Video game movies have had a less than stellar reputation in the past, and no one knows this better than Nintendo.
Super Mario Bros. was one of the most highly anticipated movies of 1993. When it was finally released, it disappointed audiences all over the world with its lame humour, poor acting, and lack of adherence to its source material. Nintendo have wisely stayed out of the movie business since then, with the exception of an occasional anime (like the Animal Crossing movie – Dōbutsu no Mori).
The times are changing, however. Video games are a much bigger part of mainstream culture than they were twenty years ago. CGI technology has reached the point where almost anything can be made on screen within the price range of a movie budget. An unsubstantiated rumour of a Legend of Zelda TV show for Netflix sent waves of excitement through the Internet, despite almost no information being given at the time.
We are here today to look at the classic games of Nintendo’s oldest home console, and seeing if any of them would make a worthwhile concept for a movie. Anything that has a movie adaptation already is disqualified (so no Mario, Double Dragon, or Ninja Gaiden). From the man who wields the Vampire Killer, to the hero of Hyrule himself, here are 15 Classic NES Games That Would Make Amazing Movies.
“What a horrible night to have a curse.”
“Dracula has arisen once more, and a foul shadow has spread across the land. Villagers lock their doors and bar their windows, in the vain hope that such meagre defences would keep out the denizens of the night. One man does not hide from the shadows. He is Simon Belmont, the last of the vampire hunters. The safety of the world rests upon his shoulders. He must lay siege to Count Dracula’s castle, and put an end to the foul tyrant once and for all. For a monster like him does not belong in this world. This will be no easy task, as all of the creatures of the night have flocked to the Count’s side…”
There have been many attempts to make an official Castlevania movie over the years, and it is easy to see why. The idea of a vampire hunter having to fight through an army of recognizable movie monsters, before taking on Dracula, is a good one. It’s practically the plot of Van Helsing.
The Castlevania series has had many entries that take place in numerous different points in history. If the movie followed the plot of the first game, it could take place in the 1600s, while leaving room open for later instalments. The sequels could show different members of the Belmont clan. Each one battling Dracula through the major events of human history.
“Jim Rivers wants to be the best motocross racer in the world. He’s about to learn that it takes more than skill to take the Excitebike championship – it takes heart. Only the bravest can face going up that hill, and crashing down again.
Even the most skilled of racers are not brave enough to face the final challenge of the Excitebike cup: a track composed entirely of hills. How can a bike be expected to jump over a hill if the track is made of nothing but hills?”
The Fast and the Furious franchise has proven that there is a huge market for vehicle-based action movies. The eighth movie in that series is currently in development, and is due to be released next year.
There haven’t been many big movies based around motocross racing, so an Excitebike adaptation could fill that void. Motocross is an exciting sport, with a lot of potential for accidents. The potential for carnage is increased when you have several riders in the same race.
13. Balloon Fight
“No one wants to be a Balloon Fighter, but when you’re accused of a crime you didn’t commit, you don’t have much choice.”
“The convicted are given the choice between the firing squad, or the Balloon Arena. Most choose the firing squad.”
“In order to clear his name, a new Balloon Fighter enters the arena. He must earn his freedom by sending his opponents into the abyss. Each battle takes its toll, and each pop could mean the difference between life… and death.”
The success of Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015 has allowed many fans to conveniently forget the awfulness of the earlier films in the franchise. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome featured gladiator combat between two men, who are forced to fight whilst wearing a pair of bungee-suspenders. If you took out the idiotic means of battle, then you have the basis for a Balloon Fight movie.
A Balloon Fight film could be a serious gladiator style movie. The fighters must keep themselves suspended with balloons, or face a drop that will kill them. They have to burst the balloons of their foes, whilst protecting their own.
Balloon Fight was the first game ever made by Satoru Iwata, the formerher president of Nintendo. Iwata passed away in 2015, and a movie of his first outing as a game developer would be a fitting tribute to his career.
12. Ice Climber
“Popo and Nana are two of the best mountain climbers in the world. Yet nothing they had ever seen on the face of Everest could prepare them for what they would find on Mount Uemura.”
