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The Top Ten Movie Video Games That Want to Kill You


Video games, as any congressman can tell you, will kill us all. Sometimes they’ll train our nation’s youth into assassins; other times, they’ll glorify violence so gamers will want to emulate their Xbox accomplishments. As violent as games like Gears of War can be, however, they have nothing on the murderous, often sentient games that populate the movies. Here are ten that, in their varied efforts to end humanity, might convince even the most vehement anti-video game critic that a few virtual chainsaws to the face don’t seem so bad.


10. Game Over, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
If you have to get trapped in a potentially deadly video game, choose “Game Over” from the third Spy Kids flick. Even though the titular game is supposed to kill the child protagonists, being a children’s movie everyone pretty much ends up without a scratch. Heck, given the fact that the game includes a “power-up” that grants the Spy Kids’ wheelchair-bound grandfather the use of his legs again, this game might be one hell of a boon to society. Can you make a power-up that cures world hunger, too?


9. Gamebox 1.0, Gamebox 1.0 (2004)
A video game tester is sent a prototype console that taps into his cerebral cortex and immerses him in a virtual world filled with people from his past — like his dead ex-girlfriend, and the cop who killed her. The flick could have potentially reached Fight Club-esque levels of fun, but unfortunate plotting — the protagonist has to fight zombies and aliens in order to survive — makes Gamebox 1.0 only slightly better (and more dangerous) than Spy Kids.


8. Nirvana, Nirvana (1996)
I could just as easily have put the Russel Crowe vehicle Virtuosity here, because they’re almost identical: A virtual character becomes sentient and leaves their computer program to start killing people indiscriminately. The major difference between the two, of course, is that Nirvana stars Christopher Lambert and is about achieving inner peace to defeat the evil program, while Virtuosity is about punching people in the face over and over. Your mileage with either will vary according to how much you enjoy either Christopher Lambert or watching people getting punched, respectively.


7. Surf Ninjas, Surf Ninjas (1993)
While the central video game in this movie isn’t technically evil, dangerous things tend to happen around it. A bunch of ninjas want to kill the main teenage characters, and the only way the heroes can protect themselves is by consulting their Sega Game Gear. In one of the most shameless product tie-ins of the ’90s, the movie’s heroes find safety by playing a video game version of the movie they are in, which tells them when ninjas are trying to sneak up on them or if Cyborg Leslie Nielsen (yeah, you read that right) is trying to launch a missile to destroy Hawaii.


6. The Bishop of Battle, Nightmares (1983)
In this four-story anthology, Emilio Estevez fights an evil arcade game known as “The Bishop of Battle.” The (supposedly haunted) cabinet kills anyone skilled enough to reach the second-to-last level, and Emilio takes it upon himself to complete the entire game. Henchmen from the game jump out of the arcade screen and, after a brief fight scene where Emilio wards off his attackers with a Super Cool Video Game Laser Gun, Emilio gets sucked into the game and remains trapped there, forever. How’s that for an allegory?


5. Avalon, Avalon (2001)
In this flick, most of the world is addicted to the titular MMO which completely immerses gamers’ minds in a virtual world while leaving their bodies silent and catatonic in the real world. Gamers, the story tells us, are so addicted to the fictional world that they no longer desire to live in the real one. Though it’s basically The Matrix with less action, there’s something to be said for the fact that the gamers — rather than the game itself — are the enemy. Sometimes it’s OK to blame the parents, too!


4. Arcade, Arcade (1993)
The next time you’ve got complaints about modern-day game publishers, thank your lucky stars that their designers don’t take brain cells from a boy who was beaten to death by an alcoholic mother and use it to program a video game villain. Because in Arcade, that’s exactly what happens. And it’s even less fun than it sounds. The only thing keeping it from the top spot is the small technical issue of no one actually dying in the movie.


3. Stay Alive, Stay Alive (2006)
No problem with that here. I’ll never understand why the marketing guys for Stay Alive thought the tagline, “if you die in the game, you die for real” was particularly well-suited or memorable enough to be plastered on every single poster and trailer. Still, it saves me the trouble of having to explain the plot. Stay Alive is, at least thematically, a pretty direct update of “The Bishop of Battle” for the post-Saw crowd. Video game technology is still scary and evil, but now it’ll dismember and strangle you rather than just throwing you into a machine.


2. Brainscan, Brainscan (1994)
The evil game in Brainscan is basically identical to Gamebox 1.0, except it hypnotizes the player (in this case, Edward Furlong) into believing he’s playing the most terrifying game in his life when in reality he’s becoming a serial killer. You turn the game on, you have some fun; you turn it off, and you find out you’re standing over the corpse of a complete stranger. Brainscan may not cause you personal bodily harm, but it’ll sure as heck screw up your psyche.


1. WOPR, WarGames (1983)
Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy accidentally trick a sentient, 256-color computer into initiating a nuclear war with Russia. You couldn’t come up with a more ’80s-centric plot if you tried. WarGames takes the cake for being potentially the most deadly game, and the most legitimately enjoyable movie. And should you ever find yourself facing off against WOPR in real life, fret not: A simple game of tic-tac-toe will be his undoing. Nuclear holocaust, schmuclear holocaust.

Now tell me: Are there any killer video games I missed?

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Anthony Burch is the features editor for and the co-writer and director of the video series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? He recently completed Runner, his first art game.

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