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Spiritual Licensee
It's a shame that there was never a good Alien game on the NES... Oh wait, actually I take it back! There were some good Alien games on the NES! They're called Contra and Metroid! Yeah.

A counterpart of Better by a Different Name in a way, and also a sort of subtrope of Spiritual Successor and Follow the Leader (but not always), in effect a Captain Ersatz of a story rather than a character. It's particularly evident with video games; most people have certain movie characters with tons of potential they dream of playing as in an amazing game, yet as most movie licensed games are terrible, there's almost no chance of that happening.

Technically no chance, anyway. This is when something has nothing to do with a certain series, but evokes almost the same feeling you'd imagine a decent license invoking with a certain franchise, making it (intentionally or not) a Spiritual Licensee.

This can also occur after a developer decides to create a Spiritual Successor to a game from a previously established franchise, but put an original spin on the game to differentiate it from its predecessor(s).

Compare Expy for the equivalent trope with characters. Also compare Recycled IN SPACE!. Contrast Spiritual Antithesis, Dolled-Up Installment, Surprisingly Similar Stories and The Mockbuster. Can be a Divorced Installment.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • Because The Incredibles featured a family of superheroes facing off against an evil genius with a grudge, it is often considered a vastly superior movie adaption of the Fantastic Four to the officially licensed movie. Cracked even referred to it as "more faithful to the comics than the actual Fantastic Four movie." It helps that most of the Four's powers are replicated.
    • It also was considered by some to be a Lighter and Softer adaptation of Watchmen, because of the superheroes having to register with the government and go underground. Consider also the major plot point near the end of both: The Big Bad attacks New York with a giant, octopoid monster. Also, it gives the same reasoning for not wearing capes.
    • And it had the best James Bond score in years.
  • Disney's Hercules is the world's first, best, and only animated Superman musical.
  • Galaxy Quest is sometimes called "the best Star Trek movie ever made".
  • With Christian Bale starring, Terminator Salvation is the closest thing to a Batman vs. Terminator film we will ever see.
  • Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula is closer to Doctor Doom's origin story than the one in the actual Fantastic Four film.
  • Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse is the best adaptation of The Gay Science ever made.
  • Charade was famously called the "Best Hitchcock movie that Alfred Hitchcock never made".
  • The Masters of the Universe film is described on That Other Wiki as being the best Jack Kirby's Fourth World movie ever attempted. Though Word of God from the director indicates he meant to do an homage to the work of Kirby in a general sense, not the Fourth World in particular.
    • Inverted in the case of Abraxas Guardian Of The Universe which blatantly uses plot devices like "Answer Box", "Anti-Life Equation" and something like a Boom Tube. It is not in any way a good movie, Fourth World or otherwise.
  • When Harry Met Sally is the best Woody Allen film never made.
  • Martin & Porter's DVD & Video Guide calls A Few Good Men "the best Perry Mason movie ever made."
  • Snow Day was originally written as a film adaptation of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and it shows.
  • Monsters, Inc. was called "the best movie that Jim Henson never made" by Muppet performers shortly after its release.
  • Brad Jones referred to Frozen as "the best of all the X-Men origin movies". Patton Oswalt and Joss Whedon apparently agree with him.
  • Aliens is often referred to as a stealth adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers — and a far superior adaptation to the later officially-licensed film. And even though it was just one suit, Aliens even had more Powered Armor than the actual Starship Troopers film franchise (at least until the third, straight-to-DVD film).
  • The Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Double Impact is a better Double Dragon movie than the actual Double Dragon movie that miscasts Scott Wolf as one of the Lee Bros. It even had Bolo Yeung (the actor that Abobo was based on in the first place) playing an Abobo-like henchman who throws oil drums at his enemies.
    • Savages also has the basic plotline of the first Double Dragon game. Criminals have kidnapped the girl-friend of two guys who now have to battle their way to get her back.
  • Many Warhammer 40,000 fans like to consider Event Horizon canonical.
    • Likewise, some Doom fans consider it to be a better Doom movie than the one the game actually got. After all, the background of the game was, some scientists in space were experimenting with teleportation, and they created a portal, but instead of taking them from point A to point B, it led straight to hell. And hell's army comes out of the portal and threatens to doom our universe. That's the plot of the movie Event Horizon to a tee, made in 1997. And then 8 years later some people just had to go and make another Resident Evil genetic experiment gone wrong movie and go and entitle the movie Doom.
