to kill people to win fame and fortune, including Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) and Marcello Polletti (Marcello Mastroianni).
The Rules: The Big Hunt is, as the name suggests, a hunting game. Players are matched up in hunter/victim pairs, and the winner of each round goes onto the next.
How To Win: You’ll need to get through ten rounds to win: five as the hunter and five as the victim. Unsurprisingly, not many people manage it. Being open to corporate sponsorship might help your chances, though.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Players: Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) and Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks).
The Rules: This is a pretty unfairly loaded game: basically, Bob, and all the others before him, are let loose on an island and told to survive until sunrise while the Count and his hounds pursue them.
How To Win: Run, hide, and fight until the sun comes up.
Fermats Room (2007)
The Players: A group of academics using pseudonyms based on famous mathematicians – Galois (Alejo Sauras), Hilbert (Lluís Homa), Pascal (Santi Millán), and Olivia (Elena Ballesteros) – who have all tried to solve the same enigma.
The Rules: This isn’t a game just anyone would want to play: it requires players to solve complex maths problems in order to stop the walls of their prison closing in.
How To Win: Either be really, really good at maths – or figure out how to break through a wall.
The Players: Game addicts like Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak), Bishop (Dariusz Biskupski), Stunner (Bartek widerski) and Jill (Alicja Sapryk)
The Rules: Avalon is a massive (and illegal) virtual reality game that involves completing missions and slowly levelling up, much like any MMORPG. The deadly bit is the legendary ‘Special A’ section of the game, where players need to kill other player characters without harming NPCs.
How To Win: The only win condition here, really, is remembering the difference between reality and the game.
Cry Wolf (2005)
The Players: A group of bored kids at the Westlake Preparatory Academy: Owen (Julian Morris), Dodger (Lindy Booth), Graham (Ethan Cohn), Mercedes (Sandra McCoy), Lewis (Paul James), Randall (Jesse Janzen), Regina (Kristy Wu) and Tom (Jared Padalecki).
The Rules: It’s meant to be a simple game of Werewolf, where one of the players is designated “the Wolf” and the others have to figure out who. But there are more players than most of them know, and the stakes are quite a bit higher.
How To Win: Being the Wolf is probably your best bet.
Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1987)
The Players: Escaped convicts Daria (Elizabeth Kaitan) and Tisa (Cindy Beal), and hunter Zed (Don Scribner).
The Rules: It’s basically The Most Dangerous Game again, but on an alien planet, and with killer robots instead of hunting dogs.
How To Win: Get to the weapons and figure it out from there.
The Players: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and pretty much everyone she went to high school with.
The Rules: Answer a trivia question about horror movies correctly, and you get to live. Otherwise? Ghostface is coming for you.
How To Win: Remember who the killer really was in Friday The 13th .
The Players: Mostly, they’re sentient computer programs, though hacker Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds a way to play, too.
The Rules: Players ride light cycles through an arena: the cycles leave trails of solid light behind them, and hitting that light means you’re out of the game.
How To Win: If you’re really good at Snake, you can probably figure out how to win. But then, unless you’re a computer program, you’ll probably survive anyway.
Hard Target (1993)
The Players: Former marine Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and a group of people stupid enough to decide Jean-Claude Van Damme looks like a sensible person to attack.
The Rules: This is another very simple hunting game: all the target has to do is reach the other side of town without getting killed and they’ll win a cash prize.
How To Win: Be Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Are You Scared? (2006)
The Players: Six kids who, apparently, applied to be on a TV reality show based around facing fears.
The Rules: Supposedly the point of Are You Scared? is to complete frightening tasks, but none of the tasks are really scary – they’re just fatal. Which doesn’t make for much of a game, since none of the tasks are winnable.
How To Win: Just don’t do what you’re being told to. Nothing about this situation makes any sense, and no-one’s actually watching the supposed TV show anyway.
Freddys Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
The Players: An assortment of Elm Street kids, including Spencer (Breckin Meyer), John (Shon Greenblatt), and Tracy (Lezlie Deane)
The Rules: Make it through a nightmare designed to look like a video game, in which the player’s own abusive father is the main baddie.
