In the Christmas of 1987, my brother and I got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. This was the first console I ever owned and it hooked me bad. I wasted hours on weekends and vacations playing game after game for hours on end. Back in the days of no internet and a tiny games press, you had to play the game and find out for just how good or bad it was. And there were a lot of bad video games back in those days. What you quickly found out was that many of the worst of the worst were games based on then-popular movies or television shows. So with that in mind, let’s talk about four video games that wrecked my childhood. and how different they are from the films that inspired them.
NES – Back to the Future
The Movie: Back to the Future is the textbook example of the perfect time travel movie. It is also a textbook example of how to make a super creepy romance storyline.
My browser history is full of this stuff.
The movie had a great script, a big budget, and it soon went down as an instant classic. We are living in the future that Back to the Future was about and we’re still talking about how great this movie is.
The Game: While the film had the perfect ingredients to be an all-time classic, Back to the Future on the Nintendo Entertainment System had all the wrong ingedients for making an all-time flop.
The object of the game was not to trope up.
Similar to the film, the plot of the game is to get Marty back to the future from the year 1955. But unlike the movie, this mainly involved walking through Hill Valley while collecting clocks. Though good grabbing any of those timepieces, because every single thing in Hill Valey is trying to kill you. In between those frustrating sections, there were bonus levels that were must win to advance.
One involves getting a minimum wage job.
Repetitive music, monotonous bonus rounds, and possibly the most literal interpretation of a film in a video game. Marty plays music in the film, so let’s have a whole stage of that. He deflects advances from his mom, so let’s have him pop hearts in a classroom, These are the strategies of this game.
Everyone remembers the memorable dance building from the movies!
Super Nintendo – Wayne’s World
The movie: In the film version of Saturday Night Live favorite Wayne’s World, the film followed the rise to stardom of a small cable access show starring Wayne and Garth. Fame gets to Wayne’s head and the interference of the network basically ruins a friendship. Don’t worry, it all works out in the end when Wayne and Garth save their friendship and the day (unless you take the downer ending as canon).
Basically, this is all you need to know about the movie. #Spoilters
This is from the classic episode where Wayne is having a stroke.
So the game must be about saving your beloved TV show from greedy network television execs? Rescue Tia Carrere? Nope. It’s… It’s… It’s… Well this:
Am…. I having a stroke now?
In the game, you play Wayne and you run around from level to level fighting anthropomorphic objects with an electric guitar, just like in this fever dream I had this one time.
“From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.” – H.P. Lovecraft
Game Boy – Any Game Boy Game (When Played Outside)
“Let’s make a portable gaming system that is impossible to play on a sunny day!” – Nintendo idea guy
N64 – Golden Eye 64
The Movie: A passably decent James Bond flick that was the first ever starring Pierce Brosnan. I don’t remember much about it because I may have blacked out about the time Joe Don Baker appeared on camera.
Mitchell Goes to Moscow!
The game: Was basically the most awesome N64 game ever, depending on who you ask. And if you’re asking me, it’s an overrated pile of garbage.
WHAT DID YOU SAY!?!?!
No, I’m serious guys. GoldenEye was the worst. It was released in 1997. You know what came out the year before? Quake. What does Quake have that GoldenEye didn’t? The answer is simple: jumping.
Might as well walk ALL THE WAY over to the stairs. Safety first after all!
I suppose I shouldn’t complain, though. It’s not like James Bond ever jumped in the movies…
… Technically speaking he’s actually falling here.
Yes, one of the reasons why GoldenEye is a terrible game is because the characters can’t jump. This was a standard function in a first person shooter since 1996 at the latest when Duke Nukem 3D came out. The lack of jumping is a serious oversight, especially when your protagonist is a super-spy getting shot at by endless droves of Russian soldiers.
Also, can we talk about the multiplayer function for a moment? Pro: getting to play against four of your friends. Con: Your screen is divided four different ways. Unless you had a really large screen television back in those pre-HD days, this was literally the worst.
Squinting at 1/4 of a 19-inch TV screen is a well-honed skill among the spy community.
Again, when you compare it to other contemporary first-person shooters, particularly the ones that had multiplayer functions, this split screen setup was holding GoldenEye back. Playing multiplayer on a PC added an element of the unknown to the idea of playing against others. You couldn’t just look over to another quadrant of the screen and figure out where the other player was, you had to actually look for them and they could be anywhere. GoldenEye basically took all the fun out of multiplayer games and bled it dry, leaving only a split screen of misery that made you hate your friend with a photographic memory.
Anyway, I’ve thrown too many controllers to the ground researching for this article, time to take a break. Have faith, my friend, there are actually really good video games based on movies from the retro gaming era. If you’re really nice I might tell you about them some day.