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Tainted Tie-Ins: Worst Movie Games Ever

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Tainted Tie-Ins: Worst Movie Games Ever
: Ever since they first fooled around in the Atari era, movies and videogames have had a troubled relationship.
Movies based on games -- like Super Mario Bros. and Postal-- deliver pure cinematic dreck, yet somehow games based on movies up the crap ante. Slapped together on tight development schedules by B-list teams, movie tie-in games rarely crawl out of the hole of mediocrity. Quite frankly, they dream of being mediocre.
Adding insult to injury, they sell enormously well. The NPD Group reported in June that the PlayStation 2 Iron Man game was May's seventh best-selling U.S. game.
Here's our list of the 10 worst movie-to-game translations in history, with input from a Wired.com reader poll. If it seems heavy on retro games, just remember that things used to be a lot worse.
Raiders of the Lost Ark


Atari 2600 owners who ripped open their Christmas presents in 1982 were probably doubled over in glee at the prospect of jumping into the fedora of America's sweetheart, Harrison Ford, and going on an adventure as Indy. Instead, what they got was a game that we might charitably describe as "ahead of its time" but after a drink would call "ridiculous."
Not only were the graphics completely inscrutable -- can you even tell which of these abstract objects is supposed to be Indiana Jones? -- but the game was impossible to understand unless you pored over the instructions. Woe betide you if they ended up in the trash bag with the wrapping paper.
"Indecipherably bad graphics, unintuitive 'gameplay' (if you can even call it that) and the worst possible control scheme ever," writes commenter Sakimori.
: Star Wars (Namco version)


A long time ago (1987) in a galaxy far, far away (Japan), the development house behind Pac-Man decided to try its hand at creating a Star Wars game for the 8-bit Nintendo system. For the most part, it's a mundane side-scrolling game in which Luke hacks away at enemies with his lightsaber and dies a lot. But you know that things have gone horribly awry when he enters the Jawa Sandcrawler after about five minutes of gameplay to find Darth Vader, who transforms into a scorpion.
No, really. Luckily for everyone involved, this game was only released in Japan.
: Back to the Future


Screwed up though it was, Namco's version of Star Wars was more or less faithful to the movie insofar as Luke Skywalker does, at times, use a lightsaber. If we were to apply the same sort of thinking to the Nintendo Entertainment System version of Back to the Future, we would necessarily determine that the film starred a young man who spent all his time being assaulted on the street by killer wasps, girls with razor-sharp Hula-Hoops and men wearing pink. Back to the Future's controls were so shaky that players felt like they were as drunk as the people who programmed it.
Even the jump to 16 bits didn't help the series. "Shonky controls and mediocre graphics were just the start of this atrocity that really did seem like it had traveled through time from the past," wrote an anonymous Wired.com reader about Back to the Future III for Sega Genesis.
Back to the Future was just one of the flood of execrable movie-to-game releases foisted on an unsuspecting public by the thankfully dead Acclaim Entertainment. (We'll see them again before we're finished with this dreadful expedition.)
: Nausicaš Kiki Ippatsu


This is another game that only saw release in Japan, but its worldwide impact has been tremendous. The developers at Tokuma Shoten, tasked with creating a game based on animation legend Hayao Miyazaki's breakout smash Nausicaš, turned a film about nonviolence and environmentalism into a vapid shooter.
As the story goes, Miyazaki was so enraged by the game that Studio Ghibli never had anything to do with videogames ever again. Sure enough, no game projects have ever been released for any of the studio's later films, like Princess Mononoke or the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. Maybe that's all for the best.
: Friday the 13th


Yes, it's another inscrutably bad movie-to-game translation courtesy of our good friends at Acclaim Entertainment. You all remember Friday the 13th, that horror film about camp counselors who throw knives at Yetis that burrow up from beneath the Earth. At least the Back to the Future games kept epileptic Marty McFly constantly moving toward the goal.
Making a failed attempt at nonlinearity, Friday the 13th mostly left players to wander around the identical screens that made up the virtual version of Camp Crystal Lake, listening to exactly four bars of the worst sonic torture ever devised until they died. Technically it was possible to finish the entire game in three minutes, and we feel terribly sorry for anyone who spent the time to learn how.
"I'm not sure if I've ever seen anyone do anything besides run around and die," writes reader (not the real) Bob Dole.
: Seven Samurai 20XX


