The Terminator is one of the most enduring science fiction films in pop culture. AS an indestructible metallic monstrosity featuring glowing red eyes, The Terminator has become an image known to strike fear. The movies weave a twisted tale of time travel and an A.I. despots that have maintained a devout fanbase thanks to the strong quality of the initial duo of films. However, by the time the third film hit theatres, the quality took a dip. Terminator Salvation was an interesting new direction and introduced some cool new machines. Then Terminator Genisys rewrote the entire timeline and retconned most of the established lore.
The movies have also had a number of video game adaptations of the source material, as well as original storylines based in the universe. Some of them have been excellent explorations of the world a self-aware Skynet created, while others have been terribly executed exercises in bad mechanics and stiff kung fu combat. When things go right, it’s a blast blowing away machines and leading humanity in the resistance against the onslaught of robotic tyrants. The games have appeared on every system since the DOS Computer system and with the recent announcement that the sixth film in the series would be coming soon, it won’t be long before Terminators are on current gen systems with ridiculous polygon counts. Until then, here’s a list of the 8 best and 7 worst Terminator games ever made.
15 Best: The Terminator (Sega CD)
The Sega CD version of The Terminator film video game adaptation is considered to be the best of the original bunch. This was achieved thanks to the advanced graphics and futuristic soundtrack made possible by the CD drive, along with the well executed gameplay. The backgrounds were suitably dark, the character designs were nicely detailed and true to their film counterparts, and the combat was satisfyingly visceral. The gameplay was very similar to early Contra games as we watched Kyle Reese run, shoot, duck and flip through each level, taking out T-800s along the way.
The game provides a deeper look at the bleak future that awaited mankind thanks to the carelessness of CyberDyne and it’s sentient Skynet A.I. with a grudge. Luckily, there are plenty of weapon upgrades to spice up the battlefield antics and make the rebellion that much sweeter. This is definitely one to check out for any retro gaming enthusiasts out there.
14 Worst: The Terminator (SNES)
It’s amazing how much of a difference the system used to make during the 16-Bit era. While the Sega CD version of The Terminator is widely-touted as the best film adaptation, the SNES version is considered one of the worst. The presentation isn’t nearly as crisp as the detailed sprites the the Sega CD was capable of producing. The gameplay is a punishing trek with limited lives through lengthy levels devoid of save points. There are also fewer weapon choices to disperse machines wit and the player is limited to a basic plasma rifle, a rapid fire upgrade and grenades. The difficulty is also ramped up a considerable amount. Many players would succumb to frustration before they even completed the first level.
The game also deviated from the film in a few areas, such as an early battle with a fighter jet for some reason. If you wanna get your fix for side-scrolling Terminator action, stick with the Sega CD. Also, please don’t give the vile Genesis version a play through by any means.
13 Best: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a film that carries a celebrated legacy of technical achievement for movie effects, great action scenes and probably the greatest amount of acclaim of any of the other releases in the series. The video game adaptations of this film hold the special distinction of being terrible across all platforms, with the exception of the excellent arcade light gun shooter that was also released.
This game features great graphics and frenetically fun gameplay that is sure to keep you and your friends entertained. The game features lots of cool pickups that can be added to your weapon to make it even more effective in battle. You mow through a shooting gallery of machines and slightly follow the plot of the movie. There are a few challenging sections, such as escort missions, but the overall experience is memorable for all the right reasons.
12 Worst: Terminator 3: War Of The Machines
Terminator 3: War of the Machines was released on the PC after Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines was released in theatres. It is a first person shooter that allows the player to choose whether to be on the side of Skynet and the machines or the TechCom human resistance forces. The game also featured an online multiplayer component that was still fairly innovative in 2003. Sadly, that’s where the positive points end for this one.
War of the Machines was pretty much critically panned and was lacking in just about every way possible for a competent FPS. The graphics weren’t much better than games of the first PlayStation era and the environments were nothing more than an uninspired assortment of grey and brown buildings. Critics also derided the multiplayer for poor matchmaking and a lack of dedicated servers. One even called it a failed attempt at copying Battlefield 1942. They didn’t even bother to program death animations for the characters you control, as they just tip over like mannequins in a department store display window.
