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Popular Films with References to Famous Retro Games

January 21, 2021

There are a multitude of popular films that reference famous retro games, the majority are based off games themselves so it is interesting to see how well some film studios can develop a game into a film.

Some popular films tend to spring references onto the screen from completely out of the blue, for example Freddie Kruger promoting the power glove in the late 80’s. Yet some other films run with a reference for most of the film to the point where it’s part of the plot!


 Resident Evil (2002)

This film is loosely based off the first two Resident Evil games these being Resident Evil, released on the PlayStation in 1996 and Resident Evil 2, released in 1998 also on the PlayStation.

The most notable references between the film and these games are quite clear to see, one of these references would be the same location of Raccoon City is used in both as this is where the plot for the film and games take place. Another notable reference would be the cause for the infection, this being the T-virus. Although the film and games have completely different plots and characters, the basic ideas are shared, you can tell that the writers of the film were avid players of the original games.

The film though not the biggest critically acclaimed film (yet video game films rarely are) as it was given a 35% score by critics, yet still grossed over $40 million domestically and over $100 million worldwide.


 Pixels (2015)

Pixels is not based on a film, yet the plot of the film does consist of countless references to games such as Pac-Man, who can be seen on copies of the movie art and within the film itself is a key part of the scene in which the characters play Pac-Man by acting as the ‘ghosts’ whilst driving Mini Coopers.

The entire plot in fact is based off aliens using these retro games against the protagonists of the film in a bid to take over the world. Another prime example of a retro reference would be the final boss of the movie who is Donkey Kong. This reference to the 1981 game gives the audience a real feel of nostalgia especially as the main protagonist, who is played by Adam Sandler is around the age that would’ve played Donkey Kong in the arcades. This again is another plot point as he could never beat Donkey Kong as a child.

This film can be considered popular even with its 17% critic score on rotten tomatoes as it got an average audience score of 46%. The film also managed to gross a world-wide total of over $240 million with the budget for the movie being almost $130 million.


Tomb Raider (2018)

A newer rendition of the Tomb Raider adaptations, this film like Resident Evil is based off a video game. In terms of actual references from the Tomb Raider games, the obvious one is, of course, the protagonist Lara Croft, who debuted in 1996 in the retro game Tomb Raider and first released on the Sega Saturn. This film still emulates themes from retro games like the previous 2 Tomb Raider films in the early 2000s.

This film can be considered popular as plans for a sequel were only prevented due to a global pandemic! The film managed to gross $274 million, finishing second at the box office to Black Panther.


Mortal Kombat (1995)

Like in the games, the film Mortal Kombat revolves around fighting, however, with the movie being rated PG-13, there were obvious limitations into how close to the games that the film could be, as strong violence and mutilation were not really on the cards!

Despite the limitations, the movie still received a decent rating as most of the blood and guts were replaced with impressive-looking martial arts which were quite like some of the characters playable in the original and retro Mortal Kombat, of which was released in 1992 to arcades.

The popular film earnt itself a sequel in 1997, most probably due to the film spending 3 weeks as the number 1 film at the box office, whilst earning over $122 million worldwide.


 Wreck It Ralph (2012)

This film is the embodiment of retro references, with characters from Pac-Man, Sonic, Mario, and many more making common appearances. Even the protagonist Ralph himself evokes connotations of Donkey Kong as his game seems to be based off the 1981 classic. As he is the antagonist in his own game yet deep inside himself, he wants more and decides to leave his game.

In doing this, he goes to another game which is clearly based off another retro game in Halo- Combat Evolved which came out in 2001 on the Xbox. The place also gives off similarities to the likes of Metroid and StarCraft giving again this retro feel as Metroid was released in 1986 on the Family Computer Disk System and StarCraft, released in 1998 for Windows.

As this was a Disney film, Wreck-it Ralph was bound to be very popular and do extremely well at the box office. The popular film grossed over $470 million dollars globally and won awards such as Best Animated Feature and IGN’s Best Animated Movie in 2012.


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If you’re looking for games similar to that of Wreck-it Ralph or even a fan of Mortal Kombat yourself then have a browse at our fantastic range of arcade machines. Alternatively, if you have a question about our products, please give us a call on 0121 433 5554 and we would be more than happy to help.


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