There really is something about making a film based on a video game that really seems to stymie filmmakers. Even if the story of the game is just begging for a film adaptation, somehow they just never translate well. This could be due to the fact that people generally enjoy the stories more because they get to play through them, or it could be due to the fact that generally, video game stories are a little bit stranger than the normal Hollywood fare. Whatever the cause, it just seems like directors, writers and producers can't seem to wrap their heads around how to make a successful film based on a video game. For proof of this, note that every single video game film has a Rotten Tomatoes score lower than 60%. In some cases, the movies reach as far as 0%.
Despite the quality of the films themselves, some of them at least make an honest attempt at being faithful to their source material. In many ways, this is what hurt the film with the general moviegoing public, but in those cases, at least the filmmakers tried to make something that stayed true to the games. Besides, it seems that staying faithful to the source material is not exactly a good metric for a video game film anyway. It just goes to show that even if films based on video games aren't exactly faithful, or even all that good, there can still be the smallest bit of enjoyment wrung out of some of them. These are 10 video game movies that were just as good as the game (and 10 that tarnished them).
20 JUST AS GOOD: TOMB RAIDER
Tomb Raider might be the only game series to get a reboot in both the gaming and film worlds. Of course, the series of films began with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its inexplicably double-colon sequel, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (okay, there isn't actually a second colon, but it really feels like there should be).
2018's Tomb Raider attempted to relaunch the series into the film world by basing itself off of the revamped Tomb Raider games, which traced Lara Croft's origins. The film wasn't exactly a huge success, but it made much more of its source material than the previous films. This one at least had a coherent plot, and Alicia Vikander was great in the lead role.
19 TARNISHED: SUPER MARIO BROS.
Oh no, we have to talk about Super Mario Bros. This ill-advised film adaptation of the popular and enduring video game series was released in 1993 and starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, respectively. The beloved plumber heroes find themselves in the world of King Koopa (played by a slumming Dennis Hopper) and have to (you guessed it) save the princess.
This movie is just a complete disaster from beginning to end. The bright, fun visuals of the game are instead replaced by a grimy, seedy underworld that looks more like downtown Detroit than an actual kingdom. The story is incomprehensible, the acting is incredibly subpar, and the movie, overall, is an insult to the entire Mario franchise.
18 JUST AS GOOD: MAX PAYNE
Max Payne was not well-received by critics or even audiences for that matter. However, did it live up to the standards of the game series it was based on? Absolutely. The film starred Mark Wahlberg as the titular NYPD detective, and for all of its faults (including the acting and the story), Max Payne really does live up to the standards set by its namesake game.
While the Rotten Tomatoes consensus on the film states that it "suffers severely from an illogical plot and overdirection," that's really not that far off from the games on which the movie is based. Max Payne as a video game was often heavily stylized and overwrought with visual metaphors. So really, the movie adapts it pretty well.
17 TARNISHED: DOOM
The Doom series of games, ever since its halcyon days as a pixelated PC shoot-em-up, has always focused on horror as its main element. This was more evident than ever in Doom 3, the last Doom game released before the ill-fated Doom movie, starring a pre-superstardom Dwayne Johnson was released in 2005.
To say Doom failed on every level might not exactly be fair. If this movie had any other title, it might have been considered a middling sci-fi actioner. As it was, though, Doom was a major insult to the game series that inspired it. Not even a climactic first-person shooter scene could make up for all of the unfortunate liberties this film took with the source material.
16 JUST AS GOOD: STREET FIGHTER
Street Fighter might not be one of the greatest films ever made, but we're not here to talk about the merits of the film on its own. We're here to talk about just how close it came to being like the game that inspired it. Aside from making Guile the main character of the film, the plot is actually pretty close to the game.
Sure, critics and fans of the game derided the film for its tone and performances (although Raul Julia's posthumous turn as M. Bison has been widely accepted as the best part of the movie), but how exactly do you make a Street Fighter movie and not have it be a little bit corny? Even the more "serious" reboot, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, didn't come close to being as fun or watchable as the original.
15 TARNISHED: HOUSE OF THE DEAD
If you were ever at an arcade in the late nineties or the early 2000s (arcades were buildings where you went to pay to play video games), chances are you spent a few quarters on House of the Dead, the horror-themed, nearly impossible to beat rail shooter similar to games like Time Crisis.