How To Win: Wake up.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
The Players: Anyone with a disagreement to sort out, in this case Max (Mel Gibson) and Blaster (Paul Larsson).
The Rules: Everyone knows the rules of the Thunderdome: two men enter, one man leaves.
How To Win: Use whatever weapons you can to defeat your opponent.
Stay Alive (2006)
The Players: Again, it’s video game obsessives, in this case teenagers Loomis (Milo Ventimiglia), Hutch (Jon Foster), October (Sophia Bush), Swink (Frankie Muniz) and Phineas (Jimmi Simpson).
The Rules: Read a prayer into your games console, and then try not to get killed by the vengeful spirit of Elizabeth Bathory.
How To Win: The clue’s in the title, really. Things that might help include roses, mirrors, and matches.
The Players: Loads of people – after all, it’s a team sport – but the one who stands out is Jonathan E (James Caan).
The Rules: It’s basically roller derby with a ball. And motorbikes. Which sounds like fun, except for the crushing futility of it all. And the fact that the corporate sponsors sometimes decide they need to get players killed off.
How To Win: In theory? Be on the team that gets the ball into the goal more times than your opponents. In practice, you might also need to be the last player standing.
Gamebox 1.0 (2004)
The Player: Video game tester Charlie Nash (Nate Richert), who receives a mysterious game in the post and, as a video game tester probably would, starts playing it.
The Rules: Make it through three differently themed levels – Crime Spree, Zombie Land, and Alien Planet – without dying and you get to, er, not die.
How To Win: Banish your demons.
Enders Game (2013)
The Player: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is training to be a spaceship commander by playing through a series of battle simulations.
The Rules: Win the war, no matter what. Even if you’re not sure it’s a game any more.
How To Win: Ultimately, the way to win is to break the rules or refuse to play.
The Task (2011)
The Players: Six apparently randomly selected contestants – Angel (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), Stanton (Tom Payne), Dixon (Texas Battle), Toni (Amara Karan), Shoe (Ashley Mulheron) and Randall (Marc Pickering) – are bullied into taking part in a new reality TV show.
The Rules: Spend one night in an abandoned prison, carrying out a series of bizarre tasks as instructed by the production crew.
How To Win: Don’t bother, just run like hell. $20,000 isn’t worth antagonising murderous ghosts over.
Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
The Players: Randomly selected members of the public, thrown into a battle to the death. In Series 7, they’re Connie (Marylouise Burke), Jeffrey (Glenn Fitzgerald), Anthony (Michael Kaycheck), Franklin (Richard Venture) and Lindsay (Merritt Wever).
The Rules: Survive.
How To Win: If you’re the last Contender left alive, you get to play again. Win three times and you can go free. Not great odds, to be honest.
Deathrow Gameshow (1987)
The Players: Convicts on death row who are willing to humiliate themselves on air – and potentially die, live on TV – for the chance of a reprieve, or a cash prize for their families.
The Rules: No hard or fast rules, but Live Or Die is a pretty nasty gameshow, with games that push the boundaries of bad taste further even than the most disgusting episode of I’m A Celebrity.
How To Win: No-one can win here. No-one.
Mean Guns (1997)
The Players: A hundred criminals who’d managed to get on the wrong side of crime lord Vincent Moon (Ice-T).
The Rules: Yeah, it’s another fight-to-the-death job, only this time there can be three survivors, all of whom will walk away with $3.3 million – assuming there are only three people left at the end of a pretty stingy six-hour deadline.
How To Win: Grab yourself a weapon and get stuck in. Since there can be three ‘winners’, you can just about afford to enter into an alliance with another competitor or two, but that might also be a good way to get stabbed in the back, so buddy up at your own risk.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Player: Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a kid who’s spent way too much of his time playing the Starfighter arcade game.
The Rules: The aim of the Starfighter game is to protect the Frontier from alien baddies. The reason it turns deadly? The game was actually invented by aliens, and they need some help defending themselves from actual baddies.
