Video game movies are all the rage right now, but while we’re enjoying the likes of Tomb Raider and Rampage, there’s a host of announced gaming-based projects we’re still waiting for. Today we’re going to look at the ones we’d most like to see.
Despite Hollywood’s incessant efforts, video game movies just haven’t been able to win big at the box office. There have been modest successes here and there, like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, but Hollywood has yet to make a universally-beloved movie based on a game. The 2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie came kind of close and was a genuine box office hit, but the 2003 sequel was met with universally negative reviews and bombed at the box office, which is why it took fifteen years to produce the reboot, starring Alicia Vikander. The resultant film earned decent reviews, but failed to break out at the box office.
To say movies based on games have a historically bad track record is an understatement. Double Dragon. Street Fighter (and its somehow even worse reboot). Hitman (and its reboot). Assassin’s Creed. Alone in the Dark. Prince of Persia. Max Payne. The list goes on. The gutters of Hollywood are lined with the rotting corpses of movies based on video games. Some of them have small-but-dedicated fandoms, but for the most part, movies based on games fail to garner critical praise and have an unfortunate tendency to crash and burn at the box office.
The latest attempt to turn a classic game into a blockbuster motion picture event is Rampage, starring Dwayne Johnson. As entertaining as the film may be, it’s somewhat disheartening that Rampage is being turned into a movie before certain other titles which would seem to be far more suited to a cinematic adaptation.
When the Xbox first launched in 2001, the biggest title for the system was a game-changing first-person shooter called Halo. Developed by Bungie (who would eventually leave the series to create Destiny for publisher Activision) Halo redefined the console FPS and is more than partially responsible for Microsoft’s current standing in the video game marketplace.
In 2005, after months of negotiations, Microsoft entered into a deal with Fox and Universal to produce a film based on Halo. Peter Jackson signed on as Producer, and Neil Blomkamp was slated to direct. Unfortunately, the whole thing fell apart and Halo has yet to grace the silver screen, though live-action shorts were released on streaming to promote games. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and Halo: Nightfall earned praise for their high-end production values and plots which connect directly with the games. A Steven Spielberg-produced live-action Halo television series is also in the works, but the movie is currently dead.
14. Metal Gear Solid
In terms of video game storytelling, Hideo Kojima is the most important name in the business. His Metal Gear series is one of the most revered franchises of all time, and the stories of Solid Snake, Raiden, and Big Boss are downright legendary. Due to its emphasis on lengthy cutscenes and complex characters, one would think Metal Gear to be a natural fit for cinemas. Indeed, a film is in development.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts is currently attached to the Metal Gear movie, which is being written and re-written in order to get the tone and story right. Vogt-Roberts is clearly a fan of the games, and even included several references to Metal Gear in his previous film, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. While no casting or release date has been announced, Vogt-Roberts has met with series mastermind Hideo Kojima multiple times, assuring fans that this film will be a labor of love, and not a corporate product intended to reduce the grand themes of the game into a generic action movie.
In Nintendo’s stable of adorable characters like Mario, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Ice Climbers, Samus Aran stands out as a different type of hero. A bounty hunter operating in outer space, Samus hunts the dangerous parasites known as Metroids. Her games are a far cry from the candy-colored adventures of Nintendo’s other heroes, taking influence from dark science fiction like Alien.
In 2003, Lion Rock Productions was attached to a film adaptation of Metroid, but the rights eventually expired. Legendary Hong Kong action director John Woo was also reported to be developing the project, but it has been dormant for well over a decade. Maybe, if the upcoming Super Mario Bros film is successful (more on that in a bit), Nintendo will be willing to take another chance on something as bold and different as Metroid. Adi Shankar is certainly interested…
12. Duke Nukem
One of the most hotly anticipated potential video game movies is Duke Nukem. John Cena, the first and only choice for the role, is currently attached to the film, which is being produced by Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company.
Read More: What John Cena Could Look Like As Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem is a crass, violent, and ridiculously over-the-top series of action games starring Duke, a testosterone-fueled “hero” who loves babes, guns, and kicking butt. What he lacks in self-awareness and subtlety, he makes up for in machismo and skill at saving the world from outer space alien scum.
