It’s not easy to adapt a book into a film, but adapting a video games is another beast entirely. There are even more obstacles to maneuver in order to make a successful adaptation. Not all popular video games lend themselves to film adaptation, and even those that do suffer from the director’s understanding of the original content. Oftentimes, directors try to pander to fans of the game by adding nonsensical lore. Sometimes they go in the other direction and abandon the game’s plot completely. Either one of these strategies can go sideways at any turn, so it takes a talented visionary to make a successful transition from video games to film.
Films that are based on video games often get a bad rap. It’s not undeserved, as there are some terrible video game adaptations out there (get used to the name Uwe Boll, you’ll be seeing that a lot here). There are some decent adaptations, though, such as the original Mortal Kombat film and the first Silent Hill. Not all are flops, and some give a genuine interpretation of the video game it’s based on. This list, however, will not cover these movies. These are the films that fell flat on their face and took virtually nothing from the source material; the 15 Video Game Adaptations That Totally Missed The Point.
15. Doom (2005)
The 2005 film Doom, starring Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban was a movie that tried to stay true to the game it was based on, possibly to a fault. While the plot of the Doom game is decent, it certainly isn’t worthy of a feature length film. The writers of the movie changed some general plot themes, but many critics felt as though watching it was like watching someone try to play a video game.
Most of the problem with the film was the fact that, while it may have seemed like a first-person shooter movie, it did not seem like a Doom movie. There was more of a militarized feel to the film, and the demons were relegated to genetic experiments gone wrong. The creators tried to make a horror/action film, which isn’t really what Doom the game is. While there are certainly odes to the game in the film, it loses much of what makes Doom, Doom by trivializing the fantasy aspect of the game.
14. Need for Speed (2014)
The Need for Speed movie, based on the Need for Speed game franchise, seemed like a feeble attempt to cash-in on some of the Fast and Furious fandom. The movie was only truly connected to the game by the name, as any racing movie could have had the exact same plot. It was as if the studio saw a video game adaptation as an opportunity to make a racing film and a two hour commercial for the Ford Mustang at the same time.
Aaron Paul’s character (AKA Jesse Pinkman) was always going to succeed and clear his name, and there were few truly tense moments in the whole movie. On top of that, there was an extreme amount of suspension of disbelief needed to truly enjoy the movie, which is difficult for the gear-head fans of the Need for Speed game. The whole movie was based around fast cars and a loose plot, and would make no one go out and buy the game after they had seen it.
13. Hitman (2007)
The Hitman video game series lends itself to a Hollywood adaptation a lot better than some of the other games on this list. There were, however, multiple plot holes when the film did come out, as well as inexplicable deviations from the source material. The first, and possibly most annoying is The Agency’s name change in the movie.
Fans of the game know the ICA as its acronym or moniker, “The Agency.” For some reason, they decided to water it down even further by changing the name to “The Organization.” There is also the fact that the film claims that no one alive knows about The Agency, which makes no sense for an agency of hired guns. Sure, they are remarkably secretive, but at least some people must know about them in order to hire them.
The filmmakers also make 47’s targets almost unbelievably evil, which positions 47 as the good guy even though he’s a cold-blooded assassin. The whole point of 47’s existence is that he kills without question or compassion. Overall, the movie had a chance to be one of the standout video game films, but fell short of its goal, mainly by inattention to detail.
12. Warcraft (2016)
The movie that was created out of one of the world’s most popular video games, World of Warcraft, had some serious promise when it was released in 2016. Fans of the video game and general fantasy fans thought that this movie had the chance to break the mold and set the standard for all future video game films. Unfortunately, what we got was a movie that tried too hard to cater to fans of the game and ended up losing immersion in the process.
If you’re a die-hard fan of the game, then there are a lot of things to like in this movie. The universe in Warcraft is true to the video game, and there are references left and right to some of the classic pieces of lore in the franchise. Unfortunately though, no single piece was explored to its fullest extent, and exposition seemed to have been left on the cutting room floor. Fair-weather fans of the franchise and those who were unfamiliar with the lore were left confused as to what was going on in many scenes. This movie tries its best to pander to fans of the game, but ended up alienating a good amount of their audience.