    • Some combine all three.
    • The dark Space Opera setting, combined with a baroque aesthetic, make the Chronicles of Riddick another excellent addition. Vin Diesel, an avid tabletop gamer, even said as much in an interview for the third film.
  • Michael Clayton has been called "the best John Grisham movie ever made".
  • Zombieland could be considered a good Left 4 Dead movie. Wichita even looks a bit like Zoe. It could also be viewed as an adaptation of Dead Rising, particularly with regards to how players approach that game looking for the coolest ways to kill zombies.
  • A review of Jumanji was impressed on how much it looks like Steven Spielberg directed or produced the movie.
  • Uwe Boll's Rampage is a better adaptation of Postal (at least the first one, perhaps) than his own movie adaptation (likely of the second in the series).
  • The screenwriter for The Book of Eli is a self-proclaimed fan of Fallout 3. It's pretty much the movie of the game with no ghouls and the search for clean water replaced with The Bible.
    • It's also arguably the best Fist of the North Star movie ever made by a Western studio. Minus the exploding heads and with a blind Badass Denzel Washington.
  • Continuing the not-video-game-movies series, Street Kings feels a lot like Max Payne, only set on a hot night in Los Angeles rather than a cold night in New York. If they'd included Bullet Time it would be perfect, but that would run into some different issues.
  • Despite being an adaption of a comic that came out years before, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has been said to be the closest thing to a movie adaption of No More Heroes.
  • Where the Wild Things Are, in addition to its own source material, could be said to be the best adaptation of Calvin and Hobbes we're likely to ever see, given Bill Watterson's attitude toward licensing.
  • Inception:
    • It's arguably the only Paprika live action film you'll ever see, which also happens to have a surreal homage to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (though calling it an adaptation makes Constantine look like a word-for-word lift of Hellblazer).
    • As this mashup proves, calling Inception a Darker and Edgier Psychonauts reboot is surprisingly fitting.
    • The dream Technology fits that introduced in the series Stargate SG-1 that some feel it's the closest we'll ever get to a big-budget film set in that universe.
    • It may also be the best (or only) Neuromancer movie that we ever see, considering that book's actual film adaptation has been stuck in Development Hell since the '80s. It's about a thief who specializes in covertly stealing data with the aid of a machine that puts him in lifelike VR simulations, and it involves said thief taking a job from a mysterious businessman who agrees to help him reverse the effects of a major screw-up from his past. Over the course of the movie, he assembles a team of allies who eventually help him perform an elaborate heist in an ornately designed building with strange architecture and gravity—all while coping with regular visits from the hallucinatory ghost of a dead woman from his past. Both works even include a scene where the protagonist gets trapped in a VR construct of a surreal seaside locale, where time moves at a fraction of its normal speed.
  • The Spirit may not have captured the spirit of the comics it came from very well, but it's a much better adaptation of an entirely different superhero; namely, The Tick. Just compare how often they run across rooftops while monologuing about "MY CITY!" and invoking tortured metaphors.
  • Dead Snow might as well be a Norwegian adaptation of Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies mod. All that's missing are the hellhounds and rayguns.
  • Black Swan has been compared by many, many people to Perfect Blue. Both are about an overworked, up-and-coming actress so stressed she (and the audience) are unable to tell what's real and what isn't, to disturbing effect. Black Swan's director, Darren Aronofsky, has acknowledged the similarities, and he had previously licensed Perfect Blue so that he could give it a Shout-Out in Requiem for a Dream.
    • It's also described as the closest viewers will get to a live action Princess Tutu movie.
  • Idiocracy's plot, about a society that has been dumbed down by a combination of mind-rotting pop culture and the stupid outbreeding the smart, comes off like an unauthorized adaptation of both Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 the CM Kornbluth short story "The Marching Morons", only Played for Laughs.
  • Beowulf is probably the best movie version of God of War that we're ever likely to see.
  • Treasure Planet is the closest we will ever get to a Spelljammer movie.
  • Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, the adaptation of which took decades to premiere, considers Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be "the first truly successful adaptation of my novel... to appear on the screen". In the past he's made similar statements about Serenity.
  • Forbidden Zone is probably the best live-action Betty Boop adaptation we're ever gonna get, which makes sense given that one of the film's big influences was old Fleischer cartoons.
  • Did you know they made a Castlevania movie? It was called Van Helsing.
