As it stands, it seems like every movie that bears the name of a video game is destined to completely tank. Doesn’t matter if they stick to the plot like glue or just use the name and a few vague themes; the results have been mediocre at best.
Wreck-it-Ralph seems to be one of the only exceptions thus far, probably because it focused all its energy on the actual video game aspect and didn’t have to drag adapt any kicking and screaming characters into clunky, disappointing live-action. Looking at you, Super Mario Bros.
Still, it’s almost admirable to watch Hollywood try, try, and keep trying to make video game movies work, a little like watching an enormously overweight cat trying to fit through its flap. You know it’s not going to happen, but the process is fun to watch.
So here are 15 video games movies that, let’s not kid ourselves, will be terrible. But we’d watch them anyway.
15. Hatoful Boyfriend
Hatoful Boyfriend is your average dating sim, in which you must guide a protagonist though social interactions with the main goal of wooing a partner and achieving all your romantic hopes and dreams. Also, everyone except you is a huge bird of some kind. Mostly pigeons.
Before we point at Japan and laugh at its love of the weird and wacky, this game is actually a parody of dating sims. Yep: the concept of a teenage girl attending a high school populated by anthropomorphic birds and seducing a pigeon into being her boyfriend is generally considered weird by everyone, funnily enough. Unless you’re really into that sort of thing, in which case, uh… congrats?
Hatoful Boyfriend does indeed have a story, and one with multiple branching paths. In other words, it’s ripe for a big-budget adaptation featuring Hollywood stars stuffed into bird costumes, because you know you’d throw your money at the heart-warming tale of an ordinary human girl trying to get with Ryan Gosling in a chicken suit. Personally, we think that’s a just punishment for the crime of being rich, famous, and adored. The multiple storylines aspect could even be included, with the movie exploring the consequences of various decisions and confusing anyone who dragged their significant other to see this on Valentine’s Day.
The Best/Worst Part: The Bad Boys Love route, which transforms the entire thing from dating sim into a murder mystery psychological thriller (and kills off the protagonist). Opening Valentine’s Day, book tickets now!
14. Call of Duty
Ah, Call of Duty. Devourer of free time and nurturer of budding trolls. The games do have stories, but none of them are going to win any narrative prizes. Also, Activision apparently does have plans for this at some stage.
COD has become the meat and potatoes of gaming, both in the sense that it’s a staple and also in the sense that it never really seems to change. You can slather on a bit of mustard, but it’s still the same meal, over and over again, and still its popularity endures.
So we can’t wait to see the cluster-fail that will be this live-action movie. What remains to be seen is how they’ll incorporate the hair-raising gameplay with the pre-teens flaming you over voice chat. Will the movie be entirely first-person, following the adventures of a total newb as they progress through the ranks? Will the DVD contain an interactive version where you can ghost around the playing field, watching the main character’s teammates utterly failing? How will Random Soldier #9846 find love when his life is a never-ending cycle of death and respawning?
All valid questions, to be explored by one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, or Michael Bay, if they need explosions. Whoever takes the reins, we can’t wait for this nuanced gaming classic to be brought to the big screen.
13. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is inherently impossible to bring to film, which is exactly why we think it’d be hilarious for someone to try. Recently released alongside a slew of magnificent promises, including a near-infinite universe to explore with no two planets ever the same, the game has split gamers right down the middle. Some appreciate the virtual art gallery aspect, find the gameplay therapeutic, and the universe a marvel to explore.
The other half are just miffed that they were promised the world (18 quintillion of them, to be precise) and were instead given Boring Space Miner Job Simulator 2016. You spend a huge chunk of your NMS gameplay scraping minerals off rocks, all to get your damn spaceship back into the air so you can fly to another planet to scrape the same minerals off different rocks.
Just imagine the movie adaptation, presented to us as an avant-garde masterpiece in which there’s no story, no goal, and it never actually ends. Just buy a ticket once and the movie runs forever, generating itself for viewing whenever you have a bit of time to kill. No two cinemas would ever be showing the same thing, either. Sure, it’s not a very good idea, but it’s definitely something that no one’s thought to try.
