Summer means sun. Weeks off school, days off work, Coronas under a palm tree as a sea breeze washes over you. But it also means it's time for Hollywood's big shebang: the summer blockbusters.
And since we're in the midst of celebrating all things summer and all things gaming, what better time to honour – and shame – the games of the biggest summer blockbusters of all time.
The Star Wars Series (1977, 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, 2005)
The Movies: Star Wars needs no introduction. The most powerful force in popular culture of the past generation, its six movies were released across four decades, the first in 1977, the last in 2005. Some of them are great! Some of them, not so great.
The Games: There are just too many Star Wars games to mention here. Though, remarkably, for all the franchise's success, very few have been directly related to the events of the movies. And the best of those by far were Lucasarts Super Star Wars series, released in the mid-1990's for the Super Nintendo. Re-telling the events of the original trilogy through a combination of 2D platforming and vehicle sections, they stand as an example of movie licenses done right (even if they were a little late).
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Movie: The Dark Knight sits at #4 on the all-time box office charts, having taken in a whopping $1,001,921,825. It also holds the all-time record for the biggest opening weekend in cinema history, making $155,340,000.
The Game: Despite the immense interest in both the film and the franchise brought about by this movie (and, admittedly, the death of co-star Heath Ledger), in a rare showing there was never a console Dark Knight game. Well, there was never one released.
Pandemic's Australian studio were working on a tie-in game, which was destined to be an open-world title (GTA meets Splinter Cell), but publisher mismanagement and quality concerns led to the game's (and the studio's) demise.
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Movie: Just squeaking into the top 10-grossing movies of all time, Jurassic Park saw Steven Spielberg bring Michael Crichton's novel about dinosaur cloning gone mad to the big screen. With spectacular results. Sure, it wasn't as gritty as the source material, and those kids were annoying, but it still ranks as one of the most visually impressive films of all time.
The Games: While there have been many games based on the franchise over the years, at the time of the original film's release, only two tie-in titles were put out, one for the Super Nintendo, one for the Genesis. And in a rare move, both games were completely different. The Mega Drive game was a woeful platformer, while the SNES game was a surprisingly brilliant title, blending top-down exploration with first-person combat sections.
The Lion King (1994)
The Movie: Many would argue that The Lion King was Disney's last truly great in-house movie, and it's box office takings bear that out, as at #24 it's the highest-ranked Disney cartoon on the list of the top-grossing films of all time. A simple tale of a cub's difficult journey to adulthood, it's given surprising depth and maturity from some excellent casting and bleak visuals.
The Game: Lion King had a lot to live up to, following Shiny's amazing Aladdin title, but for the most part it lived up to those lofty expectations. The art and animation was handled by Disney, while the game was worked on by none other than Westwood Studios, of Command & Conquer fame.
ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
The Movie: Spielberg's film about an alien that comes to spread love, and not destruction, is still fondly-remembered, even if that fondness is restricted to a silly catchphrase about phones and the fact Drew Barrymore was in it.
The Game: Oh boy. When you want to talk about crummy games based on movies, they don't get much worse than ET. Rushed out in a matter of weeks so it could cash in on the film, the game bore little resemblance to the movie, and was a sales disaster. Things were so bad, in fact, that in 1983 Atari - reeling from the video game market crash it helped create with games like ET - filled a truck full of ET cartridges and buried them in a hole somewhere in the New Mexico desert.
The Back To The Future Series (1985, 1989, 1990)
The Movies: Marty McFly. Awesome Nike sneakers. Time-travelling locomotives. The Back to the Future series was perhaps the best example of the feel-good 80's blockbuster, with Michael J Fox and his time-travelling companion, the bonkers Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) managing to screw with the space-time continuum not once, not twice, but thrice.
The Games: For a movie trilogy that wasn't exactly big on action, Back to the Future somehow spawned around half a dozen games. Here, we're paying tribute to the worst, a vertically-scrolling game for the NES where you, as Marty McFly (apparently) have to run up a street collecting clocks, all the while avoiding men carrying panes of glass. And...that's about it.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean Series (2003, 2006, 2007)
The Movies: Based on a theme park ride of all things, Pirates of the Caribbean was one of the surprise hits of 2003, so much so that two further movies were released in 2006 and 2007. A fourth film is in pre-production. Johnny Depp steals the show as slightly camp pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, though we're equally fond of Bill Nighy's portrayal of fish-faced Davey Jones, partly because he's Bill Nighy, and partly because he's Bill Nighy with a giant pet squid.
