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9 movie tie-ins that were better than the films

By Iain Wilson on Thursday 16th May 2013 at 1:32 PM UTC

From the millions of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial cartridges buried in a New Mexico landfill to the endless side-scrolling shooters of the '90s, it's fair to say the movie tie-in game has a pretty chequered history.

But, fortunately, some break the mould. In fact, some games don't just break the mould, they fire up a chainsaw and carve the mould into a million tiny pieces. Because some games end up being better than the actual film they're based on.

In celebration of pioneers like GoldenEye 007 and Dune, and more recent additions like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, we present a list of the nine best film tie-ins. (Don't agree? Let us know in the comments below.)


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DUNE (1992)

After spending almost a decade in development hell, David Lynch finally brought Dune to the silver screen in 1984. Critics weren't impressed, with Roger Ebert calling it "the worst movie of the year... incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless..." Tough crowd. Borrowing the look of the film, Cryo's PC/Amiga/Mega-CD game was a far more pleasing affair: an ambitious RTS - where players balanced spice mining against military power - which also housed adventure sections. Famed PC devs Westwood followed with Dune II in 1993, which was met with even greater critical success.


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ROBOCOP 3 (1993)

By the time the third instalment of RoboCop landed, original director Paul Verhoeven was long gone and Peter Weller had pressed the Eject button after the second film underwhelmed. Left behind was what Variety called, "a cluttered, nasty exercise that seems principally intent on selling action figures." The game, dubbed RoboCop 3D, thankfully fared much better by employing a 3D engine that was genuinely revolutionary at the time. Set in a large open-world city, players enforced the law by driving, shooting, fighting and even flying to chase down and neutralise the (ahem) Splatterpunk threat.


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GOLDENEYE 007 (1997)

Pierce Brosnan's debut as Bond was generally well received, with Empire describing it as "the best Bond movie since On Her Majesty's Secret Service." GoldenEye 007 was a whole different animal, though: demonstrating - perhaps for the first time - that consoles were a viable platform for the FPS genre, Rare's classic combined stealth and action to incredible effect, presenting the film's set pieces as cheesewire-tight playgrounds laden with choice. The guns were brilliant, the split-screen multiplayer was unmatched, there were two mammoth 'secret' levels, and even the cheats were memorable. A true classic.


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CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK: ESCAPE FROM BUTCHER BAY (2004)

Although Escape from Butcher Bay was released in the same year as the second Riddick film (which the San Francisco Chronicle called "inane" and "impenetrable"), it actually serves as a canon prequel to the series with our shiny-eyed anti-hero trying to break out of the titular space jail. The emphasis was very much on stealth, with players able to use shadows to stay hidden and drag bodies out of sight to prevent discovery. Controls were ultra-intuitive for sneaking, executions and hand-to-hand combat, plus Starbreeze's tech ensured the game looked absolutely blinding on the original Xbox.


While the film was labelled "inane" and "impenetrable" by critics, Starbreeze's Chronicles of Riddick was absolutely blinding on the original Xbox...


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SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)

In truth, the film was also good, but the gaming incarnation of Spider-Man 2 - based loosely on Sam Raimi's blockbuster - stepped it up a notch, delivering a huge open world, set in and around Manhattan and its surrounding islands. Players could freely explore using the pitch-perfect web-slinging mechanic, fighting crime long after the story was completed, plus developers Treyarch threw in a handful of extra villains from the comic books too. Until Rocksteady arrived, Spider-Man 2 was considered by many to be the best superhero game ever.

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