Cinema and video games provide excitement to audiences in two very different ways. The thrills that come from watching, say, “The Dark Knight,” come from the unexpected twists and turns of its story. Games, on the other hand, let you embody a story’s main character. You’re a mostly passive observer with a movie like “Avatar” whereas playing BioWare’s “Mass Effect” games not only puts you in the middle of the action, it also lets you shape the main character’s personality and the saga that’s unfolding around you.
Still, video games overall could use some of the nuance, story sophistication and tonal variation that movies enjoy as a matter of course. And, lately, it’s been impossible to walk out of a certain flicks and not think, “There should be a way to play in that world.” Take “Inception,” for example. Nowadays, it’s a given that tentpole Hollywood films come out with game development deals as part of their package. However, many cinematic classics or cult favorites could also make the jump from projector to polygon and become fun games. We’ve assembled a list of films that need to be pulled out of unplayable limbo and given new life as button-based experiences.
1. “eXistenZ” (1999)
Directed by David Cronenberg
The Movie: This psychological thriller offers that a throbbing, tumor-like growth will become the future’s next hot game console, a portal to a new massively-multiplayer online game called “eXistenZ.” Playing it requires players to physically plug into bio-organic consoles, gets tested. When a killer threatens the life of the game designer (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), she and a bodyguard (Jude Law) go on a voyage that blurs the boundaries of reality and gameplay.
Why an “eXistenZ” Game Needs To Exist: It’s got the requisite chasing, running, hiding and shooting going on, but “eXistenZ” also film draws on cyberpunk trappings that would make great game elements: jumping between a virtual world and real life, a shared reality as a giant level/maze meant to be solved and the fusion of man and machine. Plus, it’d be a game about a game within a game so there’s room for plenty of
Who Should Make It: Grasshopper Manufacture. The dev studio run by Suda51 (a.k.a. Goichi Suda) made a grade-A mindf**k with “Killer 7,” a gory, bizarre mystery that debuted on Nintendo’s family-friendly GameCube. Suda’s since gone on to make “No More Heroes,” an action title with a bunch of meta-commentary about being a video game. The designer’s shown a love for gore, otaku culture and messing with people’s heads, all things that would make him perfect to build an “eXistenZ” game.
If It Doesn’t Happen, You Can Always Play: “Alan Wake.” Remedy’s critically acclaimed game sports a lead character fighting off possessed townsfolk drawn from the collective subconscious of his own tainted creativity. The dark shoot-em-up seductively turns in on itself, with elements that riff on “The Twilight Zone” and Remedy’s own “Max Payne” games. For most of the game, Wake can’t tell if he’s the architect of his own hell, a trait that he shares with Leigh’s game designer in “eXistenZ.”
2. “Ip Man” (2010)
Directed by Wilson Yip
The Movie: This Hong Kong martial arts movie tells the story of than man who taught Bruce Lee how to kick ass. Donnie Yen plays the titular role, an aloof grandmaster who rouses to action when the Japanese invade the Chinese mainland in the 1930s.
Why an “Ip Man” Game Needs To Exist: A kung-fu brawler with the guy who originated the Wing Chun style just begs to made. But it wouldn’t have to just be mindless punching and kicking either. With the setting of the Sino-Japanese War, an Ip Man game could be a playable history lesson, affording the player a chance to learn about the pivotal intra-Asian conflict right before WWII.
Who Should Make It: Capcom. The “Street Fighter” publisher’s got a long history in the fighting game genre and, with “Dead Rising 2”, they’ve shown the technical chops required to throw hordes of combatants on-screen. Of course, it’d also mean that the Japanese game giant would be making a title in which their forebears would be the bad guys…
If It Doesn’t Happen, You Can Always Play: “Sengoku Basara.” Based on a manga comic that fictionalizes the wars that led to unification of Japan, historical figures like Tokugawa Ieyasu and Takeda Shingen get transformed in super-powerful punchers and hyper-skilled swordsmen that can change the tide of a skirmish by their lonesomes. It may not be the way the Shogunate actually coalesced, but it’s a lot more fun.
3. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004)
Directed by Wes Anderson
The Movie: Wes Anderson’s oeuvre is filled with awkward silences and loopy dysfunction that don’t exactly themselves to translation into an action-centric medium like video games. “The Life Aquatic” might be the only exception, as it focuses on an emotionally charged revenge saga focusing man vs. jaguar shark.
