The symbiotic relationship between video games and movies is best distilled down in the existence of the movie tie-in game. The best movie-tie in games are enjoyable romps through popular cinematic universes, while the worst games are ones we don't really talk about (or bury in landfills). A video game made to supplement an upcoming film or recapture the zeitgeist of a classic, the movie tie-in game is a fascinating melding of mediums. And there are some really good ones out there.
What makes a movie tie-in game good isn't just how well it connects to the movie in question, but how well that connection feels in a game space: Is the gameplay good? Is the campaign story solid? Does it make you want to play the game again long after you've seen the film? Is it an inspired gaming take on an awe-inspiring universe? Answering these questions (and more) can be what makes a movie tie-in game go from meh to masterful.
We've collected the best movie tie-in games in this list, which includes titles based on The Matrix, James Bond, Spider-Man, and much more. Many of these games are from bygone console eras, so expect to be hit with a generous wave of nostalgia. Some of these games came years after the movie upon which they're based, but are still considered tie-ins as they're based in the same universe. So without further ado, the best movie tie-ingames.
The 10 best movie tie-in games
10. Die Hard Trilogy
Release Year: 1996
Platforms: Sega Saturn, PlayStation, PC
As the name suggests, the Die Hard Trilogy game adapts the first three Die Hard movies, offering up three starkly different gameplay modes that brilliantly mirror each film's action and pacing. Die Hard 1 is a third-person shooter that takes place in Nakatomi Plaza (see Warzone, Die Hard Trilogy did it first), Die Harder is an on-the-rails shooter, and Die Hard with a Vengeance is a driving game that tasks you with defusing bombs. The sheer variety within a single game was incredibly novel for its time, making the Die Hard Trilogy a stand-out title even without the movie tie-in. The only downside? No Bruce Willis.
9. The Thing
Release Year: 2002
Platforms: Xbox, PS2, PC
John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing is a horror stand-out, so naturally, the game had some snowy boots to fill – and in some ways, it does. The Thing game is technically a sequel to the film, one that not only received John Carpenter's blessing but also features him in a cameo role – which automatically makes it worthy of this list. The Thing is a third-person survival shooter where you play as Captain Blake, a US Special Forces soldier sent to the same Antarctic outpost from the movie to figure out what the hell happened to the research team. Cue grotesque monsters and blood-spattered ice, am I right? Sure, the gameplay mechanics are widely considered unwieldy, but The Thing offers slick visuals and exciting action sequences that make up for what can often be a wonky control scheme.
8. Peter Jackson's King Kong
Release Year: 2005
Platforms: Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, PSP
Avid gamer Peter Jackson manages to get another entry on this list thanks to Peter Jackson's King Kong, which lets players play as both scriptwriter Jack Driscoll and the king of the jungle himself. As Driscoll, players use firearms and spears in first-person perspective, while as King Kong, players use his big ol' fists in third-person perspective. The two have the same goal: save Ann Darrow, duh. Peter Jackson's King Kong features a slick UI that includes the absence of a health meter, and beautiful cinematic set pieces that will really feel like you're playing through a movie. It helps that the film's cast reprises their roles for the game helping to bring an air of authenticity to the experience.
7. Disney's Aladdin
Release Year: 1993
Platforms: Sega Genesis
The side-scrolling platformer may tie into a Disney movie, but this game was definitely not for most kids - at least not those of us with subpar motor skills. Disney's Aladdin lets players control the titular character through a story based on the movie that was released the same year. Aladdin has a scimitar and apples at his disposal to dispel guards and other nasties, with a smoky Genie lamp that indicates his health bar. Visually, it's really pretty, with gorgeous animation and vibrant colors. But all I can remember is the damn carpet escape scene from the middle of the game, which I fell victim to so many times my poor elementary school brain was ready to give up entirely – thankfully, the developers knew it was hard and so the game would let you skip it after several failed attempts. Considering that would have been one of my three wishes, I'm glad Virgin Interactive gave it away for free.
