What is the Orca of video games?

This is inspired by Tim‘s question in the most recent episode of the podcast. So, I’ve always been kind of fascinated by shameless ripoff movies, stuff that really transparently tried to ride the wave of other films that were successful at the time. Like the Dino De Laurentis-produced Orca, the killer whale movie which came out two years after Jaws. Or The Devil‘s 8/The Dirty Dozen, Message from Space/Star Wars, Mighty Peking Man/De Laurentis’ King Kong. A lot of these movies, whether they measure up to their inspiration or not, have some kind of fun/weird quality that distinguishes them in some way where you‘re like "I’m glad this exists." What are some video games that do that?

I think the Saints Row series is a good shameless ripoff of open world crime games but has enough about it to make the game good for it's own sake. By Saints Row 3 it had mostly stopped chasing after GTA and embraced wacky bullshit, which made it all the better.

the original Silent Hill gets remembered as a Resident Evil clone a lot, and while the game certainly does wear a bit of Resident Evil design DNA on its sleeve, i feel like it's able to establish tone and build dread more than RE1 did 3 years before it. going forward, the two series diverged from each other a lot. SH 2 and 3 are much less focused on combat, and the RE started becoming much more of linear action games, especially after RE4, but i appreciate the first Silent Hill for what it tried to do at the time and i think it still holds up remarkably well.

games have a rich tradition of this sort of thing, which is alternately amusing and disturbing depending on how close they ape the original - so let's throw away clones and just go for things that were “maybe a bit too inspired”

Great Giana Sisters (for super mario bros of course - allegedly there was a lawsuit about this):

Fighter's History (for street fighter - there was definitely a lawsuit about this):
(and incidentally I love that I still have no idea what mizoguchi is saying in this game - I always liked to think when he was doing his spin kick he was saying bessou! which means villa or "summer home")

Gunlord X (turrican):

But I find myself wondering if I should include... 2048, or Zuma, or Astropop, or bubble witch saga? it's tough, because those are so clearly in the same vein, cash grabs because of another popular thing, but they wound up supplanting or completely cannibalizing the originals, which feels a bit different?

I think the answer isn’t so simple because we do not frame such copycats through comparable criteria on each medium.

Movie copycats are usually accused of doing so by pointing at features of their universe or characters, and similarities in plot points or story structure.

On the other hand, games are usually called copycats when they copy core mechanics of another game. Changing the story or setting entirely does not protect you from such accusations.

It’s as if movies were called clones or copycats due to similar movie techniques, editing quirks and camera framing decisions.

HMMMmmmmmmmmmmm that‘s quite a good point. and the themes in games are so flimsy that it would be hard to imagine someone wanting to steal them directly - folks take elements from games like metal gear, but that’s almost more frowned upon than taking mechanics.

It almost feels like our closest analog is Antz the game vs Bug's Life the game. the licensed game of the knockoff.

Maybe thematically closer, even though it doesn't directly address the prompt, would be things like snoopy vs the red baron on PS2, or sailor moon DS game - basically licensed games from the times when those licenses were cheap enough to get that you could (try to) make a cash grab game in that universe. Like making a Popeye game today, or the much-venerated Garfield Kart Racer.

I think an interesting example among licensed video games is The Simpsons: Road Rage, which is a case in which the Orca vastly outsold the Jaws. I believe the game even drew legal action by Sega.

I feel like those chinese unlicensed games that borrow a lot from existing games and movies and stuff kinda fit more than anything. Talking about the original stuff and not the romhacks. Like Mo Jie Qibing by Vast Fame, which is an unlicensed Lord of the Rings game that‘s also kind of an unlicensed Pocky and Rocky game. There’s also some really odd stuff out there like bootleg Fire Emblem and Super Robot Wars games.

I guess if you wanted to get really close to what you're describing you could probably go for the [Zook Man series](https://youtu.be/I6V5y0BeF64), an entire series of somewhat surprisingly competent megaman likes with a little bit of a cult following.

Showing my work here, but looked up the Wikipedia for Mockbusters to get some ideas. You can tell this page hasn‘t been updated for a while because the only video game company mentioned in the ’other media' section is Gameloft. This one article from Destructoid ever refereed to them as “The Asylum of Games