Best 15 Video Games Based On Movie Franchises, Ranked

Whilst researching and writing my previous feature on the best video game adaptations of movies, I restricted myself to only include films directly based on specific films. However, I was reminded of the embarrassment of riches amongst games based on franchises –- either films set in the same universe, or in many cases pseudo-sequels or prequels that never saw a movie screen, but whose storylines did manage to hit consoles or home computers.

As with the previous article, there's a lot of detritus to sort through –- quality control is slightly better than direct movie adaptations, but barely. That said, there are some absolute gems in here. Indeed, many of the titles are several decades old yet still hold up today.

With five decades of material to work through, the world of "Star Wars" still features heavily, just as it did on the last list. But here it's matched by another franchise, one which posits aliens in a considerably more terrifying and sinister light. 

Lights. Cameras. Press "Start" ...

15. The Thing – 2002 – Xbox

Set after the events of the 1982 film, the game sees Special Forces arriving to investigate the happenings at Outpost 31. You play Captain Blake, and you'll uncover what happened to the poor occupants of both bases ... and not simply by watching the superlative John Carpenter movie.

With the military involved, you'd expect the game to be a straightforward shoot 'em up –- albeit one featuring bizarre alien enemies -– but it attempts a little more than that. Taking full advantage of the paranoiac themes underpinning "Who Goes There?" (the John W. Campbell novella that inspired the movie), the game features a "fear/trust" mechanism whereby as your fellow soldiers become increasingly terrified and distrustful, they'll stop following orders. Your team can also become infected through combat with the titular parasitic E.T.

Like the hapless alien crashing his shuttle on the wrong danged planet, sometimes you just shoot for the moon and miss. The novel mechanics mostly work, but the game will still decide in its own time who is infected or not, rendering the functionality somewhat pointless. That said, it's a brave — and very playable -– experiment, hence its inclusion on this list. Everybody loves a trier.

14. Scarface: The World is Yours – 2005 – Playstation 2

Taking a Marvel "What If" approach to Brian De Palma's remake of the 1932 original, "Scarface: The World is Yours" posits an interesting premise: What if Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) hadn't died at the end of the movie? Rather than get blasted by a shotgun and falling lifelessly (and bloodily) into his pool, Montana decides to abandon his life of crime and take up a tranquil life in farming. Across several seasons, Tony will look after plots of vegetables as well as livestock, ultimately hoping to win "Best Pig" award at the county fête.

Who am I kidding? He actually decides to enact bloody revenge on those who betrayed him, restarting his criminal and drug empire in Miami. It delivers exactly what you'd expect from an incredibly violent film; what may look like a "Grand Theft Auto: Cocaine" clone on the surface is a surprisingly fun romp through the criminal underworld. Its biggest flaw is the nature of some of the side-missions — for a powerful drug kingpin, Tony Montana would do well to hire somebody to do his menial work.

Fans of the film will be pleased to see the return of Tony's M16A1. During the course of the 60-hour campaign, there'll be plenty of opportunity for Tony's enemies to say hello to his little friend.

13. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena – 2009 – PC

Vin Diesel's Richard B. Riddick, introduced in the sci-fi film "Pitch Black" (2000), seems custom made to be a video game protagonist – he has a gimmick in his ability to see in the dark, he's violent, and he's a strong and silent anti-hero.

Picking up after the events of the (similarly awesome) videogame "Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay," this game sees our scotopic star captured during hyper-sleep by the nefarious Gale Revas. With guile and stealth, Riddick must fight his way through corridors and rooms to avoid capture in order to escape the Dark Athena of the title, Revas' humongous mercenary vessel.

Originally intended to be a remake of its predecessor giving it a graphic overhaul and a bonus chapter, it ended up as a game in its own right with Butcher Bay acting as the new first half. It's tremendously tense fun being in Riddick's boots, and the multiplayer –- with its inspired "Pitch Black" mode taking place in total darkness –- is a genuine highlight.

12. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing – 2004 – Xbox

Developing a James Bond game must be a daunting prospect for any software house, faced with the all-conquering monolith that is Goldeneye –- but it certainly hasn't stopped them trying. There are a plethora of Bond games out there, mostly ranging in quality from the awful to the not-so-awful.

"Everything or Nothing" stood out from the crowd at the time, being not only an excellent use of the license but also a fine third-person cover shooter in its own right. It's presented as a new canonical entry in the Bond Franchise, a standalone story featuring Pearce Brosnan's suave superspy, the last time he'd play the role, albeit in digital form, before upstart Daniel Craig appeared.

No corners are cut –- an excellent voice-cast includes William Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Heidi Klum –- and it even has a brand new Bond song (sung by Mýa). The plot is standard Bond fare, with a super-villain armed with nanobots that create microscopic mayhem, but the game is great fun, filled with the exact combination of shooting, gadgetry, and vehicular chases that mark the franchise.

11. Star Trek Bridge Crew - 2017 – PC VR

A version of this game was recently released so it could be played without Virtual Reality, but I can't help but feel that this misses the point. As a game played on a monitor or TV set, "Star Trek: Bridge Crew" is adequate, but when played with friends in VR it turns out to be one of the most entertaining things you can do whilst wearing a cumbersome helmet.

