Movie Games Are Back!

And it might be a good thing

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Official Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order promotional/marketing screenshot, www.ea.com

m that weird guy who used to buy every terrible licensed movie game and play them to completion.

Don’t worry, I know it’s ridiculous.

Licensed movie games used to be a staple of the industry, going all the way back to the dawn of the games medium.

Movie games have perhaps the most tumultuous success rate of any sector in gaming.

They’ve hit numerous highs(Riddick, Aladdin, Captain America Super Soldier, The Godfather, Peter Jackson’s King Kong The Official Game of the Movie) and many more lows(Iron Man 2, The Godfather II, Total Recall, Aliens Colonial Marines).

I love all of them.

There’s something really satisfying about finding a good one. So many of these games were made to keep studios afloat on contract deals and compressed schedules, but that didn’t stop talented developers from making The Two Towers fun to play even though it wasn’t their passion project.

Bad games can be fun too, and movie games used to provide dubious quality in spades. They often had short development cycles and heavy constraints from the movie studios, and that lead to some real clunkers.

Around the start of this generation, movie games abruptly stopped coming out. Everything either had to be a small budget indie game or a triple A blockbuster. There was no more room for a mid-budget movie licensed thing.

Many of the movie properties turned to mobile. There’s a plethora of movie games on your app store of choice, but almost all of them are tired re-skins of worn out mobile genres like match three puzzling or card-based strategy battling.

Fear not fellow movie game fan. For some reason, in the last few weeks, movie games came back in a big way with multiple new releases. Even though literally no one was asking for most of these, they’ve arrived.

Official Jedi Fallen Order Trailer

STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER

Fallen Order sounds like a mess on paper. It’s a pile of design decisions culled from other popular video games. It’s equal parts Tomb Raider 2013, Metroid, and Dark Souls.

And yet it somehow just barely works, all held together by some of the best visuals yet seen on this generation of hardware.

I’ve played a little over half of the game now, and the only thing that has frustrated me so far is that its level designs are perhaps too intricate. Many of the game’s objectives lie at the end of a long string of platforms, puzzles, and combat scenarios. Once you get to the end, you’ll then need to return to your ship to move on to the next planet….and you’ll have to push your way through all the stuff you just conquered a second time to get back there.

Clunkiness like that aside, it’s still a breathtaking achievement for movie game production(when the graphics aren’t glitching out) and Forest Whitaker is in it.

What more could you want?

The colon in the title implies that there will be more games in this series. I’m ready.

Official Terminator: Resistance announcement trailer

TERMINATOR: RESISTANCE

I didn’t even know this game existed until the day after it launched on Steam. It had a simultaneous PC and Console release worldwide, but the console versions were delayed into December in the US.

Terminator Resistance is a theoretical tie-in to Terminator: Dark Fate, developed by Teyon, the makers of that Rambo rail shooter game that a lot of people hated but I loved. Just like Fallen Order, Resistance runs on Unreal Engine 4, and it’s a sort-of-open world first person shooter.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a total sucker for Terminator video games, both good and bad. I love Bethesda’s original clunky-looking Terminator, a game that was way ahead of its time in spite of feeling so janky now that it’s hard to play in a modern context. I love the old T2 arcade shooter. I loved Grin’s Terminator Salvation, even though it was released unfinished and never got its cool PhysX effects.

Rose McGowan was in that game!

I…I plan to play this new Terminator game on both the PC and the Xbox. So look forward to far too much coverage of this.

Official Jumanji Game Trailer

JUMANJI THE VIDEO GAME

Jumanji The Video Game is a…third person co-op arena shooter and platformer.

Unlike the two games above, I don’t really understand this one as much.

Jumanji practically begs to be an endless runner, Temple Run style, and in fact that very game just got released for phones in Jumanji: Epic Run.

The very last thing that comes to mind when I think of this family movie franchise is “co-op shooter.” I don’t know. It’s a movie game so it had to go on this list!

Official Scrat’s Nutty Adventure Launch Trailer

ICE AGE: SCRAT’S NUTTY ADVENTURE

Would you believe me if I told you that the studio behind the solid Oddworld remasters made a competent platformer based on the Ice Age movies?

No, I wouldn’t either. But that happened, somehow. This game is sitting on my “play before the end of the year” list, and it seems like a surprisingly great time. I’ve always thought that Scrat was the best thing about the Ice Age franchise, and even though it doesn’t have a new movie out right now, it somehow has this multi-platform video game release.

Official trailer for Zombieland Double Tap Road Trip

ZOMBIELAND DOUBLE TAP: ROAD TRIP

This sure does look like a cheap downloadable twin stick shooter that had a movie name slapped on it, and got a $40 retail release. Maybe…maybe this isn’t the best example to put on my list here. Okay, forget I said anything.

Official Avengers overview trailer. It’s already better to play than Iron Man 2, and you can’t even play it yet!

MARVEL’S AVENGERS

I know Avengers isn’t out till next year, and I know that it’s taking inspiration both from the MCU and from the comics, but this one has a big shot at joining the list of the all-time great licensed games.

Avengers has an excellent development track record, coming from the same team that developed Tomb Raider 2013 and Rise of the Tomb Raider at Crystal Dynamics. It’s already got stellar-looking visuals thanks to their in-house engine, and hopefully the Destiny-inspired gameplay won’t get too bogged down into stretching out its run-time with fetch quests and grinding.

I have high hopes for this one, even though it’s out a few weeks after Cyberpunk, and thus will suffer from endless comparisons to what will no doubt be a generational best.

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Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

FINAL THOUGHTS

I don’t know if this period of movie game releases is simply the result of smaller budgets being greenlit as studios move on to next-gen development, but I hope that some of these sell well enough to show the industry that licensed movie games can still be fun.

Movie fans love to immerse themselves in the world of their favorite universes, and I think video games are a great way to do that.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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