11 Best: The Terminator 2029
The Terminator 2029 is similar to DOOM and features the player as part of one of John Connor’s Special Ops teams. You and your squad discover a power suit known as Advanced Combat Armor that can be customized with a variety of weapons, shields and other attachments. You fight against a wide variety of machine enemies, including T-801s, A-1000s, G-500s and many more.
You move throughout the game world and search for items and weapons upgrades for your armor. The graphics are actually pretty good and they’re on par for other games released for DOS at the time, like Monkey Island. The world isn’t as detailed as the character models, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the overall presentation of the game. It also helps to flesh out the world of The Terminator universe without having to rely on the storyline of a film. It also appears to have been one of the inspirations for Bethesda’s later adventures into the Fallout universe.
10 Worst: The Terminator (NES)
The NES version of The Terminator game releases has the dishonorable distinction of being the absolute worst one of the entire bunch. The game was comprised of only four levels of mediocre gameplay that follow the plot of the movie. It was your standard side-scrolling action, with a couple of car scene chases for added variety. It does very little to help the cause and just results in a variety of horrible examples of game design.
The graphics are horrible, as the characters look like doodles from a grade school student’s notebook. The backgrounds do fair much better, though they come across as repurposed pieces of other games such as Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania. Horrible music choices also plague this poor adaptation, as they present you with some of the most annoying assortments of bleeps and bloops imaginable.
One of the most egregious examples is the final boss battle against the titular Terminator, which featured confusing level design and a ridiculous endgame showdown that has the player passively led the villain into a trap to win, even though the game doesn’t bother to tell you that’s what you need to do.
9 Best: RoboCop Versus The Terminator
RoboCop Versus The Terminator sounds like all of your robo-nerd dreams come true. The metallic titans square off against each other in a battle royale that is sure to satisfy fans of both franchises. The level design was a bit confusing, but the gameplay itself more than made up for it. Stomping through the city and mowing down bad guys as RoboCop is extremely satisfying, even if his limited jumping ability conflicts with the platforming design of the game itself. The game is extremely challenging, but not in a frustrating way. You just feel a greater sense of accomplishment as you move past obstacles and enemies that killed you on each previous run. Think of it like Demon’s Souls for the SNES, something to excite the masochist that naturally resides in us as gamers.
When Terminator does appear, you will barely be able to contain your excitement, until you realize he’s a total pushover and can easily be taken out by ducking and unleashing a constant barrage of bullets. Definitely a hidden gem in the SNES library despite the lackluster ending.
8 Worst: Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Chess Wars
The Terminator 2 film spawned numerous video game adaptations that range in quality. Most of them are actually pretty enjoyable, while some of the concepts were terrible. Whoever thought it was a good idea to combine chess with The Terminator franchise should have been met with nothing but vehement disapproval. Somehow it was designed and released to the masses anyway as Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Chess Wars.
The game featured key characters from both sides of the conflict acting as the pieces on the chessboard. There are numerous background options to choose from, although they are merely cosmetic and offer no real benefits. The graphics are nothing special to look at and the character designs are drab. The music is standard low grade techno imitation from the film soundtrack. The game is basically chess with kill cutscenes when pieces are taken off the board. Nothing to truly invest time into at the end of the day.
7 Best: Terminator 3: The Redemption
Terminator 3: Redemption is aptly named thanks to the abysmal reception of the other title that was released in conjunction with the film of the same name, but we'll have more on that later. This game was a ton of fun with varied mission types, action-packed cutscenes and set pieces, along with a decent storyline that is more of an extension within the universe than a straightforward re-telling of the film plot.
The game featured on-foot combat, vehicle-based combat and on-rails sections. There is no shortage in the variety of machine types that you will be beating and blowing apart. The graphics are definitely dated by today’s standards, but they were decent for the time. The game also featured some voice acting from Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is rare for the actor.
