Movies based on video games suck. This is almost a universally accepted truth. And for very good reason, as watching the likes of Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li is basically the celluloid equivalent of getting hemorrhoids. In your brain. The latest addition to this infamous pantheon is Adam Sandler’s Pixels, which will possibly go down as the worst reviewed blockbuster of 2015, with one reviewer hilariously describing it as “clearly aiming for more of an ‘advanced scrotal cancer’ kind of vibe”. Yeesh.
Of course this means that coming up with a list of the Top 10 Worst Video Game Movies – hell, Top 50! – would be a breeze. But I apparently like a challenge, so I’ve decided to flip the script and try and find 10 adaptations of video games that are actually good. Please note: I said good, not amazing. Let’s not get too ambitious here.
- Street Fighter
Yes, I know what you’re going to say. Unless your name is Darryn Bonthuys, you probably think this comically miscast mid-90’s Jean Claude Van Damme cheesefest is terrible. And you would be right. But 15 years after Street Fighter was released, something unexpected happened: Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li was released. And by the gods, it was so, sooooooo bad that it made the 1994 film suddenly look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
- Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Boasting the greatest all-CG visuals we had ever seen at the time of release, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a technical marvel. Yes, its story may have lacked the epic-ness usually found in the games that inspired it, but it still had that same incredible design aesthetic, character development and a script that often made no freaking sense… just like the games!
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Let’s be fair: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was a decent-ish movie at best – nothing too special, but certainly not a disaster either. It did have three things going for it though 1) Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast as the titular adventurer (and no, no pun intended on “titular”, you pervs!), not only looking the part 100%, but also bringing the perfect mix of action physicality and sexuality to the screen. Never has a video game character been cast so right on-screen! 2) The soundtrack to this movie is incredible! And 3) It sort of introduced the world – and other studios – to Daniel Craig. Yes, the best modern James Bond might not have existed if it wasn’t for Lara Croft.
- Need for Speed
As has been well documented, I’m lazy. So instead of telling you how Need for Speed boasted incredible driving scenes but a totally ridiculous script, I’m just going to quote sections from my review here:
“…for a movie based on a flashy, over the top video game, Need for Speed is anything but (Fast & Furious is far closer to the gravity-defying world of the video games). What Need for Speed is, is a very faithful throwback to the more measured car movies of the 1970’s and 1960’s, where souped-up machines and the expert driving of them by stoic men, were really what you paid to see. And Waugh handles this amazingly, creating some true thrill rides as he makes insightful camera choices – no shaky-cam here, you’ll be happy to know – to show off all these incredible machines as they are driven to their limits (and beyond, in some fantastically lensed whirligig crashes).”
“…everybody with a pulse is actually the supporting cast in this film. The true stars are the highly skilled drivers, the pants-wettingly amazing gallery of cars, and director Scott Waugh’s technical directing ability to show off this high speed/high stakes automobile orgy.
If that’s all you’re after, you should leave the cinema happy, as Need For Speed is simply the best car racing movie to come along in ages. Unfortunately, it’s just not as good a movie overall.”
- Resident Evil
While the last few movies in the near billion dollar strong Resident Evil franchise may have devolved into very little more than director Paul W.S. Anderson staging the biggest slow-mo, 3D CGI action scenes to brag about how hot his wife Milla Jovovich is to the rest of the world, the first film is possibly still its strongest entry. It may not have the crazy scope of its sequels, but while they mainly feature generic zombie action bits, Resident Evil delivered much better on the bloody scares that made the video games its based on so famous in the first place.
- Final Fantasy: Advent Children
Hey, look! Another full-CG Final Fantasy movie! But while Spirits Within bore nothing more than the name and aesthetic of the Japanese video games that spawned it, Advent Children is a direct tie-in to “Final Fantasy VII”, arguably the most well-known and beloved entry in the video game series. What this means though is that it’s nowhere near as accessible to newcomers, as they need to know a bit of background to follow the admittedly kooky story.
Not that they will actually be able to follow the story though, seeing as their brains would have been turned to grey pudding through the sheer cool awesomeness of the absolutely ridiculous fight scenes that Advent Children showcases.
- Silent Hill
It may drop the ball drastically in its final moments when it comes to its narrative, but Silent Hill sees acclaimed French director Christophe Gans (Crying Freeman, Brotherhood of the Wolf) doing a masterful job of capturing some of the creepiness of the famous horror video game. He may hit the gore and shock angle more than the source, which tends to rely more on unbearable tension and just downright disturbing material, but he also perfectly translates some of the game’s most famous moments.
- Ace Attorney
Speaking of translating some of a game’s moments, Ace Attorney is possibly the most faithful feature film adaptation of a video game ever made. The fact that said video game, the “Phoenix Wright” series, is a completely ridiculous affair that sees lawyers engage in “court battle” against each other makes this even more impressive. It is directed by the legendary Takashi Miike though, so this type of over-the-top bizarro world “legal drama” should be expected. Coupled with spot-on character and costume design, Ace Attorney may be a bit too silly for some, but for purist fans of the game its an open and shut case!
- Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat is cheesy, has a really silly storyline, and features some even sillier characters. And you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way! Only lacking in the crazy bloody gore that popularized the “Mortal Kombat” games, Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 feature film adaptation succeeds so well in translating the video game to screen because it doesn’t try to go all crazy and make it more than it needs to be (the less said about its horrendous sequels though, the better). The game’s story was basically nothing more than the lamest of excuses to get some over-the-top characters to fight each other in a martial arts tournament, and that’s exactly what the movie delivers.
Even more importantly, it’s FUN! And of course, it boasts one of the greatest movie songs of all time!
- Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
It’s kind of funny that the two movies that top this list are based on fighting games, a genre that’s not exactly known for its movie-like narratives. But while Mortal Kombat did a fantastic job of capturing its video game source, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist went and adapted the mythology around its video game. It’s also kind of funny that the last and first entries on this list are both based on Street Fighter. But while the earlier movie is only “based on” in the sense that it features a Belgian guy with an accent heavier than the heart of a star playing an all-American hero, Assassin’s Fist hews to the source material extremely closely. And it’s freaking awesome!
Released by Machinima first as a web-series and then spliced together as a full-length feature film, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist tells the backstory about how series stalwarts Ryu and Ken were trained and how they went from best friends to rivals. Instead of hiring some actors (who may not even look the part) and then trying to get them to do martial arts, Machinima went and found martial artists that actually look like the characters and who can act. Obviously that makes casting a tad bit more difficult, but it pays off tremendously as we get to watch live-action versions of these characters we’re so familiar with, putting on some of the most amazingly choreographed fight scenes you’ll ever see!
And you know what’s the best thing about it? You can go see all of that right now for free!
Last Updated: August 6, 2015