Geek, gamer, writer, graphic artist. KL Yong's favorite shows and adventures are those that allow him to enjoy the world from his bedroom.
As awful as most video game movies are, some did achieve respectable box office success. A notable example is 2019’s Detective Pikachu.
Others pleased long-time fans of the games but bored general viewers to tears; or vice versa. Optimistically speaking, this suggests that such film adaptations could have worked had the producers achieved the correct balance between fan service and popular appeal. Or did not misunderstand the two distinctively different markets these movies target.
The short of it is, as skeptical as most audiences are toward such movies, I believe potential still exists. With box office success possible for the following five video game movie adaptations if produced by the right studio.
In the hands of directors and actors who truly understand what the original masterpieces are celebrated for, I think such film adaptations could be wonderfully entertaining. Who knows? They might even earn the franchises themselves millions of new fans, on top of welcoming back old ones.
1. The Legend of Zelda
There are many online fan-made movies and mock trailers for Nintendo’s most enduring RPG franchise. Every so often, there are also rumors about a movie adaptation in the works. To give an example, in 2015, Forbes reported a possible collaboration between Netflix and Nintendo for a live-action Legend of Zelda show.
In spite of these, and more than 30 years after the first Zelda adventure, no official Zelda video game movie exists. There’s none in the works too. Baffling as this is, some fans believe it’s due to Nintendo being highly resistant to film adaptations of her best titles. This is no thanks to the box office flop and embarrassment that was 1993’s Super Mario Bros.
Which is sheer tragedy, don’t you think so? The Legend of Zelda not only has the perfect medieval fantasy setting, every title in the franchise also always involves the same characters. Thus making the story easy to adapt into a multi-part movie series.
In addition to which, there is also the beloved soundtrack—considered standard repertoire for game music concerts worldwide.
In my opinion, what’s missing from the whole mix is the right person to assemble the best of Zelda into a movie with universal appeal. Such a person not only needs to love the Zelda titles, he or she must also appreciate the delicate balance of adventure, love, and faith behind Link’s many adventures.
Needless to say, such a person must also be capable of addressing Nintendo’s worries about video game movies, this possibly the most arduous task of all. At the moment, it’s obvious there’s still no such person around.
But who knows, like the beloved masterpieces, an unexpected “hero” might suddenly appear. When that happens, viewers worldwide can finally be awed by the splendor of Hyrule in cinematic glory.
Another best-selling Nintendo franchise, rumors about a Metroid film adaptation have been flying about for well over 10 years. Like the case with The Legend of Zelda, though, none has amounted to anything. This is tragic given that there are arguably few other game franchises more suitable for cinematic adaptation than the adventures of galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran.
Think about it. Metroid is most widely remembered as a galactic adventure in which an armor-wearing female bounty hunter braves hostile environments to confront deadly alien lifeforms. Lifeforms that are parasitic too. Does that not remind you of a certain horror classic from 1979? One directed by Ridley Scott?
Of note: a key villain in Metroid is named Ridley.
What I’m saying is, the premise of the Metroid titles is long familiar to global audiences. This immediately removes one of the key challenges of video game movies; that being the need to find the common ground between stories to be played and stories to be watched.
And as long as efforts are taken to inject freshness into the tale and characters, a Metroid adaptation wouldn’t be deemed as too derivative too. With rumors once again surfacing in 2020 about a potential adaptation, this time involving “Captain Marvel” Brie Larson, let’s hope something indeed comes to fruition. Like Lara Croft, Samus Aran deserves her time on the big screen too.
3. Space Quest
As simplistic as it might be to say, I think the underlying reason for video game movies consistently being unpopular is the fact that gaming principles and concepts are agonizingly hard to translate into cinematic stories.
Not only is there a loss in interactivity, many video game elements just do not appeal when depicted by actual people on the big screen. To give some examples of the latter: outrageous costumes and exaggerated mannerisms. There are also quests that would be a thrill to play but unbearable to watch for even five minutes. Or for even one minute.