If ever there was a movie for which Michael Bay should actually be in charge, it’s Duke Nukem. If done right, this movie could be a glorious ode to old-timey macho flicks while poking fun at its inspiration with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor.
It’s been a long road to the big screen for Uncharted, the action-adventure franchise from Naughty Dog, and one of the biggest exclusive games for the PlayStation series of home consoles. Initially, three-time Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell was attached to direct the film with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, alongside Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro, but the project ultimately fell apart, supposedly due to straying too far from its source material.
Joe Carnahan and Seth Gordon were also both attached to the film at one point, but it didn’t move forward until Sony decided on a different approach to the film; instead of the adult treasure hunter from the games, Nathan Drake will be a teenager, played by Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Tom Holland. Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) is slated to direct, and Holland seems eager to get started on the prospective film franchise.
10. Mass Effect
Bioware’s flagship action-RPG series has seen better days. Mass Effect started out as an ambitious space opera trilogy, in which decisions made in the first game would carry over to the sequels and have far-reaching consequences. While some fans were disappointed in the final hour of Mass Effect 3, which mostly disregarded the choices players had made up to that point in favor of one final choice to determine the ending, the trilogy as a whole was a resounding critical and financial success for publisher EA.
Read More: EA and BioWare Have Killed Mass Effect
2017’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, on the other hand, was lambasted as one of the biggest flops of 2017; the reception was so negative that EA put the series on ice for the foreseeable future. In 2008, producer Avi Arad announced his plans to bring Mass Effect to the big screen, even going so far as to have a 2011 Comic-Con panel discussing the prospective movie. Unfortunately, the film quietly disappeared and has yet to return. For all intents and purposes, Mass Effect is dead, in both game and movie form.
Gore Verbinski struck gold with Pirates of the Caribbean. The Curse of the Black Pearl, expected to be a huge bomb, became one of the biggest films of 2003 and launched a multi-billion dollar franchise. After essentially creating a whole new world of fantasy and adventure, Verbinski set his sights on an adaptation of the hit video game, BioShock.
BioShock is set in one of the most fully-realized fictional locations ever conceived, the underwater city of Rapture, both conceived and doomed by the Objectivist values preached by author Ayn Rand.
The legend goes that Verbinski wanted a budget of $200 million and creative freedom to aim for an R-rating, keeping in line with the violent tone and themes of the game. Warner Bros. asked him to work with a significantly reduced budget of $80 million, but Verbinski refused and dropped out of the production. Series creator Ken Levine then decided to pull the plug on the project rather than allow a compromised version of the movie to tarnish the brand.
8. Gears of War
Alongside Halo, Gears of War is one of Microsoft’s leading franchises. After a trilogy (and the spin-off, Judgment) on Xbox 360, the latest title in the series, Gears of War 4, moved to modern Xbox One hardware and showed off the power of the new console. An ultra-violent science-fiction war game, Gears is about humanity’s endless struggle against the Locust hordes… And also guns with chainsaw bayonets.
A film based on the game has been reportedly “in development” for over a decade, going as far back as 2007, with director Len Wiseman attached in 2008, though he dropped out in 2010 after the $100 million budget was scaled back, and the project languished for years.
With the launch of Gears of War 4 in 2016, the film re-emerged. Universal is developing the film with writer Shane Salerno, though no director, cast, or release date has been announced.
7. Splinter Cell
Fans love Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher, the grizzled Third Echelon black ops operative at the center of Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell franchise. When recasting him in 2013’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist with new actor Eric Johnson, fans roundly rejected the change, despite his solid performance in the role. Michael Ironside is 68 years old, so he probably wouldn’t be able to play Fisher in a live action film, so maybe the actor the lands the role will have an easier time than Johnson.
Tom Hardy first signed on to star in a Splinter Cell movie way back in 2012, and he was attached as recently as 2017, though the film remains no closer to shooting, especially after losing director Doug Liman. It’s possible the financial failure of Assassin’s Creed may have put a damper on Ubisoft’s plans to make further movies based on their sizeable roster of games.
6. Detective Pikachu
Finally, a video game movie that’s actually filming! Legendary Entertainment bought the rights to the Pokémon spin-off and fast-tracked it into production. Detective Pikachu began filming in January and is due out on May 19, 2019. Ryan Reynolds stars as the adorably gruff title character, a tough-as-nails crime fighter, who is also a ridiculously cute Pokémon. Ken Watanabe, Rita Ora, and Bill Nighy co-star, with Rob Letterman (Monsters vs Aliens, Goosebumps) directing.
