In recent years the videogame has surpassed its older sister film as a storytelling device. Both mediums are champions of the visual storytelling but videogames take this to the next level by actually placing the action in the hands of the audience. No longer are you just watching a story unfold but you are the story with degrees of the narrative being shaped by you. Instead of watching a shoot-out being conducted you are the orchestrator of the violence. You are no longer watching someone flee from a zombie horde, you are the one being chased by the horde. In truth this platform has been around for decades but it’s been in the last two decades things have really reached their true stride.
Like with any medium the great question will inevitably spring up on whether it can be considered art and videogames have had the toughest climb. Given videogames started off life being heavily marketed as a kids toy it has had to truly battle to capture a wider audience and gain it’s place in the argument. It wasn’t until the 90’s we started seeing titles being catered more towards adult audiences that could start giving it that wider spectrum. Along with that wider audience came a bigger focus towards storytelling. The storytelling aspect had always remained a core element even in its earliest days but even then it was very basic. Plumber eats mushroom to save princess from a dragon like creature. For me it really began to take off in 2000’s and into the 2010’s. Take a look at this current generation with titles such as The Last of Us Part 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 completely blowing film out of the water with such rich and deep storytelling. Throw in some absolutely gorgeous visuals with engaging gameplay and you can’t help but see why videogames deserve their place in the art.
For most audiences this is something that is only just starting to click but for those in the industry they are probably relived people are finally catching up. True auteur of the industry, Hideo Kojima, has long stood out as a champion of videogames being a storytelling tour de force despite being an avid cinephile himself. Say what you want about his polarising last release, Death Stranding, but you’ll struggle to find such an original IP with a rich story packed into a world brimming with beauty and lore. Perhaps it is this potential they saw out of the medium that they believed games could be a better way of continuing stories from it’s older sister film.
Videogames have actually seen a long history of developers taking some of their favourite films and creating sequels that fans thought they would never get a chance to see. Whether it is part of a franchise that had long since ended or revisiting a long forgotten classic, games have become a regular platform to allow people to revisit their favourite settings and characters with the added bonus of them controlling the action. So with this in mind I decided to pick out five of my favourite examples of videogames that served as great sequels to movies.
Evil Dead: Regeneration
Until the brilliant Ash vs Evil Dead series came along to continue the franchise, fans of the Evil Dead had to explore various other avenues to get their fix. Since the series concluded with Army of Darkness in 1992, fans were constantly itching to see Ash return to kick some groovy Deadite arse but very little was seen of him. A lot of his appearances were reduced to comics in which he would pop up to fight Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees (twice!) as well as becoming part of Marvel cannon to battle the Marvel Zombies. However, videogames have been the main source for fans to fulfil their needs with unfortunately mostly poor results.
Thankfully though there is one stand out which comes in the form of Evil Dead: Regeneration released for the PC, PS2 and Xbox. The game does ignore the series cannon slightly, taking place directly after the events of Evil Dead 2 but given a lot of films these days take that approach I guess you could view it as a head of the curve. We see Ash locked away in an insane asylum suspected of killing his friends in the cabin with authorities believing his version of events to be some kind of psychotic delusion. However, things quickly go pear shaped when his doctor, Dr. Reinhard, uses Professor Raymond Knowby’s diary and the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to unleash the Deadite plague once again. It is then up to Ash to go stop the Deadite forces this time being joined on his journey by his new half dead companion Sam.
In terms of gameplay it is just your typically hack and slash title that was gaining huge popularity during that console generation. Compared to other games of that genre it is pretty basic with what it does but the novelty of playing as Ash, chainsawing down Deadites and using the boomstick for the final blow never gets old. What makes this even better is king chin himself, Bruce Campbell, returns to voice Ash and is joined by series regular Ted Raimi voicing new character Sam. Sam acts as a great companion to Ash, a loud mouthed hyper small person who is effectively half human and half Deadite. What is even more great is he is a competent companion as well, actually getting stuck into battles and Ash can also field goal kick him into enemies. As well as basketball hoops and wood chippers for fun (being half Deadite means he is immortal).
Story wise things feel right at home with the Evil Dead universe with Dr. Reinhard being a typically over the top cheesy villain and the game presenting a host of horror themed environments for you to slash your way through. Particular highlight is the open tutorial level which sees you back in the cabin from Evil Dead 2 complete with laughing deer head and furniture. Even little additions like the spirt of Dr Knowby serving as the one to send Ash on this quest feels like a great expansion on a character that only has brief mentions in the films. The series trade mark crude humour remains perfectly in tack delivered brilliantly by Campbell and Raimi, although dialogue can feel clunkily placed together but this was typical for most games at the time.
Overall, Evil Dead: Regeneration offers a great fix to those fans of the series looking to find some continuation of the story. Many will no doubt be disappointed in does not follow on properly from the last entry of the films but if you view it as an alternative timeline it serves as a great sequel that feels at home with this franchise.
