12 Video Game Adaptations That Are Actually Worth Your Time


by Owen Williams |
Updated on

As the action-packed archaeological epic Uncharted finally makes the (non-quick-time-event-assisted) leap from the hugely popular video game series to the big screen, the ever-present question arises: will this be the movie to break the infamous 'game-to-film curse'?

Despite its extraordinarily protracted development, the signs are good. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg star as adventurer Nathan Drake and his cranky mentor Sully, bringing to live-action Naughty Dog's acclaimed – and superficially very filmic – Playstation games. It should be a no-brainer, but we've been here before, and the reputation of video game movies remains, well, pretty wretched. Is that fair? There's an argument to be made that there are possibly more good video game adaptations than you think... Here are the ones worth a watch.


The nine animated Netflix episodes of Arcane finally, categorically, prove that a video game IP (Riot Games’ online multiplayer battle frenzy League of Legends) can translate successfully to another medium – in this case, an animated series. Nominally an adaptation of LOL, it’s actually set up as a prequel, principally revolving around the chaotic Jinx (Ella Purnell) and her sister Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). Beautiful visuals and great voice acting meld with some smart storytelling that intuitively conveys information about the world we’re in without having to resort to clunky info-dump dialogue. You’re straight into this world, but it never feels like one you have to work to learn. All credit to writers and series creators Christian Linke and Alex Yee for clearing a hurdle that’s felled many a game-to-screen in the past. They created one of the best shows of last year and an unprecedented hit for the streaming service.


While we’re talking Netflix series, props also to Warren Ellis and Adi Shankar’s bloody and energetic Castlevania anime, based on Konami’s running-and-jumping hack-and-slashers. As in the games, the basic premise is an action-packed gothic horror in which vampire hunter (ahem) Trevor takes on Dracula and his legions with the help of a magician called Sypha and Dracula’s renegade son (ahem again) Alucard. It’s okay: Ellis knows that’s funny.

Assassin’s Creed

Director Justin Kurtzel, stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, screenwriter Michael Lesslie, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, and composer Jed Kurzel all made the graceful leap into Assassin's Creed straight from Macbeth. The results are uneven, but it adds up to a uniquely serious and sincere attempt at translating a blockbuster gaming franchise to film. A curious complement to the Ubisoft games rather than an obvious adaptation of the Ezio saga or Black Flag, the film introduces characters and a period in history unused by the console versions, although it oddly leans more into the present-day sci-fi elements than the running around in history (i.e. the intrusive and annoying bits in the games that get in the way of the good stuff). But video game movies can often feel cynical and corporate and compromised, and Assassin’s Creed, for all its flaws, feels like a company of established filmmakers genuinely striving to achieve something worthwhile. Full marks for that, and in the stretches when it’s good, it’s really good.

Werewolves Within

Red Storm's medieval guess-the-lycanthrope mystery for people with VR headsets is here unexpectedly transmogrified into a hugely enjoyable low-budget modern-day comedy horror. It's the second film from Scare Me's Josh Ruben, and a welcome starring role for the always-excellent Sam Richardson. The set-up is of a small-town murder mystery where nobody knows who the werewolf is: a great premise regardless of the medium. It's almost certainly the case that large proportions of Werewolves Within's audience don't realise that it's based on a game at all.

Silent Hill

A labour of love for French director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf), Silent Hill is all about atmosphere and extraordinary visuals. The bones of the story are both convoluted and easily predicted, but it's the palpable sense of absolute dread in Konami's games that Gans translates to film so successfully. The empty town where it snows ash, the reality-shifts, the genuinely nightmarish creatures... It's all unforgettably realised on screen: a triumph of production design, if not screenwriting. No pig-wombles though. They'd probably have been a mistake.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

There’s still a lot of nostalgic love out there for Paul WS Anderson’s 1990s original, but, trust us: it isn’t as good as you remember. Simon McQuoid's recent stab, on the other hand, is more successful, keeping the core of Acclaim's basic fight tournament structure – in which the gimmick is comically extreme violence perpetrated by freakish fighters – while broadening the scope to make it more filmic and giving the fighters some actual character beyond 'same costume, different colour'. There's no compromising on gore to get a PG-13 rating either – this one finally delivers on the games' gnarly USP. And it's funny too.