You're either the captain or the bridge crew on the USS Aegis, searching a vast anomaly-riddled region of space nicknamed "The Trench" to find a suitable homeworld for the displaced Vulcans. It's a game that thrills when everything is going correctly, and hilarious when it isn't. Everybody has their defined roles –- helmsman, engineer, tactical officer -– and the captain is responsible for making sure everybody knows what they're doing.

Remember that scene in "Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan" when they couldn't return fire because the engineer stubbornly refused to supply enough power to the tactical officer? Of course you don't –- those were professional Star Fleet Officers, and not an assortment of strangers wearing bulky helmets trying to muddle through a mission going hopelessly wrong. It's genuinely hilarious.

10. Star Wars Battlefront 2 – 2017 - PC

The 2015 original was a toybox of "Star Wars" maps, crafts, and characters, allowing players to take part in huge conflicts across the whole of the classic and prequel trilogies. The sequel, prettier and encompassing the entire ennealogy of "Star Wars", should have been a hit.

However, on initial release, the sequel to the 2015 original would not have troubled any 'Best of' lists. A lackluster single-player campaign coupled with the scourge of EA titles -– Loot Crates –- gave it a reception as frosty as Hoth. Getting anywhere involved a horrible grind or forking out actual cash. There was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of players suddenly cried out in horror and logged out.

But, like pesky Palpatine, it returned -– and improved. Microtransactions were replaced with character progression through play, and new maps, characters, vehicles, and modes were constantly added. The game became not only playable again, but suddenly great. Many gamers returned to it, and the player base was boosted by Epic giving the game away earlier in 2021 –- a package that had already proven to be excellent value for money was now free.

9. Tron 2.0 – 2003 – PC

Released as a canonical sequel to the events of the 1982 movie "Tron", "Tron 2.0" puts the players in the luminous shoes of "Jet" Bradley, investigating the disappearance of his father Alan.

Both the original film (and its subsequent 2010 sequel, "Tron: Legacy," which would sadly overwrite the canon set in this game) have their faults, but the most memorable thing about both is their stunning and distinctive visual appearance. Set inside the bits and bytes of the inner data workings of a computer, the worlds are rich with glowing neon and phosphorescence, huge sprawling vistas of striking geometry. The game captures the world perfectly, and particular mention needs to go to the interface –- the heads-up-display is minimal, allowing the player to take in more of the world itself.

In the 18 years since release, the game may have lost some of its visual sheen, but it's such a distinctive world that it barely matters. The first-person shooting action is fun, and the accompanying Light Cycle matches are worth the cost of entry alone. You'll have a blast on your computer playing a character stuck inside it.

8. Ghostbusters: The Video Game – 2009 – Xbox 360

It seemed that in 2009 there would never be a new "Ghostbusters" movie –- Aykroyd was keen to bring back the beige-besuited banshee banishers, but too much time had passed since the disappointingly received sequel, and Bill Murray seemed reluctant to get involved.

In "Ghostbusters: The Video Game," we're gifted with the rarest of things: An official sequel to the first two movies featuring the creative pairing of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. With many of the original cast returning to reprise their roles, this 2009 videogame –- in which you play a new recruit –- would be the last actual appearance of Ramis as Spengler before the actor's sad demise in 2014.

The game is short, frustratingly so, but packs a lot into that brief time span, making it the closest you'll come to being an actual Ghostbuster. Remastered for next generation consoles in 2019, it's a title that retains the humor of its source material, reminding you quite why you enjoyed spending so much time with this quibbling quartet back in 1984.

7. Mad Max – 2015 – Xbox One

So many existing vehicle combat games are based on the "Mad Max" template -– 1997's "Interstate 76" and the two "Rage" games, to name just three -– so it's good to have an actual official videogame showing them how it's done.

You wouldn't think the post-apocalyptic deserts would make for a particularly interesting setting for an open-world game, but you'd be surprised. The vast sprawling seas of orange and yellow might not provide the explorative exploration hook of other games, but the wastelands serve their own purpose: In "Mad" Max Rockatansky's world, every landmark offers a lifeline and reminds you why you need to keep your only form of transport in fine working order.

The world is as hostile as the myriad of gangs that occupy it, and the game does an outstanding job of portraying the bleak nihilism of the movies. Allies are few and far between -– emphasis on the "far" –- and it's a game that demands exploration for and careful uses of the world's dwindling resources. And, perhaps most importantly, vehicle combat is a joy –- deadly, with a tough yet rewarding difficulty curve.

6. Middle-earth: Shadow of War – 2017 – PS4

"Shadow of War," the follow-up to 2014's "Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor," sees the return of Talion (and ring-forger and Elven Lord Cerebrimbor, with whom he shares his body) in another tale set between the events of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

"Shadow of Mordor" introduced the brilliant Nemesis system, whereby foes could find themselves recruited amongst the risks, bearing grudges against our protagonist, improving their armor and weaponry. "Shadow of War" introduces the concept of followers, whereby Talion can recruit devotees to his cause, pitting Orc against Orc.

