Games and movies have always had a special relationship, but with recent Sonic, Mario and even a Dungeons and Dragons film on the way, it seems like it is getting stronger! There is no shortage of movies based on video games, but there are also plenty of games inspired by the big screen in return!
Not just direct movie-to-game adaptations, either: there are plenty of original video game titles that owe a lot to the movies that came before them. From first-person shooters to sprawling open wold adventures, here are the video games you never knew were inspired by movies!
20. Payday – Heat
According to developers Overkill Software, the Payday series borrows pretty heavily from Heat. Speaking to Digital Spy in 2017, the game’s sound designer Simon Viklund 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.” Not only is the “I Do What I Do Best, I Take Scores” achievement in Payday 2 is a direct quote from Heat, but the game also features the ‘Kilmer’ skill, which allows you to run and reload simultaneously.
19. BioShock – Logan’s Run
BioShock creator Ken Levine has always been open about his love for the 1976 sci-fi film Logan’s Run. Speaking to Eurogamer in 2007, he confirmed that BioShock was inspired by the movie, saying the game “begs, borrows or steals from Atlas Shrugged, Logan’s Run, The X-Men”. The film’s influence on the game is pretty clear given that both take place in dystopian alternate pasts, inspired by the 1960s.
18. The Fallout series – Mad Max
It’s fair to say that there would be no Fallout franchise without the Mad Max movies, as the post-apocalyptic film series is probably the franchise’s biggest inspiration. Eagle-eyed players know that Fallout is chock full of references to Mad Max, from the dog you can befriend in the original Fallout that evokes Mad Max 2’s Blue Heeler, to the leather jackets that you can collect throughout the games.
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. Both Metroid and Alien feature strong female leads, Metroid’s reptilian antagonist is called Ridley after the film’s director Ridley Scott, and both Xenomorphs and Metroids latch on to human faces as an attack method. Both protagonists even have close shaves at the end of the game and movie respectively, barely escaping from their exploding spaceships in time.
16. Metal Gear Solid – Escape from New York
Metal Gear Solid borrowed pretty heavily from the 1981 sci-fi film Escape from New York. The game’s protagonist Solid Snake is obviously similar to the movie’s hero, Snake Plissken, and the game’s creator Hideo Kojima has always been open about his inspiration. However, the film and game similarities almost landed Kojima in court. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, Carpenter revealed that one of the rights holders of his 1981 film wanted to sue Kojima but Carpenter refused, saying: “I know the director of those games, and he’s a nice guy.”
15. Medal of Honour: Allied Assault – Saving Private Ryan
If you’re a fan of war films and games, you’ve likely noticed similarities between Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and Saving Private Ryan. The 2002 game even borrows lines from the 1998 film, which is unsurprising as Steven Spielberg worked on the game dialogue. Many scenes in the game were also designed to recreate scenes in Saving Private Ryan, such as the D-Day assault. The game’s Captain Ramsey is also 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”, saying: “when you break it down, Agent 47 is James Bond in all but name. The similarities involve the two agents jetting off to exotic locations, wearing stylish disguises and being unafraid to get quippy with an enemy. While GoldenEye 64 is a much-loved Bond tie-in game, it’s clear that the Hitman series also owes a lot to the Bond franchise.
13. Spec Ops: The Line – Apocalypse Now
Spec Ops: The Line draws inspiration from Apocalypse Now’s source material, the 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, but is definitely closer to Coppola’s iconic film in terms of aesthetics and feel. In both Apocalypse Now and The Line, an American colonel goes missing, leaving it up to the protagonist to find them. Both are also products of their own time: Coppola’s 1979 film explored the devastation of the Vietnam War, while the Yager Development team focused on the West’s military involvement in the Middle East.
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 similarities. Both are set at the turn of the 19th century and have a distinctive ‘fin de siécle’ feel about them. Plus, 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. Also, both the film and movie include a dramatic train robbing sequence.