Why a “The Life Aquatic” Game Needs To Exist: It’s got helicopters, pirates [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IV6CGOS_yo], kidnapping and a rivalry with another “part-gay” oceanographer. Not to mention those snazzy Team Zissou wetsuits. A great game adaptation could employ a good software engine to generate beautiful, roiling virtual seascapes and would be a great place to populate with the fanciful, imaginary aquatic life shown in the movie. And getting Seu Jorge to do more Bowie covers would give it the best game soundtrack ever.
Who Should Make It: Telltale Games. Best known for classic adventure titles like the “Monkey Island” games and the “Sam & Max” games, the dev studio specializes in humor and in adapting properties from other media. “Sam & Max” started as a comic but cartoonist Steve Purcell helped make it a game and Telltale’s also making the upcoming “Back to the Future” game, too.
If It Doesn’t Happen, You Can Always Play: “Endless Ocean.” The two games in the series turned the Nintendo Wii into a vast diving simulator. The first game’s gentle, ambient vibe was super-mellow but gave way to a more traditional game design in the second game “Endless Ocean: Blue World.” Making friends with dolphins and scaring up buried treasure falls right in line with Team Zissou’s everyday activities.
4. “Labyrinth” (1986)
Directed by Jim Henson
The Movie: You can tell “Dungeons & Dragons” was big in the ’80s because of movies like “Labyrinth.” David Bowie stars as big bad Jareth, a Goblin King who abducts the baby brother of Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) when she bitches about having to babysit. To get him back, she must make her way through the movie’s titular maze and defeat the puzzles and beasties she finds within.
Why a “Labyrinth” Game Needs To Exist: What developer wouldn’t want to bring the late, great Jim Henson’s puppetry to life? And, conveniently, the game’s structure already exists in the intellectual property, what with its giant maze filled with puzzles and random encounters. In addition to the Thin White Duke as a poncy bad guy, a “Labyrinth” game could have in Sarah a heroine who doesn’t have to be sexualized and who relies on her wits to save the day.
Who Should Make It: Square Enix. The company that makes the mega-popular “Final Fantasy” games shares some of that “D&D” DNA with “Labyrinth.” The designers at Square Enix are the undisputed grandmasters of Tolkien-esque roleplaying experiences and would turn Henson’s two-hour movie into a 30-hour extravaganza, probably building out the fiction in quirkily Japanese ways.
If It Doesn’t Happen, You Can Always Play: “Beyond Good & Evil.” Ubisoft’s under-appreciated classic also has a competent, emotionally compelling heroine at its center in the form of Jade. She takes care of war orphans, needs to use her wits to photograph her planet’s varied wildlife and uncovers a secret conspiracy happening underneath everybody’s noses. It’s not a fantasy game but could well be a sci-fi cousin to “Labyrinth.”
5. “Kill Bill” Vols. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
The Movie: Quentin Tarantino’s two-part opus casts Uma Thurman as the Bride, a former assassin out to kill her former boss/lover after he shoots her in the head and puts her in a coma. While Tarantino throws in tons of pulpy references to the sexploitation and kung-fu crazes of the ’60s and ’70s, “Kill Bill” is at its core a movie about philosophical differences and maternal instinct played out through violence.
Why a “Kill Bill” Game Needs To Exist: The dual-part movie basically apes the structure of a video game, with each one of the Bride’s former compatriots as a level boss. But, instead of duplicating the movie plot, a game should mine the Bride’s backstory as sword-for-hire, which surely holds lots of crazy assignments. All the swordplay and gun-shooting could be interspersed with a plot that sheds more light on
Who Should Make It: Team Ninja. The gory tales of vengeance in the “Ninja Gaiden” games don’t have the emotional grounding that “Kill Bill” does, but the Team Ninja dev studio could more than make up for that void with razor-sharp action and stylized dismemberment. They’d do a bang-up job making Thurman’s slinky form a virtual lethal killing machine.
If It Doesn’t Happen, You Can Always Play: “Shank.” Klei Games’ downloadable hit clearly imprinted off of the heavily stylized work of grindhouse-cum-Tarantino and the indie studio’s hit game could even be a distant, cartoonier cousin to the O-Ren anime sequence by Mitsuhisa Ishakawa in Kill Bill, vol. 1. The game’s title character — also a former gun-for-hire out to kill his mentor–may not have a kid to fight for but his reasons for wanting revenge are just as personal as the Bride’s.