Gaming

The Best and Worst 8-Bit Video Game Movie Licenses

Technology has come to such a point that when a major movie drops, the video game is likely to be bigger, feature a different plot and have so much money spent in development that it has to be brilliant.

It’s very rare a software house pushes out a half-baked movie license these days; such is the reach of the video game market. Once upon a time, the movie market was the dominant force, and a video game spin-off was an afterthought, in some instances so bad it ended up in a landfill somewhere in Arizona. That’s not the case anymore; Market Watch reveals the video game industry is now worth more than the movie industry and the North American sports industry combined.

That means movies don’t just spawn titles directly linked to their plots, but also all manner of other tie-ins as well. For instance, the Hogwarts Legacy game has no direct correlation to the movies but instead weaves a different plot, completely independent of the source material but featuring locations and characters everyone recognizes. Some games are not even a relatable genre to the movie they represent. For instance, Coral features online slots with branding such as The Goonies and Jurassic Park, but they don’t directly link to the films, other than logos and general themes. The same goes for a host of mobile games; Thor: Dark World isn’t canon in the film universe, but it’s a big draw because it ties into the franchise in terms of branding.

There was no such technology to allow diversification back in the late eighties and early nineties. Instead, developers tried to make a game that stuck loosely to the plot of the film they were making and made the most of the limited technology they had at their disposal. Sometimes they got it right, and sometimes they got it badly wrong, as you’ll see below.

Best – Batman

Batman movies are accepted as big hits these days, but in 1989 they were associated with tights and cheesy lines. Michael Keaton brought respectability to the role, and Ocean Software did the same for the game. This game hit all the sweet spots with a powerful soundtrack, good difficulty curve, and plenty of variation. Mixing a chase in the Batmobile with puzzle elements and platform levels made it a gamer’s delight.

Worst – Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy was a beloved character back in the late eighties, and with a film starring Warren Beattie and Madonna planned, a game was rushed out to cash in. The game was utterly appalling, with zero effort put in at all. The levels were all the same, a scrolling (or rather jerking) yellow block walks into other blocks, and they disappear. History will tell you the game was released completely unfinished to hit a deadline, but that’s no excuse for those who forked out to experience it.

Best – Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers game was the complete opposite of Dick Tracy; it was released so long after the film it was almost a title in its own right. It was best on the C64 and Amiga, a platform game of some reputation with a great soundtrack and strong graphics. Most of all, it was highly playable, something not all games were back then. In 1993, it was voted the eighth-best all-time Commodore 64 game by legendary magazine ZZap!64, although subsequent NES and Gameboy releases were not as well received. It was certainly a strong platformer in the days when that genre was wildly popular.

Worst – Back to the Future

Remember the huge swarm of bees Marty had to avoid in Back to the Future? No? Us neither, but the developers of this turgid effort saw fit to include them. With no real relation to the movie and no thought into the level design at all, this is an instantly forgettable tie-in to a much-loved movie franchise. It was so bad that Bob Gale, the film’s screenwriter, said it was one of the worst games ever, and he urged fans not to buy it after being frozen out by developers LJN.

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