Do you like to eat, wear, read, and play with your favorite shows and movies? Hollywood has got you covered. Toys become cartoons, while cartoons become breakfast cereals (or shampoo). Films morph into absurd novelizations, and sci-fi franchises bottom out as waffles and coffins. Integrity and imagination give way to marketing cross-pollination that breeds bastardized products that simply scream, “Only an asshole would buy this!” And then you buy it.
Video game tie-ins date back a whopping three decades, and the concept certainly got off on the right foot. Tron, the very first authorized video game based on a film, was awarded 1982’s “Coin-Operated Game of the Year” by Electronic Games magazine. Fifteen years later, GoldenEye 007 (based on the 1995 James Bond film) was released for the Nintendo 64, and was credited as introducing four-player shooters to consoles.
However, thanks to rushed production times to meet film release dates — as well as a general lack of giving two shits (because let’s face it, a game like Little Nicky just sells itself) — video game developers have pushed out a heap of poor film-based games.
Konami’s The Color Purple and 11 other titles round out our list of the worst of the worst:
The Goonies II
On gameplay alone, The Goonies II gets major points for merging side-scrolling yo-yo weaponry with low-tier 8-bit puzzle-solving. But then it promptly flushes all those points down the toilet by forgetting to be based on an actual movie. That’s right — The Goonies II is a movie tie-in game without a movie to be tied in to!
Rather than go the traditional route of basing a sequel game off of a sequel movie, the geniuses at Konami developed a continuity Frankenstein. As a result, The Goonies II is the sequel to a game that never saw the light of day in the United States; essentially a sequel to a game that doesn’t exist. I’ll let that sink in for a second.
Ah, yes. Remember that part in the film where Mikey ran around using a yo-yo to battle snakes and spiders? I didn’t think so. The Goonies II more closely resembles a shitty Legend of Zelda than its movie namesake. No Chunk, no Sloth, no slick shoes. No make-out sessions with Andy. Lame.
Still, the game did score a major coup by featuring an 8-bit version of Cyndi Lauper’s track “Good Enough,” which is why it makes the best of the worst.
When Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman blockbuster found success on the silver screen, I’m sure a video game tie-in seemed like a no-brainer. And really, despite the fact that this game is a Ninja Gaiden clone with next to nothing in common with the movie, it’s not half bad. Flying ninja cyborgs? Yeah, okay. Flame-throwing robot dinosaurs? Sure. Why not? So why is Batman on this list?
Wall jumps. Those fucking wall jumps.
One of the key moves of the game is an acrobatic wall jump that can only be performed with an awkward thumb motion. And the game delights in making you perform the move as often as possible. In the beginning, you mistake these ever-present wall jump obstacles for a cool game feature. But by the halfway point, you realize that the game solely exists to break the thumbs of children. If you think I’m kidding, go pick up this game and try for yourself. But let’s just say you won’t be engaging in any “quality time” anytime soon.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
In terms of character licensing, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of the most groundbreaking films of the last century. The fact that it’s also a great film is just icing on the cake. That is why there is a special level in hell reserved for the the assholes who dared to make an extremely boring Roger Rabbit game.
Liked the kinetic action featured in the movie? Liked the fearsome bad guys? Liked seeing your favorite cartoon characters all together in the same place? You’ll find none of that here, as all fun has been dumped in favor of repetitive actions, droning music, and supporting characters that “help” you by not helping you (“Yes. This building is empty.” Indeed). Even Roger is given nothing to do.
Cool World, the video game, based on Cool World, the Ralph Bakshi film, followed the trail blazed by Roger Rabbit as the second video game to be based on a film that fused live action and animation. In this game, you’re an 16-bit Brad Pitt, and as a noid, your goal is to not fuck that doodle temptress, Holli Would! And even with her boobs rendered in 16-block increments, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge.
No, wait — I’m thinking of the Cool World video game of my dreams. In reality, this Super NES side-scroller requires you to walk through an endless city, jumping up on windowsills and shooting shitty-looking trench coat-wearing marshmallow men. If only you could scale the Plaza Casino to retrieve the Spike of Power. Then you would be free to screw as many sexy cartoons as you like.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to play a shitty Wayne’s World game,” then you’re not alone. It seems that the designers also didn’t have time to make a shitty Wayne’s World game. Half-assed on a good day, Wayne’s World for the NES looks and plays like something a blind man made on his way out the door to make a better game. While stoned.
By controlling either Wayne or Garth, the goal of the game is to kill instruments with a laser gun or something(?) Honestly, it’s not important. The developers obviously didn’t put a lot of effort into this, so why should I bother putting effort into this explanation?
By the way, is there some sort of BIG SALE going on that enormous store? I couldn’t tell.
The Karate Kid
The so-called “Golden Age of Fighting Games” would arrive in early 1990s, as classics such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and the original TMNT arcade game would become all the rage, changing the face of video games. Great visual graphics combined with fun story lines, violence, and a vast array of moves would make the games addicting and infinitely playable.
The video game classics of that era, however, were predated by some other pretty great beat ’em ups. While they might not hold much intrigue now, at the time, Renegade, Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and Ninja Gaiden were held in high regard. Hell, I even enjoyed Bad Dudes. Most of these games were developed by Technos Japan and Taito, and if you don’t think it matters which developer is behind a game, think again.
