This month marks the 30th Anniversary of the classic film series, Back to the Future. The first movie was released on July 3, 1985. Since this writer doesn’t do film, let’s instead look at the franchise’s bizarre history with video games. Not all of them of course, but a select few to drive a point.
Let’s begin, bypassing the first games initially released on computers, with the NES and Back to the Future. It’s reminiscent of Paperboy where a neighborhood street is filled with random obstacles. For Marty, he must navigate through the suburbs avoiding tires, glass panes, oil spills and more all while collecting time. It’s obviously a rushed tie-in to the first movie. Not a great start.
The second film received three games. First, a combo pack with both II and III included for the NES. It has the DeLorean at least, but it’s just as frustrating. There are dinosaurs and weird monsters making it feel like a weird Castlevania rip off. There was also a Sega Master System game, which isn’t any better than the pervious entries of course, but it does have the hover board and a catchy chiptune of the series’ theme.
There was one other game based off of two: Super Back to the Future II. It was only released in Japan on the SNES. It has amazing art, great music, and solid gameplay, though it inarguably has nothing to do with the movie and is brutally difficult. Then there is Back to the Future III for the Sega Genesis and let’s just not talk about it. Except for the SNES game, they all reek of cheap cash-ins with developers who were unfamiliar with the movies and or had little time to create anything clever. It actually stars the doc for once and has horses and cowboys, but is auto-scrolling, like the Master System game, and is impossible to navigate.
The last console game for BttF was an adventure series developed by Telltale in 2010. This was pre-Walking Dead before the team really hitting their stride. The puzzles are more obscure harkening back to classic adventure games. While difficult to handle, it is notably based off of the film with returning cast members, like Christopher Lloyd, respiring their roles. It takes place after the third movie where Marty is trying to stop the Doc’s death yet again. It’s not as good as any of the films, but an A for effort.
With all that said, what would it take to make a good BttF game? Well, this writer doesn’t have the answer yet. However, next month, in celebration of Chrono Trigger’s 20th Anniversary, he’ll be looking at the many examples of time travel in video games. An idea may come to mind then, but for now, go and watch this terrific trilogy in celebration.
Special Notes: Check out the video retrospective on Back to the Future’s games on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.