While the game itself has produced many sequels and stuck in the memory of gamers everywhere for its intense gameplay and creativity, the movie based on the game (directed by none other than Uwe Boll) is nothing but a mindless, underlit, overly simplified version of an already surface-level video game.
14 JUST AS GOOD: NEED FOR SPEED
Need for Speed was one of the early racing games to really focus on the different makes and models of cars while also emphasizing real-world driving skills. It built its story around evading law enforcement while participating in illegal street races. Essentially, it was The Fast and the Furious in video game form before anyone had even thought of that movie.
So, of course, a film adaptation of the game was made, starring Aaron Paul in the lead role. If someone went into this movie knowing nothing, they might not even realize it was based on a video game until the credits rolled. It's not perfect by any metric, but it does deliver some great action and practical car chases.
13 TARNISHED: HITMAN: AGENT 47
The Hitman games shouldn't be so hard to adapt to film. The story has enough espionage and action to actually fill a movie with some decent action and story, and yet, even after two attempts, filmmakers just can't seem to wrap their heads around how to bring Agent 47 to screen.
The second film to be adapted from the game series, Hitman: Agent 47 is a special kind of mess. It's a movie that can't even make up for its wayward plot with decent set pieces. It is filled with second-rate CGI (which is somehow provided by Industrial Light and Magic) and might have just defeated any further attempts to bring the silent assassin to the screen any time soon.
12 JUST AS GOOD: SILENT HILL
Silent Hill has always built its gameplay on atmospheric horror. Rather than providing the player with adequate weapons and equipment to handle whatever comes their way, the game takes the path of ramping up the tension every time, forcing players to make tough decisions, and sending a chill down their spine with every sounding of the air raid siren.
The film version of the game doesn't exactly hit the right tone, and the storytelling relied a little too much on knowledge of the games. However, it did a pretty good job at building up the horror lying beneath the seemingly abandoned town. It also delivers on some of the more visceral and violent imagery of the game.
11 TARNISHED: DOUBLE DRAGON
Double Dragon is one of the earliest examples of failing to adapt a video game to the big screen in a way that would resonate with audiences. Even though the film is based on a side-scrolling beat-em-up game, the plot still somehow manages to be even less complex. The film was aimed at a younger audience, which is incredibly obvious from the film's silly tone and ridiculous dialogue.
This movie was released just one year after the dismal Super Mario Bros and would serve as yet another piece of evidence as to why film studios should stay far away from adapting video games. Even the action, which should be the main selling point, was weak and poorly filmed. By the way, one of the brothers, Mark Dacascos, is now the Chairman of Iron Chef America.
10 JUST AS GOOD: RATCHET AND CLANK
The Ratchet and Clank movie might not have been released to much fanfare, but the fact of the matter is that it was one of the most faithful game adaptations ever to be made. That's mostly due to the fact that the studio stuck to animation to maintain the game's signature style.
While the film was not beloved by critics, fans of the game were impressed by the film's loyalty to the source material. It also managed to feature not only the original voice actors from the game, but also a host of big names like Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, and John Goodman.
9 TARNISHED: RESIDENT EVIL
Resident Evil is as much a film franchise as it is a video game franchise, and it all started with the very first adaptation, released in 2002. The film was essentially the origin story of the infamous T virus, and it kicked off the adventures of Alice (played by Milla Jovovich), which would last for a decade and a half through a total of six films.
As a direct adaptation of the games, the first Resident Evil was pretty much a mess. The film barely featured any zombies and contained the entire film within a facility called the Hive. Needless to say, fans were both confused and disappointed by the film's aversion to the source material, which was slightly course corrected as the series went on.
8 JUST AS GOOD: RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER
The final film of the Resident Evil franchise is where everything finally came together and coalesced into something that was like the most exciting aspects of the game series cranked up to 11. Paul W.S Anderson, husband of star Milla Jovovich, returned to the series after sitting out the second and third installments, and it's nice to think that he was able to end the series on his own terms.
This movie might not be a masterpiece of cinema (really, nothing on this list is), but the sheer amount of action crammed into this one film alone is enough to keep almost any viewer glued to the screen. Anderson might not be an auteur, but he knows how to frame a set piece, and his taste for over-the-top action lends itself well to the subject matter at hand. These movies might not have ever been critically praised, but they stand as the most successful film franchise based on a video game, and that's definitely saying something.
