I bear terrible news: most movie adaptations of video games are pretty dreadful. The top grossing ones of all time are Tomb Raider and the Pokemon movie. Pokeman wasn’t a straight adaptation, and they bloated ticket sales by dangling free holographic cards given out at the movie, rousing kids everywhere to pester their parents to go for not just the movie but the free cards, laying guilt trips on parents who want their kids to fit in and not miss out on the things that they did in childhood, tapping into a deep reservoir of feelings within the human condition that, in conclusion, helped Pokemon sell tons of tickets.
But how does that happen when some video games have such enthralling stories? There’s tons of reasons: meddling studio executives, diluted storylines due to time constraints, casting choices made for mainstream audiences that bastardize the characters, source material that’s vacant (who’s excited for the inevitable Angry Birds movie?) because of its boringly linear, side-scrolling nature.
These are the video games that have the proper infrastructure in place to transition into an enthralling movie–as long as the big studios don’t screw them up by doing something like casting Taylor Kitsch.
This multi-tiered adventure game could be the source material for an epic. The series centers around the historical lineage of Desmond Miles, a modern man who’s genealogy gets him tangled between powerful factions. Through a high-tech machine, Miles is able to access his memories, living out some essential moments in history, in a slew of culturally important cities and time periods. Ubisoft already released a series of short films within the series, and an Assassin’s Creed movie is tentatively scheduled for a 2015 release, with Michael Fassbender possibly attached to the project. The series has a sprawling story that could be an asset or a curse; it’ll be difficult to settle on a narrow enough scope to craft a satisfying movie in just a few hours of screen time. The flip side of that is, if the project is successful, Assassin’s Creed could grow into a dynastic staple of cinema. It’ll be hard to completely ruin a story about assassins that traverses through space and time.
This is the story of a boy who escaped the circus and is trying to harness his psychic powers. Things get dark, fast, when protagonist Raz unfurls a sordid plot against the exceptional campers. It’s an adventure that would transition to the big screen, with crisp writing, interesting setting and characters, and the involvement of flashbacks and superpowers, to give it a surreal and non-linear narrative. My concern would be that the game, with a cult-like following, would produce an excellent movie that doesn’t draw successfully at the box office. But a teen-rated game about kids that has action, adventure, wit, and interesting visuals seems like the ingredients to a successful Hollywood stew.
The Wikipedia page says that “In pacing and structure, Alan Wake is similar to a thriller television series.” Though the story is divided into chapters, it would play like a Stephen King adaptation on the big screen. The eponymous protagonist is an author who tries to unearth the details about his wife’s disappearance, all while the plot of his novel surfaces before his eyes. It’s King meets the mind-bending of Charlie Kaufman, with a rich setting of a small, dark, and scary town, and the woods that surround it. The genre tropes are there, from the questionably trustworthy innkeeper to reliance on the sparse light within the game. It’s suspense fit for the big screen, a horror thriller waiting to happen.
Super Mario Brothers
Just kidding, this is a terrible idea.
Preloaded with a Disney success power-up and a popularity boost from the far-sprawling Final Fantasy and anime fandoms, Kingdom Hearts taps in to many potential audiences, or as studios think of them, revenue streams. It follows the saga of Sora, a displaced hero, destroyer of the Heartless, wielder of one all-powerful weapon—each an important criterion for a PG-13 action-adventure flick. Tack on characters like King Mickey, soldier sidekicks Donald Duck and Goofy, and evildoers with an established history of being loathed (Is anyone more universally despised than Disney witches?), and you have a ready-made franchise.
In a sunken, dystopian world created by a tycoon with a vision of a utopia, gone awry, this is probably the coolest setting on this list. Everything contained within the story world is so rich: From the drug-like ADAM that began to derail the city to the bone-chilling exploration to the genuinely surprising plot twists, Bioshock is the abandoned-world movie that Resident Evil failed to manifest. There’s a number of characters trying to influence protagonist Jack, characters that aren’t clearly right or wrong. It’s a world of philosophy and of failure, one whose twists and turns would delight moviegoers. Gore Verbinski was lined up to direct a Bioshock film, but left over creative differences, putting the project in limbo. If it gets off the ground again, the best pure story I’ve encountered in a game could shine in theaters.
Blitz: The League
This is a Rorschach test of either the fears or dreams of NFL fans. It’s a roided up, heavy-metal rendition of football, and bad behavior on and off the field. Basically, the players are all Bill Romanowski. We see, literally, bone-crunching hits, reliance on steroids and injections to win games, prostitutes used as bait for opposition, you name it–it’s there. It’s the NFL on amphetamines, and a hell of a lot of fun. The movie would feature action unparalleled in modern pro sport, with the cameras perfectly placed to capture the action. The game was partially written by the writers of ESPN’s Playmakers series, a show well ahead of its time that showcased the unsavory aspects of a fictional professional sports league. Playmakers was the first drama series produced by ESPN, and the best sports television series I’ve ever seen, an absolute compelling drama that was a must-watch for smart sports fans looking at the gritty parts of the game outside of the whistles. You put Playmakers on the big screen, and it dwarfs the rest of the catalog of cinematic football dramas.