6. Enter the Matrix
Release Year: 2003
Platforms: GameCube, Xbox, PS2, PC
Now, hear me out. The Matrix: Path of Neo is an excellent game that offers up much snappier fighting mechanics than its predecessor, but there's something special about Enter the Matrix. Not only does its story run concurrently alongside The Matrix Reloaded and highlight two supporting characters Ghost (Anthony Wong) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith), but the Wachowski sisters directed over an hour of original, live-action footage to act as cutscenes. I remember Enter the Matrix opening with a cutscene and screaming in delight as it felt like I was just watching another Matrix movie. Getting a chance to put up a controller and play after that cut-scene ends was a fantastically unique experience, especially for a Matrix fangirl. Enter the Matrix lets you choose to play as Niobe or Ghost ( each path has a slightly different progression), offers a decent hacking system, some fun vehicle levels, and an absolutely brutal final boss on Ghost's path. Yes, it's clunkier than a pair of Doc Martens you'd wear for a Matrix cosplay, but it's creative and oh-so-cool.
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Release Year: 2002
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, GameCube
In 2002, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released as an adaptation of the first two Peter Jackson films (despite the title). Based entirely on the films and not the novels, The Two Towers offers players hack-and-slash action as either Aragorn, Gimli, or Legolas across levels pulled from the first two films like Helm's Deep and Weathertop (you can only play Aragorn on that one). Its fast-paced gameplay, combat system, and impressive graphics forged a path for the equally fun 2003 sequel, Return of the King.
4. The Warriors
Release Year: 2005
Platforms: PS2, Xbox
Rockstar proved it was a helluva lot more than a GTA factory with this movie tie-in game that came decades after the iconic 1979 film, The Warriors. In taking a break from the world of GTA, Rockstar gave us one of the best movie tie-in games to date, with its beat 'em up brawling that many felt helped revive the genre. But it's not just the gameplay that makes this game iconic, as it captures the same vibe as the '79 film with ease – from its incredible audio that includes voiceovers from a ton of the original actors and amazing music, to its highly stylized visuals that feel as gritty as NYC. The Warriors doesn't just retread territory established by the film, as it shows players just how the gang came to be – and what led to the iconic opening scene where all the gangs of New York gather together for a midnight summit. Groovy, huh?
3. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Release Year: 2004
Platforms: Xbox, PC
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a tie-in prequel to The Chronicles of Riddick movie. The game debuted at the same time as the film and takes place within one of Riddick's flashbacks. In it, Riddick is captured on a bounty contract and brought to Butcher Bay prison, where players must use stealth to help him escape. While Escape from Butcher Bay is a lot like other early aughts first-person shooters in its gameplay, it stood out with its limited HUD and decision to only offer on-screen cues for damage and weapon pickups. Players have compared it to games like Far Cry and Splinter Cell, with many preferring the game over the movie. It's an excellent example of movie tie-in games with its unique story that further supplements the movie and enjoyable gameplay that helps propel you forward through that story. No one tell Vin Diesel that Fast and Furious Crossroads isn't on this list.
2. Spider-Man 2
Release Year: 2004
Platforms: PS2, GameCube, Xbox, PC
Largely considered one of the best movie tie-in games ever, Spider-Man 2 is also a groundbreaking game in and of itself: it's the first Spider-Man game to allow free-roaming around New York City, which quickly became the modus operandi for any good Spider-Man game. It also features voice acting from Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, Kirsten Dunst, and Bruce Campbell as narrator, which only adds to the game's allure. Spider-Man 2 has a solid core campaign, but it also offers a ton of side missions like helping civilians in need, delivering pizza before a timer runs out (a great nod to the film's opening scene), and gathering collectibles. It's a fine example of using a movie as a jumping-off point for some top-tier gameplay. The best Spider-Man movie deserves an equally epic video game, don't you think?
1. GoldenEye 007
Release Year: 1998
Is an explanation necessary? GoldenEye 007 isn't just a slick movie tie-in game that was so good players kept their N64s for years after the console became obsolete. It also revolutionized the first-person shooter, marking a shift away from Doom-style games and towards a more realistic visual approach. GoldenEye gave the FPS a chance to shine outside of the PC space by offering players great single-player action that mixed shootouts with stealth and an accessible control scheme. Of course, the multiplayer deathmatch games were the major draw for most players that helped extend GoldenEye's grasp on gaming culture for years to come, but there are several reasons why this game stands out. Remember the big head mode?
This list is not to be confused with the 10 best video game movies of all time.