6 Worst: Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation actually had the makings of a good game. The open world, cover-based shooter featured an interesting storyline that took place between the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation. While it most definitely is not the worst game based on The Terminator franchise, it wasn’t going to win any prizes. The graphics were drab and the gameplay was repetitive after the first few levels. The action of the game is exciting and makes you wonder what could have been if the game received some extra time to get polished. The cover mechanic doesn’t really work sometimes and the aiming reticule can be slow to respond as well.
Of all of the games that have made this worst list, this is the one I could definitely see being solid with a few minor tweaks. The developers were on the right path without enough time to reach 100% completion.
5 Best: Terminator: Salvation (Arcade)
Terminator Salvation for the arcade is one of the best experiences in light gun gaming released in recent years. There’s something truly terrifying and invigorating about standing in front of a giant screen with a friend and blasting at away at Skynet’s minions, as they try to decimate you and the rest of the human resistance.
The game’s controls were spot on and the diverse amount of pickups and enemies kept you plunging in more quarters. The intense action of the game truly made you feel like you were immersed in what was happening on screen. This is especially surprising considering that the heyday of the arcade is long gone. There’s just something about this game that won’t let you pass it up whenever you run across it.
4 Worst: The Terminator: Dawn Of Fate
The Terminator: Dawn Of Fate acts sort of like a prequel for the entire Terminator franchise. The storyline was set before the events of the original film and explored what was going on when Kyle Reese and the resistance devised the plan to go back in time and warn of the bleak future ahead. The game had an interesting premise, but didn’t have the proper execution or presentation to be successful upon release.
The graphics are boring, monotone swaths of gray and black. The character designs are clunky and the environments are mostly empty, open areas with pickups scattered throughout. The gameplay itself is incredibly simple and primarily involves searching for Skynet technology and killing machines as they randomly appear throughout the landscape. While it’s not a horrible game, it could have been so much better.
3 Best: The Terminator: Rampage
The Terminator: Rampage was another game that wasn’t based on a film in the franchise. It is a first-person corridor crawling shooter that was very similar to games like DOOM and Wolfenstein. The game’s plot involves Skynet sending another machine, known as the Meta Node, back in time in an effort to destroy humanity. This time, its plan is to have its core built within a fortified government base. The player controls one of the last humans left alive in the facility who wages a one-man war against the metallic menace.
The graphics are colorfully rendered and features a wide variety of textures such as bricks, wood and metal surfaces. There are several weapon types and ammo to collect throughout each level. The running objective is to compile the pieces to construct a powerful plasma rifle to be used in the final showdown with the Meta Node. The game is fun and one of the better examples of a DOS FPS.
2 Worst: Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
The biggest blight on the Terminator video game legacy is undeniably the video game adaptation of the third film in the series, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Although the game follows the storyline of the film closely and is the only game that features full voice-acting from Arnold, it just isn’t enough to elevate it beyond the abysmal gameplay.
The game's character models are stiff and wooden, with little more than blank expressions regardless of the situation. There are also extremely long load times for levels that don’t feature enough graphical output to really justify them. The levels themselves are unimaginative and bland, the weapons don’t really pack a satisfying punch and the enemies don’t do much to prevent their demise. Poor destruction physics and hand to hand combat fights also drain the potential fun for all involved. This is one of the most consistently low rated video games ever released.
1 Best: The Terminator: Future Shock
Terminator: Future Shock is the best video game ever released that is set within the universe of The Terminator films. It is a great title with a story that is set in the Skynet conquered future of mankind. The game was very ahead of its time with an open world and the ability to enter just about every door that you see in-game. It also features fully-realized interiors to explore.
The gameplay consists of players traveling throughout a series of levels either on-foot, in a jeep or in an aerial hunter killer fighter. The player uses a variety of weapons to dispatch enemies and must complete a number of objectives before they are able to move on to the next level. n. It also appears that this could have been inspiration for the design of future titles like Fallout, especially considering Bethesda was the developer.