How To Win: It’s safest just to be a bit crap at arcade games, and leave saving the galaxy to someone else.
The Running Man (1987)
The Players: Convicted criminals, including Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
The Rules: Once again, this is a hunting game, where players are pitted against murderous “stalkers” and must fight – or run – to survive.
How To Win: Run like hell until you’re the last one left alive. But even the winners aren’t guaranteed any kind of future, so this is a game best played by cheating.
The Players: Game designer Allegra (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and security guard Ted Pikul (Jude Law).
The Rules: Hard to say. There’s only one copy of eXistenZ in, um, existence, and it might not be finished: it requires players to plug a game pod into a bio-port at the base of their spine and enter a virtual reality world, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.
How To Win: Anyone's guess, really.
The Players: Six strangers, all given colour-based pseudonyms: Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mrs White (Madeline Kahn), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mr Green (Michael McKean). Plus Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and Yvette (Colleen Camp).
The Rules: Figure out who the murderer is before you get killed – or arrested.
How To Win: It doesn’t matter, there’ll be an alternate ending along in a minute anyway.
The Incite Mill 7 Day Death Game (2010)
The Players: Ten jobseekers, all hoping to be picked for a well-paying job that requires no experience whatsoever.
The Rules: Initially, they seem like nonsense: all the players have to do is stay in an underground facility for a week, and be in bed by 10pm. After contestants start getting murdered, though, a detective must be chosen to solve the mystery and win an extra prize.
How To Win: Figure out who the murderer is. And don’t get killed. Easy, really.
Would You Rather (2012)
The Players: As is so often the case, the players of Would You Rather? are desperate types in need of money for one reason or another.
The Rules: Choose between two unappealing options and survive the night to be in with a chance of winning cold hard cash. “Games” may include choosing to give someone else an electric shock, holding your breath underwater, or, most gruesomely, slitting your own eyeball open.
How To Win: Be utterly ruthless – and hope your opponents are more squeamish than you are.
The Players: An assortment of people who want to win some money in a televised game of Russian roulette: wannabe writer Byron (Rob Brown), extreme sportsman Brad (Eric Lively); impoverished dad Rick (Jeffrey Dean Morgan); wannabe actress Jewel (Katie Cassidy); performance artist Abalone (Monet Mazur); and Pablo (Jay Hernandez), an immigrant hoping to bring his family to the US.
The Rules: It’s just Russian roulette, so there aren’t really any particularly complicated rules. You just have to be lucky enough to be the one who doesn’t get the bullet.
How To Win: Pull the trigger and cross your fingers.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
The Players: Bloodthirsty drivers, like Frankenstein (David Carradine), Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), Machine Gun (Sylvester Stallone), Nero The Hero (Martin Kove), and Matilda The Hun (Roberta Collins).
The Rules: Drive to the finish line, racking up as many points – by running over pedestrians – as you possibly can.
How To Win: Well, the elderly are worth the most points, so the more over-75s you can knock down, the better your chances.
The Players: Six seemingly randomly selected members of the general public: police officer Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), maths student Joan (Nicole de Boer), conspiracy theorist Helen (Nicky Guadagni), architect David (David Hewlett), escape artist Rennes (Wayne Robson), and autistic Kazan (Andrew Miller).
The Rules: No obvious rules are stated, but the general idea is that players should try to find a way out by avoiding or beating a series of traps that have been set up in interlocking rooms inside a giant cube.
How To Win: Don’t play. Seriously – if you're lucky enough to start out in a cube without a trap in it, just sittting there and waiting it out is the best play here.
The Players: The usual assortment of cash-strapped idiots willing to put their lives at risk for a cash prize: Megan (Sarah Joslyn Crowder), Devon (Tony Curtis Blondell), Michael (Keiran Keller), Rebecca (Carolina Pla), Brenda (Sofia de Medeiros), and Rick (Jerry Sprio).
The Rules: Once again, it’s a game of survival, and virtually anything goes – except messing up the game. Since this is a televised game, though, contestants are required to stop what they’re doing and wait until the ad breaks are over.
