By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
Sometimes a video game based on a movie is already too far along in development to give it the ax even after the movie its based on turns out to be a flop.
In fact, some of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history have video game adaptations, sometimes more than one. Here are five movies that are among the most infamous box office flops in history that still managed to have tie-in games.
(Note: All box office figures are adjusted for inflation at 2015 rates. Budgets and box office tallies were all taken from Box Office Mojo. In addition, financial losses as listed only apply to the movies’ worldwide theatrical runs and don’t account for home video sales or other post-cinema revenues.)
#5 – Hudson Hawk (1991)
Adjusted financial loss: $79 million
Video game: Hudson Hawk (1991 – NES, Game Boy, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, ZX Spectrum)
It has been said that Hudson Hawk‘s failure was due to misplaced marketing – it was supposed to be a comedy but was instead sold as a serious action movie following the success of star Bruce Willis’ two preceding Die Hard movies. Either way, reviews were abysmal, and so were ticket sales, so much so that it lead to the closure of TriStar Pictures. As far as Willis himself, Hawk was released the same year as the equally-lambasted The Bonfire of the Vanities, and for a time it was thought that the rising star’s career was about to burn out. (Luckily, Quentin Tarantino did for him what he also did for John Travolta and made him relevant again by casting him in Pulp Fiction two years later, which played a pivotal role in making Willis a star again.)
The games based on Hudson Hawk didn’t fare much better, often making lists of the worst NES games of all time. They’re fairly standard side-scrollers that at least stick relatively close to the movie’s plot and themes – which is about the only positive thing there is to say about them. And while the movie Hudson Hawk has since developed something of a cult following among people who actually see it as the fun, goofy romp it was intended to be, the Hudson Hawk game has really only gotten worse with time.
#4 – R.I.P.D: Rest in Peace Department (2013)
Adjusted financial loss: $97 million
Video game: R.I.P.D. The Game (2013, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
The Deadpool movie better be really damn good, because Ryan Reynolds has already been given more chances at making a good comic book movie than any actor deserves. People say Ben Affleck shouldn’t have the chance to play Batman because of his involvement with the Daredevil movie, but how quickly everyone forgets that Reynolds was the star of two terrible comic book films: The Green Lantern, and R.I.P.D. There really isn’t much I can say about R.I.P.D. that sums it up better than this quote from New York Post critic Kyle Smith: “[R.I.P.D. is] seemingly born of the same kind of brainstorming-on-L.S.D. session that must have given us Howard the Duck.”
Games based on good comic book movies already have a largely negative history, so there was absolutely no reason to expect much from the R.I.P.D. game. The developer of the game wasn’t all that interested in putting much resources into it either, as they basically just re-skinned their previous third-person shooter – God Mode – and passed it off as R.I.P.D. The Game (and God Mode already wasn’t the most beloved or popular game to begin with). As a side note, don’t you just love it when a video game has the subtitle of “The Game”? Thanks for clarifying – I get so mad when I go to buy what I think is an Xbox 360 game and it turns out to just be one of those Xbox 360 movies.
#3 – Waterworld (1995)
Adjusted financial loss: $104 million
Video games: Waterworld (1995, Super NES, Game Boy); Waterworld (1995, Virtual Boy); Waterworld (1997, PC)
Waterworld was the most expensive movie ever made when it was released, so it didn’t have any option but to be a monster blockbuster success. The tie-ins were as epic as the movie itself, not just a companion novel and video games but also themed attractions at three different Universal Studios parks (including ones in Japan and Singapore). Unlike the previously mentioned movies, reviews for Waterworld were a bit more positive, with the film even getting nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA Film Award (but also several Razzies, including “Worst Picture” which it won). By most accounts, it was a silly but ultimately passable action epic that probably wouldn’t have been judged quite so harshly had its production problems not already been so infamous by the time the movie was released.
There are actually three distinct Waterworld games: an isometric action game for the SNES and Game Boy, a real-time strategy game for PC, and the most well-known version, the 3D shooter for Virtual Boy. The Virtual Boy game is noteworthy because it is one of only 22 games officially released for the system, but it is also universally considered the worst game for the platform (but an unfortunate necessity for collectors looking to complete their Virtual Boy libraries). Video game historian Steven L. Kent also names it as his choice for worst video game of all time. So when compared to its games, the Waterworld movie is basically The Godfather
#2 – Treasure Planet (2002)
Adjusted financial loss: $131 million
Video games: Treasure Planet (2002, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance); Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon (2002, PC); Treasure Planet: Training Academy (PC)
While most Disney films are an event, the company was especially excited about the release of Treasure Planet. It was one of the first movies to use the technique of hand-drawn 2D animation on top of 3D computer animation, as well as being the first movie to be simultaneously released in regular theaters and IMAX. It was also one of the biggest flops in Disney’s history. While some of that could be blamed on the movie’s higher-than-average production cost due to all of the technical trickery, it still had a low tally for Disney standards – the highly forgettable The Emperor’s New Groove brought in three times the cash that Treasure Planet did. The movie was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but it never had a chance: that was the same year that Spirited Away was released, which rightfully took the prize.
Like any Disney movie – even the “lesser” ones – there were several games based on Treasure Planet. Consoles got the typically lackluster 3D platformers, but PC got both a naval strategy game and a collection of four smaller games called Training Academy. None were particular great, which is too bad because despite the poor box office performance, Treasure Planet was a pretty good movie. Of course, taking pirates and pirate ships and making them airborne was clearly stolen from Skies of Arcadia, this reviewer’s favorite RPG of all time, so even if the Treasure Planet games had been better there still isn’t much point in playing a “sky pirate” game other than Skies anyway.
#1 – Cutthroat Island (1995)
Adjusted financial loss: $160 million
Video game: Cutthroat Island (1995, Super NES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear)
One of the biggest box office bombs of all time, Cutthroat Island just seemed like a bad idea all around. I like Gena Davis in Beetlejuice and all, but as a swashbuckling action star? Yeah, not so much. The damage this movie did was widespread: it made pirate movies box office poison pretty much until Pirates of the Carribean (see #2), it severely hurt the reputations of both Davis and director Renny Harlin, and it lead Davis and Harlin to divorce three years later (that last one is completely my own assumption). The movie was absolutely torn apart by critics, and its total box office take was so low that it wasn’t even one of the top 100 movies of 1995 – Pauly Shore comedy Jury Duty took in nearly double what Cutthroat Island did, and in its opening weekend, it made even less money than fellow opener Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Yeesh.
Do we really need to waste any brain power discussing the Cutthroat Island games that actually somehow exist? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.