11. Assassin’s Creed (2016)
Assassins Creed, based on the game with the same name, was another candidate to break the mold of bad video game adaptations. Of course, like all of our potential hopefuls, it did nothing to take the stigma away from video game movies. The movie itself was relatively accurate to the video game lore, but the style of game play just didn’t transfer to the big screen.
All of the interesting scenes occurred in the Animus, which is also true in the game, but the movie spent far too much time in the real world. The Animus itself also left a lot to be desired, as it wasn’t the matrix-style stationary plug-in like it is in the game. In the film, it’s more like a virtual reality experience than truly entering the skin of your ancestors. Even during the interesting fight scenes, we see the camera cut back and forth from present to past, which is disorienting and visually jarring.
10. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
The second installment in the Resident Evil film series often gets most of the heat for being the worst of the bunch. While they try to incorporate some of the themes and characters from the original Resident Evil game series, unlike the first Resident Evil film, this one falls short in multiple ways. The original Resident Evil film may have changed more of the general plot, but the inclusion of original plot elements into this movie seems forced and unnatural. It is almost as if they are pandering to Resident Evil fans, rather than creating a genuinely scary film that will do the video game it’s based on justice.
While the Umbrella Corporation are presented as the antagonists, their motivation is cloudy, and much more nonsensical than in the games. They don’t care about covering their tracks, which makes them seem much less like a true shadow organization. Possibly the most disappointing depiction in the film is the character Nemesis, who is a fan favorite for the Resident Evil community. Instead of staying true to the Nemesis we know and love, he was transformed into a hero in the end with the reveal that he was actually Matt Addison.
9. Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)
The original Silent Hill film adaptation was met with an above average number of positive reviews. All things considered, it was one of the better game adaptations that Hollywood has pulled off. Thankfully the second installment in the franchise brought our expectations back down to normal as the movie lost a hefty amount of continuity and immersion.
The character of Douglas, an part of the Silent Hill 3 game, was basically nullified and only appeared to be a reference to the games.
The more glaring problem is the way the movie handles horror. The game’s subtle scares are what made it work, but the movie abandons all of this in favor of explicit gore and jump scares. The horror aspect of the film seemed a lot more in-your-face, to the point where it wasn’t even scary anymore. It seemed as though the plot was driven by gore and loud music queues, which cheapened the terrifying environment that made the games so great.
8. BloodRayne (2005)
Uwe Boll’s resume is filled with the carcasses of failed video game adaptations and his attempt at BloodRayne was no different. First of all, the film covers the storyline from the first two BloodRayne games that took place nearly 100 years apart. Rayne is trying to take revenge on her father, which doesn’t take place until the early 2000s in the game. It’s no shock that a Uwe Boll film deviated from the source material, but virtually everything that made BloodRayne fun to play was abandoned in the movie adaptation.
The characters were stale and their motivation seemed unfinished, not to mention the fact that Rayne’s character is just grunting, crying, and fighting the entire movie. The movie fell flat, and serves as another reminder that video game adaptations rarely pay adequate homage to the successful game franchise they are based on. Uwe Boll swings and misses for the millionth time.
7. Max Payne (2008)
Max Payne was a video game by Rockstar Games that was created in the image of an action film, but when it made the transition back to the silver screen it left quite a bit to be desired. The action was stale, which is the primary reason you go see an action movie, and the film was unable to capture the magic that was Max Payne the video game.
The overall plot is the same, as a police officer is attempting to seek revenge over his murdered family. Many of the characters from the game also make an appearance, and the Aesir Corporation is the ultimate villain. The movie skips over some important exposition, though, as it neglects the underworld mafia aspect of the game’s universe. In addition, one of the cinematic aesthetics the game uses, bullet-time, is poorly recreated in the film. Overall, while this may not be the worst video game adaptation ever, for a movie that was inspired by Hollywood filmmaking, it could have been adapted a lot better.
6. House of the Dead (2003)
House of the Dead was another Uwe Boll masterpiece that adapted the Sega video game of the same name. The game was a zombie shooter, with the main antagonist being the evil geneticist Dr. Curien. He’s mentioned in the film, but only as fan service to gamers; the overall plot has nothing to do with stopping him.
The acting is on the level you’d expect from a Boll film. The main characters go to a rave on a remote island, only to find that it is infested with zombies. You’re told from the beginning that certain characters are going to die, taking much of the sting out of their eventual demise.
