20 Video Games You Never Knew Were Inspired By Famous Movies
Video games and movies have always had a special relationship, and the two mediums have only grown closer in recent years as digital technology has advanced further and further. We’ve had no shortage of movies based on video games, or otherwise inspired by them – but at the same time, movies have often themselves inspired games.
Not just direct movie-to-game adaptations, either: some video games aren’t quite so transparent about the big-screen properties to which they owe a significant debt. Take a look at the following games, which you might not have known took hefty inspiration from hit movies.
20. Payday – Heat
According to game developers Overkill Software, the Payday series has borrowed pretty heavily from Heat.
Speaking to Digital Spy in 2017, the game’s sound designer Simon Viklund gave a unique insight into the series’ various influences.
He claimed that Payday 2’s plot was “inspired by various different heist movies such as Die Hard, and Heat, which is the best heist movie ever.”
The game features many allusions to the film. Notably, the “I Do What I Do Best, I Take Scores” achievement in Payday 2 is also a direct quotation from Heat.
The game also features the ‘Kilmer’ skill, which allows you to run and reload simultaneously and is a plain reference to Heat star Val Kilmer.
In addition to Die Hard and Heat, the games were also partly inspired by The Dark Knight and The Matrix.
19. BioShock – Logan’s Run
BioShock creator Ken Levine has always been open about his admiration for the 1976 sci-fi film Logan’s Run.
The game developer saw the film as a 10-year-old and has since claimed that the film has inspired nearly all of his professional work in one way or another.
Speaking to Eurogamer in 2007, Levine confirmed the connection between BioShock and Logan’s Run.
“Here’s a partial list of the inspirations that BioShock begs, borrows or steals from: Atlas Shrugged, Logan’s Run, The X-Men, The Shining, Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, etc. etc. etc. I watch a lot of movies,” he said.
The 1976 film’s influence on the game is pretty clear. For example, both take place in dystopian ‘alternate past’ settings in the 1960s.
Levine is currently working on the script for a Warner Bros remake of the 70s classic film.
18. The Fallout series – Mad Max
It’s fair to say that there would be no Fallout franchise without the Mad Max movie series.
George Miller’s post-apocalyptic film series is probably the single biggest influence on the Fallout games.
Eagle-eyed players will have no doubt noticed that Fallout is chock full of references to Mad Max.
For example, in Fallout 1 you can befriend a dog that evokes the Blue Heeler that befriends Max in Mad Max 2.
Leather jackets also recur throughout the Fallout series – another reference to leather-loving Max.
There are many, many more references to Mad Max within the games, not least the general dusty post-apocalypse vibe.
17. Metroid – Alien
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Metroid drew a lot of inspiration from the iconic sci-fi film Alien.
For starters, both Metroid and Alien feature strong female leads – Samus Aran in Metroid, and Ellen Ripley in Alien.
One miniboss in Metroid also directly alludes to the classic 1979 film. The reptilian antagonist is called Ridley, after the film’s director, Ridley Scott.
There are similarities between Xenomorphs and the Metroid species, too – for one, both seek to latch onto human faces.
Both Aran and Ripley also have close shaves at the end of the game and movie respectively, barely escaping from their exploding space ships in time.
Just like the film franchise, the Metroid series has been hugely successful, and has sold over 17 million copies worldwide.
16. Metal Gear Solid – Escape from New York
It’s no secret that the 1987 game Metal Gear Solid borrowed pretty heavily from the 1981 sci-fi film Escape from New York.
The game’s protagonist, Solid Snake is quite obviously based on the film’s protagonist, Snake Plissken.
The game’s creator Hideo Kojima has always been open about the influence of John Carpenter’s film on his work.
In fact, the similarities between the film and game were so blatant that it almost landed Kojima in court.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, Carpenter revealed that one of the rights holders to his 1981 film wanted to sue Kojima.
But Carpenter stamped out any attempts to take Kojima to court. “I know the director of those games, and he’s a nice guy,” Carpenter said. “Or at least he’s nice to me.”
15. Medal of Honour: Allied Assault – Saving Private Ryan
If you’re a fan of war films and war games, you’ve likely noticed several similarities between Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and Saving Private Ryan.
The 2002 game even borrows lines from the 1998 film – unsurprisingly so, as Steven Spielberg worked on the dialogue in the game.
Many scenes in the game were also designed with the intention of recreating scenes in Saving Private Ryan.
The most blatant similarity can be seen in the game’s Omaha Beach level, which drew heavily from the film’s iconic 23-minute-long scene depicting the D-Day assault.
A few of the game’s characters are also based on some of the most memorable characters from the film.
For example, the game’s Captain Ramsey is based on Tom Hanks‘ Private Ryan character Captain John Miller.
14. Hitman 2 – James Bond
In 2019, youth media website Joe dubbed Hitman 2 “the best James Bond game in years.”
“When you break it down, Agent 47 is James Bond in all but name,” writer Dave Hanratty claimed.
“Super stylish, utterly ruthless, fond of disguises and the odd quip, good at removing villains from the world.”
