Though games based on the movie franchise are strangely sparse in the modern era, Indiana Jones and gaming have gone hand-in-hand since the inception of the medium. With early Indie games gracing the arcades and primitive consoles like the Atari 2600, it’s fair to say that Lucas and Spielberg-created series has been incredibly influential to the development of gaming.
While there were plenty of games based on the property, plenty more drew clear influence from it. With myriad titles featuring daring adventures through hazardous caverns and dungeons in pursuit of mythical artifacts, here are 10 must-play retro video games for fans of the Indiana Jones movies.
10 Pitfall! (Atari 2600)
One of the games that first put Activision on the map, Pitfall! was one of the most important games to release on the Atari 2600. A high-score based platforming adventure, Pitfall! was one of the first games to convey a genuine sense of adrenaline-packed adventure.
Though incredibly rudimentary by today’s standards, Pitfall! hooked a generation of kids on video games, and part of its appeal could be attributed to its similarity to the Indiana Jones franchise. Asking players to collect treasure and dodge hazards such as logs to scorpions, and, of course, the titular pitfall, while crude, the title arguably has more to do with Indiana Jones than the actual Atari 2600 video game adaptation.
9 Disney’s Aladdin (SNES, 1993)
Developed by Capcom and designed by the ever-famous Shinji Mikami, the video game adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin was a tough-as-nails 16-bit platforming romp that served as a rather faithful exploration of the film’s most action-oriented segments.
Though outwardly pretty separate from the Indiana Jones franchise, the swashbuckling gameplay and Arabian theme are definitely evocative of the first three entries in the series. What’s more, Disney now owns both franchises, adding another tenuous connection between the two. Recently re-released on modern platforms, Disney’s Aladdin is certainly worth a playthrough, though inexperienced gamers may be in for some trouble.
8 Rogue (ZX Specturm, 1980)
A seminal procedurally-generated title that would later inspire a host of mechanically-similar “rogue-like” titles, Rogue was far ahead of its time. Though it certainly exudes more of a Dungeons and Dragons aesthetic than anything else, one can’t help but be reminded of Dr. Jones when scrambling through dank catacombs, looking out for hidden hazards while in search of an ancient artifact.
Though relying on some incredibly simply ASCII graphics, Rogue is deceptively difficult, requiring players to venture through dozens of randomly-assembled levels in pursuit of ultimate victory. It’s not for the faint of heart, though curious gamers may be pleased to hear that it was recently released on Steam.
7 Manic Miner (ZX Spectrum, 1983)
One of the very first games to have a soundtrack—albeit a near-madding scramble of blips and bloops—1983’s Manic Miner was an addictive title early computer title that tasked players with helping Miner Willy to escape a cavern before his oxygen supply expires.
One can’t but help draw comparisons between this and the Indiana Jones franchise, as the game released during the height of the first film’s popularity. The action may be pretty rudimentary and underwhelming, but, while navigating a series of traps and evading dangerous creatures, the player may feel just a bit like Dr. Jones.
6 The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1987)
Obviously, Nintendo’s famous The Legend of Zelda series has much more to do with fantasy than the tales of Indiana Jones do, but, back in 1987, the game’s genre wasn’t quite as set in stone, and, from a broader perspective, there are quite a few similarities between Link’s original quest and the exploits of Dr. Jones.
Though the scenarios aren’t all that similar, both characters explore various dungeons in search of ancient artifacts and rely on weapons like swords and whips. What’s more, they both feature supernatural elements, and, in all likelihood, their fanbases overlapped quite a bit, at least in the late 80s.
5 1001 Spikes (Steam, 2014)
We have to admit that we’re cheating with this entry; though it unabashedly apes an 8-bit aesthetic, 1001 Spikes is anything but retro. Released in 2014 by ex-Edmund McMillen collaborators Nicalis, the game is an “NES hard” platformer that borrows unapologetically from the Indiana Jones movies.
Featuring an adventurer questing through a perilous series of tombs in search of a treasure once saught by his own father, 1001 Spikes is a grueling, rage-inducing game that puts into perspective the average life expectancy of someone involved in such a dangerous profession.
4 The Secret Of Monkey Island (Amiga, 1990)
An unbridled early PC classic that would cement the legacy of the recently-revived Lucasfilm Games, The Secret of Monkey Island was the first of a series of quirky, often-hilarious point-and-click-adventure titles that would eventually help to shift gamers’ focus away from consoles.
Though it may have more in common with Pirates of the Caribbean than Indiana Jones in terms of style, its silly thrills and campy humor mimick the charm of the Indie movies. What’s more, LucasArts would go on to create a very similar game two years later in the form of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
3 Rick Dangerous (Amiga, 1989)
An early release from development studio Core Design, the same team who would later go on to develop the Tomb Raider games, Rick Dangerous was more or less a direct rip-off of the Indiana Jones films and games.
A lone explorer is stranded while exploring the Amazon Rain Forest and is forced to navigate through a series of caverns while escaping the clutches of the land’s natives. The game quite literally begins with a setpiece in which the protagonist is made to run for his life as a giant boulder pursues him down a narrow catacomb. Sound familiar?
2 Prince of Persia (Amiga, 1989)
A graphical revolution when it first appeared on PCs in the late 80s, the first Prince of Persia drew clear inspiration from the Indiana Jones trilogy. With ample amounts of platforming, dungeon navigating, and swordplay, the first Prince of Persia title was, in many ways, a more faithful and thrilling Indiana Jones experience than any of the officially-licensed games up to that point.
1 Tomb Raider (PlayStation, 1996)
One of the first must-own titles to release for Sony’s PlayStation console, 1996’s Tomb Raider was to the system as Super Mario 64 was to the Nintendo 64. A revolution in 3D gaming, though beyond clunky today, Tomb Raider was a major step up when compared to proceeding action-adventure games.
Starring notorious treasure hunter Lara Croft, Tomb Raider evoked very obviously the thrill and excitement of watching an Indiana Jones adventure. However, this time, players were in control, raiding tombs and dealing with dangers of their own fruition. Launching a series that continues to this day, fans of the Indiana Jones movies definitely owe it to themselves to check out how this similar franchise got its start.
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