To make matters worse, when one of the characters is eaten by zombies, the movie shows what appears to be an attempt at the “Game Over” screen from the game. Apparently Boll cares more about adapting title screens and gameplay over the actual plot and character development from the game.
5. Postal (2007)
For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Postal is like the original Grand Theft Auto with no cars. You can go around senselessly killing people who scream for help, but there’s no plot other than that. This means the director extraordinaire Uwe Boll had a blank canvas to create whatever plot he wanted.
This was a comedy, and didn’t take itself seriously, which did lend itself to the style of the Postal game, but that’s about where it ends. If you watch the movie, you get the sense that Boll was just trying to be as edgy and as controversial as possible, with the shooting deaths of children and babies getting run over by cars. Sure, the source material was controversial, but that doesn’t mean that being as edgy as possible does the game any justice.
Even if you’re someone who’s not easily offended, there’s something off-putting about being controversial for the purpose of cheap laughs. For a movie that dubbed itself the “live-action South Park” it seemed to miss what makes South Park genuinely funny.
4. Street Fighter (1994)
The 1994 film adaptation of Street Fighter is widely considered one of the worst video game adaptations of all time. Street Fighter was an arcade hit across the country, and Hollywood wanted to get a taste of that market by making a film by the same name. They learned the hard way that this isn’t as easy as it seemed.
The filmmakers have all the excuses in the world for making such a bad film, including bad writing, outside influences, and actor trouble. Still, the overall plot and themes of the film differ greatly from the source content. In the entire 102 minute film there isn’t a single hadouken or hurricane kick to be seen. To accompany the bad acting and poorly constructed plot, the costumes displayed by the cast is akin to parody cosplay at Comic-Con.
3. Far Cry (2008)
Far Cry movie adaptation, like all of Uwe Boll’s undertakings, was a complete failure in terms of plot, acting, scenery and, you know, everything that makes a movie good. This 2008 movie starred mostly German actors who didn’t have a complete grasp of the English language. Even though Til Schweiger (who played Jack Carver) had a command of English doesn’t mean his character was any more acceptable. The film’s version of Jack made him look like a complete tool, only intervening in the island’s mishaps when it directly affects his mission. Fans were unable to relate to the protagonist like they were in the game, but the setting of the film shows an even more glaring discrepancy.
The Far Cry series is almost exclusively set in tropical environments. Apparently that would have cost too much for this film, as it appears to have all be set in the forest somewhere. While the movie version seemed to at least try to use some of the original plot, many of the flaws in production led to horrible reviews and disengaged Far Cry fans.
2. Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997)
Many consider the Mortal Kombat movie to be one of the shining stars of the video game-to-film crossovers. The game itself lends itself to the cheesy, borderline hilarious interpretation that Hollywood so often conveys when they try to adapt a game. The argument can even be made that the Mortal Kombat film adaptation was one of the best adaptations of any video game, namely because of the lack of overarching plot to stick to. It’s cheesy and simple and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something that the 1997 sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, got completely wrong.
The characters from the original were all but abandoned. The special effects were trash and the costumes might have been worse. For a movie that’s all about fighting, many of the fight scenes were uninteresting. Where the first movie made fans of the game excited, this installment only left Mortal Kombat fans shaking their head. On the bright side, the film has recently found its place in the unintentional comedy genre, where fans of the game can watch it just to laugh at how bad it is.
1. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Rationalizing the world of Super Mario Bros. proved nearly impossible with the 1993 release of the same name. This movie was one of the first video game adaptations ever, and the subsequent flop didn’t give studios much hope for the genre. The general plot of the film resembles some of the themes in the original Super Mario Bros. title, but the botched attempt at rationalizing the Mario world by adding the existence of a parallel dimension is simply preposterous.
In the film, Mario and Luigi are tasked with saving their world from the evil dictator King Koopa, who dwells in a parallel dimension. Luigi has a love arc with the lost princess of the dimension, Daisy, and the two eventually succeed in preventing the merger of the two worlds. It really couldn’t be much more different from the video game. While there are a few similar characters, such as Bowser (King Koopa) and the two heroes, many of the other themes and characters are abandoned in favor of differing plot lines.
The whole production was a debacle, and it was not only one of the worst video game films of all time, but also the least accurate to the original content.
Which video game adaptation do you think is furthest from the game it’s based on? Sound off in the comments!
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