The Fair Shake

Top 10 Overlooked Movie Licenses

Greetings Readers! Carl broke out the VCR this week. Why? Grab a bowl of popcorn, the previews are beginning. Video games released based on a movie theme are nothing new. Some have been great. Some, not so much. One would think that surely every movie that was deserving of a game had one, even if it was a poor game. Alas, no. Some movies, for reasons not understood, have been overlooked by industry. If things had played out a bit differently, we may have had these games. With much fanfare, and the excellent artistic ability of  Sean McCauley from, I present to you, for lack of a better title:

The Fair Shake: Top 10 Overlooked Movie Licenses

Duel (1971)

If you’ve never seen this originally made for TV movie from Steven Speilberg, you should. The plot is purposefully thin. A salesman of some sort is traveling in his Plymouth Valiant on a trip to somewhere and encounters a semi truck. For reasons unknown, the semi chases him. (Who here hasn’t grabbed their steering wheel and screamed ‘C’mon let’s go’ as their car is breaking down?)

One of my favorite movies. It still sends chills down my spine as poor Dennis Weaver’s Mopar wheezes up a hill, as he begs and prays to make it a little more. Since Universal had no video game division in the 1970s, who else would they have approached but Atari to release the game for their popular VCS system? Two players, one as the terrifying truck, and one as a little red Plymouth. Race to the top of the hill! Who will win? Use the steering paddle controllers as you both climb a dirt path. Watch out for the cliff!

Christine (1983)

Stephen King’s novel about a 1958 Plymouth Fury that was possessed by a jealous entity with a thirst for blood was brought to life in this John Carpenter classic. Poor Arnie, a stereotypical nerd, falls in love with a beat up run down Plymouth. As he rebuilds it, his personality changes. Are the car’s and boy’s fate interwined? Why have people who have wronged Arnie started to die?

This is my favorite Stephen King movie, by far. I feel it’s too underrated. LJN, master of all movie license video games, would easily have been able to pull this off. Stage after stage of running away from a car, followed by a faceoff as you drive a bulldozer! Can you defeat Christine while saving the population at large? This one player multi-stage running game with an early rock and roll sound track could have been LJN’s greatest hit.

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

Poor Joshua Waitzkin. Gifted in chess, and all but forced by his instructor to become a ruthless game player. He refuses and learns to win on his own more respectful terms, in this insightful film that dives deep into the world of competitive chess playing. This movie is highly regarded both by chess players and film viewers who enjoy watching a character develop on screen.

Ocean developed several movie licensed games for the SNES, so it would have been natural for this video game version of competitive chess to be released by them. (I hope there’s a rook in the box!) Imagine gaming competitively with either one or two players, as you have Josh giving you on screen hints. Should you beat them? Let them win and retain some dignity? Are you the next Bobby Fischer? The clock is ticking, and it’s your move.

 Forrest Gump (1994)


Forrest Gump. The movie directed by Robert Zemeckis that features Tom Hanks cast as the title character, a slow, simple living Alabama native who either witnesses, takes part in, or influences many major events of the second half of the 2oth century. This award winning film can be all things to all people, as it has elements of drama, comedy, romance, action, and adventure. It should be required viewing for a “Current Events up to 1985-or-so” lecture.

It also should have been a video game! Run the football down the field! Rescue Lieutanant Dan! Go shrimping! The variety of stages in this game would have been fantastic, with an amazing soundtrack. The Sega CD version (not pictured) would of course, feature the actual licensed soundtrack  How well can you serve a ping pong ball?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

 You have seen Sergio Leone’s sprawling epic western, haven’t you? Set in what is now the southwestern US, this movie takes “The Man with No Name”, “Angel Eyes” and Tuco, on an adventure in the Old West looking for gold that was once funds for the Confederate Army. Nothing will stop these three, who each think they will get the gold first. Not even each other, or the Civil War. This movie is long, but doesn’t feel it, as each character grows on you in different ways. It includes a standoff at the end that is nothing short of breathtaking. Ennio Morricone’s musical score sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.

Forget Goldeneye. This would have made one hell of a multiplayer FPS game. A slew of westerns came out in the late 80s and early 90s from the action oriented Young Guns to the serious Unforgiven. Why not go back to the best? Play as either main character, with the forth player controlling such minor characters as Tuco’s unnamed henchman. Get all the characters on the same screen, and a stand off begins! Who will get the gold first?

