The 80’s were a unique time in history for all forms of media. Pop music ruled the radio waves even as video was getting ready to kill the radio star, and the blockbuster film was king. But there was a relatively new form of media on the rise at the same time in the form of video games, and they were eager to get as many titles in front of as many faces as possible.
It’s no surprise then that gaming developers happily took as many licensed adaptations as possible, especially when films were bigger than ever thanks to all the major summer hits releasing. For this list, we’re looking at video games that were based on 80’s movies. But while fans will remember all the movies, there’s a good chance they’ve forgotten all about the games.
10 THE UNTOUCHABLES
A 1989 video game based on a 1987 film based on a 1957 book, which was about the real life story of the attempt of Eliot Ness forming a group known as the Untouchables to bring down Al Capone. The game is a side-scroller (which is about all it could’ve been during this era) that tried to adapt some of the action-y bits of the movie into the video game, where you try to take down all of Al Capone’s henchmen on the way to taking down the big boss himself. This game released on older systems like the Commodore 64 and the Amiga before eventually seeing some attention on Nintendo’s NES and their Super NES.
Platoon having a video game, let alone an action game, isn’t just weird...it goes against the spirit of the film. The 1987 movie starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Willem Dafoe and directed by Oliver Stone is supposed to be an anti-war film. It tells the story of a young Private introduced to the horrors of war not only on the battlefield, but in how it corrupts the morality of men. Nonetheless, Ocean Software brought us this title for a host of systems in 1987-1989, where the player must make it through four different stages, surviving enemies and booby traps before doing battle with Sergeant Barnes to finish the game.
At least a game entry that actually makes sense to have gotten a game, even if no one remembers it. Developer Platinum Production brought us this game based on Sly’s second outing as an exhausted soldier sent back over to Vietnam to extract some POWs. It released the same year as Rambo: First Blood II, and saw the player in a top-down world play through part of the film’s storyline.
The player begins with a bowie knife and an unlimited number of grenades, but gradually gains more weapons as things progress. Though the weapons suggest as much destruction as possible, Rambo allowed for a bit of sneaking around, and was also one of the first video games to feature a controllable vehicle, including an chopper to complete the feel of an 80’s action film.
7 MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
The Movie: He-Man actually had a number of games in the 80’s, but only one was based off the Masters of the Universe film with Dolph Lundgren. It launched the same year as the 1987 film, and featured a cover showing off the film versions of He-Man and Skeletor. Designed by Gremlin Graphics, the game was an action-adventure title released for the Commodore 64 and MSX, along with the ZX Spectrum. As a sign of how badly He-Man was being milked as a franchise during this time, during this same year they released both the platformer Masters of the Universe: The Arcade Game and the interactive fiction title Masters of the Universe: Super Adventure.
6 TOP GUN
Starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Kelly McGillis, Top Gun is one of the quintessential 80’s films, so it’s no surprise there were a ton of titles developed surrounding the game. The earliest one was by Ocean Software and was a 1v1 dogfighting game using wire-frame graphics. In 1987 however, Konami would release a Top Gun title for the NES. The player would take on the role of Maverick in an F-14 Tomcat and asked to complete a series of four different missions that had a mix of goals such as dogfighting and successfully landing the aircraft.
Labyrinth: The Computer Game released in 1986 for a number of different PCs including the Apple II e, MSX, Commodore 64, and PC-88. Develop ed by Lucasfilm games, the player was tasked with the job of making their way through a labyrinth of their own, figuring out the answer to a number of puzzles and avoiding enemies. It features several characters and events from the film, but doesn’t seek to replicate the plot of the film itself. The player has to complete the game in 13 real-time hours, finding their way to Jareth the Goblin King and destroying him, or they’ll be trapped in the maze forever.
4 BACK TO THE FUTURE
The 1985 film that catapulted in Michael J. Fox into one of the biggest stars of the 80’s received two games during the 80’s. The first game was developed for PC systems by Electric Dreams Software, and was a side view adventure game where the goal was to ensure Marty’s own existence by getting his parents to spend as much time as possible with one another.
The second was from LJN and released for the NES, where Marty explored 1955 looking for clock icons to keep his future from being destroyed. Each stage featured mini-games that featured important parts from the films. However, despite both of these having novel concepts, they were both legendarily bad, and some of the worst games of their era.
3 ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES
At a time where film games were released at the same time as the actual films, it’s surprising it took so long to release a game based on the popular dark comedy film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Though the movie came out in 1978, the game released for home PCs in 1986. The player explores a bunch of rooms via an isometric camera as Wimp Plasbot, who has to blow up all the killer tomatoes at his pizza parlor while still having enough tomato sauce for his pizzas, all before it’s time to clock out. Talk about a rough life—apparently Wimp still can’t have overtime even if it means saving the city.
In 1982, players were treated to “Alien”, a video game by Fox Video Games. Created for the Atari 2600, the game is a maze title where players control a human character armed with a flamethrower. The player’s job is to destroy as many of the eggs in the hallways as possible, all while avoiding the Aliens themselves. Occasionally, the player could also acquire a power up which allowed them to fight more evenly with the Aliens. Yes, this is basically just Pac-Man with a new title slapped on it, but Pac-Man never had a flamethrower, so it has that helping it stand out.
In 1989 there were a number of different “Batman: The Video Game” titles based on the smash hit Tim Burton movie. Ocean Software got their usual turn with a game that took players through a handful of levels based on the film, taking players through everything from the creation of the Joker to his eventual defeat. Meanwhile, the NES game developed by Sunsoft was a side-scroller that was completely different. It allowed the use of wall jumping, and included a number of neat gadgets related to Batman, while he defeated not only the Joker, but several other major villains including Deadshot, KGBeast, Heat Wave, and more. Referred to as a great game, it’s also one of the hardest NES titles ever developed.