The Karate Kid Nintendo game, released in time for the 1987 Christmas holiday shopping season, was developed by Atlus — responsible for timeless NES classics like Rockin’ Kats and Wacky Races — and published by the now-defunct LJN toy company, who unleashed a plague of bad film-based video games on the world, such as Roger Rabbit, Jaws, and Back to the Future. How much did The Karate Kid suck? Let’s take a look:
Never mind that the graphics of this game are shameful even by 1987 standards; ignore that the rounds in the opening karate tournament last about four seconds each. It was the bonus scenes that caused infinite frustration for me as a child. Catching flies with chopsticks? I’d have better luck trying to capture real flies with bendy straws. And not once did I succeed in jumping over that anvil swinging on a rope. I never met anyone who did.
Kids today don’t know how lucky they are. Most Nintendo games in the ’80s were not meant for pleasure. They were designed to break your spirit at an early age.
The Color Purple
In The Color Purple for the NES, you play as Celie, a poor, uneducated black woman in rural 1930s Georgia struggling to stay alive while saving your sister from the main antagonist, Danny Glover. Most hardcore gamers will recognize the game as a shallow Super Mario Bros. ripoff, but developer Konami did make sure to include some decent mini-games to break up the side-scrolling action. In particular, the game where you have to avoid getting pistol-whipped by a white mob was fun, while still presenting a unique challenge. Similarly, a later game where you have to shave your owner’s face without slitting his throat with a straight razor was an interesting, if unusual, choice for a children’s game.
But where the game really loses me is with the difficulty. The Color Purple has got to be one of the hardest games ever developed for the NES. I mean, I understand that the 1930s were dangerous times for southern black women and men. But this game doesn’t even have an easier setting that lets you skip over some of the more irritating obstacles. Who wants to spend four hours on the “crippling depression of a loveless existence” level? And what was up with that level where the goal is just to “make it home safe”? Game play inconsistencies like that really take the fun out of oppression in the Deep South.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
In the Gremlins films, Gizmo is cute, cuddly, helpless, and timid. In this video game, however, he’s on the offense, forced to do battle by hurling balls of indeterminate stuff at bats and tomatoes. Yes, bats and tomatoes. And yet this game is still better than the sequel film it’s based on.
Wanna feel like a total bad ass? Play Jaws for the NES gaming system. It’s a great confidence booster! Simply pop the cartridge into your console, hit the start button, and two to five minutes later you’ll be done, ready for a full day of actual work.
Seriously, this game is easier than your sister.
I’m no game developer, but you’d think that a game based on a classic gory thriller would be a bigger challenge than waking up in the morning. As it stands, the game is three minutes of you literally shooting fish in a barrel followed by another whole minute of fighting the titular menace. It’s almost heartwarming. I’m guessing they gave this game away for free with hugs at the local youth center.
You can’t fault them for trying. Minus the mutant prostitute with three breasts, this Total Recall game follows the plot of the movie pretty closely. There are even some classic Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners tossed in for good measure, probably to offset the much discussed Wall of Penises™ in the first level and the Killer Cats™ that dominate the Mars levels.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many flaws here, including bad music, midgets kidnappers, and hobo murderers. But these are all parts of the game’s charm.
No, there are two reasons that Total Recall is on this list. The first is because it suffers from the precursor of what is commonly known as SNK Boss Syndrome. See, rather than create level bosses that present reasonable skill challenges, the creators of this game decided to handicap the player so that you can only defeat the bosses by exploiting glitches in the boss’s programming. More often than not, you can only defeat a level by crouching in a way that confuses the boss while shooting him in the back as his sprites glitch uncontrollably. For modern gamers, this would be a minor inconvenience, since you can look up these cheats online in a matter of seconds. But back when it was originally released, this made the game almost impossible.
The second reason the game ranks so poorly is because of the driving level. Rivaled in difficulty only by the swimming level in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the driving level in Total Recall is a poorly realized mess made more frustrating by horrible graphics. It’s so bad that it’s the number one reason why most players have never completed the game.
The Hunt For Red October
I remember when I was a kid and I first watched the movie The Hunt for Red October. It was a bright and summery day, and a few of my friends had just come over to play with some new robot toys I had just received. After a while, I suggested that we watch the adaptation of the Tom Clancy thriller on VHS. We all sat mesmerized by the political intrigue and hints at failing Cold War ideologies as metaphorically represented by Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. And when the movie was over, I thought to myself, “If only…if only there were a video game that I could play that would match the slow burn and intense drama of that film.”
Only that scenario never happened. Because a children’s game based on an adult movie about Cold War tension makes no fucking sense at all.
Listen, I get it. The Hunt For Red October was an extremely popular movie when it was released, and so I’m sure someone was just trying to squeeze out a little extra cash from the movie-going public. But what’s next? A Few Good Men on Atari? Devil In A Blue Dress on Sega Saturn?
The originator. The queen bee. The mother of them all. The holy grail. The legend.
Yes, it is that bad.
The story goes that in 1982, after a frenzied licensing war, the rights to develop an E.T. game went to Howard Scott Warsaw who attempted to bring the hugely popular character to the Atari 2600 gaming system. To say he failed would be an extreme understatement.
By 1984, two years after the game’s release, Atari was nearly bankrupt having over-invested in what they thought was a sure thing. Things went so sour that Atari was forced to bury millions of unsold and returned cartridges in a New Mexico landfill. Years later, the game is still believed to have been a major factor in the video game industry crash of 1983. Jobs were lost, babies starved, in the distance a dog barked, etc.
E.T. isn’t a game, it’s an endurance challenge. Play at your own risk.