“After falling into a deep chasm, Popo and Nana must make the tortuous climb back up the top. The animals that await them are like nothing they have ever encountered before. Great red Condors swoop down from the skies, Abominable Snowmen stalk them from the shadows, and a great white Polar Bear that wears the clothes of its former victims awaits them at the peak.”
In 1993, Sylvester Stallone made a movie called Cliffhanger. It was terrible. An Ice Climbers movie could be a good version of Cliffhanger, if it stayed closed to the source material.
Most movies about people trying to survive in a harsh climate are pretty depressing. An Ice Climbers movie could be a cheerful attempt at using the same concept. It could be a fully CGI movie like Ice Age, which would certainly add levity to the film. They could even add a scene where Popo and Nana use a chain throw to defeat an enemy, as a shout out to the Smash Bros. Brawl fans.
“For thirty years, the Red Falcon Organisation has been performing illegal experiments in a secret laboratory in New Zealand. A series of leaked documents finally reveals the truth, that they were creating an army of alien monsters, with one goal – to take over the Earth.”
“With their secret revealed, the Red Falcon prepare to unleash their hordes upon the world. Time is running out, and all attempts to bomb the laboratory have been repelled. These attacks were just a feint, however, to allow the two greatest soldiers in the world to sneak onto the island. It is up to Bill and Lance to stop the Red Falcon, no matter what it takes.”
A movie about two men shooting an army of invading aliens? It practically writes itself.
When Alien 3 was trapped in development hell, a teaser trailer was produced to drum up interest in the film. The teaser promised a film about the Xenomorphs coming to Earth. This was an amazing idea… that was abandoned. Instead, they made a depressing film set in a prison colony. A Contra movie could live up to the promise of the early Alien 3 concept. The series clearly took inspiration from the Alien franchise, so now it’s time to take it to the next step. An army of aliens that are legally distinct from the Xenomorph are being bred on Earth, and it’s up to two soldiers who kind of look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to take them down.
10. Punch Out
“Some people say size doesn’t matter. That isn’t true when it comes to boxing. Every belt is broken down into weight divisions, and Little Mac was too small to enter any of them.”
“When the mysterious millionaire, Mr. Dream, opens his own boxing league, he removes all of the size and weight restrictions. This is Little Mac’s chance to prove that he can make it as a champion!”
“Little Mac does not realize that Mr. Dream’s league also allows those who have been banned from every other boxing league to enter. Every notorious cheater and gimmick fighter in the world is descending on New York City. Can Little Mac finally prove to the world that size doesn’t matter?”
The huge success of Creed has proven that there is still love for movies about Boxing. A Punch-Out film could have it all – an underdog story about overcoming adversity, a cast of colourful gimmick fighters (although the foreign stereotypes would have to be downplayed), and a referee who kind of looks like Mario.
One possible omission would be Mike Tyson. He is hardly in a condition to fight anymore (even in a movie). He could take Mr. Dream’s place as a sort of Shang Tsung figure, who finances the boxing league for his own nefarious purposes.
9. Kid Icarus
“When Heaven declares war on Hell, it is the Earth that suffers.”
“The Goddess Palutena and the Gorgon Medusa have called in their armies, and are preparing for a great battle on the fields of Greece. In the halls of the Almighty, a lone voice cries out for peace. Pit is the head of Palutena’s royal guard, yet he opposes her plans for war. In a rage, Palutena throws Pit into the depths of the Underworld, and removes his power of flight, so that he cannot return.”
“Trapped behind enemy lines, it is up to Pit to uncover the true instigator of the conflict between Palutena and Medusa, and stop the war before all reality is laid to waste.”
When Masahiro Sakurai directed Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012, he proved that the silly concepts of the original NES game could be made into something epic.
The original Kid Icarus has numerous silly elements, such as the eggplant Wizard, and the many comedic appearances of the Grim Reaper. Kid Icarus: Uprising took the notion of a war between two factions of the gods of Greek Mythology, and created a great story. It could be similar to Disney’s Hercules, except with a much wider scope. There could be armies of demons and angels clashing on the battlefields of Earth, with only a lone hero trying to stop them.
