With the recent news of the upcoming Netflix animated series being based off of the video game “Castlevania,” gamers were rightfully excited. At the helm of the show is Adi Shankar (executive producer of 2012’s “Dredd”), who made the promise that this new foray into the title would be the “western world’s first good video game adaptation.”
Arguably, video game adaptations have been stinkers across the board, especially in the form of animated films. From small to big screen, there’s no safe haven for material adapted from games. We at CBR count down some of the worst cartoon film forays for video games, as we hope “Castlevania” being a series instead of a movie will save it from the bad spell.
CAUTION: SPOILERS FOR MULTIPLE VIDEO GAME ANIMATED FILMS AHEAD.
15. ANGRY BIRDS: THE MOVIE
A film obviously intending on cashing in on the wildly popular mobile game of the same name, “Angry Birds: The Movie” was meant to serve as an origin story of sorts. The movie focused on a bird named Red who suffered from serious anger management problems. After an assault on his home island (aptly named Bird Island) by pigs, the angry bird decides to launch a counter offensive to regain their lost eggs. Together with his buddies Chuck and Bomb, Red manages to destroy Piggy Island and escape with the eggs intact.
Despite good animation and a decent cast, “Angry Birds” comes off as wildly uninteresting. Regardless of being a cash-in, it feels unnecessary and hefts a plain plot that was crafted from a 2D game with zero story or dialogue. Granted, it is meant to appeal to children, but even then the jokes are typical slapstick that do nothing to really differentiate the film from other, better-executed animated children’s films.
14. DANTE’S INFERNO: AN ANIMATED EPIC
Where some adaptations stray too far from the source material, “Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic” was nearly a beat-for-beat retelling of the video game. Dante finds himself lost after participating in the Crusades, and discovers that his beloved Beatrice’s soul has been taken to Hell. He follows her and with the help of Virgil, battles his way through nine circles of the underworld to face off against Lucifer himself. Dante emerges the victor, sends Beatrice’s soul to Purgatory and travels to follow her.
The story of this animated foray is largely untouched from its video game source material, but where it stumbles is its mishmash of art styles throughout its approximate 84 minute run. The film reportedly had five different animation studios work on different pieces of it. While the concept is cool, it comes off as incredibly inconsistent and jarring when pasted together as a single narrative in “Inferno.” There are certainly worse animated game adaptations than this, but there are also a number of better ones, too.
13. BAYONETTA: BLOODY FATE
“Bayonetta” is a game sharply divided by its reception. Players either loved it for its over-the-top action, or hated it for its ridiculous story and pacing. Suffice it to say, that hasn’t changed much with its adaptation, “Bloody Fate.” The adaptation follows the witch Bayonetta as she wakes up from a 500-year sleep with amnesia. Along the way, she meets the somewhat hapless journalist Luka, as well as a mysterious young girl that reminds her of someone. Using guns, magic and heavy sexual themes, the sorceress fights to find answers.
Even though the animation was fairly impressive, “Bloody Fate” still retained the same issues that its source material had, namely a ridiculous plot. Now, some die-hard fans will simply say that those who dislike the film just don’t “get it,” but “Bloody Fate” had the opportunity to appeal to those newcomers and didn’t do much with it. The story was somewhat streamlined, but progresses quickly to its over-the-top nature that easily turned many new or casual fans off.
12. MASS EFFECT: PARAGON LOST
This animated entry into the popular “Mass Effect” series didn’t follow Commander Shepard, but rather one of his later party members, James Vega. The story follows the young soldier early on in his career as a Marine. He is deployed to assist a colony in repelling a group of mercenaries called the Blood Pack. Following his successful mission, he later is tasked with defending the settlement again, but this time it’s against an entirely new foe: the Collectors. Vega fails to stop the villains from incinerating the planet, but manages to secure intel on the baddies for the Alliance to use.
Even though the animation was decent, the story felt lackluster and unnecessary. Rather than expand on characters that have remained consistent in the series, like Garrus or Tali, the adaptation invested in a throwaway mention of a brand new character. Not only that, the way it dove into the story felt like a generic foray for the character. When Vega is tasked with making a hard choice between two outcomes, it feels like he was simply swapped in over Shepard in a random and largely forgettable adventure.
11. RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION
Publisher Capcom certainly did its best to cash in on its incredibly popular (and swoopy-haired) character Leon Kennedy after great fan reception to “Resident Evil 4.” In this adaptation, Leon is investigating another outbreak in his off time between games. He uncovers the new G-Virus being manufactured by a new evil corporation called WilPharma and ends up working alongside Claire Redfield to take their operation down. In between the gunfire, plane crashes and mutated creatures, the duo miraculously emerge unscathed and never make mention of their adventure ever again.