The Games: Not much to speak of here. A game based on the third film, At World's End, came and went without troubling many people. More interesting is the game based on the first film. Or shall we say, "based on", since it has absolutely nothing to do with the events of the movie. It was, in fact, the sequel to PC Pirates! clone Sea Dogs, and was hastily repackaged to cash in on the first movie. And was about as successful as you'd expect such a venture to be.
The Transformers (2007, 2009)
The Movies: Michael Bay & Steven Spielberg (we're seeing that name a lot in here) team up to bring the most beloved cartoon series of the 1980s to life. Despite both being poor films - the second especially so - they're cashing in on 80's nostalgia and feature giant robots fighting, so it's no surprise the two films have already grossed over $1 billion combined.
The Games: The Transformers franchise has always been marred by poor video game adaptations, and these two films are no exception. Both tie-ins have been sub-par, generic action titles, only notable for the fact they managed to get the original Megatron voice actor to reprise his role, rather than Hugo Weaving, who voices the Decepticon leader in the films. Our advice? Go play the 2004 Transformers game, based on the Armada universe and developed by Melbourne House. It's actually good.
Independence Day (1996)
The Movie: One of the biggest summer blockbusters of the 1990's, ID4 may have featured silly characters and a silly plot by aliens to destroy humanity, but it had a memorable scene involving the White House, alien face-punching and a drunk Randy Quaid as the hero, so shut up. It's a great flick.
The Game: Sadly, the same can't be said of the adaptation, which appeared on the PS1 and Saturn. You fly an F-18 around shooting aliens, your view constrained by a technical cop-out squishing the playing area between an alien mothership and the ground, and...that's it. No face-punching. No smoky alien body snatching. No motivational speeches. Shame.
The Indiana Jones Series (1981, 1984, 1989,
The Movies: Ah, the Indiana Jones trilogy (there was never a fourth movie, got it?)!! Harrison Ford plays an adventurous archaeologist who has to stop Nazis (and creepy Indians) from taking over the world. While opinions are divided on the second film, the first and third go down as all-time classics, with Last Crusade also known as "the last good thing George Lucas ever did".
The Games: There have been a ton of Indy games released over the years, but like many older film franchises, not many dealt directly with the plot of the movies (LEGO Indy doesn't count as it was released so long after the fact). Lucasart's adventure game take on Last Crusade did, however, and being a Lucasarts adventure game, is pretty damn good. For some reason Last Crusade always gets forgotten in the wake of the later, superior Fate of Atlantis (also a Lucasarts adventure game), but it's worth checking out regardless.
The Jaws Series (1975, 1978, 1983, 1987)
The Movie: Jaws is remembered not just for the fact it made whole generations afraid to go near the water, but also because it was the very first "summer blockbuster." Spielberg's story of a giant shark terrorising a seaside community was so successful it spawned three sequels, which contrary to popular belief, are all good, Jaws 3 for the dream team of Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr., Jaws 4 for teaming Oscar-winner Michael Caine with...Mario Van Peebles.
The Games: There have only been a few Jaws games, one on the PS2 which was terrible, and one for the NES, pictured above. Which was also terrible. Though terrible in a good way, as it's based loosely on the events of Jaws 4, meaning you can play the game narrating the events in your best Michael Caine accent. It would have helped if either of the games was even remotely scary.
The Spider-Man Series (2002, 2004, 2007)
The Movies: Spider-Man is the king of the summer blockbuster this decade, and held the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time until beaten last year by The Dark Knight. A modern depiction of Marvel's classic comic character, the Spider-Man movies have benefited from not only amazing special effects, but a sexy, memorable cast as well. Who could ever forget the way James Franco eats that pie?
The Games: Each modern Spider-Man flick has spawned adaptations, but these for the most part have been terrible. With the exception of Spider-Man 2, on the Xbox, PS2 and GameCube. It took the key appeal of Spider-Man - his web-slinging - and applied it to an open city, giving us a watered down version of Grand Theft Peter Parker. Successive titles have failed to strike the same balance between action and exploration that this game managed so well.