On the other hand, what if an adaptation goes all-out to mock the above-mentioned tropes? A cinematic adventure not so much about the end-boss or quest, but to mock/celebrate the absurdity of such stories? The likes of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?
I think it just might work. As for the vessel i.e., the title to be adapted, I feel there are few choices better than Sierra On-Line’s legendary Space Quest series. Itself as nonsensical and as hilarious as it gets, the absurdity Space Quest thrives on provides the perfect platform for producers to go all out with humor and parody.
Best of all, the commercial success of movies like Guardians of the Universe and The Lego Movie has conditioned global audiences to be receptive to parodies and space operas with a lighter touch. Approached in the same way, don’t you think that a Space Quest adaptation would be just as entertaining, if not more?
Ask yourself, wouldn’t you want to see a real-life Roger Wilco intrepidly explore The Spinal Frontier? I certainly would. Even if completely unfamiliar with the games.
4. Ninja Gaiden
Ninja movies are a mixed bag. While some from the 80s are nowadays hailed as “cult classics,” it’s undeniable that even these are often campy and over-the-top. Worse, most ninja storylines heavily rely on cultural stereotypes. Such insensitivity is today, a huge magnet for global condemnation.
In the case of Ninja Gaiden, a film adaptation based on Koei Tecmo’s best-selling action series could easily fall prey to the same maladies. In fact, I’d say it’s tempting to go down the wrong route — the game did originate from the 80s, after all.
On the bright side, the commercial success of movies like Joker has strongly indicated the preference of today’s audience for grittier, more realistic productions. Would this compel producers to adopt a darker approach if adapting Ninja Gaiden for cinematic release? Would a Ninja Gaiden full-length feature produced under such a light secure the love of worldwide audiences too? For the latter question, I think the answer is a yes.
Arkane Studio’s Dishonored series is the newest franchise on this list. Given the criticism rained onto the 2016 Assassin’s Creed movie, I’m sure you’d be asking, do we really need another go at adapting a stealth series for the big screen? Isn’t it clear that watching someone snoop about on a world-saving mission is quite a different business from being that hero yourself?
Well, I personally didn’t dislike Justin Kurzel’s adaptation that much. I also feel that the main problem with Kurzel’s adaptation was not the source material, but the director’s art direction and misguided belief that replicating iconic moves is enough to please everyone.
Coming back to Dishonored, the gritty steampunk setting of the series and the ambiguous morality of the main characters, are to me, winning ingredients for a gripping movie. In the hands of a director who doesn’t go all out to be philosophical or to pander to fans, a Dishonored adaptation could be a character dissertation masterpiece. One with significant potential for Oscar recognition too.
As for the action, I think Dishonored stands apart from other stealth titles with its curious blend of mysticism and brute force, and with its emphasis on moral choices. To be honest, I’m not sure how these elements ought to be depicted on the big screen. All I can say is, I’d be deeply inclined to watch to find out.
In short, like all entries on this list, whether a Dishonored video game movie adaptation would work stands on whether the studio making it understands what made the two titles in the series so absorbing. A lot of that fascination doesn’t only involve the action, it has to do with how every Dishonored character has a darker side too. Portrayed by the right actors, I believe we could have the next The Dark Knight in the making.
© 2020 Yong Kuan Leong
Yong Kuan Leong (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2020:
Fingers crossed that they would be made!
Anrie James from Johannesburg on February 23, 2020:
Great suggestions. I would definitely watch The Legend of Zelda and Dishonored as movies!
Yong Kuan Leong (author) from Singapore on February 06, 2020:
Thanks for commenting, Liz. Of all these, I hope for a Dishonored movie most. The game truly has a very unique, and frequently disturbing story.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 05, 2020:
You make some interesting film suggestions. It will be fascinating to see if these make it to the big screen.