When Netflix announced they had acquired the rights to an animated series based on the Castlevania games, the news was met with a sense of optimism that one does not typically find accompanying the reveal of video game adaptations. Why are people excited about the prospect of a Castlevania series when so many other video game adaptations have failed? Well, Netflix’s involvement and that super slick trailer certainly don’t hurt, but traditionally, animated adaptations of video games have fared much better than their live-action counterparts. Perhaps that can be attributed to the animated nature of games, but there’s something about the style which makes it an almost indisputably superior medium for game adaptations.
So why aren’t there more animated adaptations of video games? That’s a question we wish we could answer, but in lieu of a satisfying explanation, we choose to argue the merits of more animated series based on video games by highlighting examples of titles that are perfectly suited for an animated adaptation. Some of these games would ultimately become adults-only animated experiences, while others are more suited for the Saturday morning crowd. Regardless, we remain hopeful that all of them will grace our televisions sometime in the future.
These are the 15 Video Games That Should Be Adapted Into An Animated Series.
15. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
It’s safe to say that nobody who played Far Cry 3 specifically asked for an ‘80s inspired nonsensical expansion filled with pop culture references, but that’s exactly what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon delivered. Blood Dragon tosses aside every serious element in the Far Cry universe and replaces them with neon lights, absurd guns, and robotic recreations of prehistoric figures.
Blood Dragon’s pop culture roots run far too deep to recount in full, but it’s clear that the Blood Dragon development team was especially inspired by animated series like G.I. Joe. Even the game’s trailer recreates the G.I. Joe animation style. A modern Blood Dragon animated series would most likely resemble Archer, considering the game’s “Wait, what just happened?” style of humor and implausible plot twists. Given the world’s love affair with ‘80s pop culture, we’re a little surprised this hasn’t happened yet.
One day, a humble farmer named Juan is tending his dirt crops – as one does – when a skeleton named Carlos Calaca and his band of misfits decide to kidnap the president’s daughter. Being the good dirt farmer that he is, Juan decides to heroically rescue the president’s daughter and is immediately killed by mythological forces. This admittedly bad day is improved dramatically when Juan is resurrected as a heroic luchador who has the power to rescue the president’s daughter by suplexing evil wherever it may be.
Guacamelee!’s Metroid-like gameplay won the hearts of old-school gamers everywhere, but it’s the game’s Day of the Dead motif that interests us most. There aren’t many animated programs which share this game’s style and fewer still that possess Guacamelee!’s tongue-in-cheek humor that elegantly mixes sly commentary with classic adventures tropes.
13. Sly Cooper
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus quietly snuck onto the PlayStation 2’s library in 2002 and stole the hearts of everyone who played it. It was an incredibly stylish game – seriously, it still looks fantastic – that followed the adventures of a group of animals that just so happen to be master thieves. Their goal is to go after the five most wanted criminals in the world (the Fiendish Five) and recover the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus; an ancient book that contains master thief secrets.
Even before you take into account the fact that Sly Cooper was designed to look like a classic animated series, everything about the game sounds like the set-up to a classic ’80s cartoon. The Sly Cooper franchise has always been entertaining from a gameplay perspective, but the reason that most people play these games is that they are brimming with that classic Saturday morning cartoon brand of personality. These games are practically elaborate storyboards for an animated series.
Okami is one of those rare games that impressed people the moment it debuted and continued to impress them until the end credits rolled. At first, we were all mesmerized by the game’s hand-painted art style and Japanese mythology setting. The game itself turned out to be lovably similar to the Zelda franchise in many ways, but really distinguished itself with a fascinating paint brush mechanic and incredible world that looked like nothing else in gaming.
In the end, it’s that wonderful watercolor style that makes us excited about a hypothetical Okami animated series. Even if a studio altered the game’s trademark art style to accommodate more modern animation techniques, an Okami animated series could still explore the game’s surprisingly deep mythology and roster of memorable characters. This one would probably appeal more to a younger age group, but the young at heart are certainly always welcome.
