There’s no debate: movies based on video game franchises have delivered more than enough duds and misfires to earn their current stigma (the same could be said for games based on movies, as well). With such a checkered track record, it’s easy to understand why modern studios have left promising projects in development limbo. But just because some video game movies have failed in a grander fashion than others, doesn’t mean they should be remembered as the downright worst in history.
Films like Super Mario Bros. (1993), Doom (2005) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), and even Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) may be the most mentioned when it comes to misguided game adaptations, but they still manage to offer popcorn entertainment as advertised – regardless of their relation to the source material. Other films managed to not just embarrass the games that spawned them, but fail at telling a worthwhile story. Without further ado, read on for our list of The 15 Worst Video Game Movies.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
The landmark Resident Evil game more than earned its chance to redefine survival horror movies, but few would have guessed how long the film series would last – least of all director Paul W.S. Anderson. The impact, action, and scares of the original movie have largely stood the test of time, but the films that followed have proven more divisive.
It’s only fair to include at least one RE movie in our list, and the fact that Resident Evil: Afterlife fails to deliver engaging action, scares, or satisfying plot twists makes it a low point – if not for the critics, then the fans. That it called upon fan-favorite characters Chris and Claire Redfield in the process only adds to the disappointment.
Max Payne (2008)
A Max Payne movie following the titular detective through a gripping Noir story of revenge for his murdered family is an easy sell – but the drug-addled hallucinations of Norse warriors adds the hook needed for catchy visuals. Yet even before the film’s release, some of the game’s producers were already making their disappointment known.
With star Mark Wahlberg in the title role, it made sense for the game’s use of ‘bullet time’ action sequences to be given a larger role, but with Valkyrie hallucinations implied to be real, and a revenge tale that only made sense halfway through the film, Max Payne would go on to be near-universally panned.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)
Silent Hill‘s story of everyday characters lost in the crazed rituals of a small town American cult may seem like typical horror B-movie fare, but surprisingly, the first film wasn’t a total loss. The story twists were contrived and problematic for most, but the actual psychological terror and visuals did the source material justice.
The same, however, can’t be said for the 2012 sequel. Despite a notable cast – Sean Bean (Jupiter Ascending), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) and Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) – Silent Hill: Revelation 3D traded horror for a bland, gory, reality-bending story, and it cost the overall film. With few redeeming qualities, it fails to even entertain in the same way as its predecessor – despite being shown in all three dimensions!
Of all the entries on our list, Hitman would likely win the vote of ‘most likely to succeed’ given the game’s fiction (genetically engineered assassins) and its leading man (Justified‘s Timothy Olyphant). Director Xavier Gens even resisted attempts to hold the film to a PG-13 rating. But such commitment to the original game wasn’t meant to be, as Gens would eventually be pulled from the project by Fox, so that changes could be made.
Footage from the TV series Dark Angel was spliced in to explain Agent 47’s intentionally-vague origins, and any attempt to make up for the film’s generic script and action was lost. The second time will be the charm, perhaps?
DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
We’d like to believe there was a real chance to make a worthwhile cinematic adventure out of the Dead or Alive fighting game series – a franchise famous for its scantily-clad female fighters and ‘jiggle physics.’ After all, the first Mortal Kombat proved a shallow fighting game story and oddball characters can still make for an entertaining movie.
But even with a similar tournament storyline, there just wasn’t enough substance aside from the eye candy. Even good action can’t make up for laughable acting, dialogue, and plot.
Double Dragon (1994)
If adapting a fighting game into a movie is a stretch, then adapting a side-scrolling brawler is nearly impossible. Few of those games proved as popular and timeless as Double Dragon, but the same can’t be said for the film adaptation. Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf star as Billy and Jimmy Lee, well-meaning brothers in a post-apocalyptic/punk rock version of Los Angeles, who fight the powers of evil by, predictably, knocking people unconscious.
It’s fair to lump Double Dragon in with other films of the 1990s, capitalizing on kid-friendly franchises and martial arts, but not every one of those films was as cheesy and silly compared to the simplicity of the original game.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
It’s easy to view the original Mortal Kombat movie with rose-colored glasses, considering the embarrassing video game adaptations that followed. Even so, the movie relied on well-known (if not acclaimed) actors and a simple enough story of a martial arts tournament and a young man’s quest for revenge.
The sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, blew that foundation to bits, recasting leads with a less capable cast, throwing any semblance of relatable drama to the wind in favor of what has now become the norm for video game movie storytelling. The original movie may still be a guilty pleasure, but its sequel looked to succeed on brand power, resulting in a movie far worse than it had any reason to be.
Far Cry (2008)
The Far Cry video game series has proved to be a lasting one, based on a story as timeless in games as it is on film: a man – sometimes a military man, sometimes not – is dropped into a nightmare, and must kill or be killed. The first game’s tropical setting and mercenary forces made a film adaptation a no-brainer, but the mutated humans in the story proved too strange and out-of-place to stick around for sequel games.