Another similarity between the two would have to be the exotic locales in both the Bond movies and the Hitman game.
The Hitman series sees Agent 47 travel all over the world – from Japanese cities to the Amalfi coast – making him not unlike the jet-setting Bond.
While GoldenEye 64 is a much-loved Bond tie-in game, it’s clear that the Hitman series and Agent 47 also owe a lot to the Bond franchise and 007.
13. Spec Ops: The Line – Apocalypse Now
Spec Ops: The Line draws inspiration from Apocalypse Now’s source material – Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness – but is definitely closer to Coppola’s iconic film in terms of visual aesthetics and overall feel. In 2017, gaming website Thumbsticks actually dubbed the game “an Apocalypse Now game in all but name.”
In both Apocalypse Now and The Line, an American colonel goes missing, leaving it up to the protagonist (or the player) to find them.
Both are also very much products of their own time – Coppola’s 1979 film demonstrated the devastating effects of the Vietnam War.
The Yager Development team, meanwhile, focused instead on the West’s military involvement in the Middle East in the 2012 game.
The game cleverly deals with Apocalypse Now’s theme of insanity by giving players an illusion of choice.
These choices soon come down to choosing between either bad or even worse outcomes, reflecting the psychological horror of realising the futility of war.
12. Red Dead Redemption 2 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
If you’ve ever watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and then played Red Dead Redemption 2, you’ve likely noticed some pretty obvious similarities between the two.
For starters, both are set at the turn of the 19th century and have a distinctive ‘fin de siécle’ feel about them.
Still, certain parts of Red Dead Redemption 2 allude even more blatantly to the classic Western film.
Just as Arthur Morgan and Dutch van der Linde jump off a cliff to escape the law in one of the game’s missions, so too do Butch and Sundance in the film.
In another instance, the Van der Linde gang rob a train belonging to Leviticus Cornwall, who then enlists the services of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in order to capture the gang.
This is uncannily similar to what happens to Cassidy’s Wild Bunch gang after they also rob a train belonging to EH Harriman.
11. Slender: The Arrival – The Blair Witch Project
It’s fair to say that the cultural impact of 1999 supernatural horror phenomenon The Blair Witch Project was immense.
Not only did the groundbreaking film usher in a new wave of horror films, but it also left its mark on certain video games.
Much like the urban legend backstory to The Blair Witch Project, the myth of Slenderman also originated in a viral internet phenomenon.
Slender: The Arrival was released in 2015 and capitalised on the enduring legacy of the Slenderman urban legend.
It also evoked The Blair Witch Project, largely through its borrowing of the film’s found-footage gimmick and urban legend backstory.
It’s fair to say that the cult classic film has had a huge and long-lasting influence the horror genre, with Slender: The Arrival just one example.
10. Duke Nukem 3D – Army of Darkness
Released in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D was the third game to feature the gun-toting, wise-cracking tough guy introduced by Apogee Software in 1991.
The character was always intended as an affectionate lampoon of Hollywood action heroes, but on Duke Nukem 3D certain key influences became apparent.
This was especially the case with the character of Ash Williams, as portrayed by Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead series, and with a particular homage to Army of Darkness, the third film of the franchise.
Fans noted Duke’s tendency to borrow lines from Ash, notably “groovy,” “come get some,” and “hail to the king, baby!”
Even the game’s box art has Duke emulating Campbell’s pose from the Army of Darkness cover.
Not that Ash was the only movie character Duke Nukem lifted lines from: others include Dirty Harry, Die Hard‘s John McClane and more besides.
9. Mortal Kombat – Jean-Claude Van Damme movies
When Mortal Kombat first arrived in arcades in 1992, Midway Games hoped to present a worthy opponent to Street Fighter II, which dominated the one-on-one fighting game format at the time.
In order to do this, the game’s programmers had a bold idea: to centre their game on martial arts movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Ultimately, the Muscles from Brussels turned them down when it came to the actual motion-capture.
But the actor still largely served as the basis for one of Mortal Kombat’s most famous characters, Johnny Cage.
One of Cage’s most iconic moves sees him effortlessly drop into the splits before punching his opponent in the crotch – an obvious reference to the movie Bloodsport.
It’s clear that Van Damme never really wanted to be a part of Mortal Kombat – but turning down the collaboration was the beginning, not the end, of his association with the game.
8. Donkey Kong – King Kong
You don’t exactly need to be a film scholar to see where the inspiration for this one came from.
The classic arcade game sees our hero Mario (in his very first video game appearance) dodge falling debris and climb ladders to rescue the imprisoned Pauline from the giant ape of the title.
Donkey Kong’s name and species clearly owe a debt to classic movie monster King Kong.
So clear was the debt that rights-holders Universal sued Nintendo, claiming Donkey Kong breached their copyright of King Kong.
Nintendo claimed that by the time the King Kong film was released, the characters were already in the public domain – and thus Universal Studios had no rights over the characters or the concept.
A complex and bitter legal battle ensued, but Nintendo ultimately won the rights to keep using the character.
