Video game adaptations of comic books are far from unheard of. Marvel and DC have had their fair share of successful forays into the medium: The “Arkham” series, “Marvel vs. Capcom” and “DC Universe Online” are just a few of the selections readily available. But outside of the realm of capes and supervillains, comics have still translated well to the world of gaming before. Telltale Games alone has boasted titles based on the likes of “The Walking Dead,” “Sam & Max” and “The Wolf Among Us.” Their very first title way back when was even a take on the “Bone” series (yes, the Jeff Smith comic).
Comics of all kinds have come to show that they have a place in making successful video games. The vast worlds, unique characters, and engaging adventures make them only fitting to be translated to a player’s hands. So this list aims to showcase solid contenders for their own potential adaptations-outside of superhero comics.
15. Watson and Holmes
This entry sticks out from the rest, but that doesn’t make it any less of a candidate. Seasoned gamers will know that quite a few of the more popular games in recent years have revolved around criminal investigation. Just examine the popularity of titles such as “L.A. Noire” or “Ace Attorney.” Integrating logic puzzles and investigative gameplay into a title can make for a strange, but ultimately satisfying, concoction. That’s exactly where the magic happens for Karl Bollers’ “Watson and Holmes”.
This comic strikes a satisfying balance for any perspective, setting the stage for a potentially satisfying video game adaptation. The series uses the familiar Sherlock Holmes/John Watson dynamic, but moves it to the streets of modern-day Harlem. Clinic worker Watson and strange private investigator Sherlock bring a familiar story into a contemporary setting, getting into a chaotic criminal scene, allowing for a blend of the investigative quirk we’ve already seen work before, as well as high-stakes action that’s all-too-familiar for video games. Like its source material, it’s a good blend of the familiar and the unique.
14. The Sandman
The root of “Sandman’s” quality, as far as a potential video game take goes, is in its cast of characters. The Endless are interesting enough on the pages of comic books, but the idea of being able to take on their role as a player moves things to another level entirely. The Sandman stories have taken place over a variety of times and places, but what’s constant are the Endless.
In the form of an RPG based on the comic’s various adventures, the potential is definitely there. One could have the option of playing as Desire, Death, Delirium, or any of the Endless and alternating between them. Each would, of course, have their own unique abilities and play style to master. The eclectic nature of their characters could lend itself to interesting play mechanics. Using both powers and actual storylines, each character could also be given special quests and missions based on the role that they actually play in the comics. For instance, one could guide the recently passed with Death, or use shapeshifting abilities as Dream. The roster would certainly have a lot to offer.
13. Tank Girl
Much of “Tank Girl’s” appeal lies in how strange it is at the core. A romp through post-apocalyptic Australia littered with pop culture and wild imagery, it’s been a longtime niche favorite. The comic would go on to be adapted into a 1995 film starring Lori Petty as the titular Girl (real name: Rebecca Buck), to less-than-stellar reception. But the results of the film’s take on the series don’t mean that a video game adaptation would be bad. It would simply take the right work to capture the magic of the original.
Some of the most favored video game titles have benefited from some weirdness The recent success of Blizzard’s new first-person shooter, “Overwatch,” has often been attributed to its colorful, often bizarre cast. It’s in this context where a “Tank Girl” video game thrives. If a developer were to mix the action and the strange just right and add in some post-apocalyptic adventure game magic, the end result could be something truly great. Not to mention that the soundtrack would probably be awesome.
12. Zodiac Starforce
While the Magical Girl genre has been going strong in Japanese comics for some time now, it’s still gaining its footing in Western media. “Zodiac Starforce” is one of the most recent explorations, showcasing a team of astrology-themed heroes fighting magical forces of evil while making their way through high school. The comic has a cast of colorful team members, each named for a different sign with their own abilities. The galactic, pastel-hued visual style alone makes it a fun concept to try adapting.
A video game based on this comic could take a couple of different directions. One could opt for a straightforward plot adaptation with a story mode, but why stop there? There’s also the option of a fighting-style game where you get to choose between the myriad of heroes and see whose mystical abilities reign supreme. The Magical Girls of Japanese manga have had their fair share of video game adaptations, so why not take a try with one of the West’s girl teams?
11. Bitch Planet
Imaginary dystopia and video games have gone together before and, well, “Bitch Planet” is certainly dystopian. Revolving around women in the chauvinistic distant future arrested for “non-compliance,” the comic tells their stories from varying perspectives. At first glance, this may not seem like the ideal candidate for a game adaptation, aforementioned depressing future world aside. However, the nature of the comic might be the best point of access for visualizing a potential video game.
The concept of getting to play through the perspectives of these different characters in a Telltale Games-esque Story Mode landscape is promising. The setting gives even more viability, putting the potential player at the center of a space prison. The character diversity would allow for different play methods and move sets. Oh, and there’s plenty of fighting to go around. It would almost certainly get slapped with an M rating, but that’s no reason for it not to happen.