8. Blaster Master
“When Jason’s pet frog Fred jumps down a hole into the Earth, Jason does not hesitate to jump in after him. What awaits him in the darkness is more than he could have ever bargained for.”
“After witnessing Fred being kidnapped by a group of radioactive mutants that live beneath the ground, Jason pursues them. Luckily for Jason, he stumbles upon S.O.P.H.I.A, an experimental tank left by an ancient civilization. Armed with the technology that can destroy the mutants for good, it is up to Jason to descend deeper into the darkness, and save Fred from the clutches of Evil.”
Blaster Master could be the Neon Genesis Evangelion of modern cinema (if Pacific Rim hasn’t already squeezed the life out of that concept). A young boy has to bond with an alien weapon to protect the ones he loves. He might find more than just monsters in the darkness, he could also find himself.
7. Mother/EarthBound Beginnings
“Ninten’s family had always been kind of a joke in his hometown. His great-grandfather George had once disappeared for months on end. When he returned, he claimed to have been abducted by psychic aliens. Everyone thought he was mad, and the stigma of believing in the paranormal had stayed with their family for years.”
“After Ninten is attacked in his bedroom by a lamp that moved of its own accord, he begins searching through George’s notes. Through George’s research, Ninten develops PSI, a great power linked to the mind. He reaches out with his newfound telepathy… and a voice answers.”
“Through the power of PSI, Ninten learns that a powerful alien named Giygas is planning to take over the world. Realizing that he is the only one with the ability to stop him, Ninten leaves his home and begins his epic journey to save America.”
An adaptation of the Mother/EarthBound series would have been a much harder sell a year ago. The recent success of Stranger Things has changed all of that. Stranger Things is essentially an EarthBound TV show. A movie based on the concept of the original now has a much bigger chance of being greenlit. The film would essentially be Stand By Me, with psychic powers and monsters, which should be an easy sell on its own.
“Prince Roelofs is the last of a great line of hero-kings. When word reached him of the evil Wizard Lakmir’s plan to take over the land, Prince Roelofs gathered his men and rode out to war. It was not until he stood in chains among the corpses of his bannermen that he realized he had been led into a trap. He was dragged before Lakmir, and as the wizard began to chant, Roelofs closed his eyes… and awaited the end.”
“When he opened his eyes, he was laying on the stone floor of a dungeon. Finding only a torch and a flint, Prince Roelofs begins exploring his mysterious prison. He soon discovers that he is trapped within the walls of Castle Shadowgate – Lakmir’s fortress. A dread ritual is being performed that night, and only Roelofs can stop it.”
“Time is not on Prince Roelofs side, however, as only the ever-dimming light of his torch is keeping the creatures that live in the darkness at bay.”
The horror genre of video games didn’t really take off until the 32 bit era. It was hard to elicit fear when you only had basic sprites and a limited colour palette. Shadowgate is one of the few examples of a truly scary 8 bit horror game.
A Shadowgate movie could be a frightening horror movie in a Game of Thrones style setting. The Nintendo Entertainment System could only hint at the epic encounters happening in the background of Shadowgate, but a modern movie could do its world justice.
“When Princess Angelica goes missing during a diplomatic mission to the planet Armagedda, the Battletoads begin a galaxy-wide search for their lost monarch. It does not take long for her location to be revealed, as a ransom note is sent to the Battletoad’s ship. The Dark Queen has taken Angelica hostage, and demands a planet’s weight in gold for her safe return.”
“The Battletoads will not sit idly by and allow their beloved Princess to remain imprisoned. Ra-Shh, Zertz, and Pimp-Ell must brave the high speed dangers of the Turbo Tunnel in order to make their way inside the Dark Queen’s ship. The Dark Queen’s minions are waiting for them, however, and they all hunger for toad soup!”
Michael Bay has proven that a CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is possible. Those movies were terrible, but they at least proved that such a concept can be done.
Battletoads is a pretty obvious ripoff of TMNT, but with Michael Bay killing the Turtles for at least another generation, a gap has been opened in the marketplace. The time is nigh for Rash, Zitz, and Pimple to take their place as pop culture’s leading group of fighting amphibians.