“Resident Evil” has never truly been the paragon of story-telling, but “Degeneration” is just plain lazy. The plot feels copy/pasted from all of the games, and just happens to have a couple popular characters thrown in for the fans. The animation is the biggest selling point, but it still remains pointless in that it gives no real depth to Capcom’s pretty boy protagonist.
10. HALO: THE FALL OF REACH
Although technically cut up into a miniseries, “Fall of Reach” is a seamless viewing experience for its hour runtime. Documenting the creation of the SPARTAN program, the movie focuses on John-117, the child that would eventually become Master Chief. Throughout the experiments he endures and training he goes through, John builds a camaraderie with his fellow test subjects. It culminates in a mission that results in the loss of one of his teammates to Covenant soldiers, which makes John all the more apprehensive about what the future might hold for the rest of his squad.
This adaptation was an odd duck, as it was pulled from an expanded “Halo” universe novel. The story largely underserved the character, giving Master Chief no real characterization beyond his near-mute appearances in the early games. Not only that, the animation was stiff and looked simply outdated for a movie crafted in 2015. This animated entry is easily skipped by fans and newcomers alike.
9. DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH
Set as a sort of injection of plot between the first and second “Dead Space” games, “Aftermath” centered on the spaceship USG O’Bannon and its crew. Throughout the movie, the survivors from the vessel recount their attempts to recover pieces of the Marker from Aegis VII, as well as their unfortunate run-ins with necromorphs. The plot bounces around between the testimonies of the four crew members, but in the end there’s simply a throwaway reference to the game’s protagonist, Isaac Clarke, before the credits roll.
The biggest complaint of “Aftermath” was its odd combination of 2D and 3D animation. The effects were inconsistent to say the least and, when paired with a rather lackluster set of stories, it gave more fans reason to dislike it than enjoy it. Granted, it was still dark and gory, but that was all done better by its predecessor, “Downfall.” The film overall was a rather unremarkable entry into the lore of “Dead Space.”
8. TEKKEN: BLOOD VENGEANCE
Ling Xiaoyu finds herself attending high school and becomes fast friends with an android known as Alisa. Little does she know, her new robot bestie is unknowingly wrapped up in a power struggle between Jin Kazama and Kazuyra Mishima. Both corporation heads are trying to recover another student named Shin Kamiya, who apparently had the genetic key to immortality. Alisa and Xiaoyu fight their way through numerous assassins and soldiers, only to get flung to the wayside so that the main Mishimas can kick off an intense and physics-defying battle. The two girls emerge safely from the ordeal, as the apparent power of their friendship got them through it.
“Tekken: Blood Vengeance” was well animated but had a completely senseless story along with massively out of sync audio. Sure, it is based off of paper-thin material as is, but this adaptation had nothing to do with the games regular plot. Any chances to actually expand on that story in a meaningful way was scrapped in favor of over-the-top fights only die-hard fans can enjoy.
7. STREET FIGHER IV: THE TIES THAT BIND
In this anime film, Chun-Li, Guile and numerous other characters band together to investigate the sudden disappearances of previous tournament fighters. Meanwhile, Ryu struggles with the Dark Hado power within him. Several criss-crossing paths later, the group eventually teams up and discovers that the Shadaloo Intimidation Network (a.k.a. S.I.N.) is behind everything. The shady organization is being piloted by resident baddie, Seth. Ryu defeats the villain in a huge fistfight and everyone goes home.
Contrary to the trend, “Street Fighter” actually had a halfway decent track record with its animated adaptations. “Ties That Bind” was the unfortunate skip to that record. With a lackluster plot designed to stuff in as many main characters as possible, this OVA was simply underwhelming. It reeked of being rushed out the door to pair with the fourth game’s release, and unfortunately left everyone but die-hard fans with a bad taste in their mouths after watching it.
6. DRAGON AGE: DAWN OF THE SEEKER
Another adaptation from a Bioware game, “Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker” followed the early adventures of Cassandra Pentaghast. In it, the Seeker uncovers a plot by blood mages to bring the entire Chantry to destruction. Cassandra herself is accused of murder, but fights to protect her religious order and clear her name. She clashes against corrupt templars and mages, eventually saving the day. The Chantry remains intact and Cassandra emerges all the tougher for it.
While Cassandra was certainly a character deserving of a more fleshed out back story, this animated title did her little justice. Aside from a lame plot and uninspired voice acting, the animation was just plain weird. It attempted to combine a mixture of styles but it came off as jarring instead of fluid, while the art felt more reminiscent of an old episode of “Reboot” rather than a brand new animated film. Oddly enough, Cassandra gets more characterization in “Dragon Age: Inquisition” as a side character than she does in a movie dedicated to her.