12. Crash Bandicoot
For a time, Crash Bandicoot reigned supreme on PlayStation, right up there with the likes of Spyro the Dragon and PaRappa the Rapper. The games were colorful and loopy enough to grab attention, and it’s not like “bipedal bandicoot spins real fast with a bazooka” was a well-worn trope. Crash has fallen from his top spot in recent years, but gamer kids from the ’90s are still around and perhaps enough to justify a big-budget flick to catapult Crash right back into stardom.
Or not. Probably not. The main problem with adapting Crash Bandicoot would be the inherent wackiness of it all that could only ever work in a game aimed at children. The characters aren’t rounded in any way, the lore is inexplicable, and the designs are so OTT that you couldn’t even scratch the surface using live-action. Toss in the fact that Crash himself is almost completely mute and you have a recipe for a complete and utter train crash. That’s not to say Crash is lacking in personality, but giving him a solid voice would be taking away part of what makes him so endearing: the physicality. Also the fact that, without him saying a word, you just know Crash is totally nuts. In a good way.
A disembodied yellow head is cursed to a hellish existence roaming around a dark labyrinth, forever pursued by hostile spirits and only seconds and one poor decision away from death.
It’s a decent enough premise for a movie, but since Pac-Man never goes beyond this, you’d find yourself totally stuck if you ever wanted to expand the story. To be perfectly fair, they did just make a stellar movie out of a bunch of Lego characters, so anything is possible. Still, Lego wasn’t bound by the video game movie curse, and neither was it a beloved media property in quite the same way as Pac-Man. This was a product of a simpler time, when games didn’t need stories (beyond “are you a bad enough dude to rescue Ronnie?”), and giving it one may just be stomping on a classic gaming staple. People clearly like their Pac-Man the way it is, without it being part of an extended universe with its own lore and backstory. Pac-Man loves Miss Pac-Man, they spend their lives eating pellets while being chased by a murderous rainbow of ghosts, and sometimes they have a baby. It really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
The Best/Worst Part: The deepening of Pac-Man’s character, probably involving alcoholism, and regret over his role in Pixels.
10. Any Final Fantasy
Some may say that Final Fantasy’s popularity has taken a dive in recent years. That may be true, but have fun trying to let Square Enix know. They really can’t hear much while surrounded by a skyscraper-sized mound of cash. The series has evolved from mobile games to the upcoming XV, which is set to shift to a more action-based style of gameplay. One thing has stayed consistent, however: massive, sweeping stories that make you sound like a gibbering loon should you ever attempt to explain them to someone.
That’s not to say all Final Fantasy stories are equal. They’re all still vast and multi-layered, however, so the process of trying to stuff any single one of them into one movie would be like trying to neatly fold up a sleeping bag with someone still inside it.
Square’s supplementary movies have had their fair amount of success, with Advent Children being both a triumph of CG and having some of the greatest fight scenes you’ll ever see on film (despite it being mostly just a lot of fight scenes and not much else). But let’s say they made a movie out of VII, the most conventionally popular of the bunch. It’d be a toss-up between chopping out half the important bits or making it into an eight-part series.
Half-Life may be the perfect example of a brilliant game with an excellent story that will probably tank on film for no good reason, thus upholding the unspoken law of terrible video game movies.
Despite only two main games and assorted spin-offs/expansions to its name, the Half-Life series has a doggedly loyal fanbase and a lot of positive critical clout, which probably means it’ll be brought to film sooner rather than later. Sure, the protagonist is entirely silent, but the people around him talk, and the universe is interesting enough that it doesn’t matter. An interdimensional group of alien beings is trying to take over the multiverse, and the only thing standing in their way is a bespectacled chap with a crowbar who spend most of his time trying to avoid being horribly killed by creatures that make the monster from Stranger Things look like a fluffy pet hamster.
Half-Life would work best as an action thriller with a healthy dash of horror. There’s enough story in both games to sustain a great movie, the protagonist is mysterious and relatable enough to root for, and the supporting characters are an eclectic mix. In short, there are more than enough ingredients for big-budget success.
So why do we get the impression that the Half-Life movie will be utterly screwed up anyway? Call it intuition with experience.