4. Ghosts ‘n Goblins
“When Sir Arthur was but a Squire, his lord father told him to never take off his armour outside of his bed chamber. As a young man, Arthur thought his father a fool, as no enemy would dare approach their castle.”
“Sir Arthur realized what an idiot he had been when his bride-to-be, the Princess Prin Prin, was snatched away before him by some crimson devil. He reached for his sword, but it was not there.”
“Determined not to make the same mistake again, Sir Arthur donned his armour, and began his long journey to the castle of the demon lord Astaroth. He would reclaim his bride, and his honour.”
The Ghosts ‘n Goblins series was the Dark Souls of its day. A brutally difficult fantasy game that was so dark in tone that it could easily have been mistaken for a horror title. Despite its flaws, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is one of the most beloved games on the NES, and is still fondly remembered by fans to this day.
A Ghosts ‘n Goblins movie could mix elements of the Castlevania and Shadowgate movies. You have the action and large cast of familiar monsters from the former, with the dark fantasy setting and politics of the latter.
3. Duck Hunt
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was hired by Santa because he could lead his sled through the night – he had a skill that Santa needed. That’s good for Rudolph, but not for a lone dog sitting in a cage at the pet store. His only skill was laughing like a human, and no one needed that.“
“He was dubbed the ‘Laughing Dog’ at the pet store, as he had been returned by everyone who had bought him before he could even be given a name.”
“Today was the day that the Laughing Dog’s luck changed. A man entered the store who needed encouragement in order to help him win a local Duck Hunting contest. He heard an annoying laugh coming from a cage at the back of the store, and he knew he had found what he needed.”
Even though he has only had one game to his name (that was released over thirty years ago), the Duck Hunt Dog has remained an iconic symbol of video game trolling. He was recently one of the few Nintendo characters to appear in the Adam Sandler movie Pixels. He also made a surprise return as a character in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, where he acted as a legacy character for all of the early Nintendo light gun games.
“The last Metroid has escaped… the galaxy is at war.”
“Samus Aran is no stranger to alien worlds. As a child, she was raised by the mysterious Chozo – a race of birdlike aliens who took her in when she was orphaned. Under their tutelage, Samus was trained to be the greatest warrior in the universe. They told her she was destined for great things, and she believed them.”
“It wasn’t until later, as she descended into the dark atmosphere of the planet Zebes, that she began to doubt their words. Her mission was to reclaim the alien known as the Metroid, before the evil Mother Brain could learn the secrets of its genetics, and bring the universe under her control.”
A movie about a badass woman trapped in a spaceship full of hostile aliens? It’ll never work.
When Metroid: Other M added story and dialogue to the Metroid series, it almost killed the franchise. The past six years have dulled the fans memories of Other M’s awfulness, and people are still clambering for a new Metroid game. There exists a popular Metroid manga series in Japan, which proved that the story could be told well using a traditional narrative.
All of that aside, the Metroid setting is perfect for a sci-fi action movie. Like Contra, Metroid took a lot of inspiration from the Alien franchise (the main villain is called Ridley after all). With the Alien movies mainly being terrible for the past few decades, a Metroid movie franchise could take its place.
1. The Legend of Zelda
“We are making a movie trilogy based off of Ocarina of Time. Please throw your money at the computer screen until it comes out. Then you can throw it inside your local movie theatre.”
In 2015, rumours began circulating online about a possible partnership between Nintendo and Netflix. Despite these rumours being unsubstantiated, most websites had no problem declaring that a Legend of Zelda TV show was in the works. The fan reaction was huge, and hopes were high for an official announcement of a Game of Thrones style show set in the world of Hyrule.
This was not meant to be. After milking the free press for all it was worth, Nintendo confirmed that nothing was being discussed, and that the show was not happening anytime soon.
The massive reaction online may have opened Nintendo’s mind to the possibility of another cinematic outing for one of their big properties. Unless it was savaged by reviews, a well-made Legend of Zelda movie would bring in big numbers at the box office. The world of Hyrule is wide-open for interesting stories. They wouldn’t even need to create an original story. If Nintendo made a movie trilogy based on Ocarina of Time, then they could print money at the box office.