It is generally accepted that Video Games based on current (for the time) movies are generally pretty awful. As always, there are exceptions to the rule, Shrek 2 (2004), offering fun four player co-op based on scenes from the movie, Star Wars: Episode III (2005), offering one of the best lightsaber combat systems in a game, and Aladdin (1993) is simply recognised as a great platformer, being the third best-selling game on the Sega Mega Drive. However, even with these exceptions, it’s largely agreed that video games based on movies are nothing more than studio’s trying to cash in on movie releases.
However, this trend has definitely died down. A decade ago, if there was a movie there was also a game, with The Bee Movie Game being a prime example of “Should not exist”. When you consider that movies such as Bee Movie, Cory in the House, and Shark Tale all had their own video game adaptations, there are movies released in recent years where you would expect to find a video game, but one does not exist. Avengers: Age of Ultron and other recent movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are all movies you would have thought would have games based on them, especially when you consider the success of the Batman Arkham Series. And as every Harry Potter Movie had its own video game adaptation, it’s a surprise that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn’t have such an adaptation outside of mobile.
Though while the general trend has died down, Lego seem to have taken it upon themselves to continue it. What started with Lego Star Wars has expanded into encompassing Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic World and even Indiana Jones. This is on top of over Lego Games such as Lego Rock Band, Lego Batman, and their most recent take on the “figure” craze (ala Skylanders and Disney Infinity), Lego Dimensions. And while they vary in quality, with each individual game being enjoyable in their own right, the market is definitely becoming oversaturated, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens being its own lego game, and even Lego Indiana Jones releasing a few months before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, just so they can release the sequel a year later including the movie.
Of course, there haven’t just been video games adaptations of movies, but also movie adaptations of movies. And while there are some exceptions, most notably Wreck it Ralph, they often are disappointing movies. In 2016 we had Ratchet and Clank, Warcraft and Assassins Creed, all of which received negative critical reception, which is disappointing to say the least.
So are video games and movies just an incompatible medium? Are the criteria of what makes a good game and what makes a good movie just too different? Assassins Creed 2, for example, had nearly four hours’ worth of cut scenes; how do you turn four hours of Story into a 90-minute film including all the key aspects of its story? And vice versa, how do you turn 90 minutes’ worth of film into a game with a fun, extensive story in its own right? Clearly it isn’t easy, but good movie-based games have been made before, so you’d expect more of them to be released. We wouldn’t hold our breath, but with expansions for Star Wars Battlefront focusing on Rogue One related content, perhaps the future of video game/movie tie-ins has simply migrated to the world of downloadable content.