Video games have come a long way since Pong. Many now have more compelling narratives than some films, and with more time and consideration being put into the narratives, characters, and complex worlds of each video game. Plenty of material is out there for adaptation into a feature film or TV series. Still, adapting a narrative from a video game is a relatively new practice in cinema. In general, most video game adaptations have been a bust, but some diamonds have been found in the rough. As the film and gaming industry progresses, it looks more and more like video games will become a consistently viable source of material for the film and TV industry.
The best still may be yet to come, but for now, here are feature films or TV series adapted from video games, ranked worst to best.
20 Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark is a horror survival game developed by Infogrames and released in 1992. The game is vastly considered the first survival horror video game ever. There have been seven installments of the Alone in the Dark games, and in the majority of them, players take on the role of P.I. Edward Carnby, who investigates a haunted house or town riddled with undead creatures.
In the filmAlone in the Dark, Christian Slater plays Edward Carnby and tries to uncover the lost tribe of the Abskani. It turns out they worshiped creatures that are now trying to return to the world. Like every other film in this list, but in many ways even worse, the editing is so bad even your average unknowledgeable audience member could tell something is off. With repetitive dialogue that’s laughable at times, the film has some notoriety behind it! Alone in the Dark is widely considered the worst adaption of a game ever… and possibly one of the worst movies of all time.
19 House of the Dead
The House of the Dead is a horror shooter game created by Sega and released in 1996. It was initially released in arcades and eventually made it to consoles. The game’s primary focus is the players take on the role of special agents who blast their way through an onslaught of biologically engineered zombies. I
n the film House of the Dead, the two main characters are college students, set during an island rave. When they arrive on the island, it’s predictably full of zombies. The film is just about as brainless as its zombies or sitting in an arcade blasting away at them. It’s one of those films that is so bad it’s almost entertaining to watch.
18 In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Dungeon Siege is an RPG developed by Gas Powered Games and released in 2002. Set in medieval times in the kingdom of Ehb, the game revolves around the journey of a farmer and her companions to defeat invaders. In the film, In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Jason Statham plays a man known as Farmer. He has set out to find his wife who has been kidnaped and avenge the death of his son, who the Krugs killed. While this is all going on, Gallian (Ray Liotta) has his sights set on overthrowing the rightful king (Burt Reynolds).
The premise is unoriginal and shallow, and the rest of the components of the film are equally disappointing. Despite having some big names and decent talent, In The Name Of The King is essentially a Lord of the Rings knock-off.
17 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Mortal Kombat developed by Midway is a fighting game made for arcades and released in 1992. The game franchise is legendary for its iconic fighters and for creating the infamous “Fatality,” A gruesome special move that a character performs on another fighter after winning the fight. A litany of lore surrounds Mortal Kombat as it has persisted in maintaining a niche diehard fan base. There have even been four films made. Each film is about as deep as the game but much less engrossing. The worst of the lot was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. In every aspect that a movie could be bad, it was… it tanked so hard that making another film became impossible for almost a quarter of a century.
BloodRayne is an action-adventure game developed by Terminal Reality and released in 2002. The players take on the role of Rayne, a human-vampire hybrid sent to thwart Nazis from obtaining an artifact known as “the Skull of Beliar.” The premise of the film BloodRayne, on the other hand, sees Rayne hunt down her wicked vampire father in 18th-century Romania.
Even the strong cast of actors behind the film (including names like Billy Zane) couldn’t save this adaptation from its subpar script; BloodRayne‘s editing and direction were ultimately the final nails in the coffin for a film that’s widely reviewed as one of the worst vampire movies of all time.
15 Hitman: Agent 47
IO Interactive created Hitman in 2000. The game’s core concept is that the international contract agency assigns a hitman a target. The player takes on the role of Hit Man Agent 47, a clone, and players use unique stealthy gameplay to take out their targets. It’s an excellent concept and makes for an exciting narrative premise, but unfortunately, it didn’t translate well to the big screen.