5. Shadow of the Colossus
Are video games art? That was the hot-button question surrounding 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus, a beautiful, generation-defining game about a young boy on a quest to defeat gigantic monsters in an effort to bring a dead girl back to life. One of the most iconic titles of the PlayStation 2 era, the game was ported to PS3 in 2011 before being rebuilt from the ground up for PS4 in 2018.
Back in 2009, Sony Pictures optioned the film rights to the game, but nobody had any idea how they were going to adapt the game into a film. Despite the presence of giant creatures, it’s not something that can be so easily translated to the screen. This isn’t Rampage. Apparently, Sony didn’t know how to make the movie work, either, since it’s been in development hell for nearly a decade. Josh Trank was attached for some time, and then the movie was passed to Andres Muschietti, but he’s busy prepping for IT: Chapter 2. While the legacy of the game burns as brightly as ever, it’s likely that the movie will fade into obscurity and be quietly forgotten. In this case, that’s probably for the best.
4. God of War
One of the most obscenely violent game series ever is God of War. Set in the age of Greek mythology, the franchise follows Kratos, an original character, and herald of Ares, who betrays his master and becomes a God himself. An uncompromising interpretation of classic mythological characters, the franchise nearly ended with God of War III, which saw Kratos take on Zeus, king of the Gods, and lay waste to the entire pantheon of deities. Now, Kratos is returning in a new title, simply titled God of War, which puts him in the world of Norse mythology, an untold number of years later.
Read More: God of War Review: It’s Been Worth The Wait
A cinematic adaptation was announced right after the original game first came out, but development was slow and studios were surely wary of the budget required by the massive scale of the battles they’d attempt to adapt, to say nothing of how fans would react if the film attempted to aim for anything lower than the hardest of R ratings. In 2009, it was reported that Daniel Craig turned down the lead role, and the movie has been dead in the water ever since.
3. Call of Duty
The most popular video game in the world is Call of Duty. This fast-paced cross between a serious war simulator and a Michael Bay fever dream is sometimes criticized for its shallow storylines and repetitive gameplay, but its solid gunplay and sheer spectacle can’t be beaten. The series still strikes a significant chord with audiences who keep coming back for more, year after year.
In 2017, Activision Blizzard Studios announced plans for a cinematic universe based on Call of Duty, telling interconnected military-themed stories across both film and television. So far, little has come from the project, though they are reportedly eyeing Sicario 2 director Stefano Sollima to helm the first installment in the prospective film series. Time will tell if the project ever makes it off the ground, though there is definitely potential in the brand.
2. Super Mario Bros
Super Mario is a character who needs no introduction. One of the most instantly recognizable pop culture figures of all time, Mario’s adventures across the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond are universally revered as some of the greatest games ever made.
In stark contrast to his reputation in the gaming space, the first Super Mario Bros movie is remembered as a colossal disaster. Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the brothers, and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa, the film had shockingly little in common with the games, and instead told a cyberpunk-tinged story about inter-dimensional travel and an alternate version of New York populated by human/dinosaur hybrids… Or something.
Since then, Nintendo has been hesitant to allow Mario back into Hollywood’s clutches, but that’s all changing. Illumination Entertainment entered into a deal to produce an animated Mario film, which could be out as early as 2020. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is signed on as Producer.
1. Square Enix Cinematic Universe
When Hitman: Agent 47 hit theaters in 2015, producer Adrian Askarieh made clear his plans to make a cinematic universe based on the games of publisher Square Enix: Hitman, Deus Ex, Just Cause, and Thief. Despite not having the rights to Lara Croft, he also envisioned Tomb Raider playing a role in the would-be film series.
Unfortunately, Agent 47 was not a hit at the box office. Though the film has developed something of a cult following due to its off-the-wall action sequences and clever storyline, the film was a financial disappointment, and films based on Deus Ex, Just Cause, and Thief have been quiet for years. It’s yet to be determined if Tomb Raider will get a cinematic sequel, but if a sequel does move forward, Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 likely won’t be making an appearance.
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