Farming simulators have been around far longer than Farmville, but the difference lies in their social aspects. You could quite happily play Harvest Moon by yourself with no requests that your real life friends send you a tractor. Contrast Farmville, which for a time become the internet equivalent of leprosy as it drove away your friends and left you ostracized from the community until you were ready to grow up and stop pestering people about your hay bales. Because nobody cared. Nobody ever cared.
Which of course is a perfect basis for turning it into a movie about the peaceful community of actual Farmville, a place where the grass is green, barns are raised in a suspiciously short amount of time, and your mailbox is constantly stuffed with letters from your neighbors asking you for stuff. If they can turn Elf Bowling into a movie, then they can do the same with Farmville. Just don’t expect there to be a huge difference in the level of quality, unless the Lego Movie people are willing to share a few tips.
Again, Farmville has no real story, it’s simply looking after your land and trying to build the greatest farm. That means we’ll be getting an artificial story crammed in, complete with named-yet-horribly-stereotypical farm characters, and probably a load of talking animals. It’s box office gold, I tell you.
7. Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
People love a good crisis crossover. A bunch of big names on screen all at once, hopefully beating the tar out of each other in dramatic fashion? Even if the movie is terrible, you’ll probably still make your money back, and we’ve seen it many a time. The upcoming Justice League movie could be three hours of the league sitting in a dark room playing Uno and it’ll still break records.
Mixing the ultra-violent, gritty Mortal Kombat universe with the uneven tone of DC had some strange results, creating a game that wasn’t half-bad but just felt incredibly odd. Something about Raiden picking up Superman and frying him like a catfish until he’s a charred skeleton just doesn’t really seem like it belongs, which is why it’d be amusing pandemonium if anyone ever tried to make it a movie.
Not only would this genuinely tank the DCEU by linking it up with the eye-bleachingly bad Mortal Kombat movies of yesteryear, but there’s a certain edgy quality to DC’s recent cinema that simply wouldn’t mesh well with being invaded by a host of OTT video game characters. Not that MK is the worst choice, as we can’t really see Superman teaming up with Crash Bandicoot to save the universe. But even a crossover of two gritty properties doesn’t guarantee they’d work well together, and the game itself proves that.
Gotta admit, Minecraft is one of the shakiest on this list, if only because it’s not your average game. It’s more of a massively advanced version of Microsoft Paint, where everyone can jump in and create whatever they like while battling off zombies, demons and other such nasties. There’s no real story outside of mods, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the best-selling video games of all time and a pop culture icon.
So what of the movie? Well, it’s not like they have nothing to go on. Minecraft is its own world, complete with challenges and infinite possibilities. If they went the Wreck-it-Ralph way of doing things, they could actually make a solid movie with enough replicated pop culture references to appeal to a wide audience. Perhaps Minecraft Matt is tired of repeatedly making iconic buildings from Game of Thrones and sets off on a grand adventure to see what lies at the end of the map, bumping into other player’s characters along the way, slaying dragons, and finding himself a blocky love interest.
Or we could be in for two hours of solid gameplay as you watch some Danish guy making a virtual King’s Landing. Honestly, have you seen how many of those videos there are on YouTube? With a bit of marketing, people would actually pay to watch one.
5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Very swiftly after Steven Spielberg’s beloved cinematic achievement of E.T., excited children across the world eagerly awaited the video game adaptation for the Atari. What they got was Pitfall Simulator 1983, a game so gobsmackingly devoid of fun that it almost single-handedly crashed the video game industry. You have to try to screw things up that hard.
It’s such a monumental achievement that you could almost say that it’s an interesting story in and of itself. Like, someone should make a movie about it. Thus we present the hypothetical E.T.: The Movie of the Game of the Movie. How does the small cluster of pixels meant to be an alien from outer space truly feel about being shoved inside a terrible game and repeatedly made to wander into random pits? Did his career recover, or was he forced to find work as one of those weird-shaped Tetris blocks that everybody hates?
This could be the biopic of the century, telling the tale of one pixel smudge who just wants to find his way home without being chased by another pixel smudge who vaguely resembles an FBI agent. Or alternatively, they could just tell the story of the movie, but with barely-recognizable graphics and John William’s score replaced by a grinding 8-bit loop.
You all knew this was coming.
Pong is used to make fun of how quaint and simple video games used to be, completely skipping over the fact that it was just fine and dandy for the time and also kind of fun. As in, people would play this thing for hours. They probably still do.