Just like the Evil Dead franchise, when it comes to video games the Alien series has had more bad tiles than good (Colonial Marines anyone?). It seems surprising given the formula is right there for some great video games. If you take the James Cameron Aliens approach all you need to do is give the player a pulse rifle and plenty of xenomorph to mow down. Does it really need to be more complicated than that? In truth, there actually has been a handful of games dating all the way back to the 80’s that have handled this fairly well but when it comes capturing the pure horror the series was originally known for then it is sorely lacking.
That was until Alien: Isolation was released in 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Taking place 15 years after the first film, you take control of Amanda Ripley, daughter of series protagonist Ellen Ripley, as she investigates the disappearance of her mother. Instead she finds herself stranded on a space station being pursued by a dreaded xenomorph. The story may not sound much to write about but when you actually get into it there is so much attention to detail, especially in the world building, you can’t help but feel sucked into it.
The developers, Creative Assembly, truly went out of their way to create a game that feels like it belongs in the Alien universe. The team decided to design the game more in line with Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien as opposed to Cameron’s more action-oriented 1986 sequel Aliens. As such everything from the design of the corridors to equipment, like the motion tracker, feels ripped out of the film. Everything thing feels very 70’s – 80’s futuristic clearly sticking to what limitations the film crew themselves would have had at the time.
Gameplay wise, Isolation helped spearhead a revival of survivor horror games which resulted in countless imitators popping up after it’s release. Although some human and android enemies will occasionally show up, the game only really features the xenomorph as the main antagonist which cannot be stopped or killed. It’s in this regard the game goes along way of making the xenomorph feel like a true unstoppable beast again after many incarnations have seen it become a much weaker threat. All you can do is run and hide from the menace with only a few moments to occasionally fight. It really makes you plan out your strategy as one false move will result in instant death. This really ramps up the scares and atmosphere so much, feeling like a shot in the arm both the franchise and survival horror genre needed. The influence on the genre cannot be understated as even pioneer series, Resident Evil, borrowed heavily Alien Isolation it’s seventh entry in the series in 2017.
If you are a horror junkie looking to get your fill on scares then Alien Isolation is the perfect way to score that fix. Away from that the game serves as a great sequel if you are a fan of the series wanting to know about some of the events taking place between the first two films. Despite focusing in on a character that was only ever mentioned in the series, Amanda is a great fit and you really do get sucked into her exploration to find our what happened to her mother whilst facing the threat that is responsible for her disappearance.
So real talk here, was anyone past a certain age familiar with The Warriors before the videogame brought new eyes to this cult classic? No doubt it must have been a strange, albeit fitting, choice for Rockstar to develop a game of this film. At the time the company was riding its wave to dominance having already released Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City and San Andreas. On top of that, the early 2000’s was a point when Rockstar released a steady output of various IP’s such as State of Emergency, Midnight Club and Manhunt. Crazy to think how prolific they used to be when these days they only have focus on two titles and a 6-7 year gap between new releases. Still, it must have seemed out of nowhere that they had developed a tie-in game to a cult film that was 25 years old at that point.
It was because of this game I became aware of the film and now both sit comfortably on my all-time favourite lists. Up until this point, fans of the film had nothing in the years that followed until the release of the game and it’s clear Rockstar wanted to deliver as much as they could to make up for that. Although not a sequel, the game predominantly serves as a prequel before eventually retelling the events of the film. It serves as a terrific companion piece and it’s clear the developers went to great lengths to faithfully recreate the world and expand upon it. This included getting as many of the original actors to reprise their roles, faithfully recreating a 70’s New York and providing an expanded soundtrack.
Set a few months before the events of the film, you take control of the titular gang as you see the events unfold that lead to The Warriors gaining their invite to the big meeting hosted by The Riffs. From there you’ll then play through the events of the film with the game lovingly recreating and expanding on the original events. As mentioned, it’s almost staggering the amount of effort Rockstar put into this game by not only recreating this stylised version of New York but even giving the smallest details a bigger expansion. The opening credits of the film feature shots of numerous gangs that get barely a few seconds of screen time. In the game however they are all fully realised. Each gang has a leader and core members with nearly every faction getting a moment to shine in their own level or at least have one standout moment.
The amount of content crammed into the game is also staggering, that a whole article could be dedicated to covering it. To give you a few examples; on top of serving as a prequel, the game features unlockable flashback levels showing how the gang was formed and how each member came to be. Once the campaign is finished you unlock a small bonus game called Armies of the Night which serves as an ode to side scrolling beat-em ups of yester year. Between missions you get to explore a fully realised hub area of Coney Island with plenty of side missions and unlockables to keep you occupied. Not only that the game is an absolute blast to play in co-op with every aspect being able to be shared and experienced with a friend.
If you are a fan of the film then it is almost essential you get round to playing The Warriors. Despite being a game that was released back in the mid-00’s it still holds up amazingly well. This beat em-up is also sign of how 3D games could have had a successful transition with that genre seemingly having lived and died with 2D side scrollers. Serving as part prequel the game gives you everything you would want for an expansion of this world.