Yet when German director Uwe Boll (get used to hearing that name) set his sights on Far Cry, it was the mutants who soon took the spotlight. Turning a compelling story into a laughable action film led to another video game dud, and proved that no video game adaptation was safe in Boll’s hands.
In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)
As proof that not all video game movie flops come from blockbuster franchises, there is In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale – again from director Uwe Boll. If it seems odd that the game being adapted – Dungeon Siege – is less than a household name, it’s even stranger that the bog-standard fantasy even needed a game as foundation for its story or world.
Unsurprisingly, given its predictable and underwhelming performances, the film was a complete failure to which fans of the game paid little attention. Two critically-panned sequels would somehow follow – with the ‘Dungeon Siege Tale’ branding dropped. We’re still confused as to why it was used in the first place. And yes, that half-face on the right is Ray Liotta… in a fantasy movie.
Wing Commander (1999)
These days, most video game fans would rejoice to see a live-action adaptation handled by the creator himself. But Wing Commander, the film based on creator (and director) Chris Roberts’ space fighter of the same name, proves even the most well-meaning directors can fall short.
Even with a budget of $30 million and in-his-prime leading man Freddie Prinze, Jr. anchoring the sci-fi action flick, the finished film would go on to bomb with critics and audiences. It wasn’t Prinze or even co-star Matthew Lillard who led the film astray, but a surrounding world, enemy designs, and action that simply fell well short of what fans hoped for, and mass audiences expected.
House of the Dead (2003)
It may only be in the past few years that video game narratives have gotten attention, but the light gun arcade game genre isn’t known for its story or characters. House of the Dead was one particularly gruesome example, but adapting it to a full-scale film seemed like folly at the time – the kind of folly only Uwe Boll would attempt.
The movie lacks even the odd hooks of other Boll films, following a group of teens on their way to an island rave, populated by zombies (gasp!) with predictable results. It may approach ‘so bad it’s good’ levels of enjoyment, but history tells us that was not the director’s intent. And again, the tie to a video game was completely pointless.
With the phrase “going postal” (losing control and succumbing to violence) already a bit insensitive, it’s no surprise that the video game Postal embraced controversy and excess. Where games like Grand Theft Auto were targeted as corrupting youth, Postal pushed boundaries farther, downright reveling in violence and political incorrect-ness.
For director Uwe Boll, that made it perfect for film, while taking more inspiration from Postal 2, satirizing pop culture, suburban life, and American politics in the strange town of Paradise, Arizona. Unfortunately, Boll’s decision to court controversy in every form – be it violence, race, religion, or politics – doomed the film.
Based on a hack-and-slash Xbox game following a half-human, half-vampire killer, BloodRayne perfectly encapsulates all the shortcomings of the modern ‘video game movie.’ It’s violent, melodramatic, and at times downright ridiculous.
The film would still go on to spawn two sequels (minus star Kristanna Loken), but tales of the original production are just as hard to believe – from director Uwe Boll hiring prostitutes instead of actresses to save money, to cast member Michael Madsen (Kill Bill) publicly criticizing the film as an abomination. But when a film begins shooting with the first draft of a script, what do you expect?
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
Earning the title of ‘worst video game movie ever’ is no easy task – but Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li makes a strong case. As well known as the fan-favorite character (played by Kristin Kreuk) may be, shaping a film around her origin story was an odd choice – meaning it’s hard to tell which part of the film is truly the worst: the script, the cast, the action, or the very idea of it.
It’s one thing for a video game movie to be dull, misguided, or even embarrassing. But where the original Street Fighter movie embraced over-the-top performances and spectacle, Chun-Li attempts to be taken seriously (it can’t be). Fortunately, it did give movie fans one of the most incredible performances in video game filmmaking to date:
Alone in The Dark (2008)
Not every horror video game favors slow burns and tension over jump scares and gore, but with its inspiration drawn from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the Alone in the Dark series isn’t your typical horror game.
Taking series protagonist Edward Carnby (played by Christian Slater) and his paranormal investigations into live-action now seems years ahead of its time, but in the hands of Uwe Boll, Alone in the Dark didn’t just become the worst video game movie we know of – but to many, one of the worst films, period. We would say it’s a perfect example of how directors shouldn’t adapt games to film… but that would require that people be forced to watch it for themselves. Best take our word for it and skip this atrocity.
That concludes our list of the video game films which truly deserve to be saddled with the name of ‘worst ever.’ Not the most disappointing, the most high-profile, or even the most financially embarrassing – but the films which simply failed to make the time required to see them worthwhile.
What do you make of our list? Do these movies fall in line with your own idea of the worst ever, or do you take exception with some both in and out of the discussion? Leave your thoughts in the comments.