Wired.com reader Fnord called this PlayStation 2 game "a generic-to-bad brawler game that was trying very hard to be Ninja Gaiden, shoehorned and chopped and hammered into something that tried to resemble the plot of one of the best movies ever made."
We simply call it an atrocity. Akira Kurosawa wasn't even five years in his grave, and already his son Hisao was ****ing out his classic films to the highest bidder, allowing Japanese pachinko-maker Sammy to turn Kurosawa's samurai masterpiece into a campy futuristic fighting game. It's embarrassing to even say this game's title out loud, let alone play it.
: Total Recall


For all of Acclaim Entertainment's sins of the 8-bit era, perhaps none was so unbelievably ham-fisted as Total Recall. Turning R-rated films into games for children had to have been hard work, but that still doesn't explain why the gameplay of Total Recall consists of a gorilla that is supposed to be Arnold Schwarzenegger being kidnapped by bearded midgets in pink jumpsuits, dragged into alleys and kicked in the knees. To death.
Everything about this game is hilarious, except for the fact that children spent actual money on it back when the dollar was worth something. Also, there was no three-boobed alien hooker.
: Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game


Quick, what's a worse idea than turning Street Fighter II into a live-action movie? Turning said live-action movie into a videogame. Hey guys, there already is a Street Fighter videogame, and it's awesome. We don't need one starring Raul Julia. But Raul Julia we get.
Isn't it amazingly sad that this talented actor's final appearance is in a videogame where he (his stuntman, actually) gets to serve as a punching bag for a squad of B-list actors? Besides Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue, there's also Ming Na, and seeing her jump around in a tiny China-doll dress shouting horrifically mangled Japanese catch phrases more than makes up for how preachy Mulan was.
Bonus points: When Street Fighter: The Movie came to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, it was so bad that it wasn't even published by Street Fighter creator Capcom. Instead, it carried the logo of -- you cannot make this stuff up -- Acclaim Entertainment.
: Enter the Matrix


Every now and then, there's a movie game that is supposed to change everything we know about movie games. This is inevitably followed by the backlash that results when these massively hyped projects turn out to be just as crappy as their predecessors.
Reviewers agreed that the only reason to play Enter the Matrix would have been to watch the extra footage from the Matrix Reloaded shoot, a desire that simply watching Matrix Reloaded should have cured. Otherwise, it was an utter mess.
Even sadder? In a past life, lead designer David Perry was responsible for one of those rare-as-a-unicorn good movie games: Aladdin for the Sega Genesis.
: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial


Wired.com readers might not have enjoyed the Raiders of the Lost Ark game, but Steven Spielberg liked the Atari 2600 title enough that he asked its designer, Howard Scott Warshaw, to design a game based on his upcoming film E.T.
In time for the film's release. Which was six weeks away.
Faced with an impossible deadline, Warshaw sequestered himself away in his Atari office, emerging just a month and a half later with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It's not the single worst videogame ever created, but it lives in infamy as the videogame industry's first high-profile disaster. Again, let us look back at children opening their presents one fine Christmas morning in 1982, and watch as they attempt to maneuver E.T. around the game screen, only to fall into a pit that they cannot escape from, no matter how many times they try. Repeat until tears are flowing steadily and Mom takes the game back to the store.
There are many urban legends about E.T., and all of them are true. Atari manufactured 4 million copies of the game and found itself stuck with 2.5 million leftovers, which it buried in a New Mexico landfill. But E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial remains one of the best-selling Atari 2600 games of all time, proving the old adage that people will, in fact, buy any videogame with a movie license on the cover, no matter how terrible.


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