Ghostbusters the Videogame
Despite being one of the most celebrated comedies of all time and being a franchise with it’s fingers in many pies, it is surprising to date we have only had three Ghostbusters films. After the original released it seemed like this was a property destined for future instalments yet it’s always been a franchise locked in development hell. True, there wasn’t too long of a gap until Ghostbusters 2, a decent sequel which gets way too much hate. This is a hill I will forever die on. Following that though it was a near 17 year wait until a new movie came along in the form of the reboot. The less said about that the better.
If you were a fan of the series it was not like you would be totally starved of content. The series has survived in some excellent animated shows and comic books. But if you were desperate for a true sequel to the original films the next best thing came in the form of Ghostbusters the Videogame released in 2009. Set two years after the events of the sequel, the Ghostbusters have become city contractors, authorized and insured to capture ghosts. You take control of the “Rookie”, a new silent member of the team, as the city begins to fall once again into ghostly chaos, all seemingly linked back to their original antagonist Gozer.
The game is a true must play experience for any fans of the series. For the first time it felt you like could really step into the role of a Ghostbuster getting all the toys and gadgets featured in the film right at your finger tips, as well a few new additions to get to grips with. You also get to explore many of the locations from the two films that have been lovingly recreated and are packed full of collectables which help expand on the lore already set out. On top of that all of the original cast returned to reprised their roles with Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis working closely with the writers to ensure the tone and humour was directly on point.
Although the game seemingly does a lot of re-treading, it actually served as a great way for series creators, Ackroyd and Ramis, to explore many ideas they had for the original film. This included such details like giving the standout ghosts more backstory and providing more of a spotlight for briefly mentioned characters such as Ivo Shandor who serves as the main antagonist in the game. It also allowed the pair to use ideas they had for sequels such as when in later stages of the game you enter the ghostly dimensions, an idea that was originally going to be used for Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent before it died in development hell. Because of this, the game serves as a true what if sequel to the series, mostly sticking to the themes and events of the original to please fans whilst offering a little something new to make it feel like a true successor.
As of writing this we are rapidly approaching the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife which is returning the franchise back to the originally series. Fingers crossed it will be a sequel that lives up to the long wait and gets the franchise back on track. Until then though, Ghostbuster: the Videogame is a worthy sequel that will fulfil even the most grizzled of fans desires. If you still have a PS3 or Xbox 360 you should be able to pick up a copy fairly cheap but the game also received a remaster for current gen consoles back in 2019.
If you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema, then chances are you are familiar of John Woo. Before making his mark on American cinema (Face Off anyone?) Woo caught audiences’ attention for creating some of the most stylish and blood-soaked action films. The stand-out of his out put was Hard Boiled, which stars Chow Yun-Fat as “Tequila” Yen, a grizzled hard drinking cop who battles gangster across Hong Kong. For years it was hoped that Woo would do a follow up to this action masterpiece but it was following it’s release Woo spring boarded to America to begin capturing new audiences meaning any chance of sequel kept slipping further away.
That was until 2007 when Midway Games released Stranglehold, a direct sequel to the film that let you play through all of the gun duelling mayhem. It’s clear the developers wanted to make this feel as authentic as possible to Woo’s style as they brought him on board as a producer and brought back Yun-Fat as “Tequila”. Plot wise it is a standard action affair with Tequila investigating the death of a police officer only to find himself slap bang in the middle of an gang war between the Triads and Russian Mafia. It’s certainly entertaining enough but realistically when it comes to action films the plot is secondary to what actually takes place on screen.
The same rings true for this third-person shooter which takes many ques from games that came before whilst capturing the essence of Woo’s filmmaking. One of the core mechanics is its slow down bullet time effect (a-la Max Payne), called Tequila Time, which turns every level into an adrenaline fuelled playground. While in this mode you can make Tequila dive through the air, slide down banisters, across tables, swing on chandeliers and run up some ridiculous obstacles. One level sees you embroiled in a shoot out in a museum complete with dinosaur skeletons to run up the back of and dive off once you get to the top. Levels also boast some unique environmental destruction as street signs can be gunned down to flatten enemies and there are plenty red barrels of doom that will blow up anyone in the vicinity.
In order to recreate Woo’s balletic form of capturing firefights the game features a star system that are awarded for the stylish kills. Stringing together Tequila Time kills will make this bad boy climb and you will be constantly searching the environment for obstacles to string together to rack up a high score. Away from allowing you to dance around the environment, Tequila Time can also boast some extra benefits including the ability to drop into a first person kill shot. Using this feature allows you to target a specific enemy and deliver them a fatal shot. Targeting a specific part of their anatomy will also cause them to react accordingly. Getting enemies right in the gonads never gets old and will forever be hilarious.
It appears Hard Boiled is still not likely to get a big screen companion but you can find a satisfying sequel here. If you are looking for a game with a rich and deep story then chances are Stranglehold will not be for you. But if you’re a fan of Woo’s work you are not exactly coming here to be told a story. You are looking for stylish gun play and when you can actually put that power in your own hands then you’ll have a total blast here.