How To Win: Either be strong and quick enough to escape or fight off the murderous slashers in the arena, or be likeable enough that the production staff will help you out. Or both, ideally.
The Players: There are two tiers of players in the Slayers game: the prisoners who are being forced to fight one another in a televised arena, and the gamers at home, controlling the prisoners via mind control.
The Rules: Kill or be killed. Aren’t those always the rules?
How To Win: For the players at home, winning involves getting their character to kill everyone else; for the prisoners, the aim is to survive 30 matches to win freedom. For society at large? Winning involves shutting down the game forever.
The Players: Various morally dubious types, like heroin addict Amanda (Shawnee Smith), benefit fraud Mark (Paul Gutrecht), adulterous doctor Lawrence (Cary Elwes) or voyeur Adam (Leigh Whannell).
The Rules: Do as you’re told. Each player gets set a different task, based on his or her own personal weakness, designed to make them appreciate their lives. In theory, at least.
How To Win: Chop your foot off, gouge your eye out, or kill someone else. Just do whatever the voice on the tape asks you to; you’re playing against a sanctimonious lunatic, so you haven’t got much choice.
AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004)
The Players: Um, Aliens and Predators.
The Rules: Once every 100 years, a group of Predators lure curious humans to their arena, impregnate them with Aliens, and then hunt them. Which is fun for the Predators, but less so for humanity, particularly if any of the Aliens manages to escape.
How To Win: If you’re a human, the only way to win is by being such a badass that even the Predators acknowledge your awesomeness.
The Players: Thrillseekers jaded enough by sex, drugs, and rock and roll that they feel the need to seek out supernatural kicks; in this case, Frank (Sean Chapman) and his unfortunate niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence).
The Rules: Just solve the puzzle box to win the chance to get your soul ripped apart.
How To Win: Though he might claim otherwise, head Cenobite Pinhead is usually open to making deals, so just offer him someone else and he’ll probably let you off the hook. (Literally, even.)
The Maze Runner (2014)
The Players: Dozens of teenage boys, including Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Chuck (Blake Cooper), Gally (Will Poulter), and Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) – plus one girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario).
The Rules: Since all of the players have had their memories erased, rules aren’t immediately apparent, but finding a way out of the maze would probably help.
How To Win: Face up to your memories – however much it hurts – and find a way out.
The Condemned (2007)
The Players: Death row convicts. Isn’t it always? This time round, the players include Conrad (Stone Cold Steve Austin), McStarley (Vinnie Jones), Paco (Manu Bennett) and Rosa Pacheco (Dasi Ruz) and Yasantwa (Emelia Burns)
The Rules: Fight to the death.
How To Win: Be the last one standing when the 30-hour deadline is up, or you’ll get your leg blown off.
Battle Royale (2000)
The Players: It’s yet another fight-to-the-death situation, but this time, the players are all high school students, including classmates Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara), Noriko (Aki Maeda) and Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki) plus transfer students Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando) and Kawada (Taro Tamamoto).
The Rules: These might be sounding a little familiar by now, but: the aim of the game is to be the last one standing. All players are equipped with a random weapon, and they’ve got three days to kill all the other players, or no-one at all gets to survive.
How To Win: Cheat, cheat, and cheat some more. Hijacking the explosive collar is probably a good start.
The Hunger Games (2012)
The Players: Twenty-four children chosen by lottery from across the 12 Districts. In the 74th Hunger Games, those include Cato (Alexander Ludwig), Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), Rue (Amandla Stenberg), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteered to take her sister’s place.
The Rules: Well, it’s yet another gladiatorial arena, so the aim is to be the last person standing.
How To W in: Make good television. The more people want to watch you, the more presents they’ll send you – and they might even let you bend the rules enough to bring your boyfriend out safely, too.
The Players: Teenage hacker David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) and NORAD.
The Rules: Global Thermonuclear War is a war simulator, in which players can choose to play as various world powers and plot ways to start World War III. Except it might not be a game, and there might be serious consequences to initiating a nuclear strike.
How To Win: It’s safer to just play chess instead.