“Wow, this game’s story is so complex, it’d make a great movie!” – Ancient proverb.
Okay, so the above isn’t really an ancient proverb, but let’s be honest: You’ve heard a gamer say this at least once in your life. I know I’ve heard it a dozen times and nine times out of ten, this ends up being a bad decision. However, sometimes we get something that’s a little bit special. Video Games are interactive media, as opposed to a static media, which means the stories they tell can be varied and even of branching plots.
Whatever you think about video game movies, we’re here to discuss the Top 10 Video Game Movies. Before we get into the actual list, this means that the film must have a game as well. The film doesn’t have to be based on the game or the game doesn’t have to be based on the film, but the actual setting and world needs to be used in one capacity or the other.
10) Ratchet and Clank
For the uninitiated, Ratchet and Clank are two very strange fellows indeed. A mechanic ‘Lombax’, a cat-like fictional race made for the purposes of the franchise, becomes friends with this adorable little robot who he names Clank. Ratchet having learned of an alien race known as the Blarg, who were going around on a ship called the deplanetiser, wanted to join a resistance group against them, but is ultimately rejected. Still keen to ensure the safety of his planet, Ratchet goes on a mission.
This was a box office flop, so even if you’re a fan of the games this could not go any higher than this. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people will barely know this film exists, but we had to make a mention to it. The film was released in 2016 and whilst critics panned it and it wasn’t profitable (indeed losing money), it was cute enough to be considered for the list. But it wasn’t just because it’s cute; The film was made of pretty well done CGI, but more importantly, it used game assets to make the film. This really was a non-playable version of the game.
9) Angry Birds Movie
Let me begin by saying that I wanted this spot to go to Max Payne! But somehow, SOMEHOW both the box office and the critics disagreed! I understand that Angry Birds is a more popular game (which is just… I mean it was done to death before the game was even released) and that Max Payne is something of a brutal game series lacking in “family friendliness” but there’s no question which was the better film.
Parents of rabid children who are allowed to get at mummy and daddy’s iPad were dragged to a puerile plot beleaguered with fart jokes and characters thinner than the premise, whose announcement was greeted by disbelief by both fans and detractors. That popularity earns it a place at #9 on our list, and is probably to blame for the Emoji movie that’s on it’s way.
8) Mortal Kombat vs Street Fighter
There can only be one true fighting game film.
Mortal Kombat is well known for having reached number one in the US box office for three weeks! We look back at this film and can barely believe it, as it’s such a cheesefest. The plot of the film basically revolves around the tournament, featuring all of your favourite characters, such as Raiden, Liu Kang and a guy who basically says he’s Johnny Cage (I don’t know what I was expecting really). It’s a tournament of goodies vs baddies; if the baddies win, Shao Khan will be able to invade and take over Earth. Marvellous!
Conversely to Mortal Kombat then, we have Street Fighter. Featuring some massive names, such as Kylie Minogue as Cammy, Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile and Raúl Juliá (known for being Gomez Addams in the first two Addams Family films) as M. Bison. Cheese galore, character roles are switched up as Ryu and Ken become swindlers and BANG – You’ve got yourself a film that was a humongous flop in the box office; costing 35 million and earning them less than a million. Yeowch!
But, it’s all about the impact these films left on you – Which of these two packed the most punch?
7) Super Mario Bros.
An early example of video game films going bad, Super Mario Bros. was a film based on the hyper successful video game franchise of Mario. Featuring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, the two brothers find a parallel universe, where King Koopa (Bowser as we better know him) is a ruthless ruler. Upon finding out about both universes, King Koopa wants to merge them to rule over them both. The Mario Bros. team up with Princess Daisy to stop King Koopa in his tracks.
Okay, so this film was a flop, being criticised on almost every front. It still managed to win some awards and in some cases, it won our hearts. It’s somewhat of a cult classic these days, which isn’t too surprising when you think about it. But, overall, this wacky film just wasn’t the best way to adapt the plumber brothers to the big screen. A crying shame too, as the cast was actually pretty good!
6) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Jerry Bruckheimer brought Dastan to the big screen, and while it was amongst the first big titles to be spat at for Hollywood whitewashing, Jake Gyllenhaal is rarely bad in anything. In effect Sands of Time may have ended up something more akin to a repaint of Pirates of the Caribbean, but it managed to give us the wall running, fast paced action one might expect of a platformer, an edge of the mythic, a Disney love story, and ostrich racing.
The plot is transparent and incoherent in equal measure, the action sequences are beautiful if a little over-padded to fill run time and give us stronger ties to the game, and yet the final result is a video game that got real blockbuster attention long before Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft. Ok, a forgettable blockbuster amongst a flood of bland blockbusters, but it got its own Lego set.
5) Assassin’s Creed
We’re under no illusions here, despite the massively award winning cast and the enormous franchise it built upon, Assassin’s Creed isn’t going to be winning any awards of its own. It suffers a lot of the same issues harboured by a lot of video game films, but did a lot of very positive things for the format. It played well to the core concept, took an original stance without destroying everything that came before, and made the sensible decision to include an original central character.
The enormous animus arm offered a more dramatic take on the link between host and memories, and gave us a very “video game moment” for the final escape from the Templar compound. The narrative may have been very rushed but it was fairly well executed, may have been a little over-reliant on people knowing the games, but overall it was a well presented and stylish spectacle that may very well have helped the video game blockbuster along just a little more.
4) Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockhart and friends return, two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII. With Sephiroth gone, a trio have been found kidnapping children, inflicting upon them a dreadful disease. After being summoned to a meeting, Cloud and co find out that the trio were a physical manifestation of Sephiroth’s soul, which was inflicting serious damage. The crew get back together to find and stop the trio.
Stunning; truly stunning is what I’d call this. The animation was fantastic, even if the plot itself was a little bit lacking. You also need to take into account that the film was made back in 2005, which eventually got remastered in 2009. Over the years, the animation quality got more and more impressive, seriously spurring on some top quality CGI that could make even Pixar cry. Yes it’s true; we can’t rate it higher, as really this is a pretty niche game to put in the list – Especially since the film was a Direct-to-DVD release.
3) Resident Evil vs Silent Hill
Our second versus in one article; there can only be one horror video game movie!
Resident Evil has been a constant success in the box office; the first film alone more than tripled the production cost. The Umbrella Corporation, with a lab underneath Racoon City, called The Hive, are doing genetic research; creating the ultimate lifeform. When a thief tries to steal the formula, the Red Queen awakens, sealing The Hive and killing everyone who was inside. In an attempt to get an antivirus to stop the now spreading gasses which were causing the dead to walk!
Resident Evil is a bit of a weird one to place in this list, if only because it’s sometimes hard to think back about the films. In 2016, the franchise of films was finally finished with a film decisively called “The Final Chapter”. Okay, see you again in a few more years then, Resident Evil production team! I jest, but honestly, the films have gone up and down in ratings over the years, but none can deny the amazing scene in Resident Evil 2 where Alice rides through a Church window on a God damn motorbike. Holy mother of God, that scene is cool!
The nightmarish world of Silent Hill lends itself beautifully to the big screen, a visually haunting spectacle that directly impacts the character who appears therein. In the case of the film it becomes a town enslaved to the malice and vengeance of a little girl burned for witchcraft, the zealous monsters within trapped forever by monsters born of her worst nightmares.
Lots of monologuing makes for a hard sold plot in between visual spectacle, and the less said about Sean Bean’s accent the better, but we were presented with the classic imagery of the game franchise, and all of the monsters who dwell in its fog ridden streets. It’s even a very watchable film, positively enjoyable, but ties to the game may have gotten a little too tenuous for some fans to tolerate.
Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban head up a team of expendable jarheads played by equally expendable actors, but between them and Rosamund Pike we get some comfortably high quality performances plunged into a very FPS style narrative complete with horrifying demon monsters. The film suffers in AvP Requiem style darkness to hide the rubbery monsters, cheese levels spare us such horrors as “wooshing” torches, but spare no cliches on dialogues, crappy jump scares and unlovable one-dimensional characters, but DOOM didn’t get this far in our list by being adequate.