  • The movie Real Steel had been called Rock'em Sock'em Robots: The Movie. It's actually an adaptation of the 1956 story and 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Steel", which in turn is said to have been the inspiration for Rock'em Sock'em Robots.
  • Ninja Assassin is pretty much the best and closest one could get to a Ninja Gaiden movie.
  • Showdown in Little Tokyo and Black Rain is as close one can get to a movie version of SNK's Burning Fight.
  • Death Race (2008 version) may not have been particularly faithful to the original Death Race 2000, but it was a very close adaptation of Twisted Metal. Frankenstein's in-universe "mascot" mystique is akin to Sweet Tooth's, and it even has the cars' weapons activated by driving over icons on the track, a feature pulled out of many a Vehicular Combat game.
  • The Underworld series is a better adaptation of the Old World of Darkness than the official adaptation, the TV show Kindred: The Embraced. It was so close, in fact, that White Wolf and Nancy A. Collins sued the films' producers, claiming copyright infringement.
  • With its combination of action and slapstick, the main character being a Gentleman Thief, and the overall feel of the film, some people have called Hudson Hawk a better live-action Lupin III movie than the actual live-action Lupin III movie. This may explain why it was so popular in Japan despite having flopped in the US.
  • Immortals is said by some to be a better remake of the Clash of the Titans than the actual 2010 one. It helps that there are actual titans in the movie, but keep in mind the original 1981 classic did not have titans at all either. Though the sequel to the remake called Wrath of the Titans is fixing that problem.
  • The Nostalgia Chick said that WALL•E is a better adaptation of The Lorax than the actual film adaptation.
  • Given the revelation via Allthere In The Manual that the titular monsters are actually an alien bioweapon, think it's safe to call The Deadly Spawn the best Tyranid movie without any Tyranids in it.
  • The Cabin in the Woods makes for a pretty good adaptation of (warning: major spoilers) the SCP Foundation, of all things. The main bad guys are a nebulous organization of questionable morality which possesses an enormous catalogue of monsters and other dangerous supernatural items (in this case, horror movie baddies), which it keeps and controls so as to prevent an XK-Class end-of-the-world event. And when the heroes find out about the lengths they're willing to go to, they take one look and say "fuck it, better to let the world end."
  • Guillermo del Toro has remarked that Prometheus is a close enough adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness that his own planned adaptation of ATMOM will have an uphill battle entering production — at this point, it would likely come off looking like a ripoff of Prometheus. Later on, though, he went back on his decision to give up on his adaptation of ATMOM, saying "screw it, Lovecraft was there first."
    • While it's quite far from the spirit of Magic: The Gathering, the black goo is generally considered the only movie depiction of the most iconic villain faction, Phyrexia.
  • The Raid unintentionally becomes a movie adaption of the Dynamite Deka series, aka Die Hard Arcade and Dynamite Cop, by Indonesia (with a Welsh director). The movie has it all: a swat team infiltrating the building, a bad guy barking orders on the top floor, and waves upon waves of mooks on each floor. Even some movie critics said the movie feels like an adaption of arcade beat'em ups from the' 90s.
  • Ray Liotta's Narc has quite a bit in common with Max Payne, moreso than the actual Max Payne film did.
  • The Jet Li film Kiss of the Dragon does a rather nice job of being an adaptation of Fist of the Blue Sky.
  • In his review of Hot Tub Time Machine, Moviebob called it a better remake of Back to the Future than any actual remake of Back to the Future could possibly be.
  • Something Awful's review of Beasts Of The Southern Wild called it "the closest you can get to capturing the feeling of a Miyazaki film in live action."
  • Casa De Mi Padre is probably the closest we will see to a feature-length version of the Conando sketches from Late Night With Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, as both feature the concept of an obviously white actor appearing in an Affectionate Parody of telenovelas in which Rule of Funny appears heavily.
  • Gerry Anderson has actually said that Team America: World Police is a better adaptation of his Thunderbirds than the actual live-action Thunderbirds film, though he also felt that Team America's raunchiness hurt it (since it meant his kids couldn't watch).
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean series is sometimes thought of as The Movies Of Monkey Island.
    • Well, both ARE inspired by the same theme park ride (after which the movie is named).
    • The Pirates of the Caribbean films also bear a strong resemblance to the marine horror stories of William Hope Hodgson, especially The Ghost Pirates and "The Derelict".
  • Office Space is most likely the closest thing to a live-action Dilbert movie ever made.
