What a lovely day
This weekend, Mad Max mania comes to a head. Mad Max: Fury Road hit theaters on May 15th, hyped up by gorgeous trailers, high praise in early reviews, and Charlize Theron rocking a shaved head with tribal facepaint. Once you’ve watched the vehicular stunts and intense chase scenes in this summer blockbuster, you’ll likely be itching to get into some post-apocalyptic, high-speed car chases of your own, preferably without having to hammer iron spikes into your car doors. Problem is, the official Mad Max game – which looks excellent so far – won’t be out until this September.
But don’t worry – there are plenty of games out there to help you satisfy those cravings for all things anarchic and high-octane. If you didn’t know, the Mad Max films have a storied history, and the series’ unique atmosphere has had a sizable influence in the realm of gaming. While you wait to play as the real Max Rockatansky, you ought to check out these titles inspired by George Miller’s movies in a variety of ways. Spoiler: some of them don’t even involve cars.
This 2011 shooter-racer hybrid from id software is currently the closest thing we have to a game set in the Mad Max universe (ignoring the best-left-forgotten NES game). Besides all the futuristic bits about cryogenic freezing and nanites, Rage’s depiction of the desert wasteland that was once Earth feels just like the gritty, unrelenting world of the films. Everywhere you look, there’s another homage: muscle cars and dune buggies covered in scrap metal and animal bones, maniacal bandits who terrorize (and sometimes feed on) other survivors, even a deadly metal boomerang that can lop off body parts just like in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Drive angry.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
If not for the cel-shaded aesthetic, the Borderlands franchise would have the edge over Rage as the go-to video game simulacrum of Mad Max. The first two games feature more traditional sun-baked badlands, populated primarily by masked Psychos who would fit right in with those Mad Max savages. But I’m going to give the edge to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, given how most of the denizens of Pandora’s moon speak with an Australian accent, just like the casts of the first two Mad Max films. No matter which game you choose, hopping into an Outrunner or Moon Buggy with a co-op buddy and mowing down bandits is always a rip-roarin’ good time.
Twisted Metal: Black
Were it not for the Mad Max films, gaming’s car combat genre probably wouldn’t even exist. And while there are a decent number of vehicular deathmatches to choose from, like the Vigilante 8 games or Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012, I consider Twisted Metal: Black to be the pinnacle of the genre. The dark, horrific atmosphere in Black is just as gritty, brutal, and dystopian as Mad Max’s world, complete with poor sods chained to cars (much like Lord Humungus’ ride in The Road Warrior). Combatants all have a reckless disregard for the value of human life, and the automotive mayhem maintains adrenaline-pumping speed throughout each match. If you’ve got a PS3, I highly recommend you snag this PS2 Classic ASAP.
The original Mad Max is all about the roaring choppers, and no series does motorcycle combat as well as Road Rash. Even though being the first one to cross the finish line is your primary goal, the action really revolves around punching, kicking, or clobbering your competitors with blunt objects as you all weave in and out of traffic. If you don’t feel like dusting off your PS1, N64, or (god forbid) 3DO to play the classic versions, you’ll definitely want to check out Road Redemption, a spiritual successor to Rash on Steam Early Access.
Pick any Fallout, really – all of them perfectly capture the feeling of wandering alone through a post-apocalyptic desert, scavenging and killing to survive. You won’t do a whole lot of driving (unless you fix up a Corvega in Fallout 2), but the tradeoff is Dogmeat, a loyal canine companion just like the one at Max’s side in The Road Warrior. Body armor comes in the form of whatever you can find and safely strap to your body, and chems will keep you fighting at a long-term, irradiated price. If only you could sustain yourself on cans of Dinki-Di dog food.
Mortal Kombat X
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a bit of a weird one, what with the chainmail-clad Tina Turner and tribes of disheveled, primitive kids. But one of the most memorable bits is the subplot with Master Blaster, the symbiotic pairing of a small, arrogant man (Master) riding a hulking, metal-masked brute (Blaster) who together keep the lights on in Bartertown. This design was taken wholesale for Mortal Kombat X‘s Ferra and Torr, with the slight adjustment of a little woman as the piggy-backer instead of a man. Granted, Ferra is much more suited for battle than Master, as she’ll happily bum-rush opponents with her razor-sharp claws or literally bore her way through their chest cavity like a human cannonball.
If you can’t fathom the thought of jumping from the roof of one speeding car onto another, you probably won’t last too long in the Mad Max universe. But there’s a safe way to train up before the inevitable apocalypse: play the Pursuit Force series, a pair of obscure PSP games about police officers who leap between moving vehicles with reckless abandon. These games are action-packed and gloriously campy, with your character pulling up alongside enemy vehicles and diving into the driver’s seat like it’s no big deal. Though the superior sequel Extreme Justice is sadly locked to the PSP, the original game is available as a download for PS Vita – just be ready for some merciless difficulty spikes.
Bullets are pretty hard to come by in the post-apocalypse, so Mad Max characters typically rely on more traditional means for deadly projectiles: metal bolts and arrows. Most road warriors fire their volleys with compound bows, but some elite baddies make use of miniature crossbows – perfect for puncturing flesh and tires alike with one hand while you steer with the other. If you’re looking to simulate the act of dealing ranged death with adorably small ballistics, Dishonored has the best handheld bows in gaming (or wrist-mounted, if you’re playing the Daud DLC).
Lastly, let’s pour out a little gasoline for the fallen Auto Assault, which was basically the Mad Max MMO before it was shut down in 2007. Instead of killing boars and rats, all the battles took place between tricked-out vehicles, with combat that let you aim your guns and hit your nitro boosts in real time. Sadly, much like modern civilization in the Mad Max movies, Auto Assault will only live on in our memories. Whichever of these aforementioned games you choose – or others, like the spectacular wrecks of Burnout, or the car-riding possibilities of Just Cause, perhaps – we’ll get through the wait for the forthcoming open-world Mad Max game together.