11. Marvel vs. Capcom
Is it highly unlikely that these two parties would ever agree to produce an animated series? Sure, but then again, most people said that it was highly unlikely we’d ever get a fighting game starring characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes. For those out of the loop, the Marvel vs. Capcom series allows gamers to build teams from a roster that contains some of the best and brightest from both companies. If you’ve ever wondered how the team of Venom, Jill Valentine, and Magneto would fair against Ken, Ryu, and Spider-Man, Marvel vs. Capcom is your dream game.
While an entire animated series based on this concept may be a bit of a stretch, it’s not hard to imagine an animated miniseries that sees these characters pulled into the same universe in order to do battle. In the spirit of the games, the show could even include the formation of unlikely alliances.
10. Twisted Metal
The Twisted Metal series has fallen out of favor in recent years. While it’s understandable why that is the case – the car combat genre was really just a novelty in the days of few multiplayer options – it’s a shame that few games have ever been able to replicate Twisted Metal’s dark style. Twisted Metal is perhaps best described as a blend between Death Race 2000 and Tales From the Crypt. It features various eccentric characters battling each other with cars in order to make a wish come true that usually backfires on them in horrible ways.
What we’re getting at is that a hypothetical Twisted Metal animated series would not be aimed at children. However, a Twisted Metal animated series done in the style of an adult animated feature film (think Ninja Scroll or even Heavy Metal) could be a fascinating way to bring this dormant franchise back into the limelight.
9. Jak and Daxter
The original Jak and Daxter is best described as an advanced take on the “collect-a-thon” genre made popular by titles like the N64’s Banjo-Kazooie. It was famous for its large world and lack of loading times, but it didn’t really establish this property as a beloved franchise. Jak and Daxter II, however, turned the series into more of a cinematic adventure that grew a compelling mythology that bound this universe and matured the game’s overall tone and principal characters.
It is that version of Jak and Daxter that we would love to see turned into an animated program. The later Jak and Daxter games did a brilliant job of creating and growing a compelling fictional world brimming with intrigue and fully-realized characters, but in the end, we only really got two games worth of action. A show focused on either Jak and Daxter’s adventures or some other inhabitants of Haven City may be the best way to deliver more of nearly everything the game offered.
8. Parasite Eve
Parasite Eve is one of the most obscure games on this list, and also one of the most underrated in terms of style. The original was released for the PlayStation back in 1998. Its gameplay was a widely-criticized mishmash of various concepts, but its story and environment were rightfully praised for their fascinating blend of J-horror (films like The Ring), sci-fi, body horror, and Lovecraftian elements. A couple of sequels to the game were eventually released, but by and large, the franchise struggled to shake its “brilliant but flawed’ tag.
Technically, a live-action Parasite Eve could be done, but we shudder to think of how easily it would devolve into a CG festival. An animated series, however, could easily convey the inherent weirdness of the game’s world without feeling the need to turn every monster into a spectacle. Besides, there has always been an underlying element of anime to the franchise.
7. Skies of Arcadia
Way back in the days of the Dreamcast, a little game called Skies of Arcadia graced Sega’s final console. Because most gamers didn’t actually own the system, the shouts of praise that this RPG inspired fell on deaf ears. Years later, though, even those who didn’t own a Dreamcast came to respect this narratively rich adventure about a band of sky pirates in a world where civilizations clash over a collection of moon crystals that can control an ultimate weapon when they are combined.
There’s certainly hints of Dragon Ball Z throughout Skies of Arcadia’s plot, but the game’s best qualities can be found in the way it joyfully builds a convincing grand fantasy world where factions duel for power with the help of airships and pirate brigades. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that an animated series may be the ideal format for Skies of Arcadia, given the original game’s reliance on some tired genre conventions.
6. Panzer Dragoon
1995’s Panzer Dragoon told a simple, but satisfying, story about a group of liberators who became conquerors with the help of superweapons. A young man ends up challenging their rule when he uncovers the lair of an ancient dragon. It wasn’t until 1999’s Panzer Dragoon Saga that the Panzer Dragoon story was expanded into a grand mythos that dealt with a world at war, ancient mythology, and a fascinating revenge plot at the heart of it all. Unfortunately, Panzer Dragoon Saga’s late release on a dying console – the Sega Saturn – meant that few people got to experience its wonderful narrative.
