10 Movies That Changed Video Games

Posters for Alien and Indiana Jones 5 split image

Recently, video game fans have enjoyed a few cinematic adaptations of hit releases like The Last of Us, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Uncharted. Since gaming broke into the mainstream, movie and TV studios have sought to harness video games’ stories and leverage their built-in fanbases for their own success. The reverse can also be true.

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Through the years, several movies have influenced the video game industry. Horror classics like Alien inspired an entire genre of survival horror games set in space. Similarly, fighting films like Enter the Dragon introduced the idea of a deadly global fighting tournament that would later serve as the premise for hit fighters like Mortal Kombat.

Updated January 20, 2022, by Anthony Jeanetta. With the release and critical appraisal of The Last of Us TV series on HBO Max, video game adaptations are as relevant as ever. However, cinema is as responsible for inspiring video games as the inverse. This list is updated to include more movies that have changed video games.

10 Alien Popularized The Survival Space Horror Subgenre

Influenced Games: Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, Halo

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When Ridley Scott directed 1979’s Alien, he kicked off a massive hit horror franchise. Its claustrophobic and terrifying setting and story also influenced many video games. Plus, other directors like James Cameron added their own touch to the series, giving the franchise an action element that further inspired an entire video game genre.

The influences of Alien and Aliens are obvious for its licensed games like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Alien: Isolation. However, the entire survival space horror subgenre inspired by this franchise includes non-licensed hit games like Dead Space and even parts of Halo that feature similar battles with hordes of aliens in dimly lit and grimy spaceships. Any player struggling to survive nightmarish alien horrors in space owes a lot to Alien.

9 Enter The Dragon Influenced Tournament Fighting Games

Influenced Games: Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Street Fighter

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Bruce Lee with an injured chest in Enter the Dragon

The iconic film star Bruce Lee starred in some of the greatest martial arts movies ever made. One of his most significant films is 1973’s Enter the Dragon. In this classic, Lee played an undercover intelligence agent sent to investigate a mysterious underground tournament for the world’s best fighters.

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Enter the Dragon combined spy and blaxploitation elements with a top-notch martial arts movie to make it a hit across multiple genres. Its success would influence the entire fighting game genre, with releases like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, and more. Lee’s hit feature especially affected Mortal Kombat, which features a similar premise with a supernatural angle as Earth’s greatest fighters compete in a mystical tournament.

Influenced Games: Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, River City Girls

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The Warriors and The Riffs strike a truce in The Warriors

The Warriors, a Walter Hill-helmed 1979 adaptation of the novel of the same name, follows the titular New York City street gang. Over the course of one night, the group fights against other themed gangs to get back to the safety of their neighborhood following a city-wide gang war.

The Warriors had a unique comic book aesthetic blended with an exaggerated style of the ‘70s. Several side-scrolling beat ‘em-up games followed a similar premise and feature zany, colorful enemies, much like The Warriors. Classic games of this genre, like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, found huge success following the same formula used in The Warriors years earlier.

7 Night Of The Living Dead Kicked Off The Zombie Genre

Influenced Games: Left for Dead, Dying Light, The Last of Us

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The horde of ghouls attacking the house in Night of the Living Dead zombie movie

George A. Romero burst onto the scene with 1968’s now-iconic Night of the Living Dead, a black-and-white horror movie that launched the massively popular zombie genre. Romero influenced countless zombie movies that followed and inspired many video games, too.

Today, fans of the genre almost universally enjoy stepping into the shoes of survivors and fighting the ceaseless waves of the undead. Games like Left for Dead or Dying Light are well known for testing players’ resolve with high-intensity escapes from zombified hordes. Night of the Living Dead introduced this feeling of terror that has influenced an entire genre of video games for decades.

6 The Thing Is A Cinematic Classic That’s Transcended Its Medium

Influenced Games: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Among Us

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The alien in John Carpenter's 1982 The Thing

Upon its release, many considered The Thing as director John Carpenter’s biggest flop. The movie failed critically and commercially before being justifiably reclaimed years later as an exemplary sci-fi thriller. In The Thing, a group of scientists in an Antarctica base encounter a shape-shifting alien who ruins any trust between them.