  • Either John Carpenter's The Fog was a damn good adaptation of Stephen King's short story The Mist, or vice versa; they both came out the same year (1980). Less debatable is that the 2007 film adaptation of The Mist was a much better remake of The Fog than the latter film's own remake in 2005.
  • Movie 43, between its Vulgar Humor, its laundry list of celebrity guest stars, and it being an Anthology Film, is pretty much a live-action Robot Chicken.
  • Rurouni Kenshin would make for a good live-action epilogue for Total War Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai.
  • At times, Spring Breakers feels like either the best Grand Theft Auto: Vice City adaptation ever made, or a deconstruction of such. It's got the setting, the style, the sociopathic Villain Protagonists running headfirst across the Moral Event Horizon because "spring break, bitches!", and the winking self-awareness of its own "gangsta" attitude.
  • The Crank duology is also this to the Grand Theft Auto series as a whole.
  • The Jack Slater movies in Last Action Hero are the nearest we'll ever be to having a film adaptation of McBain.
  • Side Effects is the closest you'll ever get to seeing the Half-Life mod Afraid Of Monsters in film.
  • Several YouTube commenters have made the connections between the Classic Walt Disney cartoon short Lonesome Ghosts and Ghostbusters. Even one of the lines Goofy utters in the cartoon is directly lifted and placed into the main theme of the film.
    Goofy (Chuckles nervously): I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts!
    I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts!
  • Indiana Jones got one port movie to game (The Last Crusade) and one port game to movie (The Fate of Atlantis). Many people don't know about the latter movie. This may be because it was filmed with MacGyver.
  • The REC movies have been compared to what the Resident Evil and Doom movies should have been.
  • Many point to Chronicle as a good adaption of AKIRA.
  • Pacific Rim : Humanity building giant robots to combat an alien threat. While this may be a common plot in the mecha genre of anime, one show probably comes to mind for many, at least younger, anime fans...
    • To specify: Twenty Minutes into the Future (as opposed to the more common "far into the future"- and "another world entirely" settings) aliens, that are specifically interested in human extinction, comes, not from space, but from the depths of the earth itself. These aliens are giant monsters who fight humanity directly, instead of using robots themselves. To combat these humanity creates equally gigantic robots that requires the pilot to mentally synch not only with the robot, but also with a co-pilot (while this is only done literally in Evangelion 3.0, in the original series the "robots" had to have a human soul implanted in them to function and both this soul and the actual pilot had to synch with each-other and the "robot"). The monsters also appear one-by-one instead of organizing in an army. Oh, and let's not forget the yellow fluid and the journeys into characters' minds.
    • Alternately alternately, it's the best Getter Robo movie we're ever gonna get.
    • Go back a bit more, to the beginning. Rocket Punch. Breast Fire. Pilots in the head docking with the body. Hell, the whole drivable robot concept. It's Mazinger Z, all the way. By extension to almost all the spiritual licensee above makes this the closest to a live-action Super Robot Wars film ever.
    • The movie has several (coincidental) similarities to the X-Com franchise as well. Alien threat that forces the nations of the world to band together and form an organisation dedicated to fighting them? Check. Council of nations that threatens to pull their funding because they're not getting results? Check. The alien-fighting organization forced to sell alien components on the black market to make ends meet? Check. Researchers vivisecting alien corpses in order to better understand what they're fighting against? Check. A final assault on the aliens' homeworld? Check.
    • "Mysterious giant monsters are rising from the sea, and the nations of the world combat them by fielding stylish, two-pilot giant robots whose pilot teams all have a close relationship. On a tragic mission several years ago, our hero lost his trusted partner, and with a renewed crisis, he has to get back in his revived mecha with a new rookie girl who also serves as a love interest." Why, that sounds rather like Godannar.
  • RoboCop (1987) is basically an adaptation of Judge Dredd complete with Black Comedy. In fact, there were plans for a film adaptation long before the Stallone version, but the release of RoboCop scuppered it.
    • The later Stallone vehicle Demolition Man is said to have captured the humor of the Judge Dredd comics than the actual Judge Dredd movie!
  • 28 Days Later is basically The Day of the Triffids but with Zombies.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Being based on an Ian Fleming novel, and made by Albert Broccoli and many of the same people involved in the James Bond series at that time, some view it as an honorary Bond film.
  • Prisoners is the closest we'll get to a live action Heavy Rain film adaptation that would ever be made.
  • By Steven E DeSouza's admission, the Street Fighter movie was more of a G.I. Joe movie than a Street Fighter one, due to Hasbro's involvement with the merchandising.
