RoboCop has been protecting the innocent, upholding the law, and serving the public trust in video games since 1988, a year after the lethal lawman made his silver screen debut in an ultra-violent modern movie classic. As with any long-running franchise centered around an iconic character, video game developers were quick to see the commercial potential. RoboCop appeared in a slew of video game tie-ins, and over the years these titles have featured more ups and downs than Omni Consumer Products’ stock price.
With the recent announcement by Polish video game developer Teyon that they are working on a new RoboCop game, fans are hopeful that RoboCop: Rogue City will finally bring the definitive incarnation of Detroit’s cyborg protector to their PCs and consoles. This reveal makes it a great time to look back at every video game appearance that Alex Murphy has made since his arcade debut.
RoboCop: Guns, Gore, and Successful Licensed Titles
RoboCop’s video game career began with a 1988 arcade machine called, unsurprisingly, RoboCop. The movie had taken the box office by storm during the previous year, so there was understandably a rush to cash in on the craze. Unexpectedly, the game was actually good, and the side-scrolling shooter was a critical success, as well as selling over one million copies following its port to home computer hardware like the ZX Spectrum.
Even more surprisingly, the menu music for the Game Boy edition of the game, composed by Jonathan Dunn, was used in a popular commercial for European electrical appliance company, Ariston. The surreal advertisement even featured sound effects from the game, and is one of the earliest examples of chiptune music being utilized in mainstream non-gaming media.
Sequels inevitably followed, and 1990 saw the release of Robocop 2, another side-scrolling shoot em’ up, to accompany the movie sequel of the same name. As with many video game follow-ups that stick to the formula of a successful original, the title received similar praise to its predecessor, but was also criticized for a lack of innovation.
This didn’t stop Ocean from publishing a third installment in 1991, once again mirroring the title of the latest movie with RoboCop 3. Despite the rapidly dwindling popularity of the films, the game was once again well-received, this time appearing on new consoles like the Sega Genesis and SNES that enabled it to elevate its graphics and sound to previously impossible cinematic heights.
The final RoboCop release of the last century was a fascinating franchise crossover. RoboCop vs The Terminator was released in 1994, once again appearing on the Genesis, SNES, and various handheld consoles. The game revisited the side-scrolling shooter mechanics of earlier RoboCop titles, and again cast the player in the role of the titanium-plated titan.
This time, Murphy faced off against waves of criminals and invading Terminator machines, as well as some of the most popular villains from his own movies, including ED-209, and the mechanized version of drug lord Cain. The gory and action-packed title was once again well received, but signaled the end of RoboCop’s gaming career until the new millennium.
RoboCop in the New Millennium: A Hero in Need of a Polish
The next twenty years were not kind to the RoboCop franchise, either cinematically or in the gaming world. After Titus Interactive acquired the video game rights, a 2001 Game Boy Color game appeared, but the planned Game Boy Advance version was cancelled before its intended 2002 release. The developer’s next attempt, 2003 game RoboCop, was critically panned, and is considered one of the worst movie tie-ins ever made. Aside from a 2004 mobile phone game, the souped-up cyborg did not appear in video games for another decade.
2014 promised a revival in the shape of a movie reboot, but the film was criticized for eschewing the original’s graphic violence, as well as its wit and social satire. A free-to-play shooter was released to accompany the movie, but received mixed reviews, with critics calling it boring and repetitive. Particular criticism was also directed at its aggressive monetization, as some of the most powerful weapons cost over $100 in in-app purchases.
It seemed as though the mechanized superhero was destined for the scrap heap, but recent developments have given hope to RoboCop fans. Alex Murphy’s appearance as a guest character in Mortal Kombat XI was a success, with the game perfectly matching the over-the-top gore of the original movie and allowing him to indulge in some hilariously gruesome gun-based fatalities.
The announcement by Teyon of the new RoboCop: Rogue City game is also great news for fans, although the developer’s last movie tie-in received a mixed response. Terminator: Resistance, a first-person shooter featuring heavy story components including a brand-new narrative set during John Connor’s war with the machines, was released in 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Although the Steam version of the game received “very positive” reviews from users, ports of the title to other platforms were heavily criticized due to glitches and gameplay that some players found generic and unoriginal. Nonetheless, Terminator: Resistance has received a 2021 PS5 upgrade, and RoboCop enthusiasts will be hoping that Teyon can learn from the title’s missteps to craft an experience worthy of the original RoboCop movie masterpiece.
RoboCop: Rogue City’s teaser trailer was vague enough to generate more questions than answers, with some YouTube commenters ridiculing the video for its lack of content. With a 2023 release date set for the title, fans of Alex Murphy and his battles with Detroit’s criminal underworld — and the sinister corporation seeking to profit from it — will need to be patient before they learn whether the iconic character has been successfully rebuilt.
RoboCop: Rogue City is currently in development for PC and consoles.
Goku’s Power Pole was once synonymous with the character. But as the series went on, fans saw less and less of it.
About The Author