The top video game adaptations in film and television

13 of the best TV shows and movies based on video games

Mortal Kombat, Tom Raider, and Doom - 3 of the top video game adaptations ever

It’s no secret that adapting video games into movies and TV shows is a tricky business. While video game adaptations on both the big and small screen have historically been met with criticisms, there are actually a few hidden gems out there that have defied the odds and won over even the most skeptical of gamers. From epic action blockbusters and suspenseful dramas to family-friendly flicks, below are 13 of the best video game adaptations that prove that sometimes, the transition from console to screen can be a success.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)

The characters of The Angry Birds Movie 2
The characters of The Angry Birds Movie 2

An animated film based on the popular mobile game series of the same name, The Angry Birds Movie 2 received critical acclaim for its clever storyline, vibrant animation style, and witty humor that remained faithful to the source material.

Directed by Thurop Van Orman, the sequel to 2016’s The Angry Birds Movie follows birds Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride), and Sliver (Rachel Bloom) as they team up with pigs Leonard (Bill Hader), Courtney (Awkwafina), and Garry (Sterling K. Brown) to battle Zeta (Leslie Jones), an eccentric but dangerous eagle from Eagle Island who threatens both of the Bird Island and the Piggy Island.

In addition to its impressive visuals and sharp writing, The Angry Birds Movie 2 also features several exciting action sequences featuring explosions, battles at sea, and machines soaring through the sky.

Despite being made for children ages 6-12 years old, it can be appreciated by all age groups due to its positive messages about friendship and loyalty. All in all, this movie provides plenty of fun entertainment for both kids and adults alike!

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 - Official Trailer

Arcane: League of Legends (2021-present)

Vi of Arcane: League of Legends
Vi of Arcane: League of Legends

Set in the fictional universe of the battle arena video game League of Legends, Arcane revolves around siblings Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) and Jinx (Ella Purnell). Amidst the escalating unrest between the rich, utopian city of Piltover and its seedy, oppressed underbelly of Zaun, sisters Vi and Jinx find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing conflict over clashing convictions and arcane technologies.

Critics loved the first season of the TV series, which received praise for its animation, story, worldbuilding, action sequences, characters, emotional weight, music, and voice acting. Some reviewers even pointed out that the show appeals both to casual viewers who have never played League of Legends and to long-time fans of the video game.

Renewed by Netflix for a second season, Arcane, in 2022, became the first streaming series to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. It also won an Annie Award for Best General Audience Animated Television Broadcast Production in the same year.

Arcane: Official Trailer


Mortal Kombat (2021)

Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Combat
Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Combat

Based on the video game series of the same name created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, 2021’s Mortal Kombat follows Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a washed-up mixed martial arts fighter who is unaware of his hidden lineage or why the assassin Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) is hunting him down. Concerned for the safety of his family, he seeks out a clique of fighters that were chosen to defend Earthrealm against Outworld.

A reboot of the previously released Mortal Kombat film series, the Simon McQuoid-directed movie received mixed reviews from critics, who commended the performances, production values, brutal fight scenes, and greater faithfulness to the source material than the previous movies in the franchise. The film, however, was criticized for its weak dialogue and exposition.

A sequel to the movie is in the works, with filming set to start in June 2023.

MORTAL KOMBAT Trailer (2021)

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994)

Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter II :The Animated Movie
Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter II :The Animated Movie

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is an anime film adaptation of the 1991 2D fighting game Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.

In the movie, M. Bison ( Takeshi Kusaka), leader of the international crime syndicate Shadowlaw, is recruiting the world’s greatest fighters. Bison targets Japanese fighting master Ryu (Kôjirô Shimizu), who possesses gravity-defying abilities. Unable to coerce Ryu, Bison captures and converts Ken Masters (Kenji Haga), an ex-classmate who shares Ryu’s fighting style. Meanwhile, Chun-Li (Miki Fujitani) of Interpol teams with an American soldier (Masatane Tsukayama) to crush Shadowlaw.

This anime adaptation is beloved by many fans for its faithful recreation of the original fighting game’s characters and storyline. While there are some changes made compared to the game itself, such as Ryu being depicted with darker skin tones, these alterations were done tastefully without detracting from the overall narrative or visuals. This highly regarded feature also features fantastic animation quality and great voice-acting performances.