7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – The Rock
Doubtless most of us have at one point or another sat down to a Michael Bay movie and felt as though we were watching a video game.
But it turns out video games have themselves taken inspiration from the king of excessive cinematic action.
The Special Ops Charlie mission Breach and Clear in particular is heavily influenced by the movie.
The shower level from the Gulag campaign is also virtually the same identical to the shower room showdown in The Rock.
There are many more references to The Rock within the game, which eagle-eyed players will have no doubt spotted.
6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Scarface
As one of the most provocative video game franchises in history, it was perhaps only natural that one of the most memorable entries in the Grand Theft Auto series would take inspiration from one of the most controversial Hollywood films of the past 40 years: Scarface.
Vice City itself is closely modelled on Miami, the setting of Brian De Palma’s 1983 film.
Furthermore, the rise of central criminal Tommy Vercetti is highly reminiscent of that of Al Pacino’s iconic Scarface anti-hero Tony Montana.
There’s one hidden location in the game which overtly pays homage to the classic film.
If you walk into Apartment 3c in the apartment block in Ocean Beach, you’ll find a chainsaw and bloodstains in the bathroom.
This is an unambiguous reference to Angel’s death in the original film. A great Easter egg for any Scarface fans!
5. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Indiana Jones
Anytime we see a bold adventurer head off into the wilderness in search of fabulous lost treasures, battling evil every step of the way, we’re immediately reminded of one iconic big screen character: Indiana Jones.
Sure, Harrison’s Ford’s hat-wearing hero wasn’t the first character to engage in such swashbuckling derring-do, but he’s the first point of reference to any new adventurer to have come in his wake.
In the world of video games, first among Indiana Jones-style adventurers is Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.
Both the Indiana Jones films and Uncharted games feature a lot of treasure-hunting in exotic and sometimes dangerous locations.
There are also fantastical and supernatural elements in both the Uncharted and Indiana Jones franchises.
While it’s a stretch to say the Uncharted games are ‘based’ on the Indiana Jone movies, it’s fair to say they took a lot of inspiration from the iconic films.
4. Max Payne 3 – Man on Fire
Rockstar’s hard-edged third-person shooter game series always owed a substantial debt to film noir traditions and gritty action thrillers.
The third instalment in the Max Payne series, however, is particularly derivative of the 2004 action thriller Man on Fire.
Max Payne 3 sees the title character, now a haunted alcoholic, take on a private security contract for a wealthy family, whose daughter is then kidnapped.
This is pretty much identical to the set-up for the Tony Scott-directed movie starring Denzel Washington.
There are loads of small details that link Max Payne and Washington’s character John W Creasy.
Both take up jobs in security; both have dark pasts; both report to unscrupulous bosses… the list goes on.
3. Doom – Aliens/The Color of Money
Doom centres on a space marine armed with a mighty big firearm doing battle with terrifying monsters that have a habit of popping up out of nowhere.
Sound familiar? You guessed it – groundbreaking first-person shooter Doom is clearly riffing on James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi classic Aliens.
John Carmack, id Software co-founder and lead programmer of Doom, essentially confirmed that he’d drawn a lot of inspiration from Aliens.
Speaking in a Q&A session in 2011, Carmack stated that game was largely inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, Evil Dead II and Aliens.
However, there’s another, less likely filmic inspiration: Tom Cruise’s snarky use of the word ‘Doom’ in The Color of Money directly inspired the game’s title.
In one scene in the film, a patron approaches Tom Cruise’s character and asks what he’s carrying in his large velvet case. Cruise opens the case to reveal a beautiful pool cue and, of course, replies: “Doom.”
2. L.A. Noire – L.A. Confidential
As we’ve seen with Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto, games publisher Rockstar are pretty unabashed in producing content that owes a clear debt to the movies.
They made very little pretence of concealing that with L.A. Noire, which – title included – is almost identical to the film L.A. Confidential.
The character arc of L.A. Noire’s hero Cole Phelps – from ambitious, principled beat cop to up-and-coming detective – closely mirrors that of L.A. Confidential’s Ed Exley (Guy Pearce).
While the movie is set in the early 50s, the game takes place in the late 40s.
The game is also heavily influenced by the other classic films noir like Chinatown and The Naked City.
Again, none of it is very subtle – for example, the character of Roy Earle is identically named after Humphrey Bogart’s character in the 1941 film High Sierra.
1. Homefront – Red Dawn
This 2011 game from the now-defunct THQ sees an American student resistance movement spring up when the USA is invaded by North Korea.
Change the invaders to Soviet Russia, and it sounds uncannily like 1984 action film Red Dawn.
This isn’t that surprising considering that film’s director, John Milius, is said to have worked on Homefront’s script.
One notable Easter egg which references the film is a large billboard at a school sports stadium which reads “Go Wolverines!!!”.
The resistance movement within the film are called The Wolverines, named after their high school’s mascot.
Curiously, when the Red Dawn remake opened in cinemas the year after Homefront hit shelves, it too saw the US invaded by North Korea.