Like the game before, it's an open-world third-person fighting game, sending our hero on quests through Middle-earth. The combat mechanics (although they feel borrowed from the Rock Steady "Batman" series of games) are intuitive, and it's hard not to feel like a hero as you plow through endless hordes of green-skins. Both games are excellent, but "Shadow of War" has the edge with its heightened scale and longer running time.

5. Aliens versus Predator 2 – 2001 – PC

Another franchise with a varied legacy ("Colonial Marines", anybody?), "Aliens versus Predator 2" follows the flawed original by improving dramatically upon the multiplayer and adding an innovative campaign in which the player gets to play as all three of the game's protagonists.

The novel element is that all storylines take place simultaneously, so the player gets to see the same events through three different perspectives. Each species is interesting to play and mechanically different –- the marine is a desperate human with superior firepower against overwhelming foes, and the Predator is a powerful stealthy tank on legs. The approach to the alien is novel — vulnerable at the start having freshly burst from a chest, but eventually evolving into the glistening, threatening black insectoid we all know and fear.

The varying abilities and qualities of the species make for original and varied multiplayer modes, and the title still stands up today as one of the best uses of the "Alien" license. Even recent attempts have failed to recreate the magic of this two-decade-old game.

4. Blade Runner – 1997 - PC

Before "Blade Runner 2049" was even a twinkle in Villeneuve's eye, this 1997 point-and-click adventure was telling another story set in the same Philip K. Dick inspired universe, albeit a story taking place parallel to the Harrison Ford-starring film.

The player controls Ray McCoy, a detective in a dystopian 2019 Los Angeles. Tasked with hunting down rogue androids, his investigations will see him cross paths with characters in locations from the film, in a game spanning (a practically unheard of at the time) four compact discs.

With judicious use of the film's classic Vangelis soundtrack, the game is a masterclass in the ambitious use of film licensing. Despite the lack of modern graphical fidelity, it holds up very well; the locations feel like real lived-in places, and the entire game drips with atmosphere. The clever move of not having the character play Ford's Deckard means players familiar with the film knew the setting, but little of the plot. Sadly, a proposed remaster looks like it will never see the light of day, as much of the original source code has been lost over time.

3. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – 1992 - PC

Not content with searching for religious relics to win the Second World War, the nefarious Nazis are now scouring Plato's myths to search for the lost sunken city of the title to plunder Atlantean advanced technology. Of course, it's down to our intrepid archaeologist -– and his friend Sophia Hapgood –- to save the day.

A point-and-click adventure (like its 1989 predecessor, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"), "Fate of Atlantis" sees our heroes travel the globe in order to stop the Nazis from getting hold of orichalcum –- an Atlantean metal of potentially limitless energy. With a script by screenwriter Hal Barwood, it's a game that slots effortlessly into the "Indiana Jones" mythos, maintaining the same powerful sense of adventure and fun commonplace to the series.

Multiple paths give this Lucasarts game a level of replayability uncommon in their adventures, and graphical advances certainly make it a far prettier game than its predecessor. And as a story? It's arguably better than the "Indiana Jones" film that would follow –- not a "climb into fridge" command in sight.

2. Knights of the Old Republic – 2003 – Xbox

Set in the same far, far away galaxy, but an even longer time ago, this "Star Wars" based roleplaying game is set during the days of the Old Republic, four millennia before the foundation of the Empire. The Jedi player and his team must travel the galaxy in order to defeat the cruel Darth Malak, but the player's choices will guide him towards either the dark side or light side of the Force, irrevocably changing them.

In the same way that older gamers go misty-eyed when speaking of their first playthrough of the original "Final Fantasy 7" on the Playstation, they'll adopt a similarly glazed smile when reminiscing the events of "Knights of the Old Republic." With a memorable storyline and supporting cast, it's an excellent package which time has barely diminished. Player decisions are meaningful and have impact and weight, and the epic quest is one that makes this player eager for another visit to that particular time and place.

1. Alien: Isolation – 2014 – PC

Whereas many of the "Alien" games descended into frenzied shooters, defanging the Xenomorph as familiarity bred contempt, "Alien: Isolation" took it back to the basics of Sir Ridley Scott's original movie, making a single alien terrifying again.

A hide 'em up starring Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda fighting for survival on board the eerily deserted Sebastopol Space Station (well, deserted apart from her, some malfunctioning androids, and a certain creature with a love of dental hygiene), it's a tense mix of resource management, navigation and sheer white-knuckle terror. Special mention must go to the designers Creative Assembly and Feral, as the production design is nothing short of excellent –- every inch of the station; every sign, computer, wall, door, and even choice of font — is clearly designed by fans of the films.

It's a game where you're not allowed to relax, being permanently stalked from start to finish. The A.I. of the Xenomorph hunting you down is convincingly well done, and –- much like "Resident Evil 7: Biohazard" in VR –- it's a game I could only play in small doses, just for the sake of my poor nerves. Now excuse me, I'm just going to hide in a cupboard for a bit.