10. Afterlife With Archie
It could be argued that the novelty of the zombie apocalypse genre doesn’t have the flair it once had. At the very least, it’s been done quite a lot in recent years, and video games are no exception. After years and years of survival horror zombie games, what can possibly be done to refresh things and make players interested? How about throwing America’s favorite freckle-faced teenager and his friends into the mix?
This was part of the initial success of “Afterlife with Archie” in the first place. The comic was going into something that had indeed been done before, several times. But it wasn’t just zombies. This is zombies going after the denizens of Riverdale, characters previously only really known for drinking malts at Pop’s and having relationship problems. Readers got to witness Jughead Jones trying to eat some brains while the Andrews family had to run, and the appeal of that kind of twist cannot be readily denied. What better way to breathe new life into survival horror zombie games than to introduce a concept that worked so well in comic form? Whether the game’s tongue would be in cheek or not, there is some sort of charm to “here’s your chance to chase down the undead as Betty and Veronica.”
“Monstress” is another title that takes readers to new, nuanced universe. Marjorie Liu’s comic specifically takes us to an alternative version of Asia, where magical creatures known as the Arcanics and the Cumea are at war. A potential game could take us into the perspective of the protagonist, Maika, an Arcanic woman struggling with the highly complicated world she inhabits. “Monstress” fits in by its style: it’s high-quality fantasy with a cohesive, detailed story and a highly evocative art style to top it off. A game lends the opportunity to enter this world.
Monstress has the makings of a serious, extensive fantasy game, not unlike “Shadow of the Colossus” or “The Elder Scrolls.” Just one look at the rich visual style of artist Sana Takeda can provide ideas of how it would translate. A large, fantastical universe full of different magical abilities and characters is already an optimum setting for a video game, but “Monstress” provides the oh-so-important provisions of both a strong visual sense and strong, well-received writing combined with a valuable story to tell. The basics of fantasy can only go so far, but these two key aspects provide a backbone for a potentially great game.
8. The Wicked + The Divine
Kieron Gillon’s fantasy comic revolves around the concept of humans merging with deities to become superhuman entities who live in a place called The Pantheon. Right off the bat, there’s potential for exciting gameplay. With characters who can do everything from manipulate the elements to control people’s emotional states, it’s hard to not be able to find possibilities. While the comic largely revolves around narrator Laura Wilson with her own mysterious potential, the large cast of otherworldly beings has the makings of a contemporary fantasy game.
Similar to “Sandman,” the diversity of ability and powers make for interesting mission and quest concepts, with each member of the Pantheon having their own backstory to work with. The modern-day nature of the story also adds a unique setting to a fantasy genre where games often take place in ancient times or mythical, far-off places very much unlike today’s world. The eclectic color palette and unique design doesn’t hurt in putting the idea of a video game into a reader’s mind. “The Wicked + The Divine” has the makings of a one unique RPG.
7. Morning Glories
Initially, the idea of a video game about going to school might seem incredibly boring. Video games are usually an escape from life’s responsibilities, so a player might not want to use their free time running around the virtual halls in a uniform. But Morning Glory Academy isn’t a standard school, and its students are well aware of that. The Image Comics series revolves around a group of students exploring the strange phenomenon beneath their school’s innocuous outer layer, and figure out the hidden mysteries. It has all the makings of a supernatural adventure game.
This is another concept that benefits from its cast. “Morning Glories” has several main characters, each with their own unique background and personality. This in turn leads to the ability to change play styles between each of them, alongside different missions. Each story arc in “Morning Glories” revolves around a different character, not unlike a chapter-style video game in story mode. For what it’s worth, high school students in out-of-this-world dire straits isn’t an entirely foreign game concept—just look at the success of “Persona 3” or “Dangan Ronpa.” So, as far as the highly-praised Nick Spencer comic goes, it can be done.
Most popular manga and anime eventually make their way into a video game adaptation in one form or another. “Sailor Moon,” “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,” “Akira,” and “One Piece” are all popular, and all have at least one video game adaptation. This is why it’s kind of odd that Naoki Urasawa’s famous thriller series hasn’t had its turn yet. For those who don’t know, “Monster” tells the story of a doctor unwittingly creating a criminal mastermind by performing life-saving brain surgery on him, and spending his life trying to later stop him. Sure, it may not be a direct action series in the vein of the most popular “shonen” titles, but as has been previously established, mysteries and thrillers can have plenty of weight in the gaming industry.
“Monster” has been adapted in other mediums, with its own anime and a possible Guillermo del Toro miniseries in the works, so why not a video game? It has been proven time and again that terrifying adventures make for popular series, and “Monster” has already shown itself to be compelling to audiences. While many well-known anime have had games across consoles, Urasawa’s tale of terror has yet to show up. It may be a long time coming, but a mystery game based on this ’90s manga series would certainly be interesting.
5. Tokyo Ghost
Rick Remender’s sci-fi tale isn’t quite what you expect from a futuristic comic, and that is where it starts to fit for a video game. “Tokyo Ghost” takes place in a future full of technological over saturation, following Led Dent and Debbie Decay. Their adventure moves from the “Isles of Los Angeles” to Tokyo: the last country on the entire planet without technology.