7 TARNISHED: PRINCE OF PERSIA
Prince of Persia is one of the only classic video games to really see a successful resurgence. The games were some of the first to utilize the sort of platforming flow later utilized by Assassin's Creed and other game series. When it came time for a film adaptation, however, the ball was majorly dropped. Disney believed this would be their next Pirates of the Caribbean, and they could not have been more wrong.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was based on one of the more popular games in the series. While the action sequences were praised, the film just couldn't live up to the fun of the games themselves. It didn't help matters that Jake Gyllenhaal, a white actor, was cast as a Middle Eastern prince. If only someone could have turned the clock back on pitching this and done something different.
6 JUST AS GOOD: WARCRAFT
Bringing The World of Warcraft to the screen was never going to be an easy feat. The game itself is based on a huge backstory, involving many different races, each with their own complex history. Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie and director of the stellar Moon) was up to the task and did his best to make a film that was as loyal to the game as possible.
He came very close. Some fans even said this was exactly what a Warcraft should be. While it was criticized for its sluggish pace and how it lacked narrative coherence, Warcraft was nonetheless stylistically faithful to its source material and delivered on some great action sequences. Due to its poor box office performance, though, there may never be another attempt at bringing Warcraft to the big screen.
5 TARNISHED: FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN
What exactly was going on with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? Even people who had never played the games themselves could clearly see that this film was far different from any of the source material. What made this even stranger is that one of the directors was Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series of games.
The film itself was praised as a milestone in technical achievements, particularly for its realistically animated cast of humans. It might look clunky by today's standards, but the animation was groundbreaking back in 2001. Still, the film's incomprehensible story was what sunk it in the end. It was such a bomb, that it put Square Pictures out of business.
4 JUST AS GOOD: RAMPAGE
How do you make a movie about the Rampage series of games and have it be successful, despite the lack of any real story to adapt from the games? Why not cast Dwayne Johnson in the human role? That's what essentially led to the film's success, despite the fact that it was based on button-masher of an arcade game where players destroyed buildings, kicked tanks, and ate people.
Rampage was never meant to be the kind of movie that would be critically praised, and yet it is one of the highest scoring video game adaptations on Rotten Tomatoes (and at a 51% approval rating, no less). The film really leans into its source material, relying mostly on the fun of watching these giant monsters tear through cities and wreak all sorts of havoc.
3 TARNISHED: ASSASSIN'S CREED
Ever since the release of Assassin's Creed II, fans knew that the game series would be the perfect fit for a film adaptation. Not only would it be packed with all kinds of great action based on the games free-running mechanics, but it could also deliver a great story, with science fiction and historical fiction meeting somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately, what was given to fans of the game series was a lackluster action film that somehow fully embraced and ignored the source material at the same time. The film is un unforgivable slog, lasting less than two hours, and yet feeling so much longer. Despite its A-list cast, Assassin's Creed should have been silently snuck up on and taken out before reaching cinemas.
2 JUST AS GOOD: POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE
If you were a kid in the nineties and you didn't go see Pokemon: The First Movie, then what were you even doing? This thing was more than just a film, it was an event! Sure, if you watch it as an adult, then the whole thing seems very silly. For kids, though, this was the pinnacle, the ultimate event for Pokemon fans everywhere.
The movie might have had its corny moments, but the entire franchise was built on those. Plus, there's probably not a kid in the world who didn't shed at least one tear when Mewtwo's attack turned Ash into stone. Sure, he was magically healed by the tears of the Pokemon, but that was an emotional moment. It's not a masterpiece by any measure, but it's good fun. It could also be used as a historical document of the first generation of Pokemon for younger fans today.
1 TARNISHED: MORTAL KOMBAT ANNIHILATION
We all know that everyone gets really excited when that truly terrible (but somehow still ridiculously danceable) Mortal Kombat song comes on, but good lord were the movies just terrible. The first one robbed the series of the intense violence that the games were built on, and even the bar was set low (oh so low), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation managed to limbo under it.
This sequel was so incredibly awful that it ended all attempts to bring the game back to the big screen for good. Despite the fact that there could be a really great film within the MK universe, no one seems to be able to crack the code. Maybe now that R-rated films are becoming more profitable, someone could try taking a stab at it one more time. Fun fact: this movie also features one of the worst line readings by any actor ever in the history of cinema.