The first Hitman film set the bar very low, disappointing audiences and critics alike. Somehow, the second film, Hitman: Agent 47, manages to set the bar even lower. With nonstop action and little in the way of an entertaining story, the film is more akin to watching a video game than a movie. It would be a safe bet that watching someone play the Hitman video game would be immensely more entertaining than watching this film.
14 Silent Hill: Revelation
Silent Hill is a horror survival game developed by Team Silent and released in 1999. As the lead character Harry Mason, the player’s goal is to search for his daughter in a monster-filled town. The game was a hit, its second film, on the other hand, not so much.
The first Silent Hilladaptation wasn’t too terrible for a horror film, but the 2012 Silent Hill: Revelation suffered greatly from poorly written characters and a muddled plot. To top it off, it didn’t deliver much of a scare factor for a horror film. Horror is the one genre you can get an audience with, even if the narrative is mediocre, as long as it’s scary enough — needless to say, there were no redeeming qualities to this adaptation.
13 Wing Commander
Wing Commander is a space flight simulator released in 1990. Players fly a spaceship and take on various enemies. It’s a simple game with not a great deal of story behind it. The creators of the film adaptation, Wing Commander, took on the difficult task of pulling together a sci-fi film with a not-so-substantial budget.
This led to poor VFX that could potentially be shrugged off, but unfortunately, the movie is so cliché and poorly written that even the greatest VFXs in the world would not redeem this unrefined Star Trek knock-off.
12 Max Payne
Max Payne is a third-person shooter game developed by Remedy Entertainment and released in 2001. Players jump into the shoes of former NYPD detective Max Payne, who is struggling to solve the murder of his family. Simultaneously, he is investigating a drug trafficking case involving a mysterious new drug and inadvertently gets caught up in a web of conspiracies involving a major pharmaceutical company, a secret society, and much more.
The 2008 adaptation Max Payne, starring Mark Wahlberg, was not as remotely interesting as the game’s narrative could have been adapted into. The film was pieced together with the machinations of a neo-noir flick but is so poorly executed that it hardly resembles anything more than a tasteless action flick.
Doom, released in 1993, is an FPS video game developed by id Software. Players jump into the boots of a space Marine gunning down demons from hell who are invading Earth. The original game and its predecessors have become a staple in the FPS gamer world.
Unfortunately, the writers and director of the movie Doom (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) didn’t interpret this game into anything other than what it already is — a shallow, gory, chaotic mess. Playing the game itself is fun, but not playing and just watching a live-action version with atrocious dialogue and a dim story? Less so.
10 Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2
The Sonic The Hedgehog game was an instant hit when it came out in 1991. Developed by Sonic Team and released on the Sega Genesis, the game was groundbreaking and became an instant classic. The films Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 were not as revolutionary; they received mixed criticism, but that doesn’t take away from their quality for what they are.
These films turned out far superior to most game adaptations, and they accomplished precisely what they set out to do: be cute, funny, and fun — not to mention just about anything with Jim Carrey is entertaining.
9 The Cuphead Show!
The Cuphead Show! is based on the game Cuphead by Studio MDHR. The game was a surprise hit with its throwback animation style inspired by the surrealistic animation of early Disney, such as Fantasia. The Cuphead Show! follows the trials, tribulations, and adventures of Cuphead and his cautious brother Mugman. The show is funny, unique, and maintains the same animation style as the game, giving audiences a fun sense of nostalgia with modern-day animation quality.
8 The Angry Birds Movie 2
Angry Birds by Rovio Entertainment was possibly the first major hit game for all smartphone users back in 2009. With a finger flick, you would launch various types of cartoon birds from a catapult to knock over a tower with green pigs on it. Not much there for a movie, right? Well, they made a film anyway, two films! The first, The Angry Birds Movie (2016), didn’t click with critics or audiences. Still, there was enough behind it to make a second film, The Angry Birds Movie 2, which gained exceptionally better reception from both audiences and critics.