11. Slender: The Arrival – The Blair Witch Project
Blair Witch Project is maybe the most famous cult horror film of all time and kicked off the trend of lo-fi scares in the genre. Similarly, the Slender video game franchise began YouTube’s obsession with indie horror in a big way, and also draws on a fabricated urban legend to trick fans into thinking the danger is real and ageless. Not only that, but both properties have their lost protagonists exploring a dark and unfamiliar landscape with unreliable light sources like cameras and faulty torches their only aid.
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 in 1991. The character was always intended to be a composite of Hollywood action heroes, but on Duke Nukem 3D it became apparent that Ash Williams from the third Evil Dead movie Army of Darkness was the character’s chief inspiration. Duke borrows a lot of lines from Ash, like “groovy,” “come get some,” and “hail to the king, baby!” and Campbell’s pose from the Army of Darkness cover!
9. Mortal Kombat – Jean-Claude Van Damme movies
Mortal Kombat was released in 1992 to create a worthy alternative to Street Fighter II. To ensure it could compete, the programmers decided to centre their game on martial arts movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme. Unfortunately, the Muscles from Brussels declined to do the motion capture, but he did serve as the visual inspiration for Johnny Cage, Mortal Kombat’s most famous character. Cage even does the iconic Van Damme split, as seen in Bloodsport!
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 Donkey Kong sees Mario dodge falling debris and climb ladders to rescue the imprisoned Pauline. This premise obviously borrows from the classic monster flick King Kong, so much so that Universal sued Nintendo for breach of copyright. A protected legal battle ensued, but Nintendo did eventually win the rights to continue using the Donkey Kong character.
7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – The Rock
It’s very common to see a Michael Bay movie and feel like you’re watching a video game, but it turns out video games have also been inspired by Bay in return. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is modelled in tone and content after The Rock, the iconic slice of 1996 Bayhem starring Nicolas Cage. In particular, the Special Ops Charlie mission Breach and Clear is influenced by the events of the movie, and the shower level from the Gulag campaign is also identical to the shower room showdown in The Rock!
6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Scarface
As maybe the most provocative video game franchise in history, it’s only natural that Grand Theft Auto would take inspiration from the controversial Hollywood film Scarface. Vice City itself is closely modelled on Miami, the setting of Brian De Palma’s 1983 movie, and the rise of criminal Tommy Vercetti echos of that of Al Pacino’s iconic anti-hero Tony Montana. Most obviously, if you walk into Apartment 3c in the Ocean Beach apartment block, you’ll find a chainsaw and bloodstains in the bathroom, referencing Angel’s death in Scarface!
5. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Indiana Jones
Whenever a bold adventurer heads off into the wilderness in search of fabulous lost treasures, it’s hard not to be reminded of Indiana Jones. Maybe that’s part of why Uncharted’s Nathan Drake is so beloved; not only does he also scout out treasure in far-flung and dangerous locations with evil henchmen opposing him every step of the way, but he also sometimes reluctantly tangles with the supernatural and fantastical. All he needs now is a hat to go back for!
4. Max Payne 3 – Man on Fire
Rockstar’s hard-edged third-person shooter series always owed a substantial debt to film noir and gritty action thrillers, but the third instalment in the Max Payne series is particularly similar to the 2004 action thriller Man on Fire. Max Payne 3 sees the protagonist take on a private security contract for a wealthy family whose daughter is then kidnapped, while he also battles alcoholism and trauma. This is identical to the set up of Man on Fire!
3. Doom – Aliens
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, even confirmed that he’d drawn a lot of inspiration from Aliens in a 2011 Q&A!
2. L.A. Noire – L.A. Confidential
Rockstar has never tried to hide L.A. Noire’s apparent connection to the movie L.A. Confidential. After-all, the character arc of L.A. Noire’s hero Cole Phelps, from ambitious, principled beat cop to up-and-coming detective, clearly mirrors that of L.A. Confidential’s Ed Exley (Guy Pearce). However, since the game takes place in the late 40s rather than the film’s 50s setting, it also takes inspiration from other classic film noirs like Chinatown and The Naked City.
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 the 1984 action film Red Dawn. This isn’t that surprising considering that the film’s director, John Milius, is said to have worked on Homefront’s script! Not only that, but at the school stadium in the game a billboard can be found that reads “Go Wolverines”, which is the name of the resistance movement and sports team in Red Dawn!