(Cybertech) – Video games are big business. Bigger than even Hollywood and its movie-making might. But often those two worlds collide, with successful games franchises being taken from the little screen to big-time cinema.
The results, however, can be a mixed bag. Which is to be kind, really. While we’ve been blessed with some blinders over the years, there’s also more than a fair share of car-crash write-offs that should have never happened.
With more video game movie adaptations to come – Uncharted has potential, while Tomb Raider and Detective Pikachu will both spawn sequels – here’s a look over the best and worst of the bunch.
The best video game movies
Sonic The Hedgehog
- Release date: 2020 / Director: Jeff Fowler
- Original game: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
It was a rollercoaster ride to get to the finish line – the original CGI Sonic left fans in disarray at how inaccurate he appeared – but Director, Jeff Fowler, grabbed some gold rings and got the job done in style. Witty, funny, and with an inevitable touch of Jim Carrey’s madness, playing Dr Robotnik, the film came to good. It’s an enjoyable caper for the whole family, with some great nods to the original Sega games that older audiences will appreciate.
- Release date: 2018 / Director: Roar Uthaug
- Original game: Tomb Raider (1996)
We found Alicia Vikander’s take on Lara Croft a much more enjoyable caper than the earlier Angelina Jolie-starring movies. The most recent movie from the movie spin-offs – Jolie led two flicks back in 2001 and 2003 respectively – has also sown the seeds for a follow-up, due out in 2022. If you like your action fast-paced without going overboard then this film adaptation is well worth a shot.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu
- Release date: 2019 / Director: Rob Letterman
- Original game: Detective Pikachu (2016)
Before we get side-tracked with whether this is an arguable adaptation – yes, Pokemon is a card game, but it first appeared as Pocket Monsters on Nintendo’s Game Boy back in 1996 – let’s just distract you by saying that basically anything starring Ryan Reynolds is good. And Detective Pikachu is lovingly made, often hilarious, and will draw you in whether you’re a Pokemon fan or not. There’s a sequel coming in the future too, that’s how successful it’s been.
- Release date: 2002 / Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
- Original game: Resident Evil (1996)
One of the best survival horror games of all time – it truly changed the game when it arrived on Sony’s PlayStation back in 1996 – was almost ready-baked for a movie adaptation. If you remember the game’s oh-so-wooden acted intro then you’ll take the actual movie adaption in high regard. Whether you’re a Resi fan, or just liked being creeped the heck out, this action-horror has got all the component parts to be approaching decent. Honest.
The Angry Birds Movie
- Release date: 2016 / Director: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
- Original game: Angry Birds (2009)
The only fully computer-animated movie in our list also happens to be the only app-based game to have gone to the big screen. Rovio’s smash hit app, which spawned many sequels, never had much of a storyline – you played various birds (angry ones?) trying to take out evil pigs – and the cartoony animation of the film has all the right tick boxes to appeal to the kiddies. It’s light-hearted, slightly silly fun for all the family.
- Release date: 1995 / Director: Paul Anderson
- Original game: Mortal Kombat (1992)
Ah, yes, the ultra-violent fighting game that pissed off Congress, pretty much every parent and head teacher, manifest in cinematic form. Not that it’s actually good, it’s just the ultimate guilty pleasure. It knew its audience, too, somehow condensing the game’s violence into just a PG-13 rating. Um, ok then. It also kick-started director, Paul W. S. Anderson (the initials came later, perhaps to help differentiate from Paul Thomas Anderson), down a road of video game adaptations – including Resident Evil (no less than four times out of the six current movies) and Monster Hunter (and Alien Vs Predator, if you dare to argue whether it could even called be a video game adaptation).
The worst video game movies
Super Mario Bros.
- Release date: 1993 / Director: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel
- Original game: Mario Bros. (1983) [this was Luigi’s debut]
One of the most-loved video game stars of all time, Mario, is lowered to depths that even a plumber would find questionable in this movie adaptation. The trailer – with barely memorable take-aways such as “They’re brothers. They’re plumbers.” – highlights much of what to expect. Clue: creepy Goombas, dodgy 90s CGI, and poorly cast characters (how on earth Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo were cast as Mario and Luigi, respectively, has always been one of life’s big questions). Maybe worth a revisit for some giggles though.
- Release date: 1993 / Director: Steven E. de Souza
- Original game: Street Fighter (1987) / [Street Fighter II (1991)]
Sure, we love Jean-Claude Van Damme, who doesn’t? But their appearance in the movie adaptation of Street Fighter – which is loosely based on the original late 80s game, but only green-lit following the 1991 sequel blowing up as a mega-hit arcade smasher – can’t help it from being the rigid, unimaginative disaster that it is. There’s basically nothing to save it. OK, except maybe for 90s Kylie.
- Release date: 2016 / Director: Justin Kurzel
- Original game: Assassin’s Creed (2007)
A rare moment in the Michael Fassbender hall of shame, this is one of those “why was this ever made?” movie adaptations. That the games continue to be so, so strong – the latest, Valhalla, was enough to distract people from Cyberpunk 2077’s turgid launch – only serves to highlight the sheer joylessness and emptiness of this film. Which was surely a tricky feat to accomplish given the calibre of the cast, which also includes Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons.
Alone In The Dark
- Release date: 2005 / Director: Uwe Boll
- Original game: Alone In The Dark (1992)
It’s a tough choice trying to decide which Uwe Boll-directed disasterpiece should end up in our ‘worsts’ list – especially when he’s also directed Far Cry, House of the Dead, and BloodRayne – but we think Alone In The Dark takes the biscuit.
Dead or Alive
- Release date: 2006 / Director: Corey Yuen
- Original game: Dead or Alive (1996)
A largely female-led fighting game that was, er, better known for gravity-defying ‘wobbly bits’ – oh dear, ‘member the 90s? – than being an especially accomplished fighter (yes, that very comment will rile the diehard fanbase, sorry) wasn’t ever going to convert well into a movie adaptation, was it? Comedy acting and questionable special effects abound, but at least there’s a bit of focus on another 90s quip – Girl Power! – rather than just out and out pervy exploits.
Writing by Mike Lowe.