If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent too many hours to mention immersed in some of your favorite video games, and once you’ve completed them to 100% (possibly several times over) you’re often left wishing there was more content to be discovered. This is precisely the niche that film studios aim to fill when our favorite gaming franchises make the leap from console to silver screen.
Whether it’s the heart-pounding action of Lara Croft raiding her eponymous tombs, the mystical adventures of the Warcraft universe or the pixelated nostalgia of the Pac-Man era, movies set around a gaming universe have consistently provided audiences with some of the best entertainment around. The movie and gaming worlds have been inching ever closer to one another in recent years, as the services of writers synonymous with TV and cinema have been enlisted to script AAA games.
George R. R. Martin, the mind behind the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire universe was brought in by FromSoftware for worldbuilding and to assist with the narrative of their 2022 hit, Elden Ring. When done right, movies based on video games transport us to the very heart of the gaming universe and we get to relive epic moments that made us fall in love with the games in the first place.
Even movies not adapted from a specific game tend to be a hotbed for success. The Ocean’s franchise, Molly’s Game and even James Bond in Casino Royale are all inspired by the game of poker. So set down your controller, grab the popcorn and join me as we discover the best movie game adaptations of recent years.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
This live-action/animated hybrid was based on one of the most enduring gaming franchises of all time (perhaps second only to a notable pair of Italian-American plumbers.) It starred Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik, Sonic’s nemesis and James Marsden as Tom Wachowski, a police officer who becomes Sonic’s adoptive father.
The film had a budget of $85 million and grossed over $319 million worldwide but wasn’t free from controversy. When fans saw early previews of what Sonic would look like, there was a public outcry that it bore little resemblance to the character that they know and love – the humanlike teeth didn’t help.
Pressure from fans was so great that the animators were forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with a rendition that was more true to the blue hedgehog from the video games. If you loved this movie, you’ll be pleased to know Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is well underway and will star Idris Elba as the voice of Knuckles.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)
Only a few months prior to Sonic and often compared, for obvious reasons, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu was released. Starring Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu and Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, the movie follows a buddy cop style narrative, in much the same way Sonic does.
With a budget of $150 million and grossing over $450 million worldwide it was a commercial success and was praised by critics for its charm and humor, largely due to Reynolds comedic repertoire.
Mortal Kombat (2021)
This reboot of the popular fighting game franchise wasn’t the first time Mortal Kombat had blessed the silver screens but director Simon McQuoid brought a fresh take following the 1995 and 1997 adaptations. It starred Lewis Tan as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade and Josh Lawson as Kano.
The film was chock full of easter eggs for fans of the game, including catchphrases, finishing moves and grizzly ‘fatalities’. Mortal Kombat had a budget of $55 million and grossed over $87 million worldwide.
Tomb Raider (2018)
Another reboot of a well-loved gaming franchise dating back to 2001, this installment took inspiration from the 2013 video game of the same name. The movie follows the journey of Lara Croft, portrayed by Alicia Vikander. Unlike previous adaptations, this film explores Lara’s origin story as a young woman who embarks on a perilous expedition to the remote island of Yamatai, in search of her missing father, Lord Richard Croft, played by Dominic West.
The film had a budget of $94 million and grossed $275 million worldwide.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the movie serves as an origin story for the franchise’s iconic protagonist, Nathan Drake, played by Hollywood’s current golden boy Tom Holland, and explores his early adventures. Based on the video game series from Naughty Dog, Drake, accompanied by Victor Sullivan, played by Mark Wahlberg, embark on a quest to seek out valuable treasure that takes them around the world solving puzzles and overcoming formidable adversaries.
The film had a budget of $120 million and has grossed over $400 million worldwide at the time of writing.
Video game movies offer a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the worlds we, as gamers, have come to love. When executed successfully, they offer a unique perspective that only deepens our admiration for the franchise.
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