The best video game adaptations: films and TV series to watch

The best video game adaptations: films and TV series to watch

The best video game adaptations

Although in recent times the film and TV series adaptations of video games have proliferated more and more - let's think of the film Uncharted with Tom Holland and the recent HBO series on The Last of Us -, their history dates back to the now far back in 1993, with the feature film Super Mario Bros. All kinds of products have been released in these 30 years, and the experiments have not always been successful.

There have indeed been a lot of tumbles and poor results, but in this article we want to focus on the adaptations that have worked instead, and which have managed to do justice to the video games from which they were inspired. So grab your watchlist, and get ready to add these movies and TV series!


Tomb Raider (2018)

Lara Croft is played by Alicia Vikander in the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider, where the protagonist finds herself exploring an unknown island in the Pacific in search of the treasure of a legendary Japanese empress. While the movie wasn't a huge box office hit, if you enjoyed the 2013 reboot game series, then this adaptation will be for you too.

The Swedish actress was seen as an unconventional choice for a character who, as in previous films with Angelina Jolie, had been considered more for her physical appearance than for her skills. A sequel is currently in the works, with Misha Green (creator of the Lovecraft series) as director.

Mortal Kombat (1995 and 2021)

--> Director Paul W.S. Anderson grew up playing Mortal Kombat in cabinets, so the first of the video game adaptations of him had to be on the franchise. In the lively 1995 film, there is actually a fighting tournament, and the atmosphere of the game is recreated perfectly.

The 1995 film was followed by several failures, but in 2021 another adaptation arrived which made center: former professional MMA hero Cole Young must team up with special forces soldiers Jax and Sonya Blade and mercenary Kano, with the goal of reaching the Earth realm temple; here they will find the superpowers needed to defeat the Outworld. This film doesn't shy away from showing the blood and violence typical of Mortal Kombat, and the fight scene between Sub-Zero and Scorpion is pure art.

Like a Dragon (2007)

--> Director Takashi Miike has produced several video game adaptations, including one on the Yakuza franchise, the story of which is loosely based on that of the original title. The events take place over the course of a summer night, which begins with a bank robbery by a masked manzai duo and the disappearance of ten billion yen from the Tojo clan's vault. The former yazuka Kazuma Kiryu and the young Haruka Sawamura are looking for the mother of the second, with the rival band of the first on their heels.

In this adaptation, the director has decided to exploit all the comic material available in the video games, and has recreated the rules in a credible live-action setting, and at the same time goliardic. The film is available entirely on YouTube , so you have no excuse to let it escape.

Werewolves Within (2021)

We remain in the comic genre with Werewolver Within, one of the most successful video game adaptations precisely for the freedom with which director Josh Ruben and writer Mishna Wolff treated the source material. The film is loosely inspired by the 2016 VR title of the same name, and Sam Richardson plays Finn, a kind but very down on her luck forest ranger who moves to the small town of Beaverfield in search of a fresh start.

But no line as it should, and the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a city crisis, when the inhabitants suspect that a murderous werewolf is hiding in the fog. Even if the video game that inspired it is not as famous as others mentioned in this list, Werevolves Within deserves to be seen for the ironic dialogues, the horror twists and the charismatic chemistry between the actors.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Anyone who watched the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog will remember the horrific appearance of Sonic, who looked like an imitation halfway between an animal and a human . Luckily, following massive fan reviews, director Jeff Fowler and Paramount Pictures decided to retouch the character, delaying the film's release by a few months. The result was one of the best video game adaptations in years.

The film is faithful to the source, Sonic is both fast and funny, and there is no shortage of hilarious jokes. Despite being released during the pandemic, Sonic the Hedgehog represented one of the highest-grossing films of 2020, so much so that a sequel was pushed for production, released in April 2022.

Warcraft (2016)

The film adaptation of Warcraft was announced in the early 2000s, and it took almost a decade for it to come to light. The film represents a prequel to the Blizzard franchise, telling its origins from the perspective of humans, and the result is a story that would be enough to fill at least three feature films — although there will probably never be sequels.

Warcraft it is mainly based on CGI, with entire cities and environments created with computer graphics and half of the actors transformed into muscular ogres. It's no surprise that post-production alone took two years to complete, but every second was worth it: the visual effects are so well done that you won't think for a second you're looking at something fictitious, and even enemies are rendered with depth thanks to ultra-detailed expressions. All in all, it won't be the best adaptation in terms of plot, but it's definitely a feast for the eyes.

Silent Hill (2006)

Like most video game adaptations, even the movie Silent Hill does not look for an exact coincidence. The work follows the story of Rose (played by Radha Mitchell), who is looking for her daughter in a terrifying ghost town; at the same time, her husband Christopher (Sean Bean) in turn does not find the woman when he goes looking for her.

What is most successful about this adaptation is the recreation of the creepy tone of the video game, and instead of a bland horror you will be able to find some truly worthy elements of the genre, such as scales of giant insects, mutilated bodies and corpses hanging around.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Detective Pikachu drove fans of the famous franchise crazy even before its 2019 release; after all, how can you resist a CGI Pikachu wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat? This live-action Pokémon film has exceeded all expectations, becoming the second highest-grossing adaptation in history, surpassed only by Warcraft.

What comes to mind when we think of the little monsters created by Game Freak are the battles between trainers, but Detective Pikachu managed to hit the bull's-eye thanks to its interesting action-packed story and convincing world-building. Justice Smith and Pikachu, voiced in the original version by Ryan Reynolds (you surely know him for Deadpool ) are the perfect duo, but let's face it, the yellow furball is enough to conquer everyone.

Arcane (2021)

We conclude the list with one of the few TV series among video game adaptations that is noteworthy; we are talking about Arcane , the animated series that tells the origins of the League of Legends champions Vi, Jinx, Caitlyn, Jayce and Viktor. In fact, the story focuses on two narrative lines: the first follows Jinx's path towards madness following a tragic accident and Vi's to save her little sister from herself, while the second focuses on Viktor's invention of the 'Hextech, fusing magic and technology.

In addition to having superb characters and writing, the first season of Arcane — available on Netflix — is among the most visually unique and successful animated series in recent years , and is also accessible to those who are not fans of League of Legends.

The Last of Us series

The Last of Us (2023)

We could not fail to conclude the list with the TV series on The Last of Us, released over the last few months and created by HBO. The show, which in the first season consists of 9 episodes, was a real boom, convincing both fans of Naughty Dog's work and those who did not know it, thus generating a new wave of popularity for the 2013 video game ( you can find our review at this link ).

In the series we find Pedro Pascal, best known for The Mandalorian, as Joel, and Bella Ramsey as Ellie; the narration slavishly follows that of the video game, recounting the journey of the two protagonists across the United States and offering viewers a sensational mix of direction and photography.

Our recommendations on the best video game adaptations end here; obviously there would be other noteworthy titles, including the TV series on The Witcher, which we have deliberately not included since, although the settings and characters are inspired by the video game, it is based on the novel by Andrzej Sapkowsk.

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