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The Good (and Not So Good) Video Games Based on TV Series

This is a list of the best and the worst video games that are based on TV series.

Peter Smalls

October 5, 2017

6 Min Read

TV series’ have provided rich pickings for games developers over the years. Now part of the package of licensing deals that follows on from any smash hit TV show, games based on TV give fans the chance to play as their favourite characters, or take on missions and enemies they’ve encountered in their binge-watching sessions. The same is true of films, which are increasingly providing backdrops to games across PC and console formats.

Even though much work goes into creating these games, unfortunately, not every game is as good as the TV show they are based on, and frankly, some are downright awful. We’ve put together a list of the good (and the not so good) games based on TV shows, so you can avoid the horror shows and stick to the good stuff - whatever TV you’re into.

Good - Game of Thrones, Xbox One

Game of Thrones is probably the biggest TV show of all time, reaching a level of cultural saturation worldwide that is beyond anything that’s ever been done before. Critics have branded it the most ambitious TV adaptation of all time, and there’s certainly some truth in that - its twisting plot line, filled with cliffhangers and shocking turns of events, coupled with plenty of action, politics, plotting and violence has combined to make Game of Thrones ideal fodder for entertainment - both on TV, and now on Xbox One, thanks to the console remake.

The Xbox game is a great example of TV adaptations done well. Published by Telltale Games, the game scored a very respectable 80% on Metacritic. Set across six episodes, the game features plenty of characters from the TV original, as well as plot lines and action that is very much in keeping with the show itself. There are now plans for a second installment in the series, perhaps to be expected, given the huge volume of source material for the developers to go on.

There’s also a Game of Thrones online video slot from Microgaming that does equally well at staying true to the theme, while providing enough action to keep things interesting for ardent slots fans. Maybe it’s because Game of Thrones is such a rich source that the games based on it are so playable, but it’s definitely an example of a successful adaptation from TV to the gaming genres.

Not Good - Desperate Housewives, PC

On the other hand, we have Desperate Housewives for the PC. Who is playing that?! Released back in 2006 from Buena Vista Games and Liquid Entertainment, the game is set in Wisteria Lane, and remains largely faithful to elements of the storyline from the TV original. However, the game itself is a little dull, and there’s an embarrassing amount of product placement within it which definitely ruins the experience.

If you were looking to be fair to the game’s developers, you would point to the limited source material. Where Game of Thrones, for example, is basically a ready-made video game with plenty of obvious angles, features and scenes to develop, Desperate Housewives is a little more tricky in terms of the raw subject matter. Unfortunately, this shows, in a game that isn’t likely to hold your attention for too long.

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse games out there, and probably far worse adaptations of TV shows into games. It’s just that Desperate Housewives feels mind-numbing to play, but I guess there must be some fans somewhere.

Good - DuckTales, NES

DuckTales hasn’t been on our screens for sometime, instead occupying a place in the childhood-nostalgia part of most gamers’ brains. Whoever was responsible for developing this game clearly had a passion for their work, as they’ve managed to not only build in all the elements of the original, but also to do so in a platform-based game that is actually really playable. Usually you find games like this to be a little thin on content, or lacking in the entertainment value of the challenges they provide. But even if you removed the DuckTales references, this would be a game that was fit to stand the test of time.

The game was generally well received by critics, which when you consider how well loved the TV show remains to this day, is testament to the developers’ efforts. This translated into strong sales for the title, too, which was reported to be ‘overperforming’ - proving that it pays to make TV-themed games good as standalone products.

Not Good - 24, PS2

The trials and tribulations of Jack Bauer made for excellent TV, in one of the first box-set style shows to really hit the mainstream. 24 was and remains a gripping watch, and its somewhat unique format of being set in near real time only adds to the drama and tension that builds up over the course of each episode and series. Like Game of Thrones, you would think there is already enough solid source material to work with, and that games developers would have a field day in weaving Jack’s missions into a playable format. But something with this game has gone really badly wrong.

Metacritic ranked the game at 62%, which probably sums up what’s going on here. It’s not that the game is bad, per se, but it just looks like it's been a bit cobbled together. This is by no means a visual masterpiece, and while that’s not a prerequisite for a great game, they really could have done better. The graphics are pretty horrible, and the renders of characters and backdrops just don’t quite look the way you feel they should. The camera angles are also horrifically awkward too, which can make for quite a confusing perspective as you play through the levels.

Really, Really Not Good - Top Gun, NES

But never fear, it can always get worse. Without being too unkind, Top Gun for NES probably takes the biscuit in the ‘really not good’ stakes. Again, like 24, this suffers from being a game for the sake of it, rather than a game that has any driving purpose or engaging storyline beneath it. Sure, if you enjoyed Top Gun, you might find the game entertaining for a while. But there’s a distinct lack of depth to it that means you might be better off looking for something else.

There are actually handfuls of Top Gun games that have been developed over the years, so they must be good sellers. The trouble with this game is that it feels like an also-ran, rather than a game that has intrinsic value beyond its license. Give it a try for yourself by all means, but just don’t expect any great shakes.

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