It’s not game over for these video game adaptations.
Despite making more money than the movie and music industry, video games often have had a hard time getting translated into other mediums. Condensing an hours-long hands-on adventure into a few hours of passive viewing is not easy, which is no wonder that the graveyard of movie video game adaptations is extensive. Hollywood rarely gets an S-rank when it comes to getting the right balance for video game adaptations. But there have been a few examples of when studios got it right. Just look at the biggest movie in the world right now.
While The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn’t perfect, it has connected with millions for how it playfully shows off Mario’s decades-long history and delivers a fun ride enjoyed across generations. It’s no wonder then that the film is on its way to becoming the first movie of 2023 to gross $1 billion at the box office. With the recent success of the movie, let’s take a look at other attempts, both from film and TV, that broke the curse and proved that a good video game adaptation can be done.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
When the movie’s first trailer was released, it seemed as if Sonic was speeding toward disaster with how questionable his design was. The backlash was so intense, the filmmakers had to change Sonic’s design. It’s a good thing then they listened to the criticism because, not only does the blue hedgehog look good in the final release, but he’s also voiced spectacularly by Ben Schwartz. The movie itself is pretty good and has a serviceable story. And let’s not forget Jim Carrey’s phenomenal performance as Dr. Robotnik. He made the villain his own.
While Netflix’s content can sometimes be all over the place, there’s no denying that they know how to make a good video game adaption: Case in point: the animated Castlevania series that ran for four seasons. What this mature show did best was that it managed to pay homage and expand the lore of the series all while finding new things to tell about the universe. The action was thrilling as it wasn’t afraid to let the blood loose. Trevor Belmont, Alucard, and Sypha were great characters to follow as their adventures led them on dark, violent, and sometimes humorous paths. It was the kind of adaptation fans and newcomers to the video game series could appreciate.
At first glance, an animated series based on a popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) didn’t seem like a slam-dunk. League of Legends wasn’t a story-heavy game, so it didn’t seem like a well of interesting narratives. That was quickly disproven when Arcane dropped on Netflix in November 2021. Upon release, the series was met with critical acclaim thanks to its central story of Jinx and Violet’s rocky relationship, intense action, a jaw-dropping painterly visual style, and themes that explored the LoL lore in exciting ways. Not only is Arcane one of the best video game adaptations in history, but it’s one of the best animated shows in the last ten years.
Cyberpunk 2077 was a mess at launch. That wasn’t the case for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. When street kid David finds his life near the edge, he decides to become an Edgerunner, a mercenary in Night City, and quickly finds himself embroiled in the city’s messy underworld. Set one year before the events of the game, this animated series did everything right when it comes to a proper adaptation.
Studio Trigger captured the edge of the game but told it in its own visceral way. It had a thrilling story, characters you were emotionally invested in, and action that pulled no punches. Netflix scored themselves another video game hit with this series. While we sadly will never get a season two, we do have ten episodes of fine animated work to enjoy.
THE LAST OF US
Anyone who’s played the game or even has a passing knowledge of it knows how loved The Last Of Us is. So, when word got out that HBO was going to adapt the PlayStation exclusive into a series, the expectations were sky-high. Those expectations were met when the show premiered in January 2023. The participation of the game’s creators, a talented crew, and the phenomenal duo that was Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey brought to life the game in gruesome detail.
Not only did the show properly translate Joel and Ellie’s tale to a series format, but it also fleshed out the TLOU universe as seen in its heartbreaking third episode. Season two can’t get here fast enough.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2
You wouldn’t be faulted if you thought that an Angry Birds movie was just a cash grab. A film based on the popular app where you sling birds at pigs? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But surprisingly, Angry Birds, and especially its sequel, were competently made. It improved upon the original in nearly every way and managed to find the fun and humor in its premise and not take itself too seriously. It made for an enjoyable watch that knew what it wanted to do.
First things first, this movie is not an adaptation of the Pokémon series we all know and love. Instead, it’s an adaptation of the Detective Pokémon game. And a talking Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynold wasn’t enough to derail this fun movie. It faithfully brought to life many Pokémon for the first time on the big screen, in live action, and in 3D.
The story of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and Detective Pikachu teaming up to discover what happened to Tim’s missing father captured the fun sense of the series. Above all, it just looked so cool to see Pokémon in action and fully realized in 3D.
THE POKEMON ANIME SERIES
While we have yet to get that movie adaptation of the mainline Pokémon games, we do have its groundbreaking and historic anime series. In 1997, the world was introduced to Ash Ketchum and his journey to become the greatest trainer in the world.
While the show has moved between different themes and styles over the years, it still captured that lighthearted spirit the games are known for. It also served as a great way to showcase new Pokémon whenever new generations were released. There’s no denying that this series spoke to many, from children to adults.
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