Street Fighter 2 - The Animated Movie (1994) - Official Trailer

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Based on Sega’s video game series of the same name, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the sequel to 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Like the first movie, the sequel set several box office records and received generally positive reviews for its action sequences, humor, and performances. Although it got negative comments about its screenplay, runtime, and pacing, many critics considered the film an improvement over its predecessor.

In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, after settling in Green Hills, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) tries to prove himself as a hero, but his big test comes when the evil Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) returns, alongside his new rival, Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), in search of the Master Emerald.

In February 2022, Sega of America and Paramount Pictures confirmed that Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is in the works.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) - "Official Trailer" - Paramount Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018)

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider

The 2018 adaptation of Tomb Raider is one of the most successful video game adaptations to date. Directed by Roar Uthaug, this gritty origin story follows Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) as she embarks on a quest to save her father and uncover ancient relics from a mysterious island.

The film features spectacular action scenes that keep audiences on the edge of their seats, and Vikander’s performance captures both strength and vulnerability. Her character arc is emotionally gripping, and it showcases an admirable female protagonist in the spotlight.

Most importantly, however, the movie does justice to its source material with plenty of nods to classic elements from the original games such as Lara’s dual pistols. This attention to detail ensures fans feel seen and respected throughout the experience; making for an enjoyable feature regardless if they’re familiar with prior installments or not.

Overall, 2018’s Tomb Raider managed to live up to expectations while still delivering something new to the table — cementing itself as a worthy addition to any list of top video game adaptations in film or television.

TOMB RAIDER - Official Trailer #1

Resident Evil: Damnation (2012)

Leon in Resident: Evil Damnation
Leon in Resident: Evil Damnation

There have been several adaptations of the video game Resident Evil, but 2012’s Resident Evil: Damnation, a.k.a. Biohazard: Damnation, is arguably the best.

With a 100% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on five reviews, Resident Evil: Damnation is the sequel to 2008’s Resident Evil: Degeneration, and a prequel to the sixth Resident Evil game. The movie follows Leon S. Kennedy (Toshiyuki Morikawa/Matthew Mercer) as he tries to stop deadly bio-organic weapons from being used in a civil war.

The movie’s animation style is quite unique, as it combines traditional CG elements with more anime-inspired character designs. The action sequences are also suitably intense, not to mention the stellar voice cast that did an outstanding job of bringing the characters to life.

IGN calls it “the best Resident Evil film to date” but if you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, the movie is not the best starting point to dive into the world of Capcom’s most successful horror game series.

Resident Evil: Damnation Trailer

Detective Pikachu (2019)

Pikachu in Detective Pikachu
Pikachu in Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu, the 2019 live-action film adaptation of the popular Pokémon franchise, has been considered one of the greatest video game adaptations in recent years.

With its faithful recreation of iconic characters and locations from the video game, Detective Pikachu is a testament to just how successful a film can be when taking inspiration from beloved gaming properties. Its success can be seen in its record-breaking box office numbers; it was estimated that over $54 million had been earned on opening day alone. During its entire run in theaters, the movie grossed $433 million worldwide, against a budget of $150 million.

A loose adaptation of the 2016 video game of the same name, Detective Pikachu follows former Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and the titular Pokémon as they attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance of Tim’s father, Harry.

The critical reception for the movie was overwhelmingly positive. Many critics praised Ryan Reynolds’ voice performance as the titular character. The visual effects were widely acclaimed too, with some reviewers calling them “the best ever seen in a video game adaptation”. With those said, it’s clear that Detective Pikachu is one of the most impactful entries into this genre and will likely remain so for years to come.

POKÉMON Detective Pikachu - Official Trailer #1

Castlevania (2017)

The main characters of Netflix's Castlevania
The main characters of Netflix’s Castlevania

Based on the Japanese video game series of the same name by Konami, Castlevania follows monster hunters Trevor Belmont, Alucard, and Sypha Belnades as they defend the nation of Wallachia from Dracula and his minions.

The Netflix original series ran for four seasons and received critical acclaim, with its visuals, animation, voice acting, action sequences, characterization, themes, and writing receiving much praise. The pacing, however, particularly of the third and fourth seasons, received a polarized response from critics.

A spinoff series titled, Castlevania: Nocturne, is currently in the works at Netflix which will focus on Richter Belmont, a descendant of Trevor and Sypha, and Maria Renard during the French Revolution.