DOOM has been cited as a prime example of “what not to do” when adapting a video game to film, but take a moment to really consider some of the key components and you may come to appreciate what was being attempted. A group of combatants are given a quest, to sweep a compound and secure three servers for data, important information is drip fed to them gradually, giving a slow burning horror, culminating in the film going full on First-Person for Urban’s final showdown against big-boss The Demon-Rock Johnson. In many ways the content would have made for some fantastic video game moments, but did not make for a terrific film. Not bad for 2005, but at the time we saw a glimpse of what might be…
With the Fel Orcs tearing apart their homeworld, the Warlock Gul’Dan looks to expand his people’s homes into a new world – Azeroth. The Guardian of Tirisfel, Medivh, is warned by a young mage, Khadgar, about the fel energies that were appearing. The Frostwolf Clan who came with the Fel Orcs try to liaise with the humans to warn them of the dangers coming their way – Only for them to be ambushed. With such tension between Orcs and Humans, the World of Warcraft’s story has begun in a big way.
Anyone who saw this blockbuster will be filled with hope; that video game films are finally on the horizon of becoming a massive thing. Blizzard put so much love and care into this film, that honestly, you could feel like this was a love letter to their fans. This was the sort of tip of the hat we expect from Blizzard when they’re not being complacent. This is the Blizzard we love; and this film was their thank you to their fans. Hopefully, this film made a few new fans… and I can’t wait for the next film. Want to know more? Check out our full review of Warcraft. Also, let’s not forget the fact – This is the highest grossing video game movie adaptation of all time as of the time of writing.
Now it’s over to the less popular opinions; the honourable mentions. These we felt deserved to be included, because they might not quite fit our criteria, or they were just absolutely dreadful. It’s worth noting however, these still basically count for the video game movie category we’ve defined, it’s just they kind of fall outside of the direct criteria.
It may not be entirely possible to summarise the whole of the arcade gaming world in a film so elegantly as Wreck-It-Ralph. Not only were there cameos from diehard classics like Cubert, Sonic, and Pac-Man, but we also got a heartwarming story from the perspective of a bad-guy about how much easier it is for other people to accept us when we accept ourselves.
While Ralph may not be based on any real in-game character like his friends were, there’s a rather obvious parallel to Donkey Kong, whose nemesis was a plumber rather than a builder, the game-style is very similar, and of course Donkey also went on to be a heroic character himself. Even without that transparent homage we’d be doing this list a disservice by omitting this one.
Relegated to the honourable mentions section because – let’s be honest with ourselves here – the Pokemon film is more directly linked to the supporting anime series, a tie-in to a tie-in if you will. We’d still be incredibly callous to leave it out. In this standalone story we follow the origins of Mewtwo, derived from the genetics of Mew. In an unsurprising Mary Shelley twist, creation turns on creator, and a civil war of sorts ensues.
Unapologetically heartbreaking, the film sets out to give us a lesson of unity and togetherness as Mewtwo comes to realise that he has become everything he despised in his master, and that that can be genuine love between Man and Mon. If only Ultron could have seen Pikachu trying to wake up Ash, I bet his vibranium heart would have melted.
A Dishonourable Mention
Just one, despite a dearth of bad films, many of which receiving bigger praise than they deserve here, I must spontaneously bring to bear the one name that all will hold aloft as the curse wrought upon the marriage of video game and film industries, and the only director whose name I curse more highly than Zack Snyder. Mercifully retired, but a blemish that shall linger, courtesy of Bloodrayne, In the Name of the King, and Alone in the Dark. Many of his films were somehow crowdfunded, meaning people wanted to see them happen!
If you gave money to Uwe Bol, you are an accessory to Uwe Bol. Let us say no more.
That’s it, your time is up and it’s now game over! Time for us to count the scores for the potential list for next week, so click on the one you most want to see listed and we’ll be sure to throw together another high quality article… At least, we’ll push our articles through our Quality Assurance guys. What? There’s a bug in our articles? NOOO!
We’ve seen enough video game movies to last a lifetime, however we hope that with the recent rise in quality of video game movies, we start to see the medium taken even more seriously. Perhaps video games will be the next comic movies? Or perhaps not. What did you make of our list? Did the best ones get in? Did we forget any really big video game movie? Is our order right? As always, let us know what you thought in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.