Once upon a time, a video game barely had any story to it. The early days of gaming were centered on simple concepts and basic controls, a far cry from what we have now. Currently, they can rival film, in terms of their plot based ambitions. However, in turning a video game into a movie, Hollywood has had almost no success. With so many options out there, you’d think the rate of success, especially in current times, would be better. Yet, it’s decidedly not. So, we’re offering up our help.
Today we’re looking at video game franchises (or in some cases, individual games) that have some significant screen potential. Honorable Mention goes to the upcoming “Cyberpunk 2077,” as well as any number of franchises that have already tried, and failed, to make the cinematic transition. One day, good movies based on games won’t be outliers, but we’re not there yet. Perhaps one, or more, of the ones below will do the trick and eventually turn the tide?
“God of War”
The “God of War” franchise recently took a turn from Greek mythology to Norse mythology. Inadvertently, it also displayed how it could become a successful film franchise. After all, wouldn’t it be interesting to watch the protagonist, the god Kratos, move from one lush universe to another? The games are wonderfully designed but largely descend into tearing enemies limb from limb. Perhaps this could become a success in the vein of “300,” with similarly gory attention to violence/
“Sam & Max”
One of two LucasArts efforts to crack this list, “Sam & Max” represents a chance for some zany comedy. A pair of anthropomorphic animals operating as detectives in a world that spoofs pop culture? Surprisingly, no one has mounted a movie version yet. Either a fully animated flick or a hybrid work like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” would offer a ton of possibilities for a creative storyteller. Phil Lord and Chris Miller especially could work wonders here.
Specifically, with the game “Rainbow Six: Vegas,” there’s a concept here that his some excellent cinematic potential. How can someone not want to see a counter-terrorism unit fighting off a threat in Las Vegas? The Strip would be a unique place for government operatives and terrorists to square off. Depending on how a Michael B. Jordan fronted Jack Ryan reboot in “Without Remorse” fares, a “Rainbow Six” movie may soon follow. Hopefully, they pay attention and head to Sin City.
Few games have the production design that the “Bioshock” series can tout. As such, director Gore Verbinski and writer John Logan had planned a movie adaptation of the first game, back about twelve years ago. The budget wound up being too excessive, ultimately killing the project, even after director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo came aboard to mount a slightly more modest take. All this goes to show how the visuals, in addition to its philosophical story (the morality of American exceptionalism is a major theme), once made it an attractive film option. Here’s hoping that it can be again.
Indebted to the dark worlds that someone like Andrew Kevin Walker crafted on-screen over the years, “Heavy Rain” is an attempt to mix movies and games. While developer Quantic Dream and writer David Cage have continued to hone that style with “Beyond: Two Souls” and “Detroit: Become Human,” their first game still stands out. A dark procedural with the life of a child hanging in the balance, this grim endeavor would be some serious cinema, if all went well. With a slight tinker to address the giant plot hole of an ending, “Heavy Rain” could even turn into a prestige film.
In particular, “Fallout: New Vegas” could undoubtedly turn into a quality post-apocalyptic movie. The producers of the “Fallout” franchise have so far rebuffed advances from Hollywood, but an idea centered on that one spin-off game would have a lot of opportunities to succeed. The bombed-out version of this part of the country (basically Arizona, California, and Nevada) has a “grand cinematic vision” written all over it. Think of a better version of “Escape from L.A.,” mixed with “The Road,” and there might be something here.
The other classic LucasArts title on this list, “The Dig,” is all about its science fiction story. Following a group attempting to plant explosives on an asteroid headed for Earth, it quickly becomes something far weirder. Aliens, intergalactic travel, and a dark mystery ensue. Interestingly, this project could even interest the likes of Steven Spielberg, as the video game itself is based on an idea originally intended for “Amazing Stories.”
“Grand Theft Auto”
For years, fans have debated if the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise would make a fantastic or awful premise for a film. The secret sauce likely would consist of jettisoning the plots instead of focusing on the free-range carnage of it all. Even a meta approach, where either a gamer themselves or a law-abiding citizen, are dropping into the GTA world, would present intriguing ideas. Of all the video games that could be made into movies, this one has the biggest boom or bust potential. A flop would be all too easy to produce, but a hit would be a bigger hit than almost any other idea out there.
Game director Hideo Kojima has long talked about how much movies influence him. “Death Stranding,” his newest video game, is very much like an interactive film. The gameplay often takes a backseat to the world being built, as well as the ridiculous plot. Interestingly, it could even be the perfect game to work on once this Coronavirus pandemic is over. A world where people don’t want to touch, delivery of goods is a noble endeavor, and we’re terrified of something unseen? Yeah, that could be a recipe for success.
Of all the A-list game franchises out there, “Mass Effect” seems like the one with the best chance of cinematic success. Ready-made for a trilogy, this epic of space exploration, moral quandaries, impossible choices, and good vs. evil, really checks all of the boxes. Just get the right filmmaker, with enough ambition, and the stage is set for special science fiction. Some games would only work as a movie with their original plots discarded. This one could maintain much of its story and still work. If you were going to choose one video game to make into a blockbuster that would manage to play to just about any audience, this is the one.