If anyone ever tried to make a movie of Pong, you can count on a whole lot of parody and satire on its simplicity, possibly by having that unwavering little paddle gain a mind of its own and set out to find its way in the big wide world. Hampering its progress are the facts that everyone views it as a fossil, it doesn’t have any special skills, and the small detail of it being a faceless paddle with no personality. Well, there’s no better time to give it one.
Alternatively, what we humans see as a couple of rectangles bouncing a circle back and forth could well be a Tron-esque game world, in which virtual table tennis is a gladiatorial bout that decides who lives and who dies in their barbaric paddle society, with the main character having been ripped from his homeland for his immense skill and forced to fight for freedom and a chance to see his family one last time.
Starring Nicolas Cage. Five stars. Gripping drama. Made me never want to play Pong again.
3. Rollercoaster Tycoon
For many children, SimCity helped them discover that they’d always had the potential to be diabolical human beings, and they liked it. While the nerds built their own cities and established sensible economic policies, most of us just loaded an existing scenario and set about gleefully wrecking the place.
And if the fact that you can’t get up close and see the suffering and death bugs you, then there’s always Rollercoaster Tycoon, a more in-depth theme park creation sim that gives you the power to launch scads of screaming children to their fiery deaths because you didn’t finish the rollercoaster and it somehow slipped past the safety inspectors.
So yeah, loads of fun. For you. The blockbuster movie edition might just ditch the game aspect entirely, focusing on a person or group trying to get their idea for a theme park off the ground after a string of grisly, rollercoaster-related deaths. Toss in some inspirational piano music and a cameo from a disgruntled criminal park mascot played by Kevin Spacey and that’s practically Oscar material. Alternatively, they could go full-game and have the movie be about a silent grandmaster crafting his own theme park, and the challenges they face trying to please hordes of identical guests who are constantly whining about the lack of bathrooms.
2. Dance Dance Revolution
So you loved the Step Up movies? You didn’t? You thought one or two were alright?
Yeah, that’ll do, because in a move we can’t quite believe Japan hasn’t yet made, we could soon be getting a Dance Dance Revolution film. There’s no proof, but really, it’s just obvious. People love movies about dancing and flashing lights, so this would be the perfect opportunity to limit all the moves to a very specific set of arrows and give no incentive whatsoever to do anything with your arms. Heck, they could sell copies of the DVD with interactive mats so you can dance along with the movie characters.
Like the Step Up series, a DDR movie need not have much of a plot beyond a plucky newcomer trying to win their life’s hopes and dreams by stepping on some pads for a couple of minutes while a busy subway commute’s worth of extras cheer and whoop from the sidelines and pretend they’re totally into it. Just present a world where DDR is actually treated as serious business instead of the exclusive physical activity performed by people wearing fedoras, and you’ve got a high-energy blockbuster just raring to go. And we mean high-energy, because some of those arrows move faster than Sonic the Hedgehog in the midst of a severe bathroom emergency.
1. Duck Hunt
Yeah, so we’re just going to pretend this one won’t arouse the ire of animal rights activists everywhere. No ducks were harmed in the making of this shoddy video game adaptation, honest.
The original Duck Hunt was released for the Nintendo, and it involved using a clunky plastic gun to shoot at clunky pixelated ducks until their species had been eradicated from the Earth, or something along those lines. However, the thing most people tend to remember is your faithful, loyal hunting dog who is actually neither of those things. Instead, most of his job involves popping up and snickering at you when you miss your shots. Man’s best friend or no, this made most gamers furiously attempt to blast that smirk right off his face, only to find that the developers had made him invincible.
So we’re thinking that the big-budget Duck Hunt remake turns this dog into the villain of the piece. A simple duck hunter is forced to shoot his way through a government conspiracy to shoot all the ducks in existence and spoil everyone’s fun. Finally confronting his guffawing former canine companion in his high-rise office, after winning a pitched gun battle (with ducks), the protagonist does a John McClane and tosses that dog right out the window.
The movie will still be terrible, but ’80s gamers could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
The Best/Worst Part: The animal cruelty lawsuits.
What other video games would make really terrible movies? Let us know in the comments!