Press "Enter" to skip to content
Minus World

Uh oh! You've reached a glitched section of Hard Drive where the news is real!

What’s the Best Video Game Based on a Best Picture Winner?

Licensed video games are rightfully associated with being the absolute bottom tier of the medium, total trash with the occasional GoldenEye or Spider-Man 2 being the exception that proves the rule. Certainly at least part of the reason GoldenEye blew us away was that no one expected anything out of it, right? 

I’ve always been and remain fascinated by these licensed games. I don’t think it’s very complicated, I think I just like more of the stuff and characters that I like. Before they were making TV shows about Batman’s butler, these games were often some of the only expanded adventures you’d get from a favorite tv show or movie, sometimes joining a paperback book that featured a dubious retelling of the story. 

Now, it’s not a coincidence that these games are mostly bad. Good games are often delayed to be fine tuned, and movie tie-in games usually have an immovable deadline to hit. Also, they’re basically commercials! It’s not a coincidence that most of the OCEAN games based on movies stink, it’s like being surprised that Call of Duty is violent. It’s just in the DNA. 

With this all being said, could there be another problem, the source material? A bevy of cinematic adaptation video games are based on kids movies and summer blockbusters. Highly consumable pieces of entertainment for sure, but genres known for their wide appeal, not the quality of the scripted material. 

Despite this trend, there have been five video games made out of films that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards: Platoon, Rocky, The Godfather Parts I and II, and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Even if these aren’t the best five movie tie-in games you’ll find, there at least has to be some artistic merit here, right? Would having more scholarly source material than the makers of Brother Bear for the Game Boy Advance lend itself to a more sophisticated gaming experience? Or was Roger Ebert right, and games aren’t art, and we all ought to bury our consoles in the backyard? (I’m not sure what Roger Ebert said exactly.) I wanted to find out. 

Join me as I determine the Best Game Based on a Best Picture Winner!

And now, the nominees…

Platoon (NES, Commodore 64, Amiga)

This take on Oliver Stone’s Vietnam saga is a tough game to navigate. An optimistic read would be that the developers did a good job of simulating the density of the jungle, the rampant confusion that must have permeated through the cracks in the leaves. Instead of running from left to right, point A to point B, Platoon players must explore a jungle, each path seemingly identical to the last. Substandard level design or brilliant employment of primitive technology to paint a grim picture of an unjust war? 

The cynical read would be that this is a clunky, overly difficult release that (like pretty much every NES game) doesn’t do enough to warn you of oncoming danger, inserting cold brutality in place of challenges a skilled player could navigate. 

But I think this all begs a fair question; how fun should the Platoon game be? There was no way we were going to get a direct adaptation, not in 1987. Sure, if they made a gritty PS5 Platoon game today, we’d get a photorealistic Willem Dafoe insisting you smoke opium out of a shotgun (and you probably couldn’t jump over enemy bullets anymore), but this is a 30 year old Nintendo cartridge. Perhaps the best that could be done in the era of the NES was a thematically appropriate experience that did what it could to invoke the anxiety and fear portrayed in the movie. Let’s see what Adrian Lee from Hoboken thought about it when she got to try it in 1988. 

Okay, yeah, that’s fair

If the graphics and gameplay were enough to have me on the fence as to whether this adaptation of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam opus was artistically esoteric or ineptly designed, the music swayed me to the former. This soundtrack not only goes hard as fuck, but its as atmospheric as anything you’re going to hear on the NES. The melodies, the sustained notes, it’s really, really good. It doesn’t appear to be based on the Platoon score, but it did remind me more of a film score than a video game soundtrack a lot of the time, except, you know, with beeps and boops. It’s simultaneously catchy like a great Nintendo soundtrack while still being appropriately morose. I love it. 

Honestly, this is art in the way that it’s more admirable than it is actually fun to engage with. There are points to be made about Platoon‘s ambition, for sure, but if I’d rather listen to the soundtrack than play the game itself, that’s probably not great. Poignant or not, I don’t think this is the best we’re going to find. 

Rocky (GC, PS2, Xbox, GBA)

“Yo Adrian, they say it’s a cube but this disc is like, a circle.”

The rest of these games were released on discs, in the 21st century. I’m going to try my damndest to evaluate everything fairly, but do you know what these four disc games can do that Platoon can’t? Play video clips! 

Now, obviously fancy cutscenes don’t do shit if the levels between them are no fun, but do you know what? When I’m playing a video game adaptation of some of cinema’s finest work, it fucking rules to have the MGM lion roar at me before the game. It’s a fairly common experience while watching a movie, but when you boot up a GameCube game and are greeted with the same bumper that prefaced Ben-Hur and North by Northwest? Get ready for some art, dude. 

Much like The Italian Stallion when we first meet him in the film, Rocky the game is in a tough, thankless spot. To do this game well they had to make it feel like Rocky, and also a decent boxing title. Boxing, fighting, and wrestling games are often perfected over several years and iterations of a game before they arrive at the most lauded version of themselves. Coming out of the gate to compete with the Fight Night’s and Punch-Out’s of the world is an unenviable spot, but they also had an advantage: they were tasked with adapting not real boxing, but Rocky boxing. And Oscars or not, has anything ever been more ridiculous and over the top than the fighting in a Rocky movie? Maybe the movie Over the Top, I guess. 

As a boxing game, Rocky is a lightweight. As a Rocky game, however, I think it works. This is Rocky boxing. You work the jab and the body until you see a window and think “Oh shit! Now’s my chance to land eight straight uppercuts.” Additionally, working your way up through dingy venues and fighting bums and eventually seeing Apollo Creed’s incredible entrance for the big fight, these things all work tremendously in the game’s favor as far as feeling like you are in the movie. 

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Rocky makes you feel like you are in all of the movies, and therein lies its shortcomings as far as feeling like a sound adaptation of an Academy Award winning film (in the game’s defense, that’s just a thing I just made up an hour ago). This sumbitch has you blazing through Rocky 1-5’s iconic fights, and while that makes for a lot of content for players, it also means that this is an adaptation of Rocky, the blockbuster sports movie franchise, not Rocky, the little movie about a scrappy nobody from Philly that shocks the world (which won Best Picture).  I get it, but in jamming the game with content, the video game sadly perpetuates the failings of the Rocky sequels, which diluted the original’s power. In my opinion, the first five Rocky films were a series that threw a lot of punches, but only ever landed that one haymaker. 

This game is fan service first, boxing second, and succeeds quite well at those things, in that order. It’s not really fair to criticize it for lacking depth, but I feel like I should point out it lacks some elements you might expect. It’s fun to see clips from the movies, and Apollo Creed’s larger than life entrances, However, if we’re grading this thing on its fan service merits, the omission of Hulk Hogan as Thunder Lips from the Rocky III stuff is a crippling body blow, sure to make players piss disappointment the next day. In the parlance of the thespian that portrayed him, the exclusion of Thunder Lips doesn’t work for me, brother.  

Hello adventurer! Please collect five USD skins a month and head to our Patreon.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Continue Reading:

1 2 3