Since it doesn’t look like we’re going to get another Panzer Dragoon game anytime soon, now seems like the perfect time for someone to simply turn this grand adventure into an animated epic. Well…maybe not simple, but it would be great to see Netflix roll with something like this if Witcher and Castlevania do well.
5. Viewtiful Joe
Remember that movie Last Action Hero where a young action film fan is sucked into the world of a traditional action film? Have you ever wished that someone would take that concept and turn it into something good? If so, then Viewtiful Joe is for you. This 2003 side-scrolling action title follows a young man named Joe who must jump into a movie world to save his girlfriend, who has just been kidnapped by the film’s villain. While in this world, he becomes a superhero whose powers revolve around his ability to manipulate the movie’s special effects.
Viewtiful Joe is another game with anime and manga in its veins, but its incorporation of American action film elements – as well as the game’s fourth-wall breaking references – lends it a unique sense of style. There isn’t much depth to Viewtiful Joe‘s plot, but it is the perfect premise for a modern children’s animated adventure.
4. Jade Empire
After BioWare released Knights of the Old Republic in 2002, they decided to forgo development of a potentially lucrative sequel in favor of creating an original property. Original is the key word here, as Jade Empire’s mythological Imperial China setting is quite unlike any world we’ve ever explored in a video game. Jade Empire does borrow heavily from classic Kung Fu films, but most of its world is lifted directly from the pages of actual Chinese mythology.
To be honest, Jade Empire is a lot like Parasite Eve, in that the game’s brilliant atmosphere is dampened by some underdeveloped gameplay concepts. However, a Jade Empire animated series could cut through the mess and simply tell a story within the game’s fascinating universe. Due to the relatively unknown nature of the mythology that Jade Empire is based on, there is a pure spectacle around every corner of the game’s world that would translate beautifully to a well-drawn animated series.
At a time when most NES games simply replicated Super Mario Bros. or Contra, Metroid came along and introduced a completely new style of 8-bit game design. Metroid’s puzzle-like environments afforded gamers the chance to slow down and really contemplate how their abilities open up the world. Because the nature of the game meant that players were going to spend more time studying every inch of a level, Nintendo ensured that Metroid emphasized environment, atmosphere, and plot in ways that few games of that era did.
While developers have expanded upon the Metroid mythology over the years, there is still much about the world of these games that we are left to assume based on vague hints. That does contribute to the underlying mystery of the franchise, but you have to believe a mature sci-fi series that explores this universe in just a bit more detail would still leave plenty to the imagination.
2. Killer 7
In the aftermath of an unprecedented arms treaty which inspires the world’s powers to destroy their nuclear arsenals, tensions begin to boil between the Japanese government and the United States. At the center of these tensions is a terrorist group known as Heaven Smile, whose anarchy threatens to undo this potential age of peace. A man in a wheelchair named Harman Smith, whose unique multiple personality disorder allows him to transform into one of seven deadly assassins, is brought in to take down Heaven Smile.
Thus begins one of the most confusing, stylish, and ultimately controversial games ever made. There are some who refer to Killer 7 as one of the most unique and creative games ever made. Others can’t get past its confounding control scheme. Nearly everyone, however, agrees that the game’s wonderfully bizarre story deserves to be explored further. Given that the most impressive parts of Killer 7 were usually related to its obvious anime influences, an actual anime based on the game would be a true gift to the world.
Game designer Tim Schafer’s wonderfully absurd mind is responsible for some of the most intelligent, humorous, and creative games ever. While the brilliance of adventures like Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango is undeniable, Psychonauts may be Schafer’s greatest achievement. This story of a summer camp for psychics starts off as a fairly light-hearted romp, but grows decidedly darker once the player begins exploring people’s individual psyches. At that point, the game’s childish humor is joined by some very mature meditations on the human psyche.
An animated take on Psychonauts could either lean more towards the dark side of the story spectrum and deliver a Rick and Morty type show that revolves around the crazy adventures the Psychonauts get into when they dive into human minds, or it could be a more child friendly – but still smart – Adventure Time-like show that emphasizes the game’s summer camp elements. Either way, this universe is tailor-made for television.
What other games do you think would make for great animated TV shows? Let us know in the comments.