Video game movies don’t exactly have the best reputations. Despite the popularity of the franchise and the high profile actors signed on to play the major roles, practically every single adaptation is a disaster of monumental proportions. As a general rule of thumb, if you see a film that is based on a game, it is best to avoid it completely.
However, there have been some exceptions. Every now and then, a video game movie will actually be pretty good. While many miss the point of the game they are based on and end up being only loosely connected with them, some stay true to the source material. While they may not be cinematic greats, they at least tell a cohesive story and transfer the things that were good in the original work to the movie screen.
Of course, the films that do nail it make the bad examples look even worse, but it is always good to know which video game movies to avoid and which ones to watch.
20 Best: Resident Evil
The Resident Evil movie— and to a lesser extent the sequels— is arguably one of the best video game to movie adaptations. The film manages to combine the horror elements of the series with a good amount of action, humor, and drama in order to create an enjoyable viewing experience. Exactly what the games themselves manage to do with each installment.
19 Worst: Tekken
Hollywood seems obsessed with the idea of adapting fighting games, despite the fact that they are probably the least well suited to become movies. That’s because they rarely have a proper narrative so there is no story to adapt. While Tekken did have some exciting fight scenes, it rarely felt like it was part of the franchise and was even completely dismissed by the series creator.
18 Best: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
The best way to get across the point how well Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children managed to sync up with the story of Final Fantasy VII is acknowledged the fact you cannot really watch it without having played the game first. It all feels very familiar as the narrative takes you to old and new parts of Midgar and introduces you to characters from the game. The story actually continues the themes from Final Fantasy VII as it attempts to pick apart the idea of becoming fixated with past mistakes.
17 Worst: Doom
There is no denying that Doom can be an enjoyable watch. The over-the-top action and banter between Dwayne Johnson and the rest of the cast is casual fun. However, it completely fails to recreate any of what makes the Doom games so good. It puts the emphasis on survival horror rather than on the grotesque demons and exploration elements central to the series. It even gets rid of the Hell elements entirely, making the enemies mutated monsters rather than part of a demonic horde.
16 Best: Tomb Raider
There have been several Tomb Raider films over the years, but the 2018 release differed by concentrating on the origin story of Lara Croft. Much like the 2013 game, it focused on the character’s frailties and weaknesses as she slowly developers into the adventurer. While the story isn’t great it is the source material that can take the blame. Overall, the film manages to stay grounded and Alicia Vikander’s performance as the protagonist is exceptional.
15 Worst: Warcraft
Nothing in Warcraft made it seem like those who made it had ever played the MMO. All story and lore points have nothing to do with the actual game, while many of the races from the series are not present in the films. There’s none of the depth or the feeling of being part of a huge world that the series is known for in the film.
14 Best: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Widely considered to be one of the better video game adaptations, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within certainly manages to successfully feel like part of Final Fantasy's PS1 era. That is in part thanks to the fact it was directed by franchise creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and that it did not try to adapt a previous story, instead focused on creating a new chapter.
13 Worst: Alone In The Dark
Most of the Alone in the Dark games have achieved their scares through building up a tense atmosphere and taking the player through a series of unexpected plot twists. The 2005 film failed to do any of that, abandoning the creepy Lovecraftian themes for a more action-orientated story that was neither frightening or interesting.
12 Best: Detective Pikachu
Instead of falling for the trap of focusing on battles and trainer fights, it put the emphasis on the relationship between the sentient creatures and their human partners. This gave it a chance to be carry some proper emotional weight and get the narrative right, allowing it to be a worthy adaptation of the series and the Detective Pikachu game in particular.
11 Worst: Assassin's Creed
Assassin’s Creed had the potential to launch a series of interconnected movies. Yet, it ruins this chance completely to the point that the movie was just a boring action film that had little to do with the actual games. Rather than showing famous historical locations and figures, it instead takes place in a nondescript period that doesn’t engage the view like the franchise usually does.
10 Best: Max Payne
There were a lot of things to dislike about Max Payne. The movie largely ignored much of the game’s plot and suffered from poor performances by the cast. However, when it does hit its stride in the action sequences, it definitely nails what is fun in the series for players, translating it to the screen in an effective manner.
9 Worst: Hitman: Agent 47
The Hitman series has always been about stealthily taking out enemies using meticulously planned methods to ensure you can get away with the crime without anyone catching you in the act. Hitman: Agent 47 abandoned this and instead went all guns blazing. It was an explosive action movie that felt nothing like a Hitman adaptation should.
8 Best: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Although the plot might have not been very faithful to the actual games, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time does a good job of replicating the feel of the parkour-like movement that is common in the titles. This is especially true in chase scenes and helps to ensure that it looks like a video game movie rather than just another action film.
7 Worst: BloodRayne
There was a lot of potential for a distinctive vampire movie with this BloodRayne adaptation. The movie is simply not able to decide what it wants to be and suffers because of it. At times it tries to be a serious horror film, but at other moments it attempts to be a funny and silly affair. It all culminates in an end result that just is not engaging in any way.
6 Best: Mortal Kombat
While it is true that fighting games usually don’t make very good movies, Mortal Kombat is one notable exception. The film remains faithful throughout, both in terms of the look of the characters and their backstories. More importantly, though, the fights themselves remain as intense and fierce as you would expect.
5 Worst: Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li
Without the character names, it would be pretty much impossible to tell this was even a Street Fighter movie. There’s none of the strong color or visual style that the franchise always displays. Along with a plot that has nothing to do with any of the games and a series of bizarre casting decisions, this is certainly one film to avoid at all costs.
4 Best: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
The original Tomb Raider games never took themselves too seriously. There was plenty of charm and humor in them, with Lara Croft being a genuine heroine who could hold her own. This film and its sequel told good enough stories, but it was the performance of Angelina Jolie that made them. Her intelligence, athleticism, and mannerisms captured everything about the character.
3 Worst: House Of The Dead
The House of the Dead games are not known for their story. They are pretty much action shooters that rely on jump scares and hordes of undead enemies to keep the plot moving forward. The fact that the 2003 House of the Dead movie seemed to forget all this in exchange for a nonsensical plot meant that it would have been better off disassociating itself from the franchise.
2 Best: Silent Hill
What made Silent Hill stand out from other horror games was the fact that it focused on slowly building up the psychological tension and drama with a truly horrifying atmosphere. The 2006 film replicated that feeling entirely, choosing to forgo action scenes in exchange for keeping you second-guessing everything that happens.
1 Worst: Super Mario Bros.
Other than the fact that the Super Mario Bros. movie features characters taken from the famous Nintendo series, it would be impossible to tell this was a video game adaptation. The plot is so divorced from anything else from the franchise that it makes you wonder why the filmmakers even wanted to make a Mario game in the first place. Even worse, though, is the gritty art style that is the exact opposite of the game’s colorful approach.
Sources: DenOfGeek.com, Eurogamer.net, PCgamer.com, Vice.com, Forbes.com, Polygon.com, Kotaku.com