Video game properties adapted into films are a constant source of sorrow. The best movies have strong narratives and characters and the best games have those as well, but ultimately excel because of gameplay. The problem isn’t so much that great films create bad games, but that there is little correlation between one type of greatness and the other. Licensing complicates this math somewhat, but fundamentally, the problem is much licensed material is disappointment, not failure.
Still, it’s hard not to get excited about the movies you love transforming into playable games, which is why it stings when those games go into production and never come out. And that happens an awful lot these days. One could argue (correctly) that many of the most exciting titles of the last decade belong to unreleased movie-based games. Would they all have been winners? Definitely not. Maybe none of them would have. But, even so, the gaming public wanted them.
These are the games that got away. These are the games we still pine for. These are the games we still want.
The Dark Knight
This blockbuster could have printed its own money with a tie-in game, yet, at the time, no one seemed to have much interest in making it work. Years later, we’ve finally uncovered the story of how the project spiraled out of control. Pandemic Games was in development on a Dark Knight open-world adventure, but Batman was killed by complexity.
According to the game makers involved, the studio’s use of a new and untested engine named Odin, which broke down when developers introduced the complex Batman model and dynamic lighting, was a coup de grâce.
Oh, what could have been. …
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
We’ve been waiting to hear why this property got skipped over. The Disney/LucasArts merger nuked a bunch of Star Wars properties, but, more importantly, set up the opportunity for a wealth of crossovers. These characters and locations are seen in Disney Infinity packs and in Lego games, as well as a host of mobile outings.
Details have just started emerging on the cancellation of the seventh film’s tie-in game, and it’s much more complicated than you might expect. Turns out that LucasArts figured the prequels might be the last films produced in the Star Wars universe, then began production on a version of Episode VII tentatively called Star Wars: Shadows of the Sith.
That game would have featured an adult Ben Skywalker as its protagonist. As established in books released as part of the Star Wars expanded universe, he was the son of Luke Skywalker and his wife Mara Jade. Skywalker would reportedly use Force powers “never-before-seen in games or movies” as he toed the line between light and dark.
Let’s also pour one out for the cancelled Darth Maul game that would’ve redeemed the character.
Perhaps the most upsetting entry on the list is this cancelled THQ tie-in to Marvel’s The Avengers.
The Avengers: The Movie, as it was tentatively titled, was designed to be a first-person action game, in which players controlled either Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, or Captain America (Black Widow and Hawkeye were to be unlockable characters). Additionally, the game was going to feature co-op play, in which you and three friends (or A.I.-controlled companions) could fight together as Marvel’s coolest heroes.
This co-op gameplay looks like it would’ve been literally THE MOST FUN THING and while re-watching the video, I’m getting upset all over again. How many weekends would you have lost to this:
Back in 2007, this title was finally revealed after years in development. Set between Dirty Harry and the sequel Magnum Force, it would’ve expanded on the world of the character of Clint Eastwood’s iconic cop.
Eastwood signed off on his likeness being used and even recorded all the voice work for the character, and then the Collective, Inc. (the developers of the game) disappeared. This is all that remains:
The sprawling cyberpunk world Katsuhiro Otomo created is still crying out for a video game adaptation. There’s been a few weird entries, including a pinball game and a visual novel. There was an Amiga entry in the early ’90s that is … unfortunately, not great.
There was also a console game with motorcycle levels and 3D sections that promised to be one of the most diverse games for the Super Nintendo, but it got canceled just before release. This interview from 2012 gets into everything that went wrong, and all that a childhood me would’ve killed to have. Still, with all the rumors of a remake and the game’s enduring legacy, there’s always a chance this will happen.