Halo: Combat Evolved was released for Xbox in 2001, and this first-person shooter game developed by Bungie will go down in history as one of the greatest and most revolutionary games ever made; the show Halo… not so much. However, despite Halo the TV series having some unfavorable narrative qualities of a typical sci-fi show and receiving mixed reviews, the good outweighs the bad, and it is an impressive adaptation of a video game. Halo is absolutely worth checking out for any fans of the game or sci-fi fanatics.
6 The Witcher
The Witcher is a 2007 RPG video game developed by CD Projekt Red, based on a series of fantasy novels of the same name. The third installment of the game franchise, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, won the game of the year, giving it significant notoriety. The show, The Witcher, revolves around the protagonist of the game, The Witcher Geralt of Rivia, who hunts mutated monsters.
Despite some stilted performances and mediocre dialogue, this series does a fantastic job of bringing the vast and magnificent world of The Witcher to life and is a must-see for fantasy/adventure fans.
5 Werewolves Within
Werewolves Within is a multiplayer social-deduction VR game released in 2016 that was adapted into a horror/comedy film in 2021. In the film, Werewolves Within, a new forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson), arrives in a small town, and soon after, a snowstorm traps its residents inside the local inn. A mysterious creature, presumably a werewolf, has begun creating havoc, and the residents are up in arms trying to figure out who it might be. Despite not faring well at the box office, the film is hilarious, quirky, and very entertaining. It received a fantastic reception from critics and audiences alike.
Pokémon the video game is undoubtedly one of the greatest pop culture phenomena in history. It caught on immediately and has maintained a massive fan base even today. This is not only due to the Pokémon card games and video games, but the original Pokémon show that inspired generations to become Pokémon masters.
There have been numerous movies and spin-offs with various reception ranges from critics and fans, but the original series propelled it all.
Castlevania is a platform game developed and published by Konami for computers and eventually for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1986-87. Over 35 years, there have been numerous Castlevania games.
Finally, an adaptation of the resilient franchise came in 2017 and was released on Netflix. The show Castlevania ran for four seasons following Trevor Belmont, Alucard, and Sypha Belnades protecting the historical region of Romania, Wallachia, from Dracula and his underlings. The show received phenomenal reception from critics and audiences, reflecting its above-average quality for a video game adaption.
Arcane is based on the immensely popular Microsoft game League of Legends. League of Legends is a battle arena game developed and published by Riot Games. Unlike any other game on this list, League of Legends is a highly competitive online game. The League of Legends World Championship is currently the most popular e-sport game bringing in more viewers worldwide than any competitive video game in the world.
So naturally, It got its own show. The show lives up to the hype of the game. The game comprises a litany of characters known as champions, but the show follows a select handful. In the thick of turbulence between the advanced and peaceful above-ground city of Piltover and its dilapidated and oppressed bellow ground city of Zaun, two sisters, Vi and Jinx, both from Zaun, fight for opposing causes.
Arcane has received unanimous critical acclaim.
1 The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a two-part game developed by Naughty Dog. It is an action-adventure game in a dystopian future after the zombie apocalypse. Both games won many awards, including the Game of the Year. The gameplay and the world are highly immersive, and the writing, from the narrative to the dialogue, exceeds that of your typical video game.
Players navigate the apocalypse as Joel, a smuggler tasked with getting the infection-immune teenage girl Ellie safely across the country. There have been zombie games, zombie shows, and zombie movies, time and time again, but not only does the HBO adaption of The Last of Us game give us a unique take on the zombies themselves and the dystopian world they encompass, but it is incredibly entertaining and well done.
The Last of Us TV series was created and written by the acclaimed Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin and the original game writer/director Neil Druckmann. This caliber of writer paired with the exceptional acting from stars Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie, makes for what is by a long shot the highest-quality adaptation of a videogame to date.