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Five Video Games That Secretly Borrow From Other Movies

Just as some of today’s movies borrow iconography and settings from video games, so, too, do games borrow details from established movies. You could call these movie-games unoriginal. (It wouldn’t be the worst insult hurled at them.) But many are quite fun (originality be damned). Here are five noteworthies.

The Game: Heavy Rain
Borrows From: Se7en

Heavy-Rain-125.jpgBoth Heavy Rain and Se7en are about a creepy serial killer and the people who want to apprehend him, and both have twist endings. But neither is truly interactive: Se7en requires nothing of its audience, save for patience, attention, and time. Similarly, Heavy Rain isn’t much more than a linear story that asks its audience to press a few buttons every once in a while to push it forward. It’s worth pointing out that both works are terrifying: Se7en for its subtle depiction of horrific violence and human suffering, and Heavy Rain for its virtual-sex scene.

The Game: Mass Effect
Borrows From: Star Wars

Mass-Effect-125.jpgBioWare has made no bones about the fact that they want Mass Effect to become the Star Wars of video games. In addition to the galaxy-sprawling, shoot-’em-up action that characterizes both movie and game, they follow a similar story structure: the first installment is about a relative nobody facing down a huge, singular threat, and the second is a much darker story, wherein heroes suffer and difficult decisions are made. Nobody really knows what Mass Effect 3 will be about, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it involved Ewoks.

The Game: Metal Gear Solid
Borrows From: Escape from New York and Ghost in the Shell

Metal-Gear-Solid-2-125.jpgGame designer and professional crazy person Hideo Kojima openly admits that Solid Snake, the protagonist of the Metal Gear Solid series, is based on Escape from New York‘s Snake Plissken. Metal Gear games are full of kooky anime clichés and weird double crosses, and almost all of the plot elements are conveyed through noninteractive cut scenes. (The game’s ending lasts about 40 minutes, independent of any player input.) It’s the most surreal, enjoyable, boring, awesome, epic, self-defeating game-that-maybe-isn’t-a-game ever.

The Game: Modern Warfare 2
Borrows From: Tom Clancy flicks

Modern-Warfare-125.jpgThe first Modern Warfare game tried to combine bombastic thrills with a politically relevant plot, and, while the thrills were genuine, the story (unnamed Middle Eastern country acquires a nuke and uses it to kill American soldiers) felt exploitative. The game’s sequel, with the exception of one particularly controversial level, drops the political and thematic pretenses, in favor of Cool Heroes and Really Big Explosions. In the way that Clear and Present Danger or The Sum of All Fears often feel too over-the-top to be terrifying or offensive, Modern Warfare 2 throws believability out the window, in exchange for epic set pieces and fun action scenes.

The Game: Uncharted 2
Borrows From: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Uncharted-2-125.jpgThe popular, cut-scene-heavy shooter series does an immeasurably better job at capturing the Indy vibe than, say, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: it’s got a cocky, charming hero; spectacular action; and a B-movie adventure plot that suddenly turns supernatural in the last twenty minutes. Hell — the second game even throws in Nazis.

Can you think of any other games that borrow from our favorite flicks?

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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