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The Thing’s belated impact on pop culture is especially evident in the video games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Both games feature freakish mutated creatures uncannily similar to The Thing’s titular alien. Additionally, the paranoid atmosphere that drives the movie’s tension is apparent in the recent indie hit, Among Us, in which players must discover the alien imposter among them before they’re all consumed.

5 Indiana Jones Inspired A Few Different Relic Hunters

Influenced Games: Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Monkey Island

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny poster

With Harrison Ford set to return for the fifth time as the iconic professor of archeology and relic hunter, the Indiana Jones franchise may seem exhausted to some. Still, when he first appeared in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, this swashbuckling professor’s combination of brains and brawn was a breath of fresh air.

The character of Indiana Jones and his action-packed adventures in Raiders of the Lost Ark was so inventive it inspired many other treasure hunters across film, TV, and video games over the years. Specifically, the combination of death-defying puzzles followed by edge-of-your-seat shootouts has influenced the exploits of popular characters like Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft and Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.

4 The Matrix Popularized An Important Gaming Mechanic

Influenced Games: Max Payne, Bayonetta, SUPERHOT

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Neo stops bullets in The Matrix

In 1999, before any sequels or reboots, the original The Matrix stunned audiences with its slow-motion, 360-degree action sequences. Scenes of Keanu Reeves decked out in black leather and dodging a hail of bullets in slow-mo became almost instantly iconic.

Birthed by The Matrix, this power, known as “bullet time,” inspired one of the most fun video game mechanics. Games like Max Payne and Bayonetta took the bullet time mechanic and made excellent use of it, allowing players to slow down time and escape harrowing fights in a cinematic and thrilling fashion.

3 Mad Max Created A Template For The Post-Apocalypse

Influenced Games: Fallout, Metro, Borderlands

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Mel Gibson in a black leather jacket and white tee standing behind his yellow police car.

The Mad Max movies, especially the first two: Mad Max and The Road Warrior, are largely responsible for popularizing the post-apocalyptic genre. These movies, set in a future Australia ravaged by a worldwide catastrophe resulting from widespread oil shortages, established the look and feel of countless post-apocalyptic games to come.

Everything in Mad Max, from its stoic protagonist to its scavenger-based aesthetic, has influenced massive game series like Fallout and Metro. In each game, the player controls an enigmatic wanderer thrust into a post-apocalyptic conflict with world-changing stakes. This setup should sound familiar for anyone who’s seen Mad Max or its sequels.

2 Blade Runner Asked Audiences To Question Their Humanity

Influenced Games: Detroit: Become Human, Cyberpunk 2077, Syndicate

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Harrison Ford plays blade runner Rick Deckard, during rush hour in LA

Ridley Scott followed up his totemic science-fiction hit, Alien with another sci-fi standard that became arguably just as influential. Blade Runner followed Rick Deckard on his quest to hunt down a renegade group of “replicants,” high-tech androids, in a dystopic future L.A.

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While Scott didn’t invent the cyberpunk aesthetic, Blade Runner was paramount in popularizing it. The movie’s rain-soaked, neon-lit industrial cityscape has informed almost every cyberpunk video game after. It’s not just the setting and appearance these games have used. Themes about what it means to be a human are also significant parts of games like Detroit: Becoming Human or Syndicate that Blade Runner has inspired.

1 Battle Royale Become A Gaming Genre In And Of Itself

Influenced Games: Call of Duty: Warzone, PUBG: Battlegrounds, Fortnite

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>An image of a tense standoff between students in Battle Royale

Battle Royale, an adaptation of the 1999 novel of the same name from Koushun Takami, was one of Japan’s greatest cinematic hits, becoming a cult classic that Quentin Tarantino praised as his favorite film of the past twenty years in 2009. The movie depicts a class of juvenile delinquents who, in a near-future Japan, are sent to a remote island and forced to participate in a fight to the death.

Battle Royale’s impact is evident in some of the most popular video games today, like Warzone and Fortnite. These games vary in style and gameplay, but they all borrow their framework from Battle Royale, as players fight to be the last ones standing. This structure has become so popular that battle royale is now an entire video game genre.

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