5. RESIDENT EVIL: DAMNATION
Boy, Capcom just never lets up, do they? Another animated entry into the Leon S. Kennedy adventure book, “Resident Evil: Damnation” followed the hero into Europe this time around. He once again is assigned to investigate illegal zombie-making viruses, but finds himself in the middle of a civil rebellion in which the bio-weapons are being deployed. Kennedy also runs into his perpetual not-girlfriend Ada Wong in the battle zone, and the two work to unearth the main source of the spreading Plagas infection. Leon ends up on the right side of things, Ada disappears with a viable sample and the credit sequence is a cinematic introduction to “Resident Evil 6.”
Whereas “Degeneration” might have been a copy and paste of Leon’s prior adventures (sans President’s daughter), “Damnation” was just plain brainless. With paper-thin new characters introduced with their sole purpose being to aggravatingly complicate things, this latest venture for Kennedy did nothing to bolster his character. If nothing else, “Damnation” furthered the idea that Leon’s success in missions was largely earned by the death or dismemberment of numerous minor characters.
4. SAMURAI SHODOWN: THE MOTION PICTURE
Fighting games might be easy to pick on, but there are just so many passes they can get. This particular anime was another remnant of the ’90s, and does not age well at all. The film follows six warriors, each of whom is killed by a dark goddess and reincarnated 100 years later. The fighters find each other and band together again to fight the evil deity. They eventually defeat the villain and seal her away for the foreseeable future.
If the above synopsis sounded generic, that’s because it is. “Samurai Shodown” did very little to distinguish itself from the dime-a-dozen fighting anime films at the time. That of course really begs the question as to whether or not “Samurai Shodown” actually needed an adaptation, itself being a fairly well fleshed-out 2D game. Regardless, with its dated animation and bad voice acting, this animated video game film is a downright chore to get through.
3. FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN
Like many entries into the game series that this adaptation pulls from, “Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within” is pretty difficult to explain. A group of scientists are attempting to investigate a hoard of life-stealing monsters called Phantoms on Earth. Dr. Aki Ross is one such researcher who happens to be having dreams connected to them, and is working to understand the creatures. The group finds out that the monsters are actually alien ghosts from another planet. Eventually the spirits are put at peace and allowed to ascend, thus clearing Earth of the infection.
On paper, “The Spirits Within” should have worked. Boasting a stellar cast and amazing animation (especially for its time), this was a big-budget game adaptation no one had seen before. Unfortunately, the story was incredibly confusing and presented in a dull way. Fans were jarred by this take, which clashed with the more whimsical settings in previous “Final Fantasy” games at the time. This movie was so bad, in fact, it very nearly killed the game franchise for good.
2. TEKKEN: THE MOTION PICTURE
Prior to “Blood Vengeance,” Tekken had an earlier anime adaptation in the form of a two-episode OVA. The story followed Jun Kazama as she entered the second Iron Fist tournament to investigate the Mishima Zaibatsu for experimenting on animals. She comes across Kazuya Mishima, who is on his own path of vengeance against his father Heihachi for throwing him off a cliff when he was a kid. Kazuya taps into his inner “devil” power and beats the living daylights out of his dear old dad. Jun manages to get through to Kazuya before he strikes the killing blow, and the two manage to escape the island they’re on before Lee Chaolan blows it up. Yes, really.
“Tekken: the Motion Picture” was bad in a number of ways. Boasting the glory of ’90s animation (including Kazuya’s inexplicably large eyebrows), it looked terrible. The story offered nothing to expand upon the existing games and bunched in as many characters as possible to appease fans. It doesn’t even really explain why Jun hooked up with Kazuya to have a kid (Jin), which is honestly the biggest question in the game series. Most folks would be better off replaying “Tekken 2” than watching this.
1. FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN
Some time after the events of “Final Fantasy VII,” protagonist Cloud Strife finds himself infected with an unknown blight and wiling away his days making deliveries. When he’s set upon by a trio of silver-haired, super-powered teenagers, he begins to unravel an evil plan to dig up the ghosts he buried at the end of the game. Of course, he doesn’t stop the triplet’s plan in time and ends up coming face-to-face with a pseudo-resurrected Sephiroth.
In a plot that was just as confusing as its source material, “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” was fan service at its finest. It was constructed of half-baked motivations and brand new characters with zero fleshing out in order to facilitate numerous physics-defying battles. The animation remains one of the better points in the film, but being pretty doesn’t save this movie from its sub-par plot and haphazard character cameos. It’s infuriating given that in lieu of a remake, Square Enix gave fans this flimsy movie instead.
What were some of your least favorite video game-to-animate feature adaptations? Let us know in the comments!
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