Resident Evil

Paul WS Anderson’s extremely loose adaptation of the CapCom zombie behemoth mashes up elements of the first three or so games, but weaves them around a new story and an original character: Milla Jovovich’s Alice. Where the games are often slow, quiet and eerie, with only sporadic blasts of frantic violence, the film is fast, loud and action-packed, with a thumping industrial metal soundtrack. But as its own thing, Anderson’s first Resident Evil is efficient and enjoyable enough. It even has a high-profile fan in one James Cameron. "I actually think it’s quite beautifully made," Cameron told Empire a while back. "Watching Michelle Rodriguez in that film, moving like this feral creature, is joyful.” Recent reboot Welcome to Raccoon City, on the other hand, demonstrates that staying more faithful to the games doesn't necessarily make for an improved film experience.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

If you wanted to argue semantics you could make a case for this being first and foremost an adaptation of a set of trading cards. But Detective Pikachu, as a game, was specifically a Nintendo spin-off, so… Whatever, the odd notion of turning Pokémon’s cutest breakout star into Sherlock Holmes and having him solve a mystery makes for a bizarrely entertaining live-action-and-animation hybrid movie, thanks in no small part to Ryan Reynolds’ voice and mo-cap performance as the yellow fluffball. Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy are in it too. It’s so bizarre it shouldn’t work, but director Rob Letterman binds the nonsense together with such a light touch that you can’t help but be carried along. He’s currently working on a film of Ubisoft’s Beyond Good And Evil for Netflix.


Dwayne Johnson’s first game-to-film experience was Doom, which apart from the hilarious gimmick of a five-minute first-person-shooting section, was a largely dismal experience. Rampage on the other hand, is as stupid-but-fun as you might hope. A Midway arcade game from the 1980s – translated to 8-bit machines like the Spectrum at the time – it’s a weird IP to revive. But in the context of Legendary’s contemporary Godzilla-verse, and with the CG technology to pull it off, it actually makes perfect sense. It’s The Rock dealing with a giant gorilla, wolf and crocodile smashing up buildings. What’s not to like?

Tomb Raider (2018)

Angelina Jolie was, arguably, quite a good Lara Croft in two bad movies. But with Crystal Dynamics’ radical (undeniably Uncharted-influenced) rebooting of the game series from its classic-but-dated origins, came the opportunity to reboot the film series too. Here it’s Alicia Vikander in Lara’s vest, in an origin story pretty faithfully transposing the 2013 game and bits of its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider. It's on the bland side, but it perks up in the action sequences, and Vikander makes a feisty heroine.

Monster Hunter

Anderson again, and another CapCom brand. This one makes about as much sense as some of his increasingly dementedResident Evilsequels, but convoluted plotting is, at least, not the name of the game this time. Monster Hunter is a quick slab of furious and varied action, with Milla Jovovich (of course) and Tony Jaa making for an interesting on-screen pairing. And it does capture the actual tone of the source, which is not something Anderson has quite managed previously.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was groundbreaking in 2001 as an ambitious attempt to do a photorealistic CG animation. It was always a bit hard-going though, tanked at the box office, and is looking its age these days. Advent Children, on the other hand, still looks pretty fresh a full 16 years on from its release. Taking place sometime after the game Final Fantasy VII (hence the number in the title), its quality belies the fact that it was part of a multimedia marketing splurge for the game's release.

...and three that definitely aren't.

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Kicking Uwe Boll is old hat these days, but the fact remains that his dozen or so video game movies are all equally terrible. Take your pick of Bloodrayne, Alone In The Dark, House Of The Dead, Postal, Far Cry and their various sequels. We’ll nominate the three-hour In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale as the one for peak avoidance though, despite Jason Statham, Ron Perlman and Ray Liotta being in it. In The Name Of The King 2 stars Dolph Lundgren as Statham’s son, but it's better because it's at least short.

Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li

The Jean-Claude Van DammeStreet Fighter retains a goofy nostalgic charm and has Raul Julia going for it. But a decade later, the unconnected Legend of Chun-Li has nothing in its favour. Video director Andrzej Bartkowiak had previously made the loose action trilogy of Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 The Grave and Exit Wounds, which have their moments. But Legend Of Chun-Li feels ill-conceived and cheap. It doesn't work for the Street Fighter hardcore or a general action movie audience, so you've got to ask: what's the point?

Wing Commander

As a game with a large component of narrative video sequences starring actual actors (including Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell) 1994's Wing Commander III was a fascinating novelty. But five years later, the movie version, directed by the games' own creator Chris Roberts, exposed the yawning chasm between functional video cut-scenes and actual filmmaking. Freddie Prinze Jr and Matthew Lillard subsequently appeared together in the Scooby-Doo movies, which feel like Citizen Kane in comparison. Lillard is in In The Name Of The King too. His video-game-to-movie track record is not stellar.

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