We have countless cases of video games based on movies performing badly, or vice versa. What we don’t talk about as much are titles based on successful TV shows – and we really should. Television productions have a strong track record of signing entire acting casts into gaming projects, only to be completely surprised when the actual gameplay fails to reach an audience at all. Most of these games were quickly forgotten – but we remembered. Here are eight notably disappointing examples.
Have any examples of terrible TV-to-game adaptations we missed – or cases which were actually great? Share them in the comments!
24: The Game
Overall, the 24 video game is a mixed bag for series fans. On the one hand, it actually captured certain stylistic aspects of the show’s presentation quite well, and the voice acting was fairly strong. On the other, the gameplay largely fails to back that up in any way. Shooting sections relied on awkward controls, the enemy AI was overly predictable, vehicle chases were boring, and the visuals weren’t anything to write home about either. It was probably the best 24 game we could’ve expected, but without a lot more polish it would’ve been better to just let the clock run out on this one.
Doctor Who: Return to Earth
Doctor Who features a fantastic universe which could inspire a wonderful video game if handled correctly. Sadly, many Doctor Who games are not handled with that level of care. Doctor Who: Return to Earth for the Wii is a prime example, considered by some critics to stand among the worst video games of all time. It didn’t matter if Nintendo and BBC gave players a Sonic Screwdriver Wiimote cover – it couldn’t save the game from bland mechanics and finicky cameras. What makes it all tragic is that Matt Smith and Karen Gillen provided top-notch vocal performances for this lackluster game.
More than a few Nintendo 64 fans have fond memories of playing South Park multiplayer matches with friends. But if we’re being honest, getting four players together was really its best feature. Meanwhile, the single-player campaign fell flat on its face with hard-to-aim weapons and ridiculously-proportioned level designs. Not to mention the charm of exploring South Park’s streets quickly loses its appeal when dealing with garish 3D models instead of iconic 2D designs.
When J.J. Abrams’ Alias was at its peak, making a video game about a female spy must have seemed like a great idea. What nobody told its creators was that unless you’re making No One Lives Forever, it’s incredibly hard to make a spy’s lifestyle engaging. It certainly didn’t help that Alias‘ mechanics were half-baked, with less-than-engaging action sections and a stealth system that could be bypassed simply by running past enemies. The end result would only appeal to especially dedicated Alias fans, and even then, just barely.
Batman: Gotham City Racer
Did you think the vehicle combat in Arkham Knight was disappointing? Well, it doesn’t hold a candle to the travesty that was Gotham City Racer. This Batman vehicle game inspired by the animated series was atrocious even by 2001 standards, thanks to terrible visuals and absolutely irredeemable controls. You’re just as likely to take damage from smacking into a civilian vehicle or wall as bullets from an enemy vehicle. Its only redeeming grace was the lengthy cutscenes pulled directly from the animated series. But that just proves anyone would rather watch a fantastic TV show than play a disappointing game.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
The Walking Dead has produced some of the best modern zombies stories across comic books, movies, and even video games. Which makes it all the more disappointing that AMC’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct fell so short. It lacked the emotional punch Telltale’s version capitalized on, while its zombie combat and open environments weren’t robust enough to be appealing. Even Darryl, the best original character to come from AMC’s series, couldn’t save this game from mediocrity.
The Shield: The Game
The Shield isn’t the most widely-discussed crime drama compared to more recent entries like Breaking Bad, but its tale of corrupt police officers was revolutionary for the time. The Shield: The Game tried to adapt it with some interesting ideas – such decreasing your “Heat” by planting evidence, or stealing drugs and money for your retirement fund. Yet somehow the game failed to capitalize on these moral ambiguities, leaving us with subpar shooting and stealth scenes. Throw in some bugs and an inability to translate The Shield‘s stylistic presentation into a video game format, and you’d be better off streaming the original series instead of playing this game.
The Sopranos: Road to Respect
The Sopranos was a deeply compelling story of gangsters struggling to balance their personal lives and criminal enterprises. A video game written by Sopranos‘ creator which starred the main cast must have seemed like a slam dunk. The finished product was a deeply disappointing affair, filled with shoddy AI, overly-simplistic gameplay, and canonical inconsistencies with the show. The vocal performances themselves are the only thing to recommend, which makes James Gandolfini’s passing feel that much more tragic.