Castlevania | Teaser: Vengeance [HD] | Netflix

Doom (2005)

Karl Urban in Doom
Karl Urban in Doom

Loosely based on the video game series of the same name by id Software, Doom is a classic example of how to turn a beloved video game into an entertaining and thrilling film. It’s as if all the elements that make up the iconic video game have come together perfectly, creating an exciting movie-going journey for fans.

The story follows a member of space marines John Grimm (Karl Urban) as he travels to Mars on a mission from Earth – only to find himself caught in the middle of a battle against demonic forces from beyond. As Grimm fights his way through hordes of monsters, he discovers the true nature of his mission: To save humanity by destroying the source of evil at its core.

The action sequences are intense and well-choreographed, with plenty of explosions and gunfire keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. But what really makes Doom stand out is its clever use of allegory; it draws parallels between human aggression and war while also exploring themes such as morality and responsibility.

In essence, it’s an exploration into our own dark depths, ones we may not be comfortable looking into but should probably take notice of nonetheless. All these subtle nuances make Doom one thrilling ride that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Doom (2005) Official Trailer - Dwayne Johnson, Rosamund Pike Movie HD

The Last of Us (2023)

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

Based on the 2013 video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog, the series is set in 2023, 20 years into a pandemic caused by a mass fungal infection, which causes its hosts to transform into zombie-like creatures. The TV show follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler tasked with escorting the immune teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the post-apocalyptic United States.

The first season of The Last of Us received acclaim from critics, who praised the TV show’s performances, writing, production design, and musical score. Several reviewers called it the best adaptation of a video game to date.

Given its post-apocalyptic setting, The Last of Us has been compared to AMC’s The Walking Dead. While it’s too early to tell which one is better, one thing is for sure, the former managed to breathe new life into what is an overly-explored theme in both TV and gaming.

The first season of The Last of Us is streaming on HBO Max. A second season is underway.

The Last of Us | Official Trailer | Max

Werewolves Within (2021)

The cast of Werewolves Within
The cast of Werewolves Within

Released in 2021 by Ubisoft Film & Television and directed by Josh Ruben, this horror-comedy was based on a VR game released for multiple platforms back in 2016. It follows a group of people in a small town in Vermont who get trapped in a snowstorm only to suspect one of them is a werewolf.

The film was largely well-received both critically and commercially, with many praising its ability to capture the spirit of the original game while still maintaining an entertaining story. With some witty dialogue and plenty of jump scares, Werewolves Within proved that even relatively unknown games can be adapted into critically acclaimed films.

Werewolves Within - Official Trailer | HD | IFC Films

Silent Hill (2006)

Radha Mitchell in Silent Hill
Radha Mitchell in Silent Hill

Based on the video game series of the same name published by Konami, Silent Hill follows Rose (Radha Mitchell), who takes her adopted daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), to the town of Silent Hill, for which Sharon cries while sleepwalking. Rose is involved in a car accident near the town and awakens to find Sharon missing. While searching for her daughter, she fights a local cult and begins to uncover Sharon’s connection to the town’s dark past. The movie also stars Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, and Kim Coates, among many others.

Although the film received generally negative reviews from critics upon its 2006 release, retrospective reviews have been more favorable. Reviewers loved Silent Hill’s impressive visuals but panned its weak dialogue and plot.

Silent Hill (2006) - Official Trailer

What is the highest-grossing film based on a video game?

As of April 2023, 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the highest-grossing film based on a video game. Released on April 5th, 2023, the movie has earned $875 million at the worldwide box office. It is followed by 2016’s Warcraft ($439 million), 2019’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu ($433 million), 2018’s Rampage ($428 million), and 2022’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($405 million).

The Super Mario Bros. Movie | Official Trailer

What was the first game ever adapted into a film?

The first video game adaptation came out in 1993 with the premiere of the Super Mario Bros. The Movie, which is based on Nintendo’s Super Mario video game series. Considered by many the worst film ever made, it follows Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) in their quest to rescue Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from a dystopic parallel universe ruled by the ruthless King Koopa (Dennis Hopper).

Critics panned the movie’s plot, inconsistent tone, and lack of faithfulness to the source material, but praised the special effects, artistic direction, and cast performances.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) Trailer #1
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