Disney’s new film Wreck-It Ralph is now just days away and looks to be a huge hit.
The movie focuses on fictional classic arcade game villain Wreck-It Ralph, the antagonist of the Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade game. Tired of playing the bad guy for three decades, Ralph leaves his game in a search for a new life in the video game world, literally walking the spectrum of video game icons ranging from 1978’s Space Invaders to parodies of modern-day titles such as Call of Duty.
It is somewhat fitting that the plot of Wreck-It Ralph ties so closely to the first boom period for the video game industry, as this year marked the 30th anniversary of the first in a long line of fictional films to use video games as the main plot point.
Today we take a look back at several.
Tron (July 9, 1982) – Ironically, the first film on this list was also a Disney film. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) was a former software engineer trying to get his due from the company that stole his hit video game only to end up sucked into the very digital world he created.
Tron was hardly a critical darling, but it managed to spawn a highly successful arcade game and bring the idea of computer-generated special effects into the film world. A cult following ensured that Tron had a legacy for years to come.
Joysticks (March, 1983) – One of many films that attempted to capitalize on the success of Porky’s, Joysticks was centered around a video arcade and filmed in a painstaking 13 days.
Notable in the film was the first look many gamers had at Super Pac-Man, the third title in the famed series.
WarGames (June 3, 1982) – When young David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) tried to hack into the database of a new video game company he accidentally tapped the mainframe at NORAD, almost starting World War III.
The film proved successful, bringing the idea of everyday hacking into the mainstream and helping ensure long-term popularity for Galaga, an arcade game featured in two important scenes in the film.
The location of the arcade in the film, now a clothing store outside of Los Angeles, has been inducted into a historic registry.
The Last Starfighter (July 13, 1984) – This one was for all the video game champs of the day, as the champion of the game at the local truck stop is recruited as a real space battle soldier needed to save the universe.
The truck stop in this film has also been inducted into the same historic registry as the WarGames site.
Cloak and Dagger (August 10, 1984) – Young Davey (Henry Thomas) is a young video game fan that has lost his mother and has a workaholic father. He loses himself into a world of his imaginary friend Jack Flack (Dabney Coleman) only to end up in a real world of spy games.
The film was aimed to be the launch of a video game of the same name and a marketing tool for the Atari 5200 (a video game cartridge for the console was an important plot point). Neither did particularly well, as the video game industry was deep in the famed North American Video Game Crash by this time.
The Wizard (December 15, 1989) – After a long drought, video gaming returned to the big screen as the focal point of this Fred Savage film, as he and his troubled brother travel the country en route to a video game competition.
Once more, a film was used as a vehicle for marketing of real-life video game product, including numerous Nintendo Entertainment System games, the Power Glove accessory and the first public look at Super Mario Bros. 3.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (August 19, 2007) – While shot and marketed as a documentary, this film changed more than enough of the real story to include it in a list of fictional video game plot points.
The film, based a high score Donkey Kong feud between Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, became a cult classic that has seen mentions in dozens of television shows and brought some of the cast into the mainstream.
Tron: Legacy (December 17, 2010) – If you’d told people in 1982 that there would ever be a Tron sequel they wouldn’t have believed you. In 2010, they would have been proven wrong.
This time around the son of the original film’s main character enters the same virtual world as the first one, with far more spectacular special effects.
Wreck-It Ralph (November 2, 2012) – The inspiration for this very article, Ralph is due for release this Friday and is anticipated to be a huge hit.
Characters from generations of video gaming are set to appear throughout the film, including Q*bert, the bartender from Tapper, Street Fighter characters and many more.
Noobz (Scheduled release: January 2013) – This film, about a clan of players on a road trip to a Gears of War 3 tournament, made a debut in LA during this year’s E3 event. It is currently scheduled for a theatrical release in January of next year.
Check out the slideshow to see clips from all of these gaming-based fictional films.
The author of this article can be reached at PatrickScottPatterson.com and on Twitter @OriginalPSP.