When a gamer thinks of a sci-fi game in a technological society, they might expect to play a game where that sort of tech is everywhere. A “Tokyo Ghost” game would turn that on its head. Instead of heavily exploring the societies full of futuristic tech, the story moves to the only place lacking it. This would give a creative perspective to the genre, putting a new face to what it means to be “futuristic.” A player could explore the various landscapes and different forms that the future takes in the comic. Going between the lush, yet almost post-apocalyptic environments of Tokyo and the gritty world around it provides interesting gameplay contrast, with two different protagonists to offer new gameplay styles. While the idea of a tech-savvy future is and has been fun to look at, maybe players could take the chance to look into the total opposite.
4. Y: The Last Man
As has been established, dystopian settings aren’t entirely foreign to the video game market. But, as with the zombie situation, the key is to simply find a formula where things feel fresh. Brian K. Vaughan’s hit series has one of those keys: the main character is only halfway to an apocalypse. For those unfamiliar, “Y” takes place in a universe where all of the men spontaneously die, leaving only Yorick Brown and the world’s women. And a monkey. The series has already been picked up for a television series, but why not a video game?
The adventure takes Yorick around the world, seeking the truth behind the mysterious spontaneous deaths. As “Y” is a contained story that has already finished, it could easily be contained within the confines of a roleplaying game. The series’ story arcs could be translated into different missions, but that’s still only one possibility. A story like Yorick’s might translate best in the form of a story-driven series in parts, like “The Walking Dead.” Whether or not it could feasibly go the length of the six-year long plot is definitely up for debate, but the prospect of getting to explore Yorick’s world through his eyes (and with Ampersand) is one that many comic fans would not want to pass up.
3. Rat Queens
Part of the magic of “Rat Queens” in this case is how it’s already rooted in gaming—just not the the kind you play on electronically. Kurtis Wiebe has cited his love of tabletop fantasy game “Dungeons & Dragons” as being instrumental in the creation of the series. It’s got all the standard makings of a standard fantasy game, of course. The medieval setting, the usual character classes and species, and a team questing in a world full of chaos and magic. But the thing is, “Rat Queens” isn’t standard by any other means.
The series has been noted for its sense of storytelling, putting action and wit together in an often-praised mix. This is what’s critical to a “Rat Queens” game being distinct. There are many fantasy games out there full of mystical places and heavy dialogue, but not all of them have a sense of sarcasm and humor to go with it. Writing can make a huge difference as far as a game’s success goes, and some of the more popular titles have been fondly remembered for their wit (think “Psychonauts”). A title boasting unique women in fantasy roles with a unique writing style added on can stick out in a genre already full of successful titles. The connection to the fun of D&D doesn’t hurt, either.
2. Help Us! Great Warrior
Not every game has to be serious and gritty. In fact, many games have come to benefit from a brighter, perhaps softer exterior. The Madeleine Flores comic has a definite charm to it, but it may not ring true as “video game potential” to many who give it a first glance. But the fact that “Help Us! Great Warrior” is so low-stakes has its own potential, just maybe not in the way that most readers might imagine it.
While most games on this list might appeal to the standard, triple-A action title, this entry is a little different. When envisioning an adaption for this series, the best direction to look to might be the best works of Nintendo. Framing a potential video game in the same tone as “Paper Mario” or “Wind Waker” makes the concept seem more familiar. The cute character designs, fantasy elements, colorful palette, and unique tone make it a good fit alongside these previous hits. Sometimes, being soft and goofy is just right for a video game, and can elevate it to the point of a classic. A good video game might cause players to picture something more dramatic or dark. But the medium’s history has shown this is indeed not always the case. “Help Us! Great Warrior” fits better than one might think.
Not unlike many entries on this list, “Saga” is viable right off the bat for its expansive fantasy universe. However, Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved tale of love and space is almost a whole other beast, entirely. The beauty of a “Saga” video game would be the truly large amount of potential to be found. Saga could work as a “Warcraft”-esque M.M.O.R.P.G., with players able to choose between Landfall and Wreath, and fighting in the depths of the planets. It’s hard to pass up a game where you could run around the confines of a fantasy space world, getting to take on Saga’s massive, creative settings firsthand (well, as a player character, anyway).
One could also visualize a strict adaptation that allows the player to take on the role of Marko, Alana, Gwendolyn, or even the likes of Prince Robot. This would also allow readers to venture into the world, but this time play out the comic’s story through new eyes. In any case, a world as large and fascinating as that of “Saga” easily lends itself to a video game market full of fictional fantasy landscapes to explore. With a story as already full of content as “Saga” is, it would be more than easy to generate things like quests, characters, storylines, and settings. If anything, the problem would be the struggle to figure out what precise direction to take with it all.
Got your own ideas for video game adaptations of beloved comic books? Let us know in the comments!
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