    Capcom had forged a partnership with Hasbro long before production began to warp the G.I. Joe toy line into Street Fighter: The Movie licensed dolls, just in time for Black Friday. "You can look at this movie as the first G.I. Joe movie," says De Souza, "Because G.I. Joe was in a swamp at this time. It was not selling. So Hasbro wanted to reboot the G.I. Joe line by thinly disguising it as Street Fighter."
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier may be the best movie adaptation of Metal Gear Solid that we ever get to see. It's about a long-time veteran soldier, who's the sole survivor of a government program to create genetically-enhanced soldiers, coming out of retirement to fight a terrorist leader with ties to his past and working to uncover a conspiracy in the ranks of the government while they prepare to devastate the world with a powerful superweapon. The movie even has its own tanker level, and a scene where we find out that the government conspiracy is led by a sentient A.I. that took over for the long-deceased human villains.
  • In Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit Kevin Coaster plays an mid-aged, experienced, CIA Agent who brings Jack Ryan unwittingly into the service. Kevin Coaster also plays an mid-aged, experienced, CIA Agent in 3 Days To Kill, in which he stars as a dying man, trying to juggle his personal life and One Last Job. Needless to say, 3 Days To Kill could be seen as the movie spin off of Coaster's character in Shadow Recruit, especially since both films were released within months of each other.
  • Life Is Beautiful is considered to be the closest we'll ever get to seeing The Day the Clown Cried.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
    • Guy gets sent to the past to save someone whose death is a crucial factor in the current Robot War. sounds familiar... However, the film is based on a comic book that pre-dated Terminator.
    • Ever wondered what a big-budget Portal movie adaptation would look like? Blink's fight scenes give you a pretty damn good idea.
  • If you're one of the relatively few people who's seen Star Chaser The Legend Of Orin, you probably had either one of two reactions to it:
    • A) You hated it for being a thinly-veiled Star Wars rip-off.
    • B) You loved it for being the closest thing to a full-length animated Star Wars adaptation that you'll ever see.
  • Event Horizon and In the Mouth of Madness have both been seen as this for H.P. Lovecraft's work in general, even though they can't be said to be even loose adaptations of one story in particular.
  • Cracked's David Wong once expressed this opinion about Shaun of the Dead, opining that it was one of the first movies ever to successfully bring Douglas Adams' unique brand of humor to the big screen, even if Adams didn't actually have anything to do with it. Adding to the irony, he argued that the movie captured Adams' style far better than the actual film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was released exactly one year after it.
  • A number of fans have pointed out the similarity of the central characters of Guardians of the Galaxy to the original regular characters of Farscape. (Peter=John, Gamora=Aeryn, Drax=D'Argo, Groot=Zhaan, and Rocket=Rygel.) Some of the changes made to the film characters compared to the original comic versions make them closer to the Farscape characters.
  • Some critics who saw The Purge consider it to be The Hunger Games but with adults.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 

    Pinball 

    Stand-Up Comedy 

    Tabletop Games 
  • If there was ever a tabletop game version of Watership Down, it would be called Bunnies & Burrows.
  • The Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 come almost prepackaged from Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Mutants & Masterminds is naturally the tabletop game roleplaying game equivalent of the Marvel and DC universes so much so that fans had every character from both publishers statted out in the forums. Furthermore, while both companies tended to develop their own RPGs in the past, DC Comics released its most recent tabletop game under third edition Mutants & Masterminds rules.
  • Pathfinder is considered by many Dungeons & Dragons players to be D&D 3.75 (halfway between 3.5 and 4th Edition). It helps that it is heavily based on D&D's rule set.
    • Pathfinder is more like "the successor to D&D 3.5 in all but name" and 4 is "the successor to D&D 3.5 in name only". 4th edition is really an entirely different game that happens to share the same name (and a lot of flavor text). It's almost trivial to convert a D&D 3.5 adventure to Pathfinder rules, something that's not true of 4th Edition.
  • FATAL is... well, let's be fair. FATAL is probably the worst Berserk RPG ever made, but it's still the closest we'll ever come to a Berserk RPG.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Other 
  • The MagiQuest simulated-adventure franchise, although much lower-tech and modest in scale, is currently the closest that fans of Niven & Barnes Dream Park can come to savoring the fictional mega-theme park's attractions.
  • Monster High has been described as the closest fans will ever get to a Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School franchise.

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