 Pulp Fiction (1994)

The 1990’s film scene cannot be described without at least a short detour to view Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The movie that arguably revived the careers of Bruce Willis and John Travolta.  At the time it was ground breaking, with it’s rapid fire dialogue about, well, seemingly nothing (Royale with Cheese?) and it’s non linear plot. Jules, Vincent, Mia, and Butch. Two thugs a boxer and a mobster’s wife, who’s lives all intersect in seemingly bizarre ways. An enduring question for the ages: What was in the suitcase?

It’s surprising that no video game existed for this movie. Even more surprising is that it wasn’t released on Game Boy! Alternate roles, or use the Game Link Cable and play as Vincent, Jules, or Butch. Can you dance the twist and win the contest? Execute Brett in a timely fashion! Win the bout with Butch! Save Marseluss with a katana! Can you get the suitcase? Put the game in your Super Game Boy add on for SNES, and lose the monochrome color scheme!

 Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Tim Burton’s heartwarming drama about an artificial boy with scissors for hands who meets a small town girl took people by surprise in 1990. Poor Edward, who is initially loved, then feared by the community is etched in the minds of people of a certain age. It’s hard to watch the Pirates of the Carribean movies without wondering where Jack Sparrow’s scissor hands are.

To my knowledge, no game exists for Edward Scissorhands. Why not? Edward Scissorhands would have been a natural fit for an RPG! Why not on the Turbo Grafx 16 in a single player Dragon Warrior 1 style game, no less? “PICK” the lock. “CARVE” the ice so Kim can dance. “FIGHT” Jim. Can you become the Edward Scissorhands of legend?

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter won five Academy Awards in 1979, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher (‘more cowbell‘) Walken. The story begins as a slice-of-life in a western Pennsylvania steel town, but decends into a living hell as three friends are deployed to Vietnam. In the most intense scene in movie history, Michael, as portrayed by Robert DeNiro, is forced to play Russian Roulette against his best friend Nick, played by Christopher Walken.

Amazingly, this epic movie was overlooked by the early video game industry, however it’s a perfect fit for Mattel Electronic’s Intellivison! Guide Michael through the mill, avoiding streams and cauldrons of molten steel! Navigate a crowd of drunken revelers to reach the bar and collect a Rolling Rock for Linda! Blast your way out of the jungle and catch the chopper to escape!

Bonus: 2-player Russian Roulette mode lets you relive The Deer Hunter at home! Spin the Intellvision disc with your thumb to simulate spinning the cylinder!

Kramer Vs Kramer (1979)

Robert Benton’s deeply moving film about a couple going through a divorce, and the effects of it on everyone involved, including their child, won several awards. The inevitable tug of war between each person, their emotional breakdown, and eventual acceptance of the situation is an excellent portrayal of divorce in the modern world. Ted Kramer and Joanna have to sit in on the sidelines as their respective lawyers tear each other apart in order to gain custody of their son, Billy. Ted’s sprint through traffic to get Billy to the hospital is fatherly love at its best.

This would have been a natural early text based game for the VIC-20, making full use of a keyboard interface. Can you keep custody of Billy? Answer the questions the lawyer poses correctly to get the most points. Beat the timer to get Billy to the hospital!  Hint: when Joanna asks how she looks, the answer is “terrific”.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Poor Gilbert Grape. What’s his problem? Perhaps it’s being stuck in a small town in the midwest. Maybe it’s the fact he, along with his siblings, have to care for their house-bound mother? It could be he must constantly keep his mentally disabled brother, Arnie, out of trouble? Perhaps it’s the housewife he is having an affair with? Johnny Depp (Note: The fact there are two Johnny Depp movies in this article is coincidence) and Leonardo DiCaprio were well cast in this drama.

Known for such games as The Hunt for Red October and War for Middle Earth, Hi Tech Expressions would have been able to creatively adapt the Gilbert Grape movie into a game. This adventure game has you cast in the role of Gilbert. Make sure Arnie doesn’t climb the tower! Burn the house down before the end of the day. A hidden stage (which would be later be claimed to have been revealed by ‘hackers’) would have Gilbert engage in his love affair with Betty!

